By Reyan Ali
11:25 AM EDT, April 25, 2013
w/ TTNG, Ports of Spain, Langosta. April 30, 7 p.m., $12, The Space, 295 Treadwell St., Building H, Hamden, (203) 288-6400, thespace.tk.
Is it John Clardy catching a hot dog plushie and cradling it as if it was a baby? Is that the weirdest image from the video for "Bite," a song from X'ed Out, the latest record by Tera Melos? The clip — a Behn Fannin-directed tribute to J-pop imagery and a fever dream of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! proportions — is crammed with big and disconcerting visuals, making the competition for strangest an insanely tight race. The field's other contenders include the brightly colored makeup and garbage bag dresses the three (male) musicians are performing in, guitarist Nick Reinhart birthing an egg that hatches another Nick Reinhart, an inexplicable close up of bassist Nathan Latona's thighs, cloth-covered drumsticks shooting out of drummer Clardy's nostrils, text of non sequiturs such as "Go Rock Go" and "Making Such a Happen" popping up over the action, and a giant panda head descending from on high as if it's a deity ready to do some smiting. The gents in Tera Melos never hesitate about them or their work — goofy videos or otherwise — coming off as too esoteric for their own good. They will be as freaky as they wanna be.
That same freewheeling sensibility applies to the trio's music — an unquenchable brew of noise rock's anxiety, pop's sweetness, jazz's virtuosity, punk's low-maintenance idealism and a half-dozen other ingredients. In its first incarnation in 2004, Tera Melos consisted of Reinhart and Latona plus guitarist Jeff Worms and drummer Vince Rogers. "A lot of what was on our mind was just being observant [of] trends and paradigms that were being set in the musical community around us," the 30-year-old Latona says. For example, since it was popular at the time for bands to have long, funny song titles that held no relevance to the music, Tera Melos titled the tracks on their 2005 self-titled debut "Melody 1," "Melody 2," "Melody 3" and so on. They also purposely designed music that had no cozy stylistic alignments.
Early shows were much more dangerous and performance-art-like than the band's sets today. Instruments would be thrown around and smashed in the blasts of commotion — an especially intriguing move since Tera Melos were an all-instrumental unit. (They've since begun to tinker with vocals.) During one performance, Latona accidentally walloped Worms in the head and left him with a gruesome injury. He remembers those happenings as always being spontaneous, always being real and always being a reaction to events unfolding at the time. After Worms left the band in 2006, the band began scaling the violence back. "When we started, that was a lot of fun, but then it got to the point where it was like, 'Hey dude, that part that you play that's really cool? It's not being played because you were doing a cartwheel at the time and banging your guitar on something,'" Latona says, adding that the accumulating expenses of destroying instruments also played a factor. "We don't want people to only like us for one facet. We want them to see that we're well-rounded. We're more than just thrashing around and throwing a guitar into a trash can while we're playing."
Much like Battles — another relatively no-name and excitingly idiosyncratic squad — Tera Melos are always trying to bend things: genres, melodies, song structures, their own audience's ideas of them and what they can do. "People think there's a lot more training or education that is put into music than [actually] is — a lot more calculation," Latona says. "It's kind of funny 'cause we get tagged with this math rock thing. That's so unappealing and sterile-sounding to us. When I think of math, I think of my least favorite subject in school, how uninspiring mathematics are because everything is the way it is. That term doesn't seem like everything is open and imaginative, and that's what our music is more about. The biggest misconception is that we are these guys that are so trained and know all this stuff. People talk to us about time signatures, and it's like, 'Dude, I don't know. We don't know what time signature it's in.' We kind of play and do as [we] feel."
Endless articles and press releases have touted the band as a complex and ambitious bunch based on the intricacy of their music, but Latona frames Tera Melos as a workmanlike punk outfit who are more about acting than thinking. He argues that Minutemen didn't sound like Black Flag, who didn't sound like Hüsker Dü, who didn't sound like the Buzzcocks, so the scrappy Tera Melos are fit to align with punk, too. "I never even think of us as like, 'Oh, we're such an ambitious band and we're so hard-working,'" he says. "What else are we going to do?"
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