Arresting Talent: Terry and the Cops

By October 23, 2018 No Comments

Terry and the Cops (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

Ok, first things first: Terry and the Cops are not cops.

That’s a point, explains frontman Terry Carroll, that the rest of the band wants him to stress. “The idea (from their perspective) is that the name is a reference to my long and storied relationship with authority,” he writes in a post-interview text message. The name was a last minute decision: a couple years back, the still-new band booked a show that they thought would be a one-off. Carroll’s suggestion of “Kid Eternity & the Iron City Lads,” was quickly rejected, “which,” he says, “I am now grateful for.” Terry and the Cops – the name, and the band – ended up sticking.

In a sense, that name is a nod toward the past: to wilder, substance-fueled nights of pessimistic, feverish, engrossing rock ‘n’ roll played in dark, smoky bars. Long-time Pittsburgh music fans will remember Carroll as the frontman of the long-running Dirty Faces, and later of the shamelessly sample-stealing, and extremely enjoyable hip-hop project Raw Blow. In those days Carroll -– then better known by the alias T-Glitter – threw himself into a memorable (to audiences, if not to him) stage persona, which was all effortless howl and sneer and serpentine movement. And that sort of wildin’ out was reflected in the rest of his life, which is, presumably, where those storied encounters with authority figures come in.

The Dirty Faces roster shifted over the years, but toward the end included bassist Mike Bonello and guitarist Eric Yeschke who – now, along with drummer Chris Coleman – make up the rest of Terry and the Cops. (Here, Yeschke also handles loops, engineering and production). With such a similar lineup it’s easy to think of the band as Dirty Faces 2.0.

“Mike was like, ‘Why aren’t we still calling this Dirty Faces? It’s the same people playing with a different drummer!’” Carroll says over the phone. “But I wanted this band to have a different energy.” And, of course, there’s something to be said for embracing new beginnings. “I was kind of having a fresh start in a number of respects,” he explains, “and that was kind of the whole thing. Out with the old, in with the new, even if the new is still three-quarters of the old.”

These days, Carroll’s life is more This Old House than Behind the Music: he currently works on a construction crew as a plumber, helping to remodel Pittsburgh mansions. And, while Terry and the Cops shares plenty of musical DNA with Dirty Faces, this newer project feels both weirder, looser and more lucid. “I think, [this band] is more experimental,” Carroll says. “It’s still songs with verses and choruses but how we get there stylistically, there’s a lot more trying different things.” While he’s always had a certain level of comfort with the weirder side of things, being in Raw Blow with Yeschke “definitely opened me up to, like, doing stuff that’s fun,” he says. “I don’t want to say pop, but the fun of early rock ‘n’ roll as opposed to the darkness of ’70s punk or post punk.”

In summer of 2017, Terry and the Cops released a tape called Some Like It Hot, and the year before that, a CDR called Mixtape 1.  Most of the recordings are from practices, but while both – the CDR, in particular – have a sprawling free-form feel, they don’t necessarily feel like works-in-progress. Partially influenced by the structure of hip-hop mixtapes (hip hop is always a major influence in any T-Glitter project), and partly by the collage-like assembly of early Guided by Voices records, Mixtape 1 is loaded with tracks, ranging from a few seconds in runtime to several minutes. It should, in theory, be a jarring and potentially thin listening experience, but in fact it vibrates effortlessly through the skull, planting surprise hooks and odd bits of apocalyptic poetry in the deepest parts of the brain.

Like the Dirty Faces, Terry and the Cops deals in a uniquely American kind of darkness. Here, though, the view is a little different. “I think my attitude before was, ‘Everything’s going to hell so we might as well have fun and party and go down with it, because fuck it,” Carroll recalls. It’s a viscerally relatable sentiment, though not exactly a sustainable one.  “I can still write a song from the perspective of a person who’s going through hell. But I’m personally not there anymore.”

Among the very few downsides of sobriety: facing minor stage-fright unaided. “I feel a lot more self-conscious about [performing] now, though I think I always did, which is why when I started playing music, that always went hand-in-hand with alcohol,” Carroll says, noting how central self-destructive behavior is to the rock ‘n’ roll mythos, and how fully he bought into that as a young adult. But even that freedom from insecurity becomes a disadvantage. “I might have had more fun then, but I wasn’t appreciating it. I was just burning through everything,” he says.   “I can’t change any of that, but I definitely appreciate things more now. And friends and seeing people.”

On Friday, Oct. 26, Terry and the Cops plays Gooski’s with some old friends. Brooklyn-based band Upper Wilds includes Dan Friel, who used to play in Parts & Labor, the Dirty Faces’ former Brah Records label mates. And, Carroll says, the local openers feature three of his favorite people to play with – “some of the most creative and unique musical minds in Pittsburgh” — Sam Pace, Sandy Patton and Keith DeVries. These are the details that he stresses the hardest. Band origin stories, and the details of who may or may not be a “cop” ultimately aren’t particularly important, he writes later, via text. “I think the fact that I love and am inspired by these people, and the fact that this show is like a weird accidental/unofficial reunion of sorts of a crew of people not connected by anything but odd music, is.”

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