Original photo by Oscar Perry. Handmade collage by B.
One of Gimmie’s favourite bands Terry are releasing a new album Call Me Terry in April, which thematically scrutinies our country’s corrupt, colonial history and shines a spotlight on greed, privilege and entitlement of white, wealthy so-called Australia. We’re excited to be premiering a new single and video for track ‘Gronks’. We caught up with Terry to get a little insight into the song, vid, what they’ve been up to, what they’ve been listening to and what they have in the works with other projects.
What’s life been like lately for everyone in Terry? Congratulations Xanthe and Zephyr on your new little addition to the fam!
TERRY: Thank you! Life has been good lately. Lots of swimming and nappy changing. Amy and Al’s visit when our baby was three weeks old was a highlight of recent months! We cooked, went for a day trip to the upper mountains, and played bananagrams.
We’re super excited about the new album, Call Me Terry! What’s something that you’d like us to know about it?
T: It was nearly called Terry Gold.
We’re premiering one of our favourite album songs ‘Gronks’; what initially inspired it?
T: ’Gronks’ was written at the start of 2020. Was a bit paranoid about the world flipped upside down and how the powerful would further their own interests (white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy) and the war machine. “Meet me from the banks you gronks” is spoken from a Robocop-style Twiggy Forrest character sailing up the Parramatta River in another wave of imperialism.
Photo by Oscar Perry.
What do you remember most from making the ‘Gronks’ video?
T: I (Xanthe) made the video just recently late at night after the baby was asleep. It was nice to listen to the song loads of times and play around with images. I wanted to see what I could make using just the text and image of the Redmond Barry statue from our album cover but broadened the scope, after my cousin Solomon sent me some footage of a Terry doll he and my Aunty had made for an upcoming video. And then again after finding loads of footage of Amy, Al, Zeph and I on a ferry that Dan shot on my iPhone in an inspired moment a few years ago. I remember all those things.
The demos for the album were recorded in 2019; what can you remember from recording them? They were recorded apart, right?
T: We kinda tried to record a whole album before X and Z moved to the blue mountains. But I think we were dreaming, or at least I (Al) was. The songs were undercooked. It was great to record days before they left cos it made us feel we still had something to work on together.
How did it all feel when you finally got together in 2021 to record the album’s tracks? Did the songs change much from the demo versions?
T: It was great being together to record the songs. I think Terry had been going pretty hard on the creative Bathurst circuit for a few years. We’d write a lot intensively, record then tour. It’s really productive and I think we were stoked about the output. We got to see the world. But you can only do that for so long I think. X and Z moving interstate and the lockdowns forced us to have a breather. Abscess makes the heart grow fonder.
Besides making music what’s something you love to do when you all get together?
T: Eat, prey, laugh.
Were there any challenges making the album?
T: At first I thought the space apart would be tricky but in the end it gave us time to slow down and consider the compositions/mixes a bit more.
Which is your favourite track from Call Me Terry? What do you love about it?
T: I love ‘Market’ and ‘Golden Head’. Can’t pinpoint what I love about them. Different instrumentation. They feel pretty dynamic. Golden head is such an anthem.
We love the album cover that features song lyrics; how did you come to decide to incorporate them like that? Who took the photos?
T: The artwork was influenced by an old poster that Xan and Zeph saw about the the action to save the demolition of the finger wharf in Woolloomolloo. We all took the photos separately. We drove around the city and found structures that had a relationship to the songs. I think words and actions are pretty important so you might as well put yourself out there.
Where do you find you have your best ideas?
T: In transit.
We’re always on the lookout for new music; what have you been listening to lately?
T: Mixture of recorded and live:
Vampire from Melbourne have just recorded an album, five years on from their demo. Jacked to hear that. One of the best bands in Melbourne.
Glass Picturehave been playing some new material live. Really excited to hear it when they record.
Eternal Dust new LP on LSD club. Incredible.
Phantasm – a new super group.
Punter – new LP probably out by the time interview is printed.
Reaksi – the 7” on hardcore victim is great but there is a whole set of great punk.
Maxine Funke live in Melbourne recently was phenomenal. Can’t wait for the new tunes.
The Clash – ‘Long Time Jerk’, great outtake from Combat Rock.
Are there any other projects you’re working on at the moment?
T: There is a Primo album nearly finished. A Truffle Pigs LP is getting close and a Lower Plenty album is ready for a master. Theres an old Russell Street Bombings LP that needs a master. Zeph did some great recordings over the last two years with percussion, harmonium and guitar.
What’s the rest of the year look like for Terry?
T: Nappies, bouncers, swaddles overturn the ruling class.
Melbourne duo Sleeper and Snake, Amy Hill and Al Montfort, are set to release new album Fresco Shed via brand new independent Australian label Lulu’s Sonic Disc Club (from the folks behind Lulu’s record store) and the UK’s Upset the Rhythm.
Sleeper and Snake craft beautiful and delicate songs about tough matters, their songs are political without being overtly so, you have to dig deeper, they make you think. Al and Amy skillfully and uniquely tell stories observed from their local surroundings of trains, farmers, corrupt handshakes, of Pentridge prison and the Melbourne war memorial. Through laid back alto and tenor saxophone peppered lo-fi soundscapes and poetic words, Fresco Shed sparks imagination and charms the listener.
Gimmie chatted to Al and Amy about the forthcoming LP and song “Flats” which we’re doing the Australian video premiere for today. We also talk about their other projects in the works.
What initially inspired you to write a new Sleeper and Snake album Fresco Shed?
AMY: Good question! [laughs].
AMY to AL: You’re just always writing music, endlessly… it’s gotta go somewhere.
AL: We were writing a lot of Terry songs together…
AMY: We just enjoy playing music together.
AL: I guess…
AMY: Some of it didn’t suit that.
AL: Yeah. We had saxophones so we were making a lot of music with them.
I wanted to ask you about using saxophone, because that’s kind of a less traditional instrument to write songs with; have you been playing for very long?
AMY: No, not really. Al got one…
AL: Yeah, I got one. I got a tenor sax from EBay from a fancy rich suburb in Sydney for 200 bucks! [laughs] …maybe six years ago when Total Control were up there for a gig. I didn’t bother getting any lessons, in case you can’t tell.
AMY: I tried to play it once and I managed to get sound out of it and he pestered me into playing [laughs]. Georgia from The UV Race plays saxophone and she had babies recently so she wasn’t using her saxophone, I managed to borrow hers and that’s what I’ve been playing. We thought it would sound quite cool to have the tenor and alto saxophones together. It seemed like a fun thing to do.
AL: Yeah. Amy just picked it up and was way better. She was a total natural at it straight away.
What do you enjoy about making music?
AL: It keeps me sane-ish. I think any kind of creative outlet is really important for people. The process of writing lyrics is a really great outlet for me to get through the day, to make things compute and it helps this horrible place make sense.
AMY: I think it’s just fun!
Making something from nothing is the most fun!
AMY: Yeah. It’s also been a real social thing for me, I get to hang out with my friends and we do music together. It’s always been what you do, go see bands and play music together.
How have you guys been dealing with not being able to be as social and do those things, especially play live?
AMY: It’s pretty weird. At first it was almost like a little bit of a holiday from it. By playing in numerous bands we’d find ourselves playing something like four gigs a week, which is quite insane when you’re also working fulltime [laughs]. The first lockdown it was kind of a bit of a novelty but it starts to just become quite odd, I feel a bit odd. There’s a lot of people that you don’t see anymore because you’re not going out to see live bands. Your life feels a bit like it’s on hold, I guess most people would be feeling that.
I think so. I’ve been going to gigs my whole life and this has been the longest I’ve gone without going to see live music. Right now in Brisbane a handful of venues have brought back a live shows but with a small capacity and it’s sit down at tables, socially distanced; you pay the ticket price and then you have to pay a minimum of $40 each extra on top of that which is redeemable in bar tab or venue merch. That means for my husband and I to go see a local live band it can cost around $120; we don’t drink and we’re not going to spend $80 on soft drink and we don’t need venue merch, so these new rules excludes us from going to do something we’ve done and supported our whole lives.
AL & AMY: Whoa!
I can understand venues are in a weird spot with having limited capacity and not having been opened for a bit but to basically enforce a alcohol minimum to see bands is really weird.
AL: That is really weird.
AMY: Someone was telling me that Cherry Bar here in Melbourne was trying to gauge interest, they want to do a gig where there’s some hotel and it must have a courtyard in the middle and the rooms have balconies that look down on it; they want to have the bands in the courtyard and then you book a room, so it’s a festival where you have to have your own room. It’s insane.
AMY: You have to have money to be able to do that!
Same with the bands doing gigs at drive-ins up here. It’s something like $200-$250+ per car to go.
Yeah, it puts going to a show out of the reach of a lot of people, especially with many people losing their jobs.
AMY: Do you think people do it because they think they’re supporting live music? But then it’s so inaccessible for so many, it’s so weird.
Yeah, the kind of crowd that end up being able to afford it are the ones that go to a festival like Splendour In The Grass just for the experience… its crazy to me that festivals like Splendour have a stall/tent you can go to and get your hair done and a nail bar! I mean, what the actual fuck?
Is there anything that frustrates you about making music?
AL: Hmmmm [thinks for a moment]… dealing with promoters. I think there are a lot of good promoters that have their heart in the right place, but I think the money making, money obsessed side of it…
AMY: It’s a bit grim!
AL: It is pretty grim. Even what’s happening now with the shutdown, I know a lot of the venues are keen to open up because there’s people that work for them and the landlords need money from the venues, the business owners need money and they’re pushing this stuff more than the artists I feel. I feel like the artists and the fans are like, let’s respect this, it’s OK…
AMY: We’ll just have a break. There’s a real push from the business side because they’ll go under if they don’t have the chance.
AL: I feel like maybe there’s not that much interest in the cultural, artistic side of musicians/artists… it’s more about the bottomline. That can be frustrating.
AMY: Some people probably love it, if they’re in it to make money [laughs].
AL: Yeah, totally.
I grew up in the punk rock community so I’ve always been very wary of the music industry.
AL: Yeah. I went to a lot of punk gig growing up, there weren’t many at pubs, there were many at cafes during the day or DIY venues, house parties, and they went along just fine without these huge bars making a lot of money off of people drinking themselves to death… I’m not quite straight edge but…
AMY: I guess there’s that thing that musicians often get paid in their bar tab to a certain degree which… it’s a bit of a weird normality that that’s what you get.
I’ve been listening to the new Sleeper & Snake album Fresco Shed all afternoon since I got a sneak peek of it, it’s so cool. The opener “Miracles” is an instrumental and has a feel about it sonically that is kind miraculous and magical sounding.
AMY: Thank you.
AL: “Miracles” is inspired by Scott Morrison when he won the election and was like “it’s a miracle… I’ll burn for you” and he kept on saying all this stuff about miracles [laughs]. It was really upsetting.
That’s like how in the US Donald Trump said that the pandemic will “disappear… like a miracle”.
AL: A miracle! Ugggh… Love that! [laughs].
I love how Fresco Shed has a real gentleness to it but then the themes are very political and serious.
AL: Yeah. It’s funny just making the music at home because we don’t play through amps very much with this project. Because we’re doing it like that and playing at home using saxophone and that, it does become gentle in a way.
AMY: You don’t have to be loud.
AL: Maybe it’s just sad and defeated?
AMY: Sad?! [laughs].
AL: It’s that side of politics… it’s the sound of defeat [laughs].
I saw press photos and there was an abstract hand-painted “fresco shed” in the pics; did you make it yourself?
AMY: We were getting quite crafty in lockdown.
AMY: Al’s always trying to make papier-mâché things. In Terry he made the papier-mâché Terry. He likes to get crafty.
AL: Yeah, I like to get crafty! I was really proud of the corrugated iron type roof.
AMY: We envisioned a real shed covered in fresco paintings but then all we could physically achieve was a cardboard box [laughs]. We like making the art and being hands on in that way. We had a lot of time on our hands.
We were nerds and zoomed in on the photos to check out the paintings better and we noticed that each picture correlates to song themes on the record, you have the V-Line country train, Pentridge prison, crooked handshakes…
AL: It’s conceptual but literal [laughs].
AMY: Al told me what to paint and I just painted it, that was the rule! [laughs]; I said I’d paint it if he told me what to paint. They all relate to the songs.
I really love the image of the “farmer full of feelings”.
AL: That’s one of my favourites, I think. That person definitely looks defeated!
That image is related to the song “Lady Painter”?
AMY: Yep. The farmer full of feelings has just watched a Scott Morrison press conference [laughs].
That song even mentions the “fresco shed” right?
AL: Oh yeah.
AMY: That’s where the title comes from.
We’re premiering the video for your song “Flats”; what’s that one about?
AL: We moved to a different suburb a year and a bit ago, Richmond is an inner east suburb of Melbourne…
AMY: No one we know really lives here, everyone lives north side. We moved to a suburb that’s kind of wealthy…
AL: It’s diverse, it has a lot of public housing but it’s really rich as well, heaps of wealthy people. You really see gentrification at that umpteenth level, how extreme it can get…
AMY: All the apartments going up and stuff. It was during summer and we were going for walks and we were talking about ideas and things and that kind of came up and that turned into a song.
AMY to AL: Did you write it?
AL: I think we both wrote it while we were walking around taking Tramadols [laughs]. We were walking by the Yarra River, it runs through the whole thing and you really see the worst of Settler society here…
AMY: All the wealthy people have their houses on the river and all the wealthy schools row on the river.
AL: There’s all these people with power next to disempowered people… AND it’s all on Stolen Land. Everywhere you look is a little snapshot of this.
It’s always boggled my mind since I was a kid, the world always seemed to me to have enough for everyone but, then there’s some people that have so much that they don’t even need and then there’s people with nothing, no place to live. I remember observing that as a kid and thinking it was so weird and wrong.
AL: Yeah, totally. Moving to the suburbs that are much older, the juxtaposition between these two things are in your face. Another aspect of the song is about the privilege we have as white Australians, we don’t have experiences the same way… we might not even be from wealthy families or whatever but we benefit from it every single day. The “flats falling into the floor” lyrics is a reference to the Opal Towers in Sydney, all these apartment building falling down and such wealth being made from that stuff, it’s disgusting!
Totally! Do you have a favourite track on the new record?
AMY: I like playing the ones that we just play saxophone on together, they’re really good to play.
AL: They’re all good ‘ey! [laughs].
What do you love about playing saxophone together?
AMY: I think it’s just so new for me. To be playing a very different instrument than what I’m used to and having to work out how they sound good together… literally I don’t know some of the notes on it and have to figure it out [laughs]. Because it’s new it’s exciting to play. Challenging!
Musical experimentation must keep things creatively interesting for you; was there anything new you tried writing or recording this release?
AMY to AL: I don’t’ know if it made it on to the record but you were clanging on something, weren’t you?
AL: Oh, yeah. I was banging on a pot.
AMY: I don’t know if it sounded any good [laughs]. We just like to try weird things. We do that though with all of the bands to a different degree. Nothing ground-breaking.
AL: We recorded on the 4-track, which is what we usually do with Terry and Primo! too.
Toward the end of the song “Lady Painter” there’s some cool weird sounds that I couldn’t work out what was making it?
AL: That could be the organ, Nan’s old organ!
AMY: The Funmaker.
AL: Yeah, it’s called the Funmaker!
AMY: It has this one level of keys…
AMY to AL: Do you think it’s broken? Or is that just what it sounds like?
AL: That’s just what it does.
AMY: We didn’t even effect it, that’s just what it sounds like.
AL: I’ll plug it in… here we go! It’s pretty crazy.
[Al plugs in the organ and plays]
I feel like fun is a really important part of what you both do?
AMY: It’s sort of like a hobby, what we do to relax and blow off steam and hang out with our mates.
Did you start creating from when you first got together?
AL: It took a while. Maybe Terry was the first band that we wrote together for, that’s four or five years ago.
AMY: We’ve been together for ten years. It took us five years because we just had our own separate bands.
AMY to AL: You were pretty busy because you had ten bands or something like that.
AL Too much going on ‘ey! [Laughs].
What’s something you both do differently when writing songs?
AMY to AL: You remember them, that’s one thing.
AL: I remember more of the riffs than some other people in the band [laughs]. I rush, I’m always keen to get things done…
AMY: Whereas I work more slowly.
AL: Not slowly though, I think more thoroughly.
AMY: I like to think over things.
AL: Amy does things properly and I rush it [laughs]. That’s what the report card says! Maybe that’s from just being in bands that tour a lot for a while… UV Race and Total Control would write a record, finish a record… we’d jam a lot and write a lot to have a record for touring; maybe that has affected my song writing style?
AMY to AL: You want to churn it out…
AL: Yeah, I want to fucking churn it out!
AMY: I’ll think about something for three months.
AL: Which I think is better! I listen back to stuff and I’m like errrrrr, I wish you told me to chill out on that.
AMY to AL: Yeah, like… you need to do those vocals again!
Did you do the Sleeper & Snake stuff in a few takes?
AL: I’ll always be like, that first take was good!
AMY: He’ll tell me to put something on it and I’ll be like; this is a demo, right?
AL: I’ll be like, yeah it’s a demo. Then I’ll be like, OK, let’s send it away for mastering now!
I love when you sing together on your songs; what kind of feeling do you get doing that together?
AL: It’s pretty fun!
AMY: I’m like, oh god! [laughs].
AL: Singing is so fun. I think we both love singing and we try to egg each other on.
AMY: I sing high on some songs on the record. I think I sing better when I sing high but I really don’t like singing high. I’m always trying to go low but it always ends up that, nah, I’m gonna have to go up. It’s all figuring out harmonies.
Is there anything else that you’re working on?
AL: We have a few demos in the can. We’re got most of the new Terry record done.
AMY to AL: You’re still working on that Dick Diver record?
AL: Yeah, there’s a Dick Diver record that’s been 75% recorded about two years ago…
AMY: Sleepless Nights have been working on another record but that kind of stopped with Covid. Our drummer just went to Perth, we were like; why did you go to Perth?! There’s a few things in the works but everything is a bit on hold.
AMY to AL: Truffle Pigs?
AL: Yeah, Truffle Pigs! That’s Steph Hughes from Dick Diver, Amy and myself. It’s more like Soakie, country Soakie…
AMY: It’s a concept album. We’re always doing bits and bobs. Al writes songs and we figure out which band it sounds like [laughs].
AL: You write so many songs too; what are you talking about? [laughs].
AMY to AL: Noooooo. I write a riff and play it for a little while and then I forget it and then you remember it and turn it into a song [laughs]. You’ll be playing and I’ll be like; oh what’s that song?
What are the things you value in terms of your creativity?
AL: I value collaboration and maybe a level of improvisation, especially in a live setting.
AMY: I enjoy that. Performing is good as well. But, we don’t’ get to do that at the moment. I do get really nervous though, but I enjoy it a lot [laughs]. Sometimes my hands will be shaking so much that I can hardly play the organ.
You could never tell you’re so nervous. We watched the live Button Pusher performance recently, which was great!
AMY: It’s just a physical thing I guess, it’s so weird. I’ve been playing for so long and it just never goes away. I still get so nervous! I think it’s a good things though to have some nervous energy.
Terry are one of our favourite Melbourne bands. They’re always on high rotation at Gimmie HQ! Being the nerds that we are, we have all their releases. Terry is a 4-piece: Zephyr Pavey (Eastlink, Total Control, Russell St Bombings), Xanthe Waite (Mick Harvey Band, Primo), Amy Hill (Constant Mongrel, School Of Radiant Living) & Al Montfort (UV Race, Dick Diver, Total Control). Jangly guitar, nonchalant male-female vocals, relaxed-sounding rhythm section and playful, intelligent songwriting make Terry a real treat. We interviewed Zephyr and Xanthe!
Why is music important to you?
ZEPHYR: Music is good for exercising feelings that are a bit awkward to deal with in other ways and it is generally a fun way to spend time with other people.
What inspired you to first start playing music?
Z: I can’t remember. My family love it so it’s just been around… just became aware white male privilege probably relevant to how I’ve strolled on up and grabbed the mic without a second thought. My grandma just sang me the school song she wrote for Nabiac Primary School in 1989.
Everyone in Terry plays in other bands; why did you decide to start Terry? I know the seeds of it were sown while on holiday in Mexico.
XANTHE: Yeah, I can’t remember the exact conversation. We were hanging out a lot at the time and we went to Mexico City for a holiday together, that’s where the discussions began, like “wouldn’t it be fun”! I hadn’t played guitar in a band before, Zeph hadn’t played drums so it was definitely conceptual before we actually started jamming. I think we just liked a lot of similar music and wanted to hang out more!
When did you realise you had something special/interesting/cool musically?
Z: Not sure it’s any of those things, don’t really think about it beyond making tunes.
What is the role of humour in Terry’s music?
Z: We aren’t very analytical about ourselves, it’s sort of just our normal way of communicating.
Two couples make up Terry; what’s the best part about creating – making music and playing shows – with your partner?
Z: Romantically speaking it means we avoid separation anxiety, also great logistically because there is no driving around to some other bandmates house after a show and when you share a room and on tour it makes all the bed sharing a bit more comfortable. I guess we have also really honed our communication to the point of blurred identity too which makes all the creative and administrative discussion a bit easier.
All four of you sing; how do you decided who will sings which parts?
X: That’s a fun part of songwriting with Terry. It’s organic how we figure that out. Someone will write a demo but then we play around with who sings what at practice. Often we’ll all be singing to start with but find parts tricky to play and sing at the same time, so some of us drop away… other times it’s more intentional or gendered, depending on what the song is about.
Are your songs solid before you record them or do they change much when you’re recording?
X: Generally we record pretty quickly; in that we won’t have played the song a lot before it’s recorded but the core of the idea will be there. We usually work from demos written individually or in households rather than writing a song from start to finish together. So sometimes recording is a process of figuring out how the song should be structured as a band. And we really get into overdubs, and then have to figure out how to play them live! The core idea is there but the songs do evolve/ change as we record them.
On your LP, I’m Terry, there seems to be a lot of car-related references; where does this come from?
Z: We all got cars at the time and it was awesome. Also probably because suburban Australia is inconsistent public transport wise and very sparse geography wise so the three Australians in the band have grown up around some kind of deep automotive experience. Also scared shitless of cars full of men driving around.
Terry recently released a single “Take The Cellphone/Debt and Deficit Disaster” for Sub Pop Singles Club subscribers; can you please tell us a little about each song?
X: These two songs were in the Terry archive that we loved but hadn’t released.
‘Take the Cellphone’ was written thinking about youth/recklessness/innocence. I’ve recently started studying law and was amazed to learn the age of criminal responsibility is 10 years old in Australia. I guess that song was crudely thinking about how easily kids can fall into trouble with the law and how problematic that is. Raise the age!
‘Debt, Deficit and Disaster’ was a song we wrote initially as part of a soundtrack for a French TV film about a surf gang in Biarritz we were working on. The production company dropped us half way through which was lucky in the end because we repurposed a lot of the songs for our own use.
What is one of the most fun moments Terry has had playing live? What made it so?
X: We’ve had so many fun/ funny moments playing shows with Terry, it’s hard to pick one. A few that come to mind… Our last London show was really fun, we played with the Homosexuals who are one of our fave bands so that was thrilling. Playing in Cuneo, a tiny town in the mountains in Italy in the basement of a guy’s house where the locals all came and seriously made us play every song we have written, I think we played a few songs twice. We were paid in risotto and focaccia for that show, it was a good one. The last show we played was a fun one too, it was at the Thornbury Bowls Club with Ripple Effect Band who were visiting from Maningrida NT. They are so good.
Do you do anything else creative beyond music?
X: I went to art school and still take photos, occasionally I do something with them but mostly just take them. Amy paints, Zeph also takes photos and has been spending quite a lot of time on our balcony fixing up old furniture/making things out of wood. Al made a life size papier mache Terry that we cart along to shows and sometimes paints too. So we are all pretty creative and into making things.
What’s next for Terry?
X: Zeph and I are living in Sydney at the moment and Amy and Al in Melbourne so we are a bit slower than usual because of the geographical distance but we have some songs we’re working on so…more records, and more shows that will probably be cancelled because of Covid-19.