Words: James Frostick
Cover art: Gage Allison
It’s our absolute pleasure to premiere the new track from post-punk-meets-new-wave outfit Terremoto. Split between two continents, the band has pieced together a 12” EP that is shaping up to be a seriously promising first release full of new wave-tinged goth. ‘Capture’ is the first track from the record – a song that details an overwhelming moment of emotional claustrophobia, the realisation that an escape of some sort is necessary and a desire to rebel against the rut.
Like any relationship or friendship, being in a functioning band takes work. It’s hard enough to wrangle members together for a practice when everyone lives in the same city, but when an ocean or two separates musicians it becomes exponentially more difficult. To the credit of members of post-punk exponents Terremoto, they’ve not only managed to overcome this issue, but have relished the opportunity to push the boundaries of conventional band structure and create a coherent piece of work that sounds as if they share one mind – a feat not many bands can attest to. The band is comprised of Italian-born drummer Giacomo Zatti (Odio), synth player and vocalist Chelsey Crowley (Crimson Scarlet), James Blake (Masses) on guitar and Tessa Tribe (Masses, Ubik) on bass.
For the sake of context, it’s important to know Giacomo and Chelsea reside in the Bay Area in California, while Tess and James reside in Melbourne. This unlikely grouping formed in 2017 (though the members were all friends before this time), when Giacomo toured Australia and South East Asia with Odio, taking time to jam with Tessa and James during downtime between shows. These jam sessions (sans vocals) clearly showed promise, and the idea to continue the project after Giacomo’s return to the United States seemed not only a fun idea, but an opportunity to subvert the physical constraints inherent in being in a band. From then on, James and Tessa knocked out bass and guitar segments from their Australian home, while in the States Chelsey and Giacomo composed drum beats and vocals, piecing the bits together via the Internet as a unit. What resulted is a potent mix – music that boasts an upbeat new wave sheen, 80s pop vocals and a foreboding undercurrent of gothic darkness that permeates the end result.
With tracks taking shape, the band linked up with Phill Calvert (The Birthday Party, The Psychedelic Furs, Blue Ruin) to mix the disparate parts of what would end up being the bands debut 12” EP The Bridge. Soon enough Phill offered to release the record through his own label and Behind The Beat Records (Symphony of Destruction Records is releasing the record in Europe), which brings us to the present day. The Bridge will be released in July, but before then the band are giving interested parties the chance to listen to the first single ‘Capture’. Give the track a spin below, then continue on for a chat with the band, which will also help give you an insight into the track’s emotional angle.
When the band came together in Melbourne, what was the inspirational common ground that you all connected on?
Giacomo: It was more about geographical common ground than anything else. I was on tour with Odio, spending time with James and Tessa during a day off in Melbourne. I like Masses and respect them as people and musicians so I asked them to jam on some drum parts I was carrying around. I had been thinking I wanted to do something more 80’s pop than anything else, they were down and I knew Chelsey was wanting wanting to make the same kind of music – I may or may not have said she’d sing on it before asking her.
You mentioned that Terremoto is Italian for earthquake – was this coined in reference to the upheaval and rejection of convention as it refers to the band’s composition and process?
Chelsey: Yes. From now on, that is why.
Giacomo: I had the name Terremoto in my back pocket for a long time. It’s actually in reference to a Litfiba record.
Chelsey: If you’re hearing about Litfiba for the first time here, maybe don’t start with that record. Stay in the 80s.
Giacomo: They’re one of the first Italian new wave bands – one that I love. Unfortunately Terremoto was not their best period, but one I admittedly grew up on and the name stayed with me.
What are some of the pros and cons about creating music with this split dynamic?
Chelsey: The pros are that you can make music with anyone you want. It’s a lot easier to find punks openly worshiping new wave in the global scene rather than struggling to find people in your town that want to play what you want to play and have the time to do it.
Giacomo: The cons are that you lose the energy that comes together when you get those right people in a room together, and spending time with your friends is a hugely important part of being in a band together. But with the right people, you can harness that energy anyway, and we’re really looking forward to that time together on tour.
Chelsey: It was also really challenging – at least for me – to not really hear how everything sounded together until you’re in the studio laying down the final tracks. I have an entirely new appreciation for all of the editing that happens in the practice space after the initial song writing is done, when you hear and feel what actually works as opposed to what should work and what you want to work.
Can you break down how the writing process works? For the tracks conceived with members separated by oceans, where does an idea usually start?
Giacomo: I started with drum parts first for all of the songs on The Bridge, then sent them to James & Tessa for bass and guitar, and back to Chelsey for vocals and synth. All the new stuff is starting with melody and a lot of synth and drum machines, but we’re pretty inspired so we’re all introducing songs that are starting from different instruments.
Chelsey: There were a lot of phone recordings crossing the Pacific during this time.
You mentioned there are influences of new wave and goth-inspired movements – what are the band’s thoughts on bringing influences together to make something unique and wholly your own?
Chelsey: I think you don’t really have a choice. You either study and mimic every band you want to sound like, which is boring and sounds boring and happens a lot, or you do what comes naturally, which is much more likely to come from a lot of places. We’ve lived our lives as punks – making dark/post-punk/goth music – and we’re now wanting to pay homage to the 80’s pop and new wave that shaped us. It can be hard then to step back and see what it is, but it’s organic if nothing else.
Do you feel your geographical surroundings play a role on the music you create for the band, or does Terremoto prove that music (and its creation) transcends the effects of such boundaries?
Tessa: The four of us have contributed so much of our own individual influences and perspective but in the case of Terremoto this was I think of it at least musically trans-Pacific project that moved outside of being shaped by Oakland or Melbourne or Italy or the USA or Australian influences specifically. I am in and have been in bands that’s lyrical or musical style draws more so from the scene we geographically grew up in or exist in, I think Terremoto comes from a place of respect and common love for a style that all our surroundings musical history have basis in to create something new.
How did you link up with Phill Calvert and enlist his services for the The Bridge?
Tessa: Phill is an old friend of James’s and has worked with us on all of our other band Masses’ recordings. James and I have always been a part of the punk scene but found it difficult when producing music to find someone who understood punk but also the very specific sound that comes with post-punk and goth. Phill having played in, written and produced so many bands from those sub-genres so perfectly nailed Masses sound and had always been so supportive, he was always the obvious choice to work on a band like Terremoto with this kind of sound and style. He also was willing to work over a long period of time on the recordings which was very supportive in the sense to he was willing to work with logistics of the trans-Pacific format of the band. Consequently this format was a little trickier and definitely more time consuming than recording and mixing a band that’s all in the same room together.
What do you think it was about your music that he connected with chiefly?
Tessa: I can’t speak for Phil, maybe at first he was just doing us a favour or he knew the style of music we were playing was something he liked to work with. But after the mixes were getting close to finished I remember him saying that he couldn’t get the songs out of his head, which was when he offered to release the record on his label Behind The Beat Records.
How did the recording process take shape with the geographic divide between members?
Giacomo: Same as the writing process for these songs: drums in the California Bay Area, then over to Tessa and James in Melbourne for guitar and bass, and then back to California for vocals and synth. Not being in the room together for the mixing was a challenge, but it’s been a real learning experience.
Chelsey: Giacomo was marooned in Europe when the second round of California recordings were happening, so the distance between all of us during that time and while mixing definitely drew out the process. On the bright side, we’re all super good at time zone math now.
From your point of view, what would you say is the core emotional direction of ‘Capture’?
Chelsey: It’s the hollow feeling in your stomach in those moments you realize you’re trapped. That’s the emotion. There’s a flash of subversion, of knowing you need a way out, but it’s hard to see in the song just like it’s hard to see when you’re overwhelmed by that feeling. It’s being stuck in a loop, but it doesn’t explore much further than that realization.
What can you tell me about the lyrical and thematic content of the EP as a whole? Was there anything in particular that proved to be fertile ground for inspiration?
Chelsey: I guess I find it a lot easier to illustrate, to express feelings more physically. Grief isn’t grief – it’s a strangling fog. The song Capture feels like hunger to me, or starvation, I’m not sure which. But for Terremoto, I wanted to push through that and give people a chance to connect with the songs in a much more visceral and universal way – the same way I connected with the bands that inspired us when I was growing up. It’s more accessible, feels very naked. If I’m being objective, I suppose there’s a lot of hopelessness and conflict, but honestly it’s just a record of love songs.