Rock duo Tereu Tereu officially unveiled their first record in over two years this week, called Quadrants. In their first interview with D.C. Music Download, I spoke with Brendan Polmer and Ryan Little about their bold new album, the full story behind “Gratitude”, and adjusting to life as a two-piece band.
D.C. Music Download: How long did it take to make the new album?
Brendan Polmer: It was recorded over a few years. There were a number of different recording sessions where we laid down two or three songs at a time. It’s really a picture of the journey that we’ve gone through creatively, and different things we’ve been trying out as a band.
Ryan Little: It’s a reflection of the different tools we’ve acquired over the past few years in terms of production. We started using Ableton a lot. In our live performances as well as in the studio, we use more samples and more synthesizers/electronic elements. As we’ve been learning those different tools of the trade, it’s kind of shown up in our music.
DMD: Where did you guys record all of this?
BP: We recorded the album in various places, including a couple places around the D.C. area. Our friend Thomas Orgren, who’s in the band Typefighter, has a studio in Northern Virginia called Persona Non Grata. We did a lot work with him.
Some of it we recorded at a place called The Bastille, which is attached to the Inner Ear Studio. We recorded some songs at our house, at our friend Hugh McElroy’s house (he has a studio called Swim-Two-Birds)-a little bit of everywhere!
DMD: Based on the amount of time it took to put this together, would you say this was the most challenging project you’ve done thus far?
RL: I think being a two-piece adds another dimension to it. The first three songs on the record were actually from an EP called NW that we put out a few years ago when we were actually a three-piece. Our friend Thomas, who we mentioned helped us record, was actually a third member of our band for a little while. As a three-piece, it was a more traditional rock set-up (sort of). After he left, we decided how to figure this out.
We thought about finding a replacement, but that became increasing difficult to find. I think the most challenging thing has been the actual recording process. It took us some time to adapt to what we were doing to the two-piece set up, and it took us some time to find our voice as a two-piece set up.
DMD: With some changes to the line-up over the years, what are the advantages and disadvantages to being a two-piece now?
RL: The logistics are the biggest advantage, like scheduling tour dates or recording dates.
BP: Or traveling!
RL: Yeah, that definitely makes it easier. As far as disadvantages, it’s mainly not being able to rely on anyone else. Like with a four piece, one person can come in with a basic song idea and have someone else to help figure it out. They can make a simple song idea into a full song idea with almost automatic roles that specific members play.
With a two-piece, it definitely creates different challenges in terms of how we’re going to make this a full-sounding song. How are we going to keep this interesting with only two of us? But those challenges (I think) have yielded some of our better songs.
DMD: In terms of the songwriting process, how does it all work with the two of you?
BP: It kind of varies by song. Probably the most typical scenario is that Ryan will have an idea for a song, and he’ll lay it out himself with a guitar or some electronic drums on the computer. Then, I’ll take those ideas and kind of add my own flair to them.
Other times, I’ll have a bass line or a melody in mind, and I’ll lay that down. Then, he’ll come up with a song around it. There are other songs like “Gratitude” where Ryan wrote that basically in a day. Really, in an hour. He just kind of played it for me and I said “Wow, this is awesome!” Then, I just put my own drums on it- and that was it! Some stuff changed in the studio, but overall, it basically remained the same. Our other songs haven’t really evolved like that one. Some songs have changed overtime, depending on the tools we have to use.
There are some songs, like the last song on the record “Spanish Lynx”, that was a completely different song than we what we played as a three-piece. We just scrapped it as a two-piece because we couldn’t get the same effect. Rather than get rid of it entirely, we completely rearranged it.
DMD: What’s one song off Quadrants that you think your longtime fans might be surprised to hear from you?
RL: “Spanish Lynx”. It’s probably the least like the songs we’ve done in the past. That stands out in my mind as one that’s a little different than the things we’ve done before. It’s also one of the most well-received songs based on who we’ve played it for.
There are people who prefer the rock and roll side of things who are big fans of the song. Then, there are people who prefer the more atmospheric side of things who enjoy “Spanish Lynx” more than some of the other stuff on the album. It really depends on where you’re coming from. That’s probably the most different.
There’s also “Cut The Line”, which is a nice in-between spot of having some more atmospheric elements but still being a rock song.
BP: When we wrote “Spanish Lynx”, it was composed entirely on a computer. There are no live drums on it. It’s a lot of Ryan’s guitar that’s been re-sampled, and a drum machine.
RL: It’s mostly the guitar and vocals that have been switched around and chopped up.
DMD: What led you to pick “Gratitude” as the debut song for the album?
RL: It sounded the most radio-friendly.
BP: We’re going to be all-over the local radio!
RL: It’s got a certain nostalgic factor to it that strikes a chord with a lot of people. We also shot a music video for it that’s coming out soon.
DMD: What’s the back story behind “Gratitude”?
BP: Ryan wrote it on the Fourth of July-right Ryan?
RL: Yeah. I sat down on the Fourth of July and it all just kind of came out. It’s about being thankful for things that you shouldn’t have to be thankful for. The Fourth of July is such an interesting time to think about the country and the state of the country; what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong as a people and as a nation. I was thinking about all of that, and thinking about patriotism. Is patriotism stupid? Is nationalism really detrimental for us, or is it just fine to be proud of where you came from? All those things were rolling around in my mind.
DMD: Who did you shoot the music video with?
BP: I work at CNN as a camera guy, so I have some coworkers who do some of that stuff on the side. One of them helped us conceive the idea for the video, and one of his friends shot it. It’s currently still being edited by me and the person who shot it. It should be done soon.
DMD: What’s next for the band?
RL: There will be a tour starting October 7. We’re going out to St. Louis, and then over to New York and back. That’s about a two week tour right there.
BP: Then after that, we probably won’t do anything until after the New Year. I think it’ll be nice to take a little bit of a breather after the tour. We’ll still be promoting the record and everything, but it’ll be nice to have a moment where we’re not feeling rush to finish a record or send out promotions.
RL: I’m sure they’ll still be something that we’ll be working on though. We have a way of keeping ourselves busy.
DMD: Do you have any plans to expand the band?
RL: If this record blows up and goes platinum, then we’ll consider adding a third member. Otherwise, we’ll probably stick it out as a two-piece for a while.
BP: It would be nice to have a third person helping us out with some songs. Or even a third person helping us out with songwriting is nice. But like Ryan said, it’s just another thing for us to worry about right now. We’re just sticking it out as a two-piece, and it’s working out so far!
Stream Quadrants below: