Interview with Brian Michael of Iudica and Terrallite

Bryan Alvarado (in foreground) with current band Terrallite: Thom Grover (far right), Nate Fidd (background on drums), and Christian Colón on bass

Times Boredom (TB:): Tell us a little bit about your former band Iudica and your new band Terrallite.  What are the biggest differences you see between them?

Brian Michael: Well, iüdica was a grunge project that started with our old bassist Chris Walker and some members of Terrallite including myself and our drummer Nate Fidd

TB: So that was intentionally meant to be like grunge genre stuff?

Brian Michael: That was six years ago. And yes at the onset I would say we set out to be a grunge band. It was what we all knew.

TB: That’s actually good that you brought that up b/c as stupid old men scenesters we have no idea how old anyone else is; how old were you when iudica started?

Brian Michael: I was 27 when we began, I had just moved to the Glens falls/Lake George area after spending many years in the Albany area. Almost a year ago we decided to shake it up. Our bassist wanted to try a different musical endeavor, and couldn’t commit as much. We had sort of stagnated in his defense. 

TB: I know that Iudica’s labelled a Lake George Band on Bandcamp; what city is your new Band Terrallite centered around?

Iudica, before the band reformed as Terrallite; Chris walker, Thom Grover, Brian Michael, and Nate Fidd on drums

Brian Michael: It’s hard to tell. We still do practice in lake George, but if I had to choose I would say Glens falls. We frequently perform in Saratoga, and Albany as well.

TB: So you’re an Albany native currently in exile/ I mean living in Lake George…

Brian Michael: I exiled myself man. After a failed business endeavor, I needed to refocus my life. I walked away from a lot of friends, a lot of drugs, and a lot of old habits when I moved.

TB: So how do you see Terrallite in relation to Iudica?  A progression from that sound or a whole new thing entirely?

Brian Michael: I view it as a total progression from the sound, and new thing entirely. We took on Thom Grover, who is a song writer. So now me and him write and have two totally different styles. (On the new recordings) I wrote shimmy and medicated. He wrote rusted spoon.

We also aren’t doing grunge anymore. I’m not really sure how to peg the sound but I feel it is definitely alternative rock or from that vein, but it has this kind of darker pop element as well.  And we added our new Bassist, Christian Colón. Thom is mostly noise guitar, but on what he writes he does rhythm.

TB: Yeah I’ve hear your new stuff and I think it’s very different; much more mature if that  makes sense

Brian Michael: We started working with a producer who’s really honed in our new sound.  His name is Tom Case. A legend in my opinion.

Terralite drummer Nate Fidd with legendary producer Tom Case, who they’ve been working with on new songs

TB: I hear much more danceable stuff, new wave influences, and in general it’s still alternative but yeah less grungey.  How much of that difference do you think is due to production, which does sound much cleaner and more professional?

Brian Michael: We write most of the material as a band should – in a garage or basement for example – but in the studio is really when we start to flesh out the details and cut out the nonsense to make them more coherent sound wise. I think the difference really is knowing to think about our music in a way where we perceive it from the listeners standpoint.

TB: I know we’ve all been on hold from local live music in a while, but have you noticed more people dancing and/or making more motion with your new stuff? I know I’m tapping my toes over here…

Brian Michael: When we started, we only had old people at the bar sitting staring at us kind of confused. I used to be really into house music – it became more important for us to write for the listener.  Once we started Terrallite we walked away from most iüdica material and pushed for this style of influence and vibe.

TB: Interesting.  I feel like it’s really hard to write straightforward rock/pop music these days so most people rely on pedals or volume or some other gimmick.  However, you guys manage to play a really straightforward sound and keep it interesting based on great songwriting.  How hard would you say you work on the actual melodies?  And how do you manage to keep it so interesting?

Brian Michael: So I don’t work on melodies while writing. I also don’t work on lyrics either — which is how we used to do it. Lyrics, then melody, then riffs, then drums.  Now it’s a music first approach. I have about 150+ 10 to 30 second recordings of catchy things I get in my head. Then I’ll transpose it to guitar and as a Band we pickup from there.  Once the song is made I start working on lyrics and melodies and only do it off the cuff. Whatever comes natural. 

Alternative Rock band Terrallite (from stage right): Thom Grover, Nate Fidd (drums), Brian Alvarado and Christian Colon

So I guess all I’m trying to say is it’s a totally different process from how we used to write and I think that he has produced a much more free formed way of approaching music that satisfies us.

I use 3 pedals by the way.  Overdrive, reverb, and a boost. You can get a lot of tone out of a guitar by bending it or picking in different ways. I am eyeballing a Leslie rotary speaker though, I have some really cool tunes that just neeeeed it

TB: Before the pandemic you were clearly a band that played out a lot at various places.  With all of the clubs closed during the pandemic and likely many closing down for good, where do you think you’ll be playing when/if things return to post-normal? Do you see yourselves branching out, trying to play larger clubs?

Brian Michael: Well, venues close but connections aren’t so easy to lose. We try to talk to our friends in the business and keep them all on the up and up with what we’ve got going on. We also have been playing any booking we can. I’ve never played so many outdoor shows in my life. We have a booking at paulys hotel December 18. It’s weird because we aren’t allowed to promote it or anything.

Our goal is, yes, to play larger clubs (other than our favorite dives).  During covid we will play what we can though. Our last show prior to covid was Skyloft. We had nanola and Dino bbq get cancelled. Rough start to 2020.

TB: Somewhat along those lines, clearly the influence of social media and its increased usage for bands during the pandemic is changing the way you interact with your audience.  how do you feel about the ways that social media has changed and is continuing to change what it means to be a music group interacting with its audience? 

Brian Michael: From what I can tell it’s forced us to take on more work. We used to just post and share but now people want CONTENT. And it’s not cheap to make good content as a band. So we are exploring ways to put out quality live recordings or sessions, investing heavily in merch for online sales etc etc.

People also expect more music quickly. We can’t release an ep or album and disappear for a year or two. We want to be ready to follow up each release with another release.

The digital age is way more demanding, so we hope once shows get going we’ll be able to offset the finances needed to get a well rounded presence online and in person.

TB: I’ve heard that a lot.  Digital media’s putting pressure on public groups to be present far more often; sending messages out in addition to just playing out or touring.  But it also has the benefit of letting people know about that increasingly important part of being a band which is ‘merch’.  How do you feel about the increased use of merch to promote the band, provide income, and generally represent yourselves as opposed to just music?  I see on your fb page you’ve been working with local artists on that too and think that’s really cool.

Brian Michael: Yeah, we always want to work with new and local artists. They have ideas we couldn’t ever dream of. I’m just a guitarist, we’re just a band. We need artists to add color to that story.

I have a background in music management, and to be honest my mindset has always been that an artist makes about 70% of income on merch, the rest on shows. If you’ve been paid by local venues you know it’s not enough. So for me I see merch as the devil we need

I’ve always loved production, and used to put on shows and festivals. I work festivals a lot still, but would say the management you have to learn along the way if you’re in the industry.

TB: I hear that.  Rock’s not something you study, it’s something you gotta learn on the STREET!

Who would you say are Terrallite’s major influences?

Brian Michael: I would say our influences are very broad; Asking just me I would say The Killers, The Cure, Brand New, and Nirvana in no particular order.  Nate, our drummer is really into Ginger Baker, Danny Carey (from Tool), and Keith Moon.  Thom (guitarist and vocalist) is into Pink Floyd and Nirvana – though there’s a little bit of Deftones and Used influence with the heavier songs he writes.  Our bassist Christian is a metal head haha; he’s into Periphery, Karnivool, Death and Obscura.

TB: So I know this is tricky given how much things keep changing, but do you have a timeline for when you expect to officially release some Terrallite music?

Brian Michael: Well we were going to have the material fully mastered and released as an EP heading into spring /early summer. Since that’s changed we are actually in the process of scouting studios and think a summer 2021 (think June) because we are going to possibly release a full album instead. It’s important to us to be able to perform live and release the music, so we have to wait a little longer.

TB: I am definitely looking forward to it. Any bizarre political statements you wanna make before we conclude so we can edit them out?

Brian Michael: No, I will just say that like our music our band also has politics that cover a broad spectrum. We all have utmost respect for each other, and recognize that it’s the things that we share in common – like stupid moments on stage – that are the most important.

TB: Sounds like you guys really get along which is definitely good to hear since I hope you’re around a long time.  I’d say most local bands don’t really know what they want or what they’re in for so they end up breaking up too soon.

Brian Michael: We broke up to reform, and be serious about music, about business, and mostly about fun.

TB: Deadly.  Serious.  About.  FUN.

Brian Michael: Ha ha.  Terrallite is a band I’m proud to be in, and I don’t think I would want to perform with any other mates

TB: Do you have a live or streaming date coming up that you’d like to promote?

Brian Michael: We will be streaming live on December 18th and will make sure to post about the time that is to occur.

TB: Sweet. Thanks for talking with us!

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