Published Feb 21, 2012Before Terry Malts, Phil Benson, Corey Cunningham and Nathan Sweatt made sweet indie pop as three-fifths of Magic Bullets. Now on indefinite hiatus, the trio have made Terry Malts their full-time gig and signed to indie pop mecca Slumberland. Replacing the crystalline jangle with buzz saw fuzz, Terry Malts have easily distanced themselves from their previous incarnation on debut album Killing Time. They've accelerated the songs to a lightning fast tempo that with their overdriven guitars and Benson's sardonic croon, suggest the spawn of a three-way between the Ramones, the Jesus & Mary Chain and Slumberland alumnus the Ropers. A number of bands featuring similar DNA have come and gone recently (even on the same label), but Terry Malts use speed and hooks to their advantage. "Nauseous" takes a poke at premarital sex, with a Misfits-inspired hustle and an unforgettable sing-along chorus, and former single "Something About You" recalls the Smoking Popes classic "I Need You Around," with more BPM and distortion. The 14 songs clock in at only 34 minutes, so Killing Time never overstays its welcome, giving you that caffeine-type pick-me-up so few indie pop albums offer these days.
Now that Terry Malts are releasing an album and getting some love, are Magic Bullets officially done?
Bassist/vocalist Phil Benson: The future is unclear on Magic Bullets.
Guitarist Corey Cunningham: We didn't intentionally stop doing it, but it seemed to run out of steam and the songs ran dry long before we stopped playing.
Was Terry Malts the side-project of Magic Bullets or was Magic Bullets the side-project of Terry Malts?
Phil Benson: Terry Malts was kind of a side-project, more like a drunken experiment. Then Malts kind of got busy at the same time as Magic Bullets.
What made the three of you start another band together? Isn't starting a new band usually something musicians do to get away from their bandmates?
Phil Benson: Well, at the time, Magic Bullets didn't have a drummer and we had a practice space so we used to go in and drink beers and make up songs.
Corey Cunningham: I think we wanted to do something that was more natural to us. Most of the guys in Magic Bullets that we started with had left and went on to other bands.
What can you tell me about the upcoming Much Ado About EP?
Corey Cunningham: Those songs were mostly written in late 2010 and maybe even earlier. Then we went into the studio with our pal Monte Vallier, who also mixed the Malts LP, in summer of 2011, and then our last show was in August.
Is Terry Malts a person? Where did the name come from? And how often does Phil get mistaken for being Terry Malts?
Phil Benson: In the beginning, we toyed with the idea of creating a fake persona, but we realized that was kind of stupid. We brainstormed the name when we were walking around with tall cans of cheap beers in the Excelsior district of San Fran. Funnily enough, Corey gets mistaken for "Terry" more often than me.
The songs on Killing Time are all so immediate ― from the lyrics and melodies to the lengths. Where does this directness come from?
Phil Benson: After years of over-thinking songs, we wanted to simplify and get to our inner Trogg.
Corey Cunningham: It just seems more natural to us this way.
Was there a relationship that inspired "Nauseous"?
Phil Benson: [Drummer] Nacie came up with the chorus, but it probably meant something different than the verses that I came up with, which are more about Christians saving themselves for marriage.
I've noticed the words "buzz saw" and "chainsaw" making their way into reviews of the album. Where did the interest in that guitar sound come from?
Corey Cunningham: Years of playing clean, jangly guitars. Also seeing Jason Hendardy [now of Permanent Collection] when he was playing guitar in the early incarnations of Young Prisms. He would just make this insane wall of distorted noise that was pretty inspiring, in a way.
How important is a label like Slumberland to the band? It seems like a perfect fit for your sound.
Corey Cunningham: Mike really understands what we're doing and, most importantly, is a huge record collector and all-around fan of music in every sense of the phrase. He's the real deal. Also, I used to buy SLR records as a teenager and still do.
You're from San Francisco, which has become this hotbed for underground garage/fuzz/lo-fi bands over the last while. Is there a San Francisco sound?
Phil Benson: We're friends with a lot of bands here. If that means there's a scene, then we'd be a part of one. But I don't think it's really much of a scene, more of a small city.
You guys tweeted at me that the album "was a real labour of love of beer." What beer were you drinking?
Phil Benson: Well, a lot of "Red 40s" [laughs]. That's when we get a cheap 40 of, say, Miller High Life, drink a third of it and pour in some V8. Tastes great and provides nutrients for the dinnerless while partying.
Corey told me he spent time in Toronto studying at Humber? How long was he there? Did he engage in the music scene at all? Any fond memories?
Corey Cunningham: I was in Toronto for about six months when I was 18. I dropped out eventually and spent my remaining savings on Harvey's burgers and going out to bars. There was a night called Blow Up at the El Mo that was fun; I had a memorable New Year's Eve there in 1998. I was a big Blur and Sloan fan then [laughs]. I saw them both in Toronto. I feel like the Sloan show became 4 Nights at the Palais Royale. Also, some small indies at El Mo that I can't recall the name of.
Finally, is Sweatt really Nathan's last name?
Corey Cunningham: His nickname is Nacie ― that's what we call him. But, yeah, that is actually his real last name [laughs]. (Slumberland)