Geelong Punk band Vintage Crop’s Jack Cherry: “The first big thing for me was listening to Eddy Current Suppression Ring…”

Original photo by Chelsea King. Mixed-media art by B.

Vintage Crop are set to release a cracker of an album! Serve To Serve Again captures sardonic, disenchanted, unromantic story telling from the grind of the day and observations of the world in a bold 12-song package. Gimmie spoke to vocalist-guitarist Jack Cherry.

JACK CHERRY: I’ve had a nice day so far, I’m on holidays from work and I’m just taking it easy.

What do you do for work?

JC: I clean swimming pools, clean and maintain I should clarify, little bit and bobs. It’s a funny kind of job.

It would be nice to be outside a lot for work.

JC: All day, which is great in summer and not so much in the winter [laughs].

When did you first become interested in music?

JC: I’ve always had an interest, I think most people probably do, it’s a part of everyone’s life when they’re kids. I don’t think it was until I was twelve or thirteen, my brother asked me what I wanted for Christmas one year, and he steered me in the direction of a drum kit. I was like, yeah, I’d love to play drums! I wasn’t very good at it for a while. I wasn’t into anything outrageous, maybe just The White Stripes or the Foo Fighters, that was probably the first kind of inkling.

What did your parents think about you playing drums?

JC: We lived on a farm and the drums were set up in a different shed from the house so it wasn’t really an issue for them, which was nice.

What was it like growing up on farm?

JC: It was cool. We were there since I was a baby and I didn’t leave there until I was twenty. For the first twenty years I could make as much noise as I wanted! We’d always practice at my place, it was easy.

Photo: Chelsea King.

What made you move to the city?

JC: I’m still in Geelong, just not on a farm anymore. I’m ten minutes down the road on the other side of town now. I’m in a block of units at the moment so I can’t make much noise here. Geelong is pretty laid back, as long as you’re in a house, I don’t think people make too much of a fuss. We practice at our drummer’s house now and do a couple of hours a night and no one seems to have a problem with it.

How do you go about approaching your song writing?

JC: I wonder if it’s normal or not? I just play around with the guitar for half an hour or something until something half descent comes from it. I’ll play that riff or chords for two or three days until some idea for words come along and then I take it to the band. I don’t write much down. I just play around until something cool happens and take it to the band and they do the structuring and adding their own parts. I find it hard to write for everyone, it’s hard to not only come up with the parts but it feels like a dick move to come to the band and be like; you’re playing this on bass; you’re playing that on guitar; you play this drum bit on the drums. I feel like everyone is happy if they write their own parts.

When did you start playing guitar?

JC: When I was about sixteen. I had three to four years solid of playing drums and then it got to the point where I can’t really play a full song on the drums. I can’t invite people to come listen to a song and just whack the drums for two and a half minutes. It’s more interesting learning how to play the song on the guitar.

You mentioned that you don’t really write stuff down when you’re making songs; do you ever forget something really cool?

JC: Surprisingly I remember most things. I might forget the phrasing of something or the song itself; like I’ll know what I’m meant to play but can’t remember how to play it. It’s so infuriating to have the base of it but to not remember the intricacies of how I used to play it, that sometimes weighs on me. If it’s really important I will record it but I try not to, I try to keep it free like that because maybe someone in the band might have an idea for it and they’ll change it again and make it even better. I try not to lock it in too strictly otherwise you could stop it from turning into something even better!

Do you feel the new album Serve To Serve Again has an overarching theme?

JC: I tend to look back on things and retrospectively apply things and go, oh, that’s what I was looking at with this. I’d have to have a real think about it to give you something. I know that there’s something there but I don’t consciously write to a theme. There’s probably a theme there but I haven’t really nailed it yet.

I find that a lot of Vintage Crop songs have a social commentary, observations of life in general, themes of entitlement, privilege.

JC: Yeah, that’s something that subconsciously finds its way in. I try not to be too loaded in my lyrics but sometimes things just come out that way and stay that way, and it just works. A lot of the time I’m not consciously attacking anything or poking fun at things, it just comes through. I figure that’s obviously what I must feel about things or what I must have intended to say or feel because, again I feel if it’s too edited it loses the flow. I keep it as it is and that’s probably a better depiction of how I’m feeling and thinking.

How long have you been working on the record for?

JC: We did the Company Man 7” in January of last year, that was recorded six months prior but we’d been working on that for six months. It was originally going to be a full album, we originally had a few ideas that we took off of it and we moulded those into new songs that we sat with for a year. We had three songs a year ago and we went on tour to Europe in April and came back and said, let’s take a break and we’ll come back with some ideas. We probably didn’t get flying until September when we really knuckled down and said, we’ve got half an album let’s finish it. We took our time with it. We got it through ‘til February and that’s when we recorded. Give or take it was about a year from start to finish.

Where did you record it?

JC: We recorded it Frankston in Singing Bird Studios with Mikey Young. We were just happy for him to record it so we thought we would accommodate him and go down to Frankston, it’s about two and a half hours from where we are. We thought if he’s agreed to do it, we’ll do it on his terms [laughs]. We thought he’s the best man to ask for, he’s done everything that is in our scene, he’s the man for the job.

We really love the song “Jack’s Casino” on the LP.

JC: That one is the last one we wrote for the album. I came in with the idea three weeks before we recorded the album. Because it’s pretty fast and it doesn’t take much, you learn the things and play them really fast. I think it’s one of everybody’s favourites because it feels so fresh. It’s maybe indicative of where we’re going after this album. It seems like there’s always a couple of songs an album that will sound like maybe what the next one will be.

What‘s the second one?

JC: “Serve To Serve Again” the title track. It incorporates synths into our sound, it’s a lot better than the other stuff we’ve done, I think it takes a lead. We’re all happy with it. It’s exciting to change and get a new instrument in there to sound new and fresh.

The whole record is so solid. The three songs I love the most – “Jack’s Casino”, “Streetview” and “Serve To Serve Again” all appear in the middle of the record.

JC: Track listing was something we did think a lot about. It’s interesting that the three in the middle were the ones that are your favourite, because we thought the middle songs would be a really strong core for the album. The first three or four songs are the more single worthy songs and then the second half of the album has “Gridlock” which is the lead single, we thought we’d put the lead single on the B-side just to even things out. It’s interesting that you’d pick out the strong core as your favourites, it means we did a good job I guess.

So often we love the songs that aren’t the singles. What can you tell me about “Serve To Serve Again”?

JC: We wanted something more… my vocal patterns tend to be say three or four words then break. Say three or four words then break, we wanted it to have a bit more flow in the words. I took a bit more care to ditch the style I usually work with and be a bit more consistent with the vocals, to fire the vocals off a bit faster and really think about the words themselves and fit them all to a theme and keep it strong. The song itself may be a bit repetitive but if the lyrics are firing over the top… it gives us a bit more to work with.

Do you have any vocal inspirations?

JC: I’m very conscious of trying to do too much with my voice. When we first started I had kind of an American accent thing going on. It just sounded weird to me to use my normal voice. I think the first big thing for me was listening to Eddy Current Suppression Ring where it’s his voice amplified, that’s pretty much what I’m doing with mine, not trying to sound like anyone else, just trying to make sure I’m capturing my own voice properly. My favourite vocalist are the ones that amplify their own voice like Sleaford Mods, The Fall. I think that’s where we’re at with the vocal stylings.

When did you start feeling more comfortable with your own voice?

JC: Just after TV Organs came out. With the band, I was doing it on my own for the first couple of years, 2013-2015 was just me doing bedroom recordings and putting it on Soundcloud. They’re definitely not available anywhere, they’re definitely all gone! [laughs]. That was me, and I was struggling with the vocal thing, the songs weren’t great. After we did TV Organs and people were interested and came to shows it was like, oh… the voice isn’t too much different from what I was doing but I figured if people like the music I’d be more comfortable with my voice. Someone told me once that people will forgive a slightly out of tune voice if the music is good. If people are interested in the songs than making my voice sound more like myself would only be a good thing.

I’m always drawn to unique voices rather than perfect ones that all sound the same, I like character.

JC: The more you try to make it perfect it loses quality, it loses feeling.

Is there a song you’re proud of writing?

JC: I like them all, I think they’re all good. Maybe “The Ladder” on the new album, I think it came out well because there’s lots of different parts, it sounds tough but it’s interesting. The chord we use in the song, I don’t even know what its’ called, it’s like a minor diminished chord, it’s a really unusual chord but we use it and it almost sounds normal. That might be the song I’m most proud of.

I really love all the Dragnet stuff you do too! What inspired you to start that?

JC: It was last year at some point. Because of the ways we write things in Vintage Crop, it’s collaborative. With the ‘Crop stuff everything is recorded and mixed and mastered and sent off, maybe over a six month period. With Dragnet I wanted something that was just done on the spot. I was recording demos on my own, I play all the instruments and I’d finish it and that was the end of the song. Once I had a bunch of songs I’d just release it. We did. I put out a cassette and it was six songs and I got friends to play the show and gave the tapes away for free. It was fun and we thought, maybe we should do it properly.

Polaks Records in Europe wanted to do a vinyl release of it. I don’t like to do things slowly so I had a couple of other songs that I didn’t put on cassette that I thought I’d include on the vinyl release. He’s got it pressed already. I think Dragnet for me is immediacy. Getting it done straight away as opposed to the process we go through with Vintage Crop.

There’s a song called “Networking” on the record; what’s it about?

JC: That one is… a comment about people in music scenes in general. Everyone is very self-aware, there’s a lot of judging of other people but also judging of yourself. A lot of times you can feel like people are saying things about you or feeling certain things about you but they’re really not at all. I think maybe it’s a depiction of insecurities around people who are essentially just copies of yourself. Someone in a music scene, a lot of the bands that sound the same is because they have the same influences and they do the same thing; everyone’s kind of the same and it can get really competitive. You feel like you have to outshine these people or you feel like these people don’t like you or you don’t like them… it can be pretty… phwoar… ugly! The lyrics work for that. I don’t know if it comes across but that was the feeling behind it. I don’t think that deeply about the lyrics but there is definitely feeling behind it. It’s a good way of summing up how I’m feeling.

That song then rolls into next track “Music Business”.

JC: Yes. That one is a bit of fun. I did a music business course a few years ago as a one year thing. I didn’t want to go to uni and didn’t have much of a job so I thought I should do that because it was better than doing nothing. The music business course was very pretentious. It wasn’t aimed at me. It really made me see what my ambitions were and it was not to be someone in the music industry. When I say “music industry” I mean more the mainstream in Australia. That song is silly and makes me laugh when I think about it all.

Very with you there. I went to do a music industry course and I started off going to a shorter-course of it to see if I liked it and the lady that was doing it was the absolute worst! I ended up getting an internship at a major label on my own merits and I later found out it was usually her full-time students that got those places… anyway, it came up in class that I’d gotten the placement and she started treating me horribly and said in front of the whole class “You’re just getting people’s coffee!” and some other things that were trying to demean me. I never went back to that class again and thought, if this is the industry I don’t want to be a part of it.

JC: Aww that’s terrible. When I was doing the course it was around 2016 and I started getting into the local scene. Anti Fade Records was from Geelong where I was from as well and all of the things I was learning at the course, I looked at what Billy from Anti Fade was doing and was like, he’s not doing any of that stuff I’m learning?! I learnt the class was more geared to people that care about stuff like Triple J or artist management. I don’t need that stuff. I’m just better off talking to Billy about stuff and doing things like he does.

By the end of the course I had properly got Vintage Crop going, we were playing a couple of shows and starting the recording process. I started my own little record label. I thought, all of this stuff is in spite of the course! I wanted to do it my own way and not how I was taught.

What does success mean to you then?

JC: Having fun! To be completely basic about it, it’s just enjoying it. Sometimes I have trouble when people want to make a career out of it, it’s traditionally not a career, it’s a hobby. I have a full-time job and music is the fun thing I get to do every weekend and sometimes after work, that for me is a success. Doing it for fun and not hurting anyone, I think the rest of the band feel the same way. You have to keep yourself in check with it sometimes, especially now with an album coming out and you have to practice, do press, to make sure everything looks good and sounds good… it’s like, yeah, but don’t get carried away. At the end of the day we’re happy with the songs, artwork and that Upset the Rhythm and Anti Fade are putting it out—that’s the success! We’ve already kicked the goal. Now we’re just enjoying it all.

What was your European tour like?

JC: It was amazing! We were there for four and a half weeks, we did 29 shows in 32 days, it was ridiculous. To meet people and hear new bands and see new things was incredible. We made so many connections with people. The only downside was that I got really sick, in the second last week I came down with glandular fever. We soldiered trough, we wouldn’t change anything. It was my first time overseas and I was really put out by it all, at least I was with friends. If I was on my own it probably would have been a different story.

Outside of music of music, what’s important to you?

JC: Family and friends. I’m really invested in the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ve been doing my part where I can. I don’t like to promote things by social media but, I do like to do things like donate money where I can and help people if I can. I go to rallies.

As a POC I find it’s more helpful for people to do things offline and just in their everyday life, like if you see/hear racism happening, call it out! If you see someone that looks uncomfortable, go stand beside them and say “hi” and make them feel comfortable. Having conversations with people and helping educating people and your self helps too.

JC: The more you post, the more you can perpetuate arguments. I think the actions you mentioned are more valuable than sharing something on Facebook.

Please check out: VINTAGE CROP; on Facebook; on Instagram. Serve To Serve Again is out on Anti Fade Records and Upset The Rhythm (UK) August 8.

Sleeper and Snake on new LP Fresco Shed + first single ‘Flats’: “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…”

Original photo Mia McDonald. Handmade mixed-media art by B.

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].

AL: Yeah.

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…

[Laughter]

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!

[Laughter]

Making something from nothing is the most fun!

AL: Totally!

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.

Wow! Totally.

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.

AL: Whoa!

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?

[Laughter]

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.

Photo: Mia McDonald

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.

AMY: [Laughs].

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.

AL: [Laughs].

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”.

AMY: [Laughs].

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.

Photo: Mia McDonald

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]

[Laughter]

I feel like fun is a really important part of what you both do?

AL: Yeah.

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!

[Laughter]

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!

[Laughter]

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?

[Laughter]

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.

Please check out: SLEEPER & SNAKE. Fresco Shed out in September via Lulu’s Sonic Disc Club (AU, NZ and Asia) and Upset The Rhythm (UK) pre-order HERE now. S&S on Instagram. S&S on Facebook.

Xanthe & Zephyr of Terry: “Music is good for exercising feelings that are a bit awkward to deal with in other ways”

Original photo: courtesy of Upset The Rhythm Records. Collage by B.

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.

Please check out: Terry’s bandcamp. @talkaboutterry Instagram. Upset The Rhythm Records.