"I've never really grieved like that before so it was a pretty big shock, and it was pretty difficult to do anything."
It's certainly taken a while for a longplayer from Melbourne-via-Adelaide trio Terrible Truths to land, but now that their eponymous debut is in the public domain the seemingly interminable wait has proved beyond worthwhile. They've been around the scene for quite a few years now, building traction via their strong live show, a 7" EP (2011's Terrible Truths) and a couple of singles and compilation tracks, but they're now happily armed with a more substantial indicator of their unabashed talent.
Musically, Terrible Truths is a brash and buoyant affair — a happy sounding listen that's almost triumphant in tone — but lyrically there's a darker undercurrent visible in places. As Rani Rose (guitar) and Stacey Wilson (bass) trade lines and verses you can sense a certain anxiety and vulnerability behind their tenacious stoicism and determination to succeed (and entertain). As it turns out, the wait for the full-length was prompted by some pretty heavy personal loss.
"We had no plans really, it's all a pretty natural progression," explains Rose of their agenda for the album. "We prefer to just let things fall as they will. Actually what happened [with the delay] was that my Dad was really sick for about ten years, and then he passed away while we were trying to make the record. Then six months later my Grandfather passed away as well. That was all of the important men in my life — other than Joe [Alexander — drummer] — so that was pretty hard.
"My Dad was really sick for about ten years, and then he passed away while we were trying to make the record. Then six months later my Grandfather passed away as well."
"I've never really grieved like that before so it was a pretty big shock, and it was pretty difficult to do anything — going to work was all that I could do for a while. Going to the supermarket was too hard for a bit there, so recording something that you're happy with and making sure it's not just completely grief-stricken and full of sadness became a struggle, because that's not what Terrible Truths is about to me so it was really difficult."
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"It was my Dad who taught me to play guitar and about lyrics and about singing from a really young age — from about 11 [years old] he started teaching me — and he was super supportive, he bought me my first guitar and my first bass. It was such a weird thing to try and do without him, so that's why it took a while."
Obviously such a massive loss puts rock'n'roll's place in the overall scheme of things into clear perspective.
"Yeah, it does," Rose smiles. "For a while it seemed too... I don't want to say futile, but it just wasn't on my radar for a little while. And then afterwards I kinda realised that being inspired and being creative is probably the most important thing in my life, and you've got to grasp it while you can and go with it and really appreciate that you have time to do this thing that you love and just keep doing it."
Finishing the album must have taken on even greater import for Rose given her father's influence on her musical career.
"Exactly, it's like continuing the relationship even though he's not here," she agrees. "I know that he'd be super stoked and proud."
It must be said that Rose and her band mates did a great job masking the grief that must have been omnipresent, because for the most part, Terrible Truths sounds upbeat, even jubilant.
"Thank you, I really didn't want it to be depressing or sad because there's enough of that in the world and that really isn't what TT is about for me," Rose continues. "And also my Dad was like super positive and super happy — all throughout his illness he was, like, 'Don't worry, I'm just being positive', and 'I'm going to get through this, it's going to be fine'. There are a couple of songs on there are about — from my perspective — losing him and grief. [Opening track] False Hope especially, but I didn't want them to be sad songs, I wanted them to be something you can dance to."
Underpinned by Alexander's gently propulsive drumming, Terrible Truths is definitely a dance-worthy affair; did the band always plan to be fun live and get feet moving?
"Yeah, definitely," Rose attests. "There's just so much you could be sad about, but we just want our performance to be a bit of relief from the burden of whatever's going on in your life so you can just have a little boogie and have a dance and forget about it for a minute."
When they were setting out, Terrible Truths even wrote something of a manifesto about how they would sound and the directions they should head in (and presumably avoid).
"In the beginning we wrote a specific list and just tried to stick to those bands and those influences," Rose recalls. "I guess there was a lot of early post-punk like The Slits and Delta 5 and The Au Pairs — just a lot of bands like that — and we tried to keep our aesthetics pretty confined. But we don't do that so much these days, we just let it run its course."
There's definitely more than a hint of the Riot Grrrl aesthetic in their music, was this something that played a role early on?
"You've got to grasp it while you can and go with it and really appreciate that you have time to do this thing that you love and just keep doing it."
"Yeah, definitely," Rose chuckles. "Stacey and I met when we were about 17 on a Riot Grrrl forum on the internet. It felt like she was the only other person I could find in Adelaide who liked all of the same bands as me, so we were, like, mind-blown when we met each other. But yeah, Riot Grrrl has been really important to us finding a sense of empowerment and place and identity within the punk community. It's been super important, and hopefully we're giving off those vibes and people can see it and enjoy it."
Rose explains that the creative relationship between herself and Wilson — wherein lies the real heart of the Terrible Truths aesthetic — clicked almost from the get-go.
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure in that first email when we met each other we were, like, 'Let's start a band!' It was, 'Oh my God, you play guitar and you love Sleater-Kinney? Quickly!' It's been a long time."
"[In terms of how we work] Stacey's kind of a hit machine, she'll write five songs in a day and then bring them to band practice — just the riffs generally and a basic vocal identity — and then we'll finish composing the song all together and decide how long the verses will be and if there'll be a bridge and stuff like that. Then we usually write lyrics separately, but somehow it always ends up being cohesive. We'll write separately but always choose something that kind of fits, and then when we go back through all of our lyrics together it will almost be like a whole poem."
So they write their respective lyrics separately even when they're trading lyrics and verses?
"Yeah, we pretty much never write lyrics together," Rose confirms. "I think the only song we wrote any lyrics for together on this album was Don Juan, and even then it was just kinda silly. It's actually about my 1978 Celica — it's got no air-conditioning, and in summer you're gonna burn!"
Although she's arguably not the best person to make this judgement (being in the band and all) does Rose feel that Terrible Truths are best experienced live or on record so far?
"I think so far maybe live," she reflects. "I'm really happy with the way the record came out but it's hard to convey that level of energy behind the songs on the record. They're really fun to play live."
What about their former 'burb of Adelaide? Their original drummer was Liam Kenny from Bitch Prefect so they must have been pretty plugged in to the city's indie scene — did they find the city and its bands inspiring?
"When we go back through all of our lyrics together it will almost be like a whole poem."
"I haven't been to Adelaide in a little while to be honest," Rose admits. "We've been in Melbourne now for three or four years. We do stay in touch, but people just move away from Adelaide as soon as they finish uni basically, so there's a really high turnover of bands that come out and it's really easy to lose touch of what's going on. But obviously Rule Of Thirds are amazing, and The Wireheads are amazing — their new album is so good — and I think Adelaide will always have a really amazing creative output just because there's so many old people that the young people need to really band together and create their own community and scene, so it's always going to be really strong."
After heading east, Terrible Truths slotted into their fertile new Melbourne digs quite easily by all accounts.
"Yeah, that went really well — everyone was so open and warm and welcoming and excited to have us, so that was really amazing," Rose gushes. "We instantly found our little group of bands that we really love to play with, so it was really nice. A really easy transition. We haven't played too often [in Melbourne] recently, but that's mainly because we just got back from Europe and that was enough for a couple of weeks. I'd like to play more but I guess we will be over the summer now that the album is finally coming out."
Speaking of which, the trio just returned from a European jaunt with labelmates Blank Realm and Totally Mild, which must have been an interesting experience.
"It was so good, we had so much fun," Rose enthuses. "You always hear these horror stories of bands going over and coming back saying, 'Oh yeah, we played to three people every night and it was a bit of a bummer', bit it wasn't like that at all — there were people at every show and people had heard of us and were excited about it and some had come from different cities to see us play which was really lovely. We had the best time, it was really fun.
"It was super hard work though, playing almost every day and then getting up and travelling and getting to the next venue for soundcheck — it was really difficult but really fun, and I can't wait to do it again. We did about ten or 12 shows in two weeks — it was pretty crazy, especially when you're travelling between countries and cities and you've got to clear customs, there's so much to do every day. Plus we all got the flu immediately! That was really fun."
And next — aided by the multitalented Alexander who also heads their righteous label Bedroom Suck — they plan on turning their attention to the US of A.
"Hopefully we'll go to the States next year, and Canada as well, and then hopefully back to the UK," Rose says semi-incredulously. "I'd love to go everywhere. At the moment Joe's in Japan with Scott & Charlene's Wedding and he's gathering contacts left, right and centre, so hopefully we can do Japan soon. I think he's got Indonesia in the works as well — we're just stoked. Stoked to keep travelling and playing and seeing what's out there."