Wednesday, March 28, 2018

They Call Them Melos Yellows: The Hot TERA MELOS Q&A

In Orlando, Florida, Nick Reinhart is on a couch with members of the touring party for his band Tera Melos. He's calling me over from across the green room. "Mike! Come here and talk to us! Let's hang out!" I'm getting trolled. He knows my band Speedy Ortiz has a set time that begins in 25 seconds, and I know he knows this, so I start cracking up as I grab my forgotten bottled water and run out of the room as quickly as I entered.

This bit happens a few other times. He calls me over in a similar manner 12 days later in San Francisco from the driver's seat of Tera Melos' tour van just as Speedy is moments away from driving across the country back to our homes. I'm pretty sure it's the last thing he said to me in person.

As our bands continued our tour, I recognize this as a good bit. Tera Melos are full of good bits, in-jokes, catchphrases. Some of these date back to the early 2000s when Reinhart and bassist Nathan Latona began playing in bands together near the Sacramento, CA area. Nathan and Nick share a similar dryness in tone that feels deeply rooted.

John Clardy's passion for drums made him a perfect fit when joining Tera Melos circa-2008. Together, the trio's instrumental mastery feels as fluid as the most heralded progressive bands of the '70s. Since that time, they've released three full lengths throughout the 2010s and amassed a loyal cult following. A large fraction of their audience seems comprised of math rock enthusiasts, gear heads, and 20-somethings who can quote full episodes of The Simpsons verbatim. (No negative judgement intended here. Nerds are lit.)

By November 15th in Phoenix, we had four shows left on our tour. Three of them were in their home state of California, which meant they'd be busy on those nights. So I knew I had to strike fast if I wanted an interview. This was my big moment. I approached them voice recorder in-hand and went for it.

TMK: Hello Tera Melos.
Everyone: Hey! What's up?

TMK: What do you call the thing you do when you twist up the bottle?
Nathan: Oh, making the dragon smoke?
TMK: What is that called?
Nathan: Dragon smoke.
Nick: Dragon smoke.
TMK: How do you do it?
Nathan: Well, you drink a bottle of water, and then you-- Well, it's magic!
Nick: You drink a bottle of water, and then you twist it up--
Nathan: You gotta grab the bottle with both your hands and twist it so it looks like you're gonna shoot the cap off at somebody.
Nick: So when you're twisting it up, you get it to where you can feel it heating up, and then you untwist it, and then--
TMK: It's supposed to heat up?
Nick: Yeah. The friction--
Nathan: You're causing heat to make the water in the bottle evaporate.

TMK: Are you pro bottle-flipping?
Nick: As of this tour, I am. So when Speedy Ortiz had the day off-- We played Dallas the other day, and I had a crazy bottle flip that I nailed.
TMK: Really?
Nick: It was on a rim above the door-- an awning kind of thing. And it probably took me 15 tries, and it was maybe 13 feet high or something, and I got it.
TMK: 13 feet high!
Nathan: And also Ron was like, "You're not gonna be able to do it. There's not a ledge there."
Nick: And I proved everyone wrong. Have you seen Rudy?
TMK: Oh man-- The football movie?
Nick: Yeah.
TMK: No.
Nick: Okay. It was like this massive thing. We had a moment.
TMK: Did you tape it?
Nick: No, we didn't get it on tape unfortunately.

TMK: Well that leads me to my next question. Where's Ron? [Their touring sound engineer.]
Nathan: The rumor is that he's sleeping in the van. I haven't seen it for myself.
TMK: Well, you guys are gonna have to answer questions for him on his behalf.

TMK: Okay, so they announced the Warped Tour was ending today.
Nathan: We heard!
TMK: What are your thoughts on the end of the Warped Tour?

John: I have positive memories of it as a teenager, but it's probably a good thing to be wrapping that up. The last time I went, the line-up was pretty depressing.
TMK: Like who?
John: Okay, it was good because Dillinger Escape Plan was there. But the rest of it was all like swooped dyed-hair AP bands.
Nick: I was saying earlier that I would go to the final Warped Tour if it was like NOFX, Bad Religion, Lagwagon. Classic stuff, like a late-'90s, early-2000s Warped Tour line-up.
TMK: Where was the Weezer one?
Nick: I saw Weezer play in San Francisco in 2000.
TMK: It was San Francisco? Okay, because I went to that tour also, but it was in New York City. So Weezer and Papa Roach were off of the bill when I attended.
Nick: We lived in Sacramento, so sometimes we would go to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe Warped Tour, and Weezer did not play Lake Tahoe. I think they played San Francisco, and maybe like San Diego and L.A.
TMK: (To Nathan) Were you at that one also?
Nathan: I did not see them. I was not at the San Francisco one.
Nick: It was amaze-balls.
TMK: Do you love the word amaze-balls?
Nick: I like cool beans.
TMK: Do you love totes magoats?
Nick: I do!

TMK: What are your two favorite Weezer non-album tracks?
John: Man-- For me I would say "Devotion" and-- that's the thing, they're all good.
Nick: I might go with "Suzanne."
TMK: You can choose two! (To John) "Devotion" is your number 1?
John: I think so.
TMK: Right on. (To Nick) And "Suzanne" is your number 1?
Nick: Yeah.
Nathan: Mine is also "Suzanne."
Nick: Okay, well my number 2 is-- I'm blanking on it. Oh, I'm gonna change my number 1, which is "Mykel and Carli."
TMK: That's a very sad song.
John: I would also maybe say "Waiting on You." It's funny because a lot of the b-sides from the golden era are in 6/8, and almost all of them have a china cymbal in there if you listen carefully. A fun nerdy fact.

TMK: (To Sadie) Do you want to ask your Weezer question?
Sadie: You should ask it for me but attribute it to me.
TMK: Okay, we have a contribution from Dupuis. It's "Eff / marry / kill: Rivers, Sharp, Patrick."

Nick: Eff marry kill-- Rivers, Matt Sharp and Pat Wilson.
TMK: Yeah.
Nathan: I'm gonna marry Matt Sharp, I'm gonna fuck Rivers, and I'm gonna kill Pat Wilson.
Sadie: Whaaat?
TMK: Wow!
Nathan: Yeah. I wanna be able to ask Matt Sharp how he got that bass tone. Because he answered for us once, [regarding] the Return Of The Rentals record-- He answered, and I've forgotten it.
Nick: He answered it via tweet. And I tried to find it recently, and he deleted that tweet. I went back through all of his--
TMK: Did he delete his twitter at some point?
Nick: No, he just deleted that specific answer. Okay, I'm going to marry Rivers, I'll fuck Matt Sharp and I'll kill Pat. I feel like I've heard Pat is like a conservative.
Nathan: What?
Nick: That could be false, but I feel like I've heard that before. But it's just rumors. It's "goss."
TMK: (To John) Any thoughts?
John: It's tough.
Sadie: Originally I thought you were gonna kill Rivers.
TMK: Yeah, I thought the same.
Nick: I was considering killing Matt. I don't think he's an interesting musician.
Nathan: Is Rivers? Well Rivers is Rivers.
John: Yeah, but I could meditate with Rivers, so I guess I would marry him. Eff Matt Sharp and kill Mr. Wilson.

TMK: I am sorry for pronouncing your band name incorrectly. This is not actually a question.
Nick: All is forgiven. It's not your fault. It's our fault for choosing a difficult band name to pronounce.
[Note: It's pronounced "Mellows" - not "Maylos."]

TMK: It's time now for the honorary Darl Ferm interview question: "Why?"
Nathan: Just "why?"
TMK: Yeah, that's it. Just "why."
Nick: So, it's a super existential kind of meta thing? Why?
TMK: It can be a very brief answer. Usually people are like "Because!"
Nick: Because fuck it.
Nathan: Because you know, what else are you gonna do?
TMK: Why, John?
John: Because it's there if you want it.

TMK: What's your favorite King Crimson album?
John: Red.
Nick: I will say Beat.
TMK: '80s?
Nick: Yeah.
Nathan: I'm gonna go with the only one I really know which is Discipline.
John: This guy loves Tony Levin.
TMK: Which one is Tony Levin?
John: The bass player.
Nathan: He lied, by the way. He's messing with you.
John: I love Tony Levin.
TMK: Is he also on Red?
John: No that's John Wetton.
TMK: I get all the line-ups confused.
John: John Wetton had some pretty killer tone. Gnarly distorted bass tone.
Nathan: Tony Levin's tight, don't get me wrong. But whenever I have seen videos of him, I'm just like "dude, how? why?"
TMK: Where do you find video of him?
Nathan: Just like anything of him playing. He'll play with a stick, and that's something he can do that nobody else can ever do.
TMK: On Youtube?
Nathan: Yeah.
TMK: Okay, I'm gonna hit you up for some King Crimson on Youtube.
John: I got to see The Crimson Projekct in Coppenhagen a few years ago, and I was shocked when I found out how old Tony Levin was.
TMK: How old are they?
John: He's like early 70s but still super spry and carries his own gear.
Nick: Damn Tony.
John: So thanks again Julie Slick. She hooked it up.
Nathan: I would like to interject that I've tried to listen to King Crimson on Spotify before, and--
TMK: It's not there!
Nick: Yeah, I got Spotify, and King Crimson was one of the first things I went to listen to. Sick, [it's] not there. The second thing I went to listen to: Peter Gabriel. Sick, not there.
Nathan: I did the exact same thing.
Nick: Fuckin' pissed me off.
TMK: Bullshit.
Nick: Well, it's just bullshit because you pay for Spotify and the first two things I wanted to listen to aren't there. But props to them for being like, "No, we control this."

TMK: Well, we've been touring for six weeks, and I still haven't heard you talk about The Simpsons. Are you burnt on The Simpsons getting ingrained into the Tera Melos brand?
Nathan: I would say I'm not burnt on it. But I've noticed more bootleg Simpsons items now more than ever. So I feel like-- we have our shirt, and I think it's a cool take on it. But some kid came our Salt Lake City set, and he had tons of enamel pins. It's everywhere right now.
Nick: It used to be Garfield. Bootleg Garfield stuff. And it just seems like it's so over the top now with Simpsons stuff.
TMK: Did that ruin it for the band?
Nick: I don't think it ruined it, but it is what it is. We put it out there. It was an influential thing, and from all these different angles aesthetically what The Simpsons was about. Maybe it's run its course a bit.
TMK: How nerdy do you go into The Simpsons? Like if I asked you about Season 13, what would you know?
John: Okay, that's funny because when we were writing Patagonian Rats at Sargent House, Nick brought Season 13. And so we watched through it, and there were still some pretty good episodes in the season.
TMK: It's also the season where Barney's hair looks different.
Nick: Is that when he's not drinking anymore?
TMK: His character design was changed for the whole season, and it gets switched back in the following season.
Nick: I know I've seen the episode where Barney gets sober. But if that was in Season 13, then that means I must have stopped like Season 12.
[Within a few seconds, they realize their DVD was of Season 11.]

TMK: Nathan, what is your home address? Wow, that is the worst question ever.
John: That's a good question, because his home address is pretty interesting.
Nathan: Well, I'm not gonna give that.
TMK: So then I was gonna say, what are you doing living over there?
Nathan: When somebody asks me about living over there, I think it's very uninteresting because I don't have anything cool or rad that I'm doing over there. I'm looking for work, and I might come back here and go on tour.
Nick: You haven't even said where it is.
Nathan: Sorry, I live over in Switzerland in a city called Lausanne.
TMK: Switzerland? That might be where Disco Doom is from.
Nathan: Who?
TMK: If Disco Doom is not from Switzerland, I'll cut this part out.
Nathan: Disco Dan?
TMK: Who's Disco Dan?
Nathan: I don't know. I know who Disco Stu is.
Nick: Fuck Disco Stu.
TMK: I agree. Fuck Disco Stu.
Nick: It's not funny.
TMK: It was funny the first time.
Nick: Maybe! Maybe the first time he said it.
TMK: The George Bush episode.
Nick: The yard sale! Yes. But nothing after that was funny with Disco Stu.

TMK: Are You A Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, Or Miranda?
Nathan: Miranda all the way.
John: All of us are Miranda.
TMK: Would it be safe to say the whole band is a Miranda at this point?
Nick: Yes.
Nathan: I thought it would be cool to start a super group with [Speedy Ortiz] and just call it The Mirandas. [Note: Everyone on our tour took this Buzzfeed quiz and got Miranda.]
TMK: We'll work on that.

TMK: What are your dankest, most fire memes of 2017?
John: We were really into the starter pack for a while. I like that one.
Nick: There's the one that's the "taking a shit in a girl's bathroom meme" with Chuckee Cheese.
TMK: Oh, I didn't know that was Chuckee Cheese. I thought that was-- fuck, what's that really scary videogame?
John: Five Nights at Freddy's?
TMK: I thought that was Five Nights at Freddy's.
Nick: I guess it could be. I just thought it was Chuckee Cheese.

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