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.