Art, if itâ€™s done right, is not easily definable. You just know it when you see it. The boys in Sacramento-based Tera Melos know this, even if they have a hard time conveying it. â€œSo you know Excite Bike, right?â€ asks bassist Nathan Latona when describing Drugs To The Dear Youth. â€œDid you ever stare at the screen so long that the track and the graphics invert so now you are no longer going off of jumps but now you are going into ditches? That is what our songs are like. You think you know how they are, but you can listen to them differently depending on what you focus on. That Excite Bike shit is weird, I know, but fuck it. And I don’t do drugs.â€ Itâ€™s true that they donâ€™t do drugs; itâ€™s also true that if you spend enough time with the band and their music, you will start to see patterns both in both the positive and the negative spaces â€“- songs speed by, morphing at light speed and blurring some kind of line between more pop-prog elements (all three members admit to spending far too many hours listening to King Crimson) and something, well…something not easily definable.
Drugs to the Dear Youth, musically, announces a new sonic world where Hellaâ€™s mathematics meet Don Caballeroâ€™s intricate riff-looping, kept exciting by a strange combination of Squarepusherâ€™s jazzy ambience and Mike Pattonâ€™s cartoon-ish attention span. Itâ€™s music that commands attention. Nathan Latona (bass) and Vince Rogers (drums) start and stop with a precision that could control traffic, the perfectly precise rhythmic background for Nick Reinhartâ€™s (guitar, programming, vocals) progressive songwriting. Reinhartâ€™s technical abilitiesâ€”the two-handed fretboard tapping, the neck-encompassing riffsâ€”are augmented by his pedal work. Heâ€™s constantly sampling his guitar between bolts of delay, fuzz, and a battery of warp-sounds that explode from either side of the stage. â€œIâ€™ll play a riff once and then pretty much just keep adding to it to make this really long riff that has all these different changes in it,â€ Reinhart says. â€œA riff ends up becoming an entire song.â€
To make matters worse, the band is in a steady state of flux. The instrumental tracks on Drugs To The Dear Youth butt up against the more art-rock tendencies exhibited on their more recent split on Temporary Residence. â€œWe have no interest in being constant,â€ explains Latona. â€œWe never want to be pigeonholed as â€˜that mathy-instrumental band.â€™ As soon as someone feels That, then we make a change; we sing.â€ But even within those changes there are constants: the trio might not hang from the ceilings at shows anymore, but they still tour constantly, polarizing audiences at each and every show. Check their MySpace–fans and haters alike post almost daily; one recently went so far as to say, â€œSure, continue your bullshit superiority facade. I’m tired of your bullshit. You music is empty, weak and pretentious, and it is all perpetuated by the mindlessness of these 15-year-old grindcore-loving dipshits who think it’s cool that you play guitar fast.”
The band came together after friends Reinhart, Latona, and Rogers found themselves getting bored with the hardcore punk they had been playing for most of their lives. Reinhart and Latona met Rogers at an improvisational jazz class and asked him to sit in on a session or two. He was initially reluctant to join because he “wasn’t into playing punk,” but a few practices later, it was clear that Tera Melos “wasn’t really playing punk.â€
So whatâ€™s next for these dipshits? After recently touring with fellow West Coasters RX Bandits and friends Fall Of Troy, youâ€™d think they’d slow down for a bit, but they plan on touring for at least another two months leading up to the recordâ€™s winter release. If you ask them whom theyâ€™d most want to be on the road with, theyâ€™ll tell you Public Image Limited. Says Reinhart, â€œRight now is such a weird time to be making music. We just found these interviews online with Johnny Rotten talking about making music in 1980. In it he says something like, “[rock-and-roll] these days is dead. It’s a disease, it’s plague, its been going on for too long… it’s not achieving anything. [Itâ€™s] too much like a structure, a church.” and that was 27 years ago. Some things never change, I guess.â€
Interestingly, what else never changes is the fact that rock and roll is constantly being saved and re-saved by kids like Tera Melos; shredding, passionate, smart as hell purveyors of their own constantly-changing definition of what it means to make music and be in a band at any point in time. There are few precedents for a band that works this hard, stays this independent, and makes music this crazy. In these ways Melos is refreshing and comforting: a fearlessly adventurous band garnering attention from other artists, industry reformers, and music listeners across the world. Itâ€™s easy make the claim that anything is possible, but with Tera Melos you donâ€™t just make that claim. You believe in it.
Tera Melos tour dates:
29 Nov 2007 19:00
Modified Arts Phoenix, Arizona
30 Nov 2007 19:00
Chain Reaction Anaheim, California
1 Dec 2007 18:30
MACLA San Jose, California