Terry Malts tackling the nowhere places of modern times

Sjimon Gompers

Terry Malts

Terry Malts kicking in the car at the SLC afterparty. (photo by Johnny Cassidy)

On Terry Malts follow up to 2012's Killing Time with their brand new Nobody Knows This is Nowhere LP; the Bay by LA boys present a reflection of modern frustration and dissapointment mixed with an endless array of brilliant and prismatic energy. The 'Malts may have gotten heavier. They may have even gotten louder this time around. And with a titular nod to Neil Young's Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, commentaries on the state of life's current conditions, and taking the good with the bad; Terry Malts continue to remain an enduring force to be reckoned with on the Slumberland Records roster. The other week we had a chance to talk with Corey Cunningham and Phil Benson on the band's progressions, prying into the content of Nowhere's fresh cycle of songs, discussions of geography, side projects, and what Terry Malts have been listening to lately.

First up, damn, am I losing my hearing or are have all you guys indeed gotten louder?

Corey: Haha, yes, we did intentionally get a bit louder. I used a trick on the amps I picked up from Greg Sage when he did the Over The Edge album: he used really small amps and a slightly clear tone mixed in with the distortion. It has a powerful loudness when it's mic'd up.

Phil: Ha ha ha, honestly that may quite possibly be the case with our own hearing! I mean, I've been playing loud music and going to loud shows since I was 15, all the while without ever wearing ear plugs, so the way things sound seems normal to me. Could be that we've gotten louder? I couldn't tell you. And as far as our hearing goes, there sure ain't no going back now!

And forgive this following obvious and obnoxious inquiry, but in what ways do you feel that Neil Young's Everybody Realizes This is Nowhere influence your titling of the opposite?

C: It was Neil's second album, this is our second album. There was a certain need for him to shake his past a little bit so he turned to Crazy Horse and a more live record and we did a similar thing, even if the sound is quite different. When we were writing and recording it, I think some of us in the band were trying to escape San Francisco and everything that came with it. We headed for the ditch.

P: That's not obnoxious, because you're right, that's exactly what the title is a play on. Neil Young is a huge influence on us, so in a way the title is paying homage to the dude, as well as expressing quite perfectly how we feel about living in a place that increasingly feels less and less like “home”.

Has Neil Young heard this record yet, or know of this record, at least from what you all know? And if so; Neil’s thoughts?

C: Not that I know of. I think we would be very flattered if he did ever listen to it. He lives near Redwood City and Phil and I used to live in Redwood City so I always thought of him as this mythical man in the mountains above the city.

P: No idea if Neil's heard it, though I sincerely doubt it. Not sure what he would make of it. I'm sure he'd think it was nothin' he hadn't heard already or something, ha ha. Who knows? Maybe he'd dig it. Though we certainly are no Edward Vedder and his Pearled Jams.

It does seem very much a part of these messages of this disposable, generation-whatever kind of thing with songs like “I Was Not There”, “Human Race”, “Life's A Dream”. But again, on tracks like “Life's a Dream”, there is no sense whatsoever of 'dream pop' and you are grounded in this lucid reality of concrete and vomit. Is this perhaps an existential commentary on life's delusional states that many abide by and live under?

P: Yes, it most definitely is. Though kind of broadly focused, “Life's a Dream” is pretty much about being disheartened by the callousness and disregard that permeates the general public. I suppose it's silly and a bit juvenile to point fingers, but people make it so easy.

Things never are never completely tragic though in a Terry Malts song. I mean, even the end of the world cataclysm scenario of “No Tomorrow” has this live-for-today ethic, like that, “this is what we're gonna do now” phone recorded intro. Are you all aware of this yin and yang kind of balance in your music?

P: Totally aware. Life isn't just black and white, ya know? It's an endless array of colors that at times will stand apart all brilliant and prismatic, and other times dissolve into a less pleasant mush. You learn to take the good with the bad, as they say, or you start to really lose it.

Is there any kind of running commentary happening throughout Nobody Knows This is Nowhere on the renter-tenants crisis of the Bay Area? There seems to be this undercurrent that careens against a kind of discouragement of the current age, with noise balladry panacea of great cuts like “Comfortably Dumb”.

P: I'd say the undercurrent is one of a more general disappointment in all aspects of life, though what's happening in the city definitely plays a major part in that. It's not a concept album or anything.

If you didn't live here in the Bay, where else would Terry Malts consider living?

C: Hmm, I live in Los Angeles now and I'm very happy to be here. I think it's more of an every-man's city than San Francisco. There is real, true diversity here and an incredible mix of urban sprawl with nature popping it's head in the most unlikely of places.

P: I'm not sure. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, obviously. Corey lives in Los Angeles. I'd consider moving there. I've always had a place in my heart reserved for LA, ever since I was a tiny kid taking family trips down there. There's something unexplainable about it that's always been alluring to me.

Could you see yourselves as Portland-ers? Everyone’s moving to Brooklyn, right? I know your label mates Weekend did, and as a San Franciscan I'm just happy that Weekend continues to play lots of Bay shows despite the relocation. You all have a solid, global family at Slumberland.

C: I love Powell Books and some of the record stores there. It's a great place to spend a little time in, but it's not for me. Brooklyn, on the other hand, is a wonderful place to live, if you like saxophones.

P: I absolutely love the Northwest, and I've actually considered moving to Portland. But realistically, I don't think I'd do well with the weather up there. I don't like being wet, ha ha.

As a band that has risen up to a high profile level of prominence in the Bay’s indie currents and outside of the Bay as well, what do you all enjoy about the tight knit scenes that we have here in abundance?

P: I personally enjoy the diversity, as cheesy as it sounds. I like that you can play a show and not have to watch the same set 3, 4 times in a row. That can get tiring.

Who are some of your favorite Bay Area artists and groups right now that have been overlooked by much of the music press or not gotten the credit they deserve?

P: We are huge fans of Synthetic ID. They've put out a 7″ on a German label I believe? And a full length on 1-2-3-4 Go! Records. Both are excellent, and their live show is equally as impressive. Super nice guys too. Can't say enough good things about them.

What currently is in heavy rotation on your stereos, tape decks and pods right now?

C: I've been listening to a lot of this composer Giacinto Scelsi and a lot of Big Dipper.

P: Well, we just got back from tour, so I can tell you that my favorite things to listen to while I was driving were The Chills, Kaleidoscope World, and The Grateful Dead's Working Man's Dead. And Neil Young of course. Gotta have Neil handy when you're on the road.

If the Terry Malts were an activist group instead of a band, what would your re-branded name be and what would be your paramount cause?

C: Phil suggested “M.A.D.D.”, like Malts Against Drinking Discretion.

Corey, we have been enjoying your recent Is It Really Really Real 7″ for Loglady Records, and was wondering are the rest of you Terry Malts planning on doing the KISS/Wu-Tang/NWA thing where you each start dropping solo releases as well?

C: Thanks, I'm glad you like it. I love Kiss by the way. Destroyer is such a fantastic, fun record with cool cover art. I'm finishing up a solo tape called “It's A Weird World” and also a few working with a few other bands. There should be more music coming out in the next few months. I'm not sure what the other fellas are cooking up, but surely they've got something in the pipeline.

P: Ha ha, well I mean, I can't vouch for Nathan, but I have no solo project up my sleeves. I have been working on other projects, but I'm always working on something. Doesn't mean any of it will ever see the light of day [laughs]. Though, I'd have a HUGE discography if I put out a record for every little project I'd started or been a part of.

And like the “you're so serious” refrain on “So Serious”; do you all feel that you have become more serious, either in tone or as a band from the days of Distracted, and last year's Killing Time to this new record?

C: Hmm, I think that's seriousness in a different sense. Like someone who is more serious about playing music for money and fame rather than having fun and expressing yourself.

P: Not at all. The subject matter of the songs is a little different, but as far as our attitudes towards making the music we make and being the band that we are goes we're still just having fun. “So Serious” is addressed to bands that try so hard to really 'make it' and jump through all the hoops that industry goofballs set up for them. That shit will suck the life out of you, and if that starts happening man, you're better off just quitting while you're ahead.

Terry malts Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere is out now on Slumberland.

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