Terry Returns with a Fresh Batch of Idiosyncratic and Deceptive Garage Pop on 'Call Me Terry'
With their first album in five years, Naarm/Melbourne supergroup Terry sharpens their attack and takes shots at Australia's rotted colonial legacy. To dive deeper into the new album we caught up with guitarist-vocalist Al Monfort who discusses the album's political awareness, that French surf movie they composed music for, playing Jerkfest 8, and the scoop on other upcoming projects within the band's extended universe.
While Terry is a man of mystery, it's also a band based out of Naarm/Melbourne, Victoria that's composed of some of the scene's most inspiring musicians in the past decade. The supergroup of sorts includes guitarist-vocalist Al Montfort (Total Control, UV Race, Dick Diver, Lower Plenty), guitarist-vocalist Xanthe Waite (Mick Harvey Band, Primo!), bassist-vocalist Amy Hill (Constant Mongrel, Sleeper & Snake, School Of Radiant Living), and drummer-vocalist Zephyr Pavey (Eastlink, Total Control, Russell St Bombings).
Following a trio of EPs, three-full-lengths, and a single for Sub Pop, Terry returned last week with their anticipated fourth album, Call Me Terry, an album that brings listeners right up to date to the band's wonky ramshackle politico-pop and blistering satire. A lot has happened for the members of Terry since we last heard from the group on 2020's EP Who's Terry. Members have moved interstate, undertaken studies, had children, and started new fields of work. Terry began sharing the demos for the new album online with each other in 2020 before finally getting together in 2021 at their rehearsal space.
Released on the always reliable Anti Fade Records and Upset The Rhythm, the new album is a cleverly guided tour that shows all four members singing in unison while fearlessly confronting Australia's dark colonial past, unearthing the greed, privilege, and entitlement of the country's elite. The lead cut "Gold Duck" has the sugary and playful garage-pop sensibility that fits somewhere between the Go-Betweens and the Bats, while the absurdist post-punk on "Excuses" skitters with driving rhythms, sharp guitar lines, and busted horns. To dive deeper into the new album we caught up with Monfort to discuss the album's political awareness, that French surf movie the band once composed music for, playing Jerkfest 8, and the scoop on other upcoming projects within the band's extended universe.
Paperface Zine: Aside from releasing your new album Call Me Terry last week, what's been happening over at the Terry headquarters?
Al Montfort: We've been reproducing, moving states, moving, working, swimming, writing, recording. PZ: While doing all of that, what's been on heavy rotation?
AM: Trueanon, the news, the reels, Cate Le Bon, Discharge, Normil Hawaiians, Lavender Country, Champion Racehorse, G2G, Maxine Funke, and The Glass Picture.
PZ: How exactly did Terry form in Mexico City in 2015? And what's the significance of the name? I read that you originally went for the Speedies but then found out about the classic NYC power pop band [laughs].
AM: I thought the Speedies was an awesome name. Straight away people were like "it’s an awesome name because it's an existing awesome band." Whoops [laughs]. And yeah we were all together in Mexico City after a tour with one of the other bands. We enjoyed each others company and all wanted to do another band. It was destiny.
PZ: What do you admire about this lineup and how do you think you've all grown musically together? AM: I think we've grown musically together because it's a pretty safe space to make music. I think we encourage each other to go out on a limb on ideas. It helps us to produce a diverse record that’s not too sameish.
PZ: What does a usual Terry practice session look like? AM: Jam starts. We are all usually pretty prompt. Xanthe will bring a new type of gluten free beer. We all taste test the beer to judge its resemblance to its glutinous counterpart. I try playing this charming man on guitar. We jam a fake reggae song. We jam a fake power violence song. Eyes roll. Run through the set then run through a new one. I think I'm the annoying one who's ready to keep on rocking. PZ: Has there ever been any crossovers from your other musical projects like with Dick Diver, UV Race, Total Control, Primo!, Sleeper & Snake, Chateau, Rocky, and Constant Mongrel? Like how do you know what's a Terry song? AM: Yeah I think there's been a couple in the Terry/Russeel St Bombings/Total Control that Zeph and I decided that's best in different spots. Not sure if this has ever happened with Primo!. PZ: Following 2020's EP Who's Terry, you recently released your anticipated fourth album Call Me Terry. How did this album come together and grow out of the 2019 demos?
AM: We had a go at recording the album before Xan and Zeph moved to the blue mountains. Was a bit half cooked so we shall refer to attempt one as "demo session." As soon X and Z moved up, the borders closed which kind of forced us to write more tunes rather than try and bang out another session (probably what I would have done). We then wrote more songs and came together in 2021 to record again. PZ: Do you feel that the 2020 EP was an appropriate segue into the new album? AM: Yeah I think so but two of those songs were quite old. "Bizzo and Tophat" was an unfinished Dick Diver track from eight years ago and the last song was written during the Lindt siege.
PZ: Since you started writing the album before the pandemic, did any tracks develop differently than you expected? AM: They stayed pretty similar, though three of the original tunes were ditched completely. So it's a pretty different record. "Excuses" and "Miracles" stayed pretty much the same. Wait for 2040 box set with rarities. It'll all be revealed then. PZ: Lyrically, the new album scrutinizes Australia's corrupt, colonial history and highlights the greed, privilege, and entitlement of white, wealthy "Australia." What was the songwriting process like when including these themes and is any of it personal? AM: I think we just write about whatever we are feeling. They are all pretty personal. When the herald sun rallies against raising the rate of job seeker that's a personal attack on my people. This is personal. PZ: Terry's cover art is iconic and I was wondering if you can tell us a bit about the new one. Does it align with the album's themes and if so, in what ways? AM: The photos and explanations relate directly to the songs and themes. There are photos of BHP, Newscorp, the Melbourne club, and St. Kevin's College. Coincidence? I think not. Do your own research.
PZ: Not only does the album expand upon your subject matter, but also your signature sound with the sugary gang vocals, wonky synths, and stabbing guitar lines. Would you suggest this album to be a good starting point for someone interested in getting into Terry? AM: Yeah get in there. We usually have pretty similar instrumentation and my voice hasn't broken yet so there'll be something to grab onto between the records. Though yeah the songwriting has probably changed a bit over the last eight years.
PZ: It's great seeing you work with Billy's Anti Fade Records for the AUS/NZ release. How did that come about? Did it just seem natural with the local rock scene? AM: We have put all the records out with Upset the Rhythm in the rest of the world, then done them ourselves in so-called Australia. Oh except 8 Girls EP. Thanks aaarght!!! But Billy is good friend and does such a great job and this is not a great time for us to do our record ourselves. What a novelty. Really looking forward to having this out on a great label! Billy works very hard and puts a very important spin on his records. Can't wait! PZ: In early 2020, you released "Take The Cellphone" b/w "Debt and Deficit Disaster" as part of Sub Pop's Singles Club. How did that come about and what are the origins of those two tracks? AM: We originally recorded those songs for a French surf movie but the producer cabal changed their minds and didn't use our music. They still paid us and we reused most the songs for I'm Terry. Sub Pop have been super supportive of a lot of Australian bands in the last ten years. Thanks angels. PZ: The first song that got me really into you guys was "Tippy Toppy Terry," from the 8 Girls EP. It sounds like an early offbeat '60s pop song The Who would've released. Can you tell me a bit about that one?
AM: That song is about a fictional bar owner running a speed dating night because they believe in romance. Have you seen If You Are the One? The Chinese dating show? That's also a big influence.
PZ: Who are some of your favorite current Naarm/Melbourne and Sydney bands? AM: Vampire, G2G, Glass Picture, Eternal Dust, Itchy Bugger, Low Life, Reaksi, and Punter.
PZ: You recently played Jerkfest 8. How did that go? Did all four of you end up wearing top hats?
AM: Yeah that was our first show in a while and it was great to play it. Billy always does an amazing job and the Barwon Club is a great pub. So many great bands. It makes me think "I love music." Due to the child care arrangements, we were only there for a couple of hours. In that couple hours, I was amazed by Cloud Ice 9, Modal Melodies, Lou, and it was extra special to see Essendon Airport live. That Chapter Music reissue was on heavy rotation for a long time.
PZ: What other projects are in the works within the Terry extended universe?
AM: There's a Primo! record that's being mixed. XR LP will be out soon finally. There's an upcoming Total Control album that's nearly done and a Lower Plenty record to be mastered. Truffle Pigs have recorded, but need to do more overdubs. And finally, there's a long lost Dick Diver LP!
PZ: Woah there's a lot happening then! I'm especially excited for that long lost Dick Diver record! Aside from the new album, what else can we expect from Terry in 2023?
AM: A couple of shows, sleepless nights and nappies.
Call Me Terry is out now on Anti Fade Records and Upset the Rhythm.