Schizophrenic rock trio Tera Melos has a reputation of making wild, explosive music with an unchained creativity that makes them hardly accessible but hardly forgettable. In 2010, the band restructured, and released Patagonian Rats, an album the band claims they’ve wanted to make for a long time. Patagonian Rats mixed their musical abandon with a more accessible structure that made one of the most interesting albums of the year.
The band’s newest album, X’ed Out follows in the footsteps of their previous effort, somehow being their most accessible album and their most impressive. This is an album that doesn’t push people away simply for the sake of stretching its arms.
X’ed Out sounds like it’s hit the Tera Melos sweet spot, like the band has finally released the album they’ve been trying to make since they began.
Nick Reinhart, lead singer and guitarist for the band, told me that he doesn’t know if a sweet spot exists for Tera Melos. “We’re just kind of ever-evolving and wanting to do new things. With Patagonian Rats we kind of figured out how to make a record that we’re really stoked on. But hopefully that even gets better and better, and the next record we make we like even more than this one.”
With this record, Reinhart said the band had more of a vision of what they were creating, as opposed to the scrapbook construction of some of their earlier work. “We wrote the songs for this record, whereas with Patagonian Rats it was almost that way, but it was still more of a collection of songs that we had. This is the first record where we’re like okay, let’s write a record.”
X’ed Out has a much greater emphasis on traditional song structure than previous Tera Melos albums, which in some ways makes it their most experimental album yet. “It has a lot more pop stuff going on in it versus maybe what we’ve done in the past, but I think the whole pop thing comes into play because people are just so not used to that with our band,” Reinhart said. “We were particular about wanting these to be songs. Not jams, not just complete freakouts, we wanted to have a record of songs. So I think there were definitely times where we had to step back.”
So it’s an album of pop songs that are filled with alternating time signatures, unapologetic noise, and more notes-per-minute than many heavy metal records. What do you call a band like that?
“This guy in Atlanta once said ‘dang, y’all sound like futuristic surf rock man’. I thought that was pretty cool,” said Reinhart. “It’s experimental in nature, it’s raw. Generally when I hear people talk about math rock or indie or whatever the thing is, to me it gives a sense of sounding really pristine, whereas our band couldn’t even play like that if we really tried. We definitely have more of a raw quality to it which we like. So I don’t know, maybe raw futuristic surf rock.”
“I guess at its core, we’re a punk band… It’s just not punk music,” Reinhart said.
The music scene that spawned Tera Melos is composed of a tight-knit group of American bands that all somewhat share the band’s spastic, experimental punk attitude. While Reinhart’s band is continuing to try new things, he isn’t sure if the scene that bore him still exists the same as it once did. “When we were 18, 19, or 20 going to these shows and seeing those bands, it was crazy seeing a band like Hella or Dillinger Escape Plan or The Locust, or those types of really spazzy technical bands from that era, from the late-’90s to the early-2000s. And now I hear bands that are trying to to do that, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, but I think it’s true that people aren’t playing and aren’t creative like they were before. It’s really bizarre.”
Though Reinhart says his band is pretty removed from what is currently happening due to touring and recording, one place they still do frequently look to for inspiration is The Simpsons. “It’s a really interesting cartoon. It’s more than just a cartoon, it’s a really neat little universe. It’s cool because aside from it being funny and a show that we all grew up on, it’s really interesting because in the cartoon universe, anything goes. Not to be all cheesy or whatever, but it’s just like a neat parallel to our music. I think over the years maybe we’ve made funny song titles that are a Simpsons reference, it’s kind of stupid, but now it’s like, actually there are a lot of parallels there that aren’t as surface level, that are a little deeper.”
Being inspired by a show where anything can happen has led to songs being created from almost anywhere. Opening track “Weird Circles” was written entirely in the studio, from a guitar riff Reinhart pieced together into a song with the band’s engineer. A track like “Tropic Lame” was an older demo Reinhart had done for another project that he reappropriated into a Tera Melos song. The title track “X’ed Out and Tired” is an unusually mellow acoustic song that the band threw in simply to try something new.
Tera Melos’ latest album is a punk kaleidoscope that throws together a hundred deliberate experiments to create 12 manic surf rock masterpieces. Or maybe it’s just hard to describe…