Terry Malts are a three-piece power-pop band that fuses a wad of bubblegum on top of aggressive guitar playing that rivals the freneticism of the Buzzcocks. In the short time the band has been in existence, they have released a six-song tape that has since sold out and a 7″ on Oakland-based label Slumberland Records.
Playing dive bars across San Francisco and Oakland, Terry Malts have drummed up a local following, including praise from The Fresh and Onlys‘ guitarist Wymond Miles. They are also mentioned in lockstep with a former project, San Francisco pop-outfit Magic Bullets. Terry did not fire off the magic bullet that “ended” the Bay Area five-piece (college is putting the band on hold, for now) — who’s original members included Philip Benson, Corey Cunningham, and Nathan Sweatt, three long-time friends and bandmates — the timing just worked right. We sat down with singer/bassist Philip Benson and talked about the Ramones and Jerry Seinfeld:
What’s the best part of starting over?
PB: Initially it started as something to do on a Friday night and then we ended up liking it a lot and doing it. It’s just refreshing to make a different noise. We were going to do it simultaneously (Magic Bullets) – but it just so happens to be funny timing. It’s definitely not conscious. (laughs) We didn’t start Terry Malts to sabotage Magic Bullets. We were just bored. We were bored and we were drunk.
When people first listen to Terry Malts there is the instinctual reaction to compare it to your former project, Magic Bullets.
PB: It’s the same people. I’m playing bass. I’m not a bassist. Corey [Cunningham] plays guitar. Our dummer Nathan [Sweatt] plays bass in Magic Bullets, he’s not a drummer per se – but he’s had a drum set for awhile but he’s never been in a full-on band playing drums. And the way Corey plays guitar is completely different with how he plays (in Magic Bullets).
How would you describe your sound?
PB: Obviously lates 70’s punk, early 80’s hardcore music. Fuzz pop kind of stuff. I guess that would be like late 80’s and early 90’s. Everything we listen to. People want to say that we sound like Ramones meets The Jesus and Mary Chain – it’s not supposed to be intentional but it makes sense to me. I hate to limit ourselves to that aesthetic too, because I feel like we like to mess around with song structure and stuff.
Honestly, they are two words that sounded good together. We were juggling around the idea for awhile of making up a persona for “Terry”, we’d write books as “Terry” – thought that it would be cool, then after awhile we realized it was kind of hokey so we stopped. Honestly, it doesn’t mean anything.
What is your songwriting process like?
There are a bunch of different ways – somebody might have a bar, or we all go to practice and start playing and see what happens. It’s what exciting and refreshing about playing in Terry Malts – we really have no expectations for ourselves at all. We just kind of go with whatever sounds good.
What do you think of the idea that’s been tossed around about artists in San Francisco — that the City is good for incubating talent, but perhaps not for drawing as wide of an audience as playing in Los Angeles or New York would.
Totally. I feel like San Francisco has a lot of cool bands and stuff, but I definitely don’t feel like there’s a really cohesive scene or anything. What always blew my mind is when all these bands would be touring through [California] that I’d have liked to see and then I’d check out their itinerary and there would be no stops in San Francisco. And I’d always ask “What’s wrong with it?” Playing here long enough I see why. I don’t want to sound like I’m talking shit on San Francisco. Me and Corey live here. Nathan lives in San Carlos. I’m from Redwood City, Corey’s from Tennessee. We’re not really a “San Francisco” band — and I don’t want to sound pretentious. We just happen to be here now. I just feel like that it’s something to live up to, that people will say “That’s what San Francisco sounds like.” There’s a bunch of cool bands in this city. That’s what journalists define it as.
That’s another thing about Terry Malts – we’re not trying to appeal to anything in particular. We’re just playing because its fun and we are goofballs and the three of us get along super well. We write some songs, and people like it. That’s not a breaking point, it’s just that having people like your songs is encouraging.
Will a full length be released soon?
We are recording a full length. We also have 7″ coming out and the release date is October 11th. “Something About You” is the name of the track on the A side. The B side is two songs — “No Sir I’m Not a Christian”, and the middle song is called “Fun Night”, a song we play near the end of our sets. (laughs) It’s kind of like a call to arms. You know, all of this is really simple. There’s no mystery. When you read what I’m actually saying – I’m talking about hamburgers, you know.
Are there advantages to working with Slumberland, which is based in the East Bay, as opposed to a geographically distant label?
Yes, because we get to actually see him [label owner Mike Schulman]. I think the interpersonal interaction is pretty important. It is your art, you’re putting money into it, and it is a label. Seriously, Mike is one of the coolest persons. He’s easy to talk to, one, and he knows what we’re talking about. Everything so far — and I’m not trying to sound cutesy or anything — has been perfect. We’re all on the same page.
Slumberland seems to be the ideal place for a band like Terry Malts.
We’ve been fans of Slumberland for fucking years! Corey used to send Slumberland demos when he was a teenager.
Whats your concept of the perfect pop song?
Has to be a song alone?
The Ramones. Pretty much their entire catalog, to be honest.
Will there be another tour to accompany your full length?
We’re just solidifying the end of our October tour [with Wax Idols]. We haven’t even done anything. Like I said, the first time we left this area was for Los Angeles and San Diego (with Grass Widow and The Fresh and Onlys, respectively). It’s totally different from Magic Bullets. Have you seen the movie Comedian with Jerry Seinfeld? In the movie he throws away all of his materials, starts completely over, and decides to do a standup comedy tour. And people show up because its Seinfeld. It’s kind of interesting. He finds a lot of obstacles along the way. He’s been doing the same jokes for years and years.
Terry Malts are going on an extensive US tour with friends Wax Idols in October/November — dates reprinted below via loglady. Check out our interview with singer Hether Fortune here. Together, the bands have set up a Kickstarter fund to help with their expenses, which may score you some band swag depending on amount donated. Before they leave in October, they are playing a few Bay Area gigs, including September 12th at the Knockout with La La Vasquez and September 30th at Hemlock Tavern with The Gems and The Tambo Rays.
Thu 10/20 – Los Angeles, CA @ TBA
Fri 10/21 – San Diego, CA @ Tower Bar
Sat 10/22 – Tucson, AZ @ Plush ^
Sun 10/23 – Marfa, TX @ Padre’s Marfa
Mon 10/24 – Austin, TX @ 29th St. Ballroom at Spiderhouse
Tue 10/25 – New Orleans, LA @ Siberia
Wed 10/26 – Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone $
Thu 10/27 – Atlanta, GA @ 529
Fri 10/28 – Raleigh, NC @ The Layabout
Sat 10/29 – Washington, DC @ Comet Ping Pong #
Sun 10/30 – Baltimore, MD @ Golden West Cafe
Mon 10/31 – Philadelphia, PA @ TBA
Tue 11/1 – New York, NY @ Cake Shop
Wed 11/2 – Brooklyn, NY @ Shea Stadium
Thu 11/3 – Youngstown, OH @ Cedars Lounge
Fri 11/4 – Detroit, MI @ Majestic Cafe
Sun 11/6 – Chicago, IL @ Cole’s *
Mon 11/7 – Milwaukee, WI @ Quarters RocknRoll Palace
Tue 11/8 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
Fri 11/11 – Seattle, WA @ TBA
Sat 11/12 – Portland, OR @ East End
^ with Acorn Bcorn
$ with Kruxe & Bake Sale
# with Foul Swoops
* with Radar Eyes