Tera Melos is about more than technique

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Some shows are more fantastically memorable than others, not only for the paying customers, but also for those on-stage. This explains why John Clardy of Tera Melos is noticeably excited about the prospect of returning to Vancouver.

The ace drummer for the Sacramento three-piece is no stranger to travel, and not just in North America. Tera Melos has toured extensively in Europe, where its musically accomplished mix of intricate alt-rock, thinking man’s metal, and proggy punk has earned the group a devoted following.

On the more far-flung side of things, Clardy and his bandmates—guitarist-keyboardist-vocalist Nick Reinhart and bassist Nathan Latona—have also made swings through locales like South Korea, Japan, and China. And the exotic stamps in the timekeeper’s passport don’t stop there; this past winter Tera Melos found itself on the road in Mother Russia.

It probably says something, then, that as much as his overseas jaunts have left Clardy with some great memories, few nights in his professional life have topped the last time he played Vancouver. Fire up the Interweb and punch in “Tera Melos + Media Club + YouTube” and you’ll get a pretty good sense that the show, at the tail end of 2013, was a good one; clips have crowd members paying complete attention as Reinhart and Latona work a gearhead’s dream collection of effects pedals.

Reached in a tour van headed to Washington, D.C., Clardy suggests, however, that the videos don’t begin to tell the whole story of that night.

“We’re really, really excited to be coming back to Vancouver,” he says. “It’s been one of our favourite cities to play. The first time we played up there was with Boris, at some sort of cabaret, in the fall of 2011, and we were all taken aback by the response of everyone. Before that, we’d only done Eastern Canada, so we didn’t know what to expect. Then the last time we played the Media Club, it was completely insane. Someone ran right through the glass doors during our set.”

That notoriously reserved Lotus-landers have been quick to embrace Tera Melos is understandable. Like previous outings such as Patagonian Rats and the Zoo Weather EP, the band’s latest record, X’ed Out, balances jaw-dropping technical proficiency with barbed first-listen hooks.

There’s no shortage of things to love on the album’s 12 tracks, whether it’s the lazy slanted-and-enchanted vibe of “Tropic Lame” or the sugar-rushed insanity of “Until Lufthansa”. The band attacks math rock with the spirit of free jazz on “Slimed”, captures the spirit of ’70s AM heaven with the crashing “Weird Circles”, and outdoes Sonic Youth in the guitar-fuckery department during the twisting cyclone “New Chlorine”.

What stands out on X’ed Out is the physicality of Tera Melos’s music. The drummer reports that shows are punishing, and not just sonically. Re-creating the epic clinics on tracks like “Sunburn” and “Surf Nazis” takes a major toll, to the point where Clardy jokes he’s had to develop his own maintenance routines.

“In the past couple of years I’ve had to get better about taking care of myself,” he says. “I’ve started carrying a lacrosse ball and Thera-Bands and stuff like that with me to help deal with the soreness and pain. I’ve been thinking maybe about starting something like a DIY physical-therapy service.”

In the meantime, Clardy, who joined Tera Melos in 2008, isn’t about to stop making things difficult for himself, both in the studio and on-stage. For that, the band’s Vancouver fans can be thankful.

“I obviously like to play fast, almost metacrazy stuff,” he says. “But for me it’s also really, really important that it’s all still musical, and not just all showoff-y. Obviously, there are a lot of bands that are about how fast you can play, and how difficult you can make stuff. Even before I joined Tera Melos, what always struck me was the way that they used musicianship as a tool to make interesting music, as opposed to something to show off with. I want to create things on the drums that I enjoy playing, but I mostly want to make sure that it goes well with the other things around it.”

Tera Melos plays the Media Club on Friday (May 16).

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