Anonymity can be a powerful weapon. As a new band putting out their debut album, however, it’s usually a weapon that works against you. Yet, the recently formed trio, Terrible Things, is reveling in the opportunity to operate in obscurity and build their name from the ground up—which might be more difficult than expected considering the list of associated acts houses names like Taking Back Sunday, Coheed And Cambria and Hot Rod Circuit.
Terrible Things is vocalist/guitarist Fred Mascherino, vocalist/guitarist Andy Jackson, and drummer Josh Eppard, former members of TBS, HRC and Coheed, respectively. Though they have big credentials to use as leverage, the new band is resolute in paving their own way, one free from the associations and expectations attached to those names. Their self-titled debut album, due out on Aug. 31, makes that more than clear. Ranging from melodic ballads of acoustic guitar and piano to catchy pop to driving guitar riffs, Terrible Things is a new machine, not a rehashed band.
While on tour with Circa Survive, Mascherino took time to speak to The Aquarian about forming a new band and the upcoming album.
You three all come from well-known groups. Do you ever feel pressure to distinguish yourself from your former bands?
Yeah, we love to say that we don’t pressure ourselves, but I think that we do. There are a lot of moments on the record where we go outside of that box that people are used to us being in, and we do get reactions from our fans—luckily, mostly good.
But it’s always a risk; this is kind of a lot more straightaway rock. There’s a song called ‘Conspiracy’ that’s very pop-y and almost gets to be rapping for a minute. We felt like the old fans who are going to hear this, this sounds nothing like any of our bands, but we released it and the reactions have been really awesome. I guess when you’re doing it, it feels like you’re taking a risk, but then it’s actually people want to hear us take it to that next level and see what else we can do.
So do you think a lot of your listeners come from the fan bases of Taking Back Sunday, Coheed And Cambria, and Hot Rod Circuit?
Well, it’s kind of yet to be seen. I’ve found being out on the road that a lot of those fan bases aren’t even aware that we’re doing something together yet. I’ll play a show and then after the show I’ll be hanging out at the t-shirts, and someone will come up and say, ‘Is there any chance you were in another band?’ It’s cool because we don’t want to get up there and have people like us just because they used to like us. We want them to really dig what we’re doing now. So that feels good when they don’t even know who we are and they say, ‘Man that’s the best band.’
Usually, band members and artists are happy when people follow them and are able to recognize them.
Yeah, we want to build this up as big as we can, but I find that when we were in our old bands, the more we changed the music, the more people would say, ‘Oh, it’s not as good as the old stuff.’ That’s the kind of thing that I would be happy to shake and have a new thing that they might like because they’re not expecting it to be the old thing. That’s the kind of pressures that we don’t really need or don’t put on ourselves. We put on the pressure that this has to be the best music we’ve ever played and the best band. We just push ourselves in that way, which I think is a lot better because we can actually do something about that.
Let’s talk about your debut album. How long has it been in the making?
It took about seven months to fully do. I got together with the producer at first, and Andy and Josh sort of entered after I had started just two songs. Then Andy, Josh and I spent a long time in Andy’s studio writing, and then we went back with the producer and spent four months recording it. It was really cool because [producer] Jason Elgin got really into the project. He’s worked with a lot of bands like Collective Soul and these friends of ours called Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster. He worked with these other bands, but he really became really enthusiastic about this project, and he became like the extra member of the band. It got to a point where he didn’t care about the budget; he just said, ‘Let’s finish it and let’s make it until it’s good.’ We re-recorded a couple songs and rewrote some stuff, and it was always about just getting it right. I think if there was anything anyone was unhappy about, we would just fix it. The fact that he allowed us that time to work on it, it came out so much better. I’ve definitely learned in the past not to rush things, and we’re all really proud of this and think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done.
Just to get into it, it was kind of a big project because I decided to write a concept album. In my hometown of Coatesville, PA, we had almost 50 fires in the end of 2008 into ’09. It was really frustrating for me and I was getting angry because every few nights there would be a fire for weeks and weeks, they would arrest some people and they would confess, and then the next night there would be more fires. I was kind of upset about it and I wrote a song. Then they had finally caught someone and told us it was over, and I wrote a song about that. The next night there were more fires and then I wrote another song. After a while, I had a few songs and I thought there was really something there so I kept going with it.
There’s one song called ‘Up At Night,’ where the lyric is ‘I bet you could see our town from space at night.’ The only thing the police really said to the town was keep your lights on and that would somehow keep us safe; I just pictured this little town with all the lights on and a few fires going and picturing it from space. It was just this real helpless feeling that we had. I actually live in a neighboring town right now, but my brother still lives there in the house I grew up in and it was tough.
Anyway, I kind of made up this half-fictional story about a couple that are living through this—they don’t sleep at night because that’s when the fires always come and just living in this town that’s under siege, so that’s what the whole album is based around.
What has been your experience performing these songs live? A lot of bands like to have fun on stage, but you’re singing about something so personal and emotional.
It does give the album a bit of a darker tone, which I think is kind of better for us. I think my personality is very positive-thinking and trying to find the good that could come out of something like this, but at the same time I think all three of us are a little more comfortable in the darker [range]. Josh likes horror movies and he always brought in that sort of scary element to the Coheed stuff, so it was more suitable.
You know, we’re not singing about our girlfriends or broken hearts or anything. We’re singing about what we think is this bigger thing. Our single is ‘Revolution’ and our lyrics are, ‘This is not a revolution ’til we say it is.’ It’s basically the people in the town, but it can be a bigger metaphor of all of us, and it’s a call for the things that you don’t want to happen in the world—that maybe if we all do something, it makes that little bit of difference and not to just sit on your couch and watch TV, watch the news all day, and not actually do anything to help what’s happening on the news. That was the sort of feeling you got when you saw the fires. You’re like, ‘Man, how this could have even happened? How could we let it happen?’ But that could be a bigger thing for the country or the world or any community.
Anyway, I sort of live that way: I’m part of the green movement with wanting to stop global warming, I’ve become vegan, I drive a car that runs on vegetable oil—it’s an ’82 Volkswagen Rabbit—and I try to put into action the things I care about. My thing is you could be on the other side of the argument, but at least be a part of it. Makes you feel better too (laughs).
Is it exciting for you playing in a new band? Do you have those feelings of being in a new band even though all of you guys have done this so many times before?
It’s really refreshing. Most nights we get a hotel, but there was one night we met this guy and he said we could sleep at his studio and we thought, ‘Why not?’ We went over and we wound up staying up all night, listening to music and watching movies. We woke up the next day so tired and most of us had slept on the floor, but it felt like the old days and it felt really good. It’s good to start this band this way back at the beginning because anything that ever happens, we always appreciate it. We’re just really happy to still be able to play music at this point in our careers, to be putting out what we think is the best piece of work yet.
Terrible Things’ self-titled debut album will be in stores on Aug. 31. They will be playing a CD release show on Aug. 29 at The Basement in Kingston, NY. For more info, head to myspace.com/terriblethings.