Terry and Daniel Stewart Talk About Where It’s All Going

The friends (and often bandmates) catch up.

Daniel Stewart, aka DX, is a legendary figure in Melbourne, especially known for his work in Total Control and UV Race; Al Montfort and Amy Hill are two-fourths of the Melbourne-based band Terry, as well as members of bands like Total Control, UV Race, Constant Mongrel, and others. The new Terry record, Call Me Terry, was just released on Upset the Rhythm, so to celebrate, the friends (and often bandmates) got on a Zoom call to catch up. 
— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music

Daniel Stewart: Do you remember an interview that Melbourne journalist Phil MacDougall did with the band Constant Mongrel, featuring Amy from Terry?

Al Montfort: I do remember this.

Daniel: He started off giving a bit of a rundown on — I’ll paraphrase, but I’m interested in your response to the end of his speech. He basically presented Constant Mongrel, the post-punk band: “You’ve got your Moog synthesizers, you’re doing your thing, and you’re playing all these shows, you’re rehearsing all the time.” And then at the end of it, he says, “Where’s it all going?” [Laughs.] Do you remember this?

Al: Yeah. It was existential, in a way.

Daniel:Where’s it all going? Why are you doing this?” To give a bit of perspective, the guy who asked the question is not unfamiliar with punk and the various sacrifices you have to make in order to be in a band. It’s not the suggestion, “Have you thought about a mortgage? Have you thought about some sense of stability?” In fact, the puzzling part of it was that it was more of an existential thing than a practical, pragmatic life decision thing. 

But, where do you see it going?

Al: Music-wise, or the world? Are we talking ‘bout Terry? 

Daniel: We’re talking ‘bout Terry.

Al: I think we’re in such a different position than we were when we were touring Europe and England and Australia, in that we were probably burning out a little bit. We toured every year for four years or something. And I think there’s good energy that can come from doing that cycle of touring — I think that can be really productive, and I think it’s been really productive, not only for Terry, but for other bands that we have played in. But I think you do run out of that a little bit. I think there is an end to that, where you can’t just keep on going. You do need to take a little break. I think probably now that [Terry bandmates] Xanthe [Waite] and Zephyr [Pavey] have had a child, and Amy’s with child, I can’t imagine us going back into that kind of cycle again. 

So where’s it heading? I guess that we’ll probably keep on writing music for recordings, and it will probably be a slightly longer process. I think we’ll probably just keep on pushing ourselves with that songwriting, because I think Terry’s records can be can afford to be quite diverse.You can have a lot of different types of music on it; there’s four different songwriters. So I think if we can just keep on pushing ourselves, that would be good. Stay ambitious with the songwriting and the music we make.

Daniel: Call Me Terry is my favorite Terry record, I think. 

Al: Hell yeah.

Daniel: I think what you’ve done here is just astounding. There’s so much there that fascinates me, and you’ve really summed up everything that you’ve done so far. But it’s just so wild to listen to so many amazing ideas. In the first song — is it “Miracles”? When that bass line comes in—

Amy Hill: [Enters the frame.] Speaking of bass—

Daniel: Here we go! Did you did you listen to that Marty Robbins song that I sent you? “Don’t Worry About Me.”

Amy: I don’t remember, it was ages ago.

Daniel: No, it was quite recently. But I think the story is that, as they were recording the song, they were carrying the bass amp into the recording studio and someone tripped and dropped it on the ground. Then they plugged it in and they go to play it — I mean, the myth is that he only played it when they were recording, which sounds like complete bullshit. Like, no one just plugs in a dropped bass amp and just, like, rips it. But anyway, what comes out is this extremely wild, kind of fuzzy and strange sounding bass. And it reminded me of that “Miracles” bass. What is going on there?

Amy: [Laughs.] I think you’d actually have to ask Al that. Did you write that? I have a real weird time, because often with songs that Al and I write, I forget if I wrote part of it. Because I will write it, but then I literally am such a feeble-minded person that Al will play it for a while and I’ll be like, “Oh, I like that, What’s that?” And he’s like, “Oh, you wrote that.” So I get very confused about what’s going on, on just a general daily basis. And I also forget songs very easily. I literally can’t even think of how “Miracles” goes right now.

Al: That works for me to plagiarize a lot of your stuff, because I can remember it.  “Yeah, I wrote this amazing riff.”

Amy: I would not know.

Al: I think when it comes in, it’s also with the clave. It’s got the low clave.

Amy: Yeah. We were playing around a lot with different kind of sounds for the bass end in the songs.I think often with Terry, there might be a sound that we’ll be like, “Oh, I really like that sound in this particular song,” but we can never quite get it, but it always turns into something else. And sometimes it ends up being quite dark, I find — like I thought that song ended up sounding quite dark and insane.

Daniel: Totally. 

Al: I’m remember now: one of the influences with the clave was “Nutbush City Limits.”

Daniel: Amazing. 

Al: Yeah. I was like, “This song is going to sound like ‘Nutbush.’ I can’t believe we’re writing a pop song like ‘Nutbush City Limits’”. And then by the time it came out, it was with the horns, the clave, the organ that Xanthe put on, Zephyr’s kind of cowpunk drums. It was insane.

Amy: And then it’s thematically to do with [former Australian Prime Minister] Scott Morrison’s kind of… I don’t want to say it’s “insane,” but…

Al: It’s, like, deranged.

Daniel: “Deranged” is the word that you used on the record, I think. 

Amy: But I think we both quite like slightly odd sounds, like things that maybe are a little bit off-sounding, or maybe a bit too high end, and we tend to sometimes overlay those things onto Terry songs, because we like the mayhem of it.

Al: I think that’s always probably been something with Terry, because except for I’m Terry, we’ve pretty much recorded everything ourselves. And even with I’m Terry, we just did so many stupid overdubs.

Amy: And we’re all yes men, so it’s like someone will do something completely mental sounding and we’re just like, “Yes, more!” There’s no one that’s seriously concerned about what a song is going to end up like, because we just all like the process so much. Then I think in the end, they just kind of turn into these kind of oddities. And we all really like that.

Daniel: Well, I was just saying to Al before you walked in, but I think you’ve nailed it on this record as far as those oddities go. It’s just so insane sounding, in the best way. What are the things that you guys were listening to? Can you cast your mind back?

Al: I reckon there’s a playlist.

Amy: Yeah, because I remember there was a few things — often if we’re listening to music, we’ll just be like, “Oh, I really like that.” And then we’ll try and somehow weave that into a song. And again, we often don’t nail the sound or anything, but just the idea kind of leads us in a different direction. Like the song “Golden Head,” we wanted to write a real kind of pop song. [Laughs.] But I don’t know…

Al: I’m just looking at — I’ve got one playlist from around the time called “Hi Hats,” which could have been about maybe the hi hat sound, and it’s got Dionne Warwick, “Heartbreaker.” Hot Chocolate, “It Started With a Kiss.”

Amy: We were listening to a lot of Hot Chocolate at the time. 

Daniel: I’ve been quite fascinated with Hot Chocolate lately. They’re quite special. But, go on. What else have you got in there?

Al: There’s also one called “Drum Sound.” I’ve got here, Injury, “Reasons to be Cheerful.” I think that kind of dead drum… And “I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass” by Nick Lowe.

Amy: I’m quite boring and mainly just listen to the same kind of folk and country records over and over. 

Al: OK, here we go — this one’s called “New Terry Jam.” “What a Fool Believes” by the Doobie Brothers, “Nutbush City Limits,” Ike and Tina Turner, Haruomi Hosono, George Michael, “Faith.” “Lexicon Devil,” by the Germs. Bill Wyman, “(Si Si) Je Suis Un Rockstar.” But I feel like that’s probably an ongoing Terry [influence] — that’s in our shrine.

Daniel: That Bill Wyman song — I don’t think many people are aware of how amazing that song is. But I don’t think I’ve been to a party that you’ve been at where you haven’t put that song on. I personally, have the 45, and I play it at 33 when I have a gathering because it’s just so insane.

Amy: [Laughs.] I think the absurdity of that song in a way just speaks to Terry, I guess.

Daniel: It’s absurd but it’s also obscene, because it’s a man with so much fame and success and could have done anything with his musical career — and that’s what he chose to do. Which is just incredible, to write a song called “I Am a Rock Star.” [Laughs.]

Amy: And talking about how she could be the age of his daughter and stuff. [Laughs.] 

Daniel: [Laughs.] Yes. And I guess what I like about it is, there’s still this almost proletarian — or I guess it could be two things: it’s both the proletarian in him and also the aristocrat in him that makes him pronounce French words so terribly. It’s, like, such an insult to the French language.

Do you remember where you were when you first heard that song, and what happened when you heard it?

Al: I think I maybe heard it on Rage. I saw it and I was like, Woah, what?

Amy: I think quite often we would find songs like that — because Al and I, throughout our 14 year relationship, one of our things that we always like to do was come home after gigs and watch Rage, as many people would. And we definitely found some gems on there. We haven’t done it for a little while — we’ll have to have a renaissance. A Rage renaissance.

Al: Probably when the wain’s awake at fuckin’ 2:00 in the morning. 

Amy: Yeah!

Daniel: There you go! We’re back.

Amy: Should we explain what Rage is? 

Al: Google it, mate. 

(Photo Credit: left, Oscar Perry; right, Jane Pain)

Terry is made up of Amy Hill, Al Montfort, Xanthe Waite, and Zephyr Pavey who formed in Mexico City in 2015 after seeing Trotsky’s deathbed. Seven years, four albums and four 7″s later, you can now Call Me Terry. Terry is ready to pick up the phone. Over the past few years, Terry has kept busy with writing and recording Call Me Terry and alternating side projects, including Constant Mongrel, The UV Race, Primo!, Sleeper & Snake, Chateau and Rocky.

Call Me Terry is out now on Upset the Rhythm.

(Photo credit: Oscar Perry)