Tera Melos

Tera Melos is a four piece instrumental band hailing from the greater Sacramento area in California. Their self titled debut has received many praises, including one of Associated Press' "Most Overlooked Albums of 2005". Recently community regular and South Bay dweller Dante3000 had the chance to sit down with the members of Tera Melos and talk to them about everything from recording to Stryper.

Also, you can head over to SoundSceneRevolution and listen to the interview in full.

.pullquote { float: right; margin: 1em; padding: 0.75em 0.75em 0.75em 34px; width: 25%; font-size: 1.25em; background: url('/images/icons/interquote.gif') no-repeat #ddd; text-align: left;} So let's start with introductions. If you could just say your name, what you do in the band and a random fact about yourself. Jeff: Oh great I'll start. My name is Jeff, I play guitar in the band Tera Melos. I also like to build chopper Motorcycles, that's a random fact.

Vince: Is that the first time Jeff has ever told the truth in that sort of situation?
Jeff: Yeah, it probably is. Okay, it's Nate's turn next.

Nate: Hi, I'm Nathan. I play bass and I like cats.
Vince: Damn, we're all about true facts today. I'm Vince and I play drums and I don't want to bring a cactus on tour so don't let Rob give us the cactus (band boos). It's true I don't want the cactus.
Nick: I'm Nick and I play stage left guitar and I painted my guitar green the other day.
Jeff: He plays lead and I play rhythm. Just so everybody knows (laughs). Let's get that straight.

Let's listen to some grunge and act crazy.

So I guess the first place to start would be a brief history of the band, how you got started and all that. Vince: I think one of you guys should take this (points to Nick and Nate).
Nick: Nate played in a weird progressive punk band a couple years ago. That band started disintegrating and Nate and I knew Jeff from previous bands. So, once that band kind of broke up, or whatever, we decided to start a new band. We all jammed and wrote songs and had a few pieces of music composed. Then Jeff met Vince in a jazz improv class and convinced him to come hang out and play drums. That's the 'gist of it. We played in our practice spot for about a year and then started playing shows.

So why the year of practice before your first show? Were you looking to get it down perfect or could you just not book a show? Nate: Not being able to book a show wasn't really a problem. We just didn't really feel that: A; the songs were complete and B; the band was complete. Like we had a long period where we tried out different singer and stuff. Nothing sort of stuck and we got offered our fist show and we were like, "Oh, well let's just go for it and see what happens as an instrumental band and maybe it will help us to find a singer". And we played…
Jeff: I'd like to correct him.
Nate: I'm sorry I guess my history is wrong. (laughs).

Jeff: That historical fact was incorrect. Actually, we played that first show to see if any potential vocalist would be into it. If I recall.

Nate: Isn't that what I just said?
Jeff: No you said as an, "instrumental band". Okay, let's not argue, let's not argue.

Nate: I said it was to attract singers.
Jeff: Oh, I couldn't hear what he said. I'm sorry (laughs). The historical fact was correct. Okay.

Nate: I'm all frazzled now. So we just played that first show and the response was really really good and we just kept getting more show offers after that. We started getting offers out of town so we started going out of town and that's just sort of what worked for us so we just kept going with it.

So you didn't start out with the intent of being an instrumental band. Nate: Yes sir.

Was it just that none of the vocalists matched up or was their another reasons? Nate: Uh, yeah for the most part it just didn't click with what we did musically. No one who came in to try out really knew how to sing.

Well that might not help. Nate: Well we thought it would be okay because we figured they'd come at it from a weird perspective but it ended up really not working. But, we made some really good friends out of the thing.

Vince: I want to add that when we were going through singers one thing we also wanted to avoid was making it where there was the singer who was up in front of the band and that was louder than everything else. We wanted to maintain the music being just as important as the singer, if we found one that worked out.

Is there any vocalist that you would like to work with if given the opportunity? Jeff: That's an interesting question. I think maybe John Lennon.

Nate: You can dig up Freddy Mercury.

[we] wanted to avoid was making it where there was the singer who was up in front of the band and that was louder than everything else. We wanted to maintain the music being just as important as the singer, if we found one that worked out.

Freddy Mercury is an interesting choice. Jeff: Freddy Mercury, that's a good one.

Vince: You really can't hear Nate can you?
Jeff: Stop saying…God! I can't hear him. Fuck.

So recently your debut came out on Springman. It's your formal debut right? Nate: It's the first release by someone besides us. We have prior things that we just…You know, burned CD's that we spray painted and went to Kinkos and made stuff.

Vince: Demos.

Nate: Demos that's what they call that (laughs), oh demos.

So how did it happen that you guys got together with Springman? Jeff: We had just played a few shows and this guy Avi, he actually runs Springman, saw us. He wasn't going to do any new bands but he really liked our band and decided to put out our record for us.

He didn't make any requests or restrictions, like suggesting you look into a singer? Nate: Yeah, it was real, "Do whatever you want". And, that's what we were going to do anyways.

One of the things that stand out, besides the music, is the artwork on your albums. Where did that all come from? Nick: One of our good friends, this guy Garrett Vander Leun, did it for us. We had just randomly come across a clip art image on the internet of this guy holding a chainsaw. We just thought it'd be kind of funny to erase his head and have him do a variation of that drawing. It's really random, we just kind of came up with all these ideas. They kind of became thematic after we knew what we wanted pictures of. Then we kind of put them together and it was like, "Oh wow, that actually works really well". So that's a good friend of ours that did that.

Nate: It's also kind of cool because if you're in the local area of Sacramento where we play, he draws all of our flyer art work. So, someone who had seen all of our flyers and come to our shows would notice familiar characters that he's drawn in the CD artwork.

Continuing with your debut, I'm sure you've been made aware of the fact that you were placed on [Associated Press'] list of "Most Overlooked Bands of 2005". Nate: We didn't actually hear about it till way after the fact. This guy Ron Harris, who writes for the Associated Press, he was nice enough that…he had gotten our record and was really pumped on it. So, he wrote a review on it saying it was one of the most overlooked albums of 2005. He came out to a show in San Francisco and introduced himself and he was an awesome guy. So thanks to him if he, for some reason, ever hears this.

Do you think more people have come to check you out or bought your album because if it? Nick: I don't think so, because that probably came out within the last month and a half. I don't really know if a review is going to make a lot of people come and hang out. I guess lots of newspapers picked it up so lots of people were able to check it out but, so far, I don't think so.

Vince: [Jeff] was going to say that our myspace views have gone up a lot. (laughs)

Going over that list I happened to noticed that you shared that honor with Stryper. Are you more or less excited about making that list because you share it with Stryper? Vince: I have no idea who that is.

Nate: I'm pretty surprised to hear that Stryper put something out. I know who Stryper is I haven't followed their career, but I always assumed they were that Christian metal band from the 80's.

Jeff: You really over looked them I think.

Nate: (laughs) Yeah, so I guys they were on that list for a reason. I probably won't go out and check out that release.

What if Stryper were like, "I noticed we shared this list, so here's our album so you can check it out"? Vince: We would politely decline. (laughs)

Nate: I would probably listen to that. Then I would take it back to a record store and try to return it.

Jeff: I would have done that for sure. (laughs).

Nick: We would try to get store credit for it at a Boarders and Books.

Back to the music, I notice there's a big difference between your album and your live show in regards to the amount of improvisation and changes musically that occurs live. Do you sort of plan any of that or just feel it out as you go? Vince: There are sometimes where we'll have designated areas that we'll [improvise] and sometimes where we just have no idea what's going to happen, which I guess makes it fun. We like not making the songs the same because otherwise it just gets boring playing them over and over again.

When you went into the studio did you have a really set idea of what you wanted to do or did you tool around as you recorded? Jeff: We usually are very prepared when we go into the studio. Well, I'm saying it like we've gone hundreds of times but on our last record we knew that we wanted to have sounds here and soundscapes but it wasn't like every noise was thought out. We might have had a particular key or a feel in mind. We kind of wrote out the whole record as a piece rather than, "We have our five songs. So we'll do our five songs and then do something in between". It was like we kind of built the songs to kind of go together, so it was very linear, as we like to say (laughs). So there was lots of room to mess around, you know? It wasn't just throwing a dart in a dark closet or something. (laughs) We didn't just jump in the taxi and go, "Okay, anywhere sir". (laughs) We knew we were going to Time Square or wherever. But, whatever streets they took was their scene.

That's good, we don't get a lot of metaphors here. Jeff: Well, I work on that for you.

Do you have a preference between playing live or writing and recording music? Jeff: I think all three of those things are very different in particular and all have their own things. I don't think there's any one we dislike, definitely. Obviously, playing live is awesome but when you play 500 shows in a row it can get kind of tiring. Writing new music is great too, but sometimes when you run out of ideas and everyone's trying to jam on something and it's not coming out. That can be bad. There's good and bad for everything, it's all give and take. I don't think any one thing is better or worse than the other. It's all fun, it's all creative. It's like do you prefer…Ah, never mind. I almost did another metaphor. (laughs). I do that all the time, you guys (to other band members) know. I'm not going to do it though because it's embarrassing.

Speaking of live shows, yours are typically considered fairly destructive. What's probably the most damaging thing that has happened at any one of your shows? Vince: To a person or an object? Because Jeff had his head knocked open but basses and guitars have been like actually broken in half.

Nate: A lot.

Vince: And those just don't heal by…

Nate: Butterfly bandages.

Vince: Yeah or whatever it is.

Nick: About a week ago at practice I split my head open. (whole band bursts into laughter). And that's not a joke. Yeah we were at practice and I fell, and I had never bled that much out of my skull.

Where on your head? Nick: It was on the back of my skull. You can't really see it because it's almost healed but there was lots of blood.

How did this happen? Nick: (band laughs) Jeff and I were like playing this rock riff and attacking Nate and kicking him.

Jeff: It was the "Johnny B. Good" riff.

Nick: (Attempts to emulate the riff orally).

Jeff: And we were doing the Chuck Berry hop with one foot in the air.

Nick: Then I approached Nate, while playing the riff, and I tried to jump kick him and get him with both feet. I feel and hit the back of my skull on the corner of my amp and it was very scary.

Jeff: And very bloody. It was super funny for like the first thirty seconds. Then he took his hand away and it was just covered in blood. Just the look on Nick's face. He was laughing then he was like, "Uh oh". (band burst into laughter)

It was super funny for like the first thirty seconds. Then he took his hand away and it was just covered in blood. Just the look on Nick's face. He was laughing then he was like, "Uh oh".

Do you guys go to the hospital a lot or do you just throw a band-aid on it? Jeff: Just Band-aid man. I don't have insurance. (laughs) I don't have insurance. I don't have a job. I don't have any of that stuff.

What's probably the most expensive piece of equipment that you've broken? Jeff: Everything's been broken.

Nick: I have a Gibson SG that I've broken the headstock off of about five times now. So, for the amount of money I've spent repairing that guitar, I could have just bought a new guitar. But, we have these really awesome people that fix all our gear for us in Roseville called Son Fathers Guitars (?). We bring all our stuff to them about once a week and they fix it real nice.

Jeff: Literally it's just a big joke, because every time we walk in it's like, "Oh, it's these guys again" and we bring in seven guitars. Usually after tour it's ridiculous. We just drive the van straight to Son Father. We just throw them the keys, "Here take care of it".

Nate: I picked my bass up on Wednesday and took it back this morning, which is Friday morning.

Jeff: And it wasn't like he broke a tuning key, it was like broken in half. After like 30 seconds of our set. (laughs).

As an instrumental band sound must be important but, with the costs of repairs, have you ever thought of just getting cheap gear? Jeff: Sort of but you get what you pay for and we like quality instruments. We don't play Epiphone SG's or fake ones. We all like good, quality gear and I'd say we're all pretty in to gear. We all like it and it's all cool to collect. I mean we could just get Squire Strats and rip 'em but it just wouldn't be the same. We like particular instruments and we're very into sound and tone and I just don't think playing shitty, junky equipment would….I mean it'd be great financially because we could just throw them off a cliff and who cares? (laughs)

Actually, recently we started customizing USA model. Like I have a Kramer from the 80's, it's just a goofy shitty shred guitar with like whammy on it.

Vince: Like a Stryper guitar.

Jeff: Yeah, Stryper style, definitely. The cool thing is that everyone thought those guitars were nerdy in the early 90's. Like, "No one's shredding anymore that's stupid. Let's put on flannels and grow our hair long", or whatever.

Says the guy with long hair and flannel. Jeff: (laughs) Totally. Let's listen to some grunge and act crazy. So those guitars are dirt cheap now and they have really good parts. Everything is the highest quality. So we might start doing those. You might see some pretty weird guitars at the Tera Melos shows coming up.