In anticipation of the launch show for his latest EP, we chatted with Lou about the process behind its production.
Lou Terry’s latest four track offering is quintessential bedroom pop for the modern alt-rock enjoyer. It is warm, rustic and grungy, but electronic texture tastefully sprinkled throughout brings a modern sheen to this YouTube-suggestion-core extended play. Terry’s style seems to sit somewhere between Jeff Rosenstock’s anguished punk-pop anthems and the spider web silk folk of Elliot Smith. At both ends of the spectrum we find awkward passion, authentic desperation, and power juxtaposed with frailty.
The cover art is of Terry’s own creation, he tells me in a candle lit corner of a New Cross pub (very romantic). “I’d love someone else to do the art, it’s a pain!” he jokes, going on to insist that he does like “doing art” (he did an art masters so), but is keen to collaborate with a “pro”. He references the kind of magic made when a group of musicians come together, which begs the question: just how solo is this solo project? Is everything we hear on Warmly, Alexandria a product of the ol’ bedroom studio?
“It’s a mixture, some of it was recorded in my room, some in the studio. ‘Warmly, Alexandria’ was actually recorded live at Deptford Music Complex in a rehearsal.” He starts telling me about some weird digital instruments he used and how overdubs were recorded at friends houses. It is impressive how together the EP feels as a holistic piece given the patchwork nature of its production, and Terry makes it clear that though it is his name on the door, Warmly, Alexandria is very much a group project made with a whole network of collaborators.
“It should really be a band name to be honest. I’ve just got a massive ego! Nah I’ve been playing these songs for a long time and they’ve gone through a lot of different forms. Bands come and bands go. I used to have a band years ago but it was annoying because after that broke up, because it was called something, I felt like I couldn’t carry [the material] forward. Whereas when it’s just me I can do it solo, I can do it with my mates, I can move to Sheffield then London. Plus I can’t think of a band name!”
He proceeds to suggest “Black Country, Lou Road,” the perfect segue to discuss his upcoming tour dates with London’s premier post-rock band. Musicians will rejoice to hear that the connection didn’t come from industry agents, but from BCNR guitarist Luke Mark being a fan having been put onto Terry by the band’s former frontman Isaac Wood. Terry tells me how Mark had approached him months ago full of praise and the drunken former had dropped the ol’ “if you ever need a support” line. Though this embarrassed him the next day, it did eventually led to an email from their manager – an email that went unseen for a week due to an unchecked “professional” address. Needless to say, he got in just in time, but the moral of the story: check all your emails.
Something that strikes me about Terry is his love for Deptford, the borough he calls home. He has a strong social conscience, and talks passionately about the community, telling me about a local greengrocer that got priced out and the removal of free parking that used to drive the local economy. He’s proudly political and self-consciously middle-class, a tension that shows through in his writing: “You care about these issues and you want to write about them, but then you come across this stumbling block – you don’t want to take on a persona of someone that you’re not. ‘Tiptoe’ is about that, about trying to approach this class issue from a middle-class perspective.” The song is about tradies turning up to his rented flat and for once not finding him in his underwear – “where’s the interview mate?” Terry looks for situations from his own experience as a lens to explore wider social issues.
He gets fired up on the topic of authenticity, confessing that something that bugs him in the music scene is class fraud. “It really bugs me when people pretend to be something they’re not. Class is one of those things that’s easy to do that with because it’s not visually obvious. When I know you’re not [working class] and you’re singing a song as if you were and, you’re not actually confronting it, that annoys me and I’m sure it would annoy working class people a lot more that it annoys me.” Authenticity and introspection is a big part of Lou Terry’s life and music and it practically leaks out of Warmly, Alexandria.
Opener ‘Yellow Top’ is a soaring anthemic single and a great intro for newcomers to Terry’s world. A triumphant grunge scorcher of a chorus masks a song about getting weird on a night out and saying too much. There’s a beautiful contrast between quiet and loud *bits*; the whispered vocal like a half-murmured confession developing into the uninhibited, Cobain-esque chant as the night goes on. It’s raw and vulnerable and rich rich rich in narrative.
Title track ‘Warmly, Alexandria’ sees the first really noticeable electronic intrusion with a drum machine taking front and centre in the intro. It’s this kinda mellow, atmospheric thing that builds and builds into this kinda cool head-bopping thing. The track is super confident in its construction and execution and a bit of a reflection of the artist himself – humble, down-played, but incredibly passionate and engaging.
‘Confession’ takes us back to Rock Town with an In Utero sounding baseline and scrappy guitar interjections. (listening to the EP the first time I was convinced Terry was a Nirvana kid but it turns out he was, in fact, a Radiohead kid). The lyrics are looted from a Sean Bonney poem of the same name which tells a story of murdering Boris Johnson in the noughties. This one would be great live, especially when the intensity climaxes with the desperate, rousing, half-screamed call to arms.
Closer ‘Tiptoe’ is atmosphere atmosphere atmosphere. Understated and eerie, with a real nice rhythmic alignment between the guitar strumming and vocals that phase in and out and synchronicity. It works as a closer, a deliberate energy vacuum, fittingly resisting the temptation of reaching for one more soaring chorus. None of the tracks end punchy, they all shrivel up, retreat back to the background into a humble quietness, perhaps a tad embarrassed to have taken centre stage in the first place; it makes sense to close the whole piece in the same way.
Catch Lou at his EP launch at Matchstick Piehouse in his native Deptford this Friday (10th March), or on the road with Black Country, New Road in May on their Birmingham and Norwich dates.