Adelaide alternative rock act Terracotta Palace have been steadily building a reputation as a quality live act through 2011, and are now preparing to release their debut EP this weekend. The three-piece have been working hard on the record, entitled Medicine, since August and it reflects the past two years of the band’s efforts. Ben Jones takes some time out to chat about how the process has treated him both as a songwriter and musician, and what he and his band mates are hoping to achieve from the launch.
Hey Ben, how’ve you been?
Yeah not too bad, just working hard I suppose. It’s been very busy.
Yeah, it seems to be a busy month for a lot of people.
For sure, there’s always something going on after Christmas…
So you guys must be pretty keen for the launch?
Yeah, it seems like it’s been a long time coming; we’ve been working since about August, in terms of starting the EP to actually releasing it on the 31st, it probably isn’t that long but it seems like forever for us. We’ve been working pretty hard on it.
I think, for a band, it would seem like it takes longer. It is such an involved process.
Yeah, especially for us, because we were doing it all ourselves; all the recording was done by us and the mixing was done by us as well. The only part we got any help with was mastering and getting the actual printing done; to that point it was really taxing but rewarding at the same time as well. A lot of long hours!
I guess this whole thing would have been a massive learning experience, not just in the whole technical sense of producing an EP in general, but as a musician doing it.
Absolutely; from the start, we’ve only been together as a three-piece for about 10 months, Tom [Daly] and I had sort of jammed for about a year before that. But I’d never a song until about two years ago and from that point to getting to a point where we’re recording ourselves and that sort of thing, we’ve picked it up gradually. It’s been a massive learning experience; I don’t think it’s quite hit us properly yet.
If we can just chat a bit a bit about the content on the EP; it’s called Medicine, is there any sort of driving theme around it?
To be honest, with an EP, it is quite hard to get a theme within five songs or so. I think if there’s any sort of theme on it, Tom and I did the songwriting and I did the lyrics, it was basically revolving around our lives two years ago when we wrote it. Basically, two years ago, we were just out of college, which revolved a lot around getting drunk! There’s a song, “Waterhole”, that reflects that a fair bit. There are some darker meanings as well, but it’s all quite playful I suppose.
You’ve just spoken about where you got literal influences from; what about musically? Who do you look to?
Musically, we’re all from different backgrounds; Hef [Ryan Gerlach] and I are both classically trained and he’s got more punk influences, he loves Frenzal Rhomb and that sort of thing. Tom’s got a heavier background with Nirvana and Silverchair, that sort of thing. I didn’t really know anything but classical music until late in my teens and then I started getting into early Kings of Leon and LCD Soundsystem and probably Miike Snow, more recently. They are all sort of mixed together to become something unique, I hope.
Can you tell me a bit about the writing process? Is it more of a collaborative effort between you guys or is it mainly you writing lyrics.
I pretty am writing all the lyrics now, like I said, we’ve only been together for 10 months so nothing is really in concrete yet. All the songs on the EP were written two years ago between Tom and I, and Hef came halfway through. With the songwriting process though, we generally go off and do our own thing and come up with an idea and that idea involves writing the whole song and getting the others to play it. That has changed a bit over time; it’s much more involved, it’s way too early exactly how we do it because we change it all the time?
What was it like having the added benefit of having someone putting in work with the mixing and mastering?
In terms of the mixing itself, Hef did most of it; we were really lucky to get Hef actually. He has played drums for a couple of years and Tom played football with him and sort of poached him basically, knowing his connections! With the mixing, he had help from Chris Pitman as well; it was so handy having the opportunity to do it yourself because, number one, you do everything exactly how you want and it turns out the way you want it hopefully and it is a hell of a lot cheaper! That’s the main thing, basically!
On the live performance aspect of these songs, how have you found the reception over time?
We’ve been quite happy with our live performance and how people have received it. I mean, since our first show, which you were at actually, we feel like we’ve come along quite a bit! Our first show was a bit of a disaster I think, we hadn’t really realised what we were up for and we hadn’t really prepared for it. Since then, I think that we’re improving with every show, we’ve got a solid base of people who come to the shows, which is nice; we’re getting new people every show now and we’re only hearing good things. It’s sort of hard to say, but it seems like people are enjoying themselves and that’s the main thing.
That’s it; you guys are still so fresh on the scene as well so you’re going to have those shows which are in essence, a dress rehearsal of sorts. You’ll always be developing as live performers, no matter how long you’ve been doing shows for.
Exactly; we’ve found that we’ve gotten…not looser, but more confident. That’s the big thing, confidence. The more we enjoy it, the more it comes through, I think.
For sure; I’m sure it’s going to come across really well at the EP launch because you’ve got your own specific event and spot, you know?
Exactly, it’s going to be packed out with family and friends! We’re hoping that we can get a bit more of a following after we release it too.