October 12, 2010
by Nate Santos
Having torn up the stage for years, the trio of Fred Mascherino (Taking Back Sunday), Josh Eppard (Coheed and Cambria) and Andy Jackson (Hot Rod Circuit) were equally struck with a vocation to write a new chapter in their already acclaimed music careers. Forming a dark sounding alliance dubbed Terrible Things, these vets have mixed up a new formula that can equally treat the rock fever of today’s school of punk kids and its governing PTA body. With the release of their self-titled debut album, their mission is clear: create timeless rock n’ roll and avoid the stigmas brought about by a plethora of bandwagon bands who each attempt to clone the success of the other. The band chewed the fat with YRB, revealing the intimate details behind their concept record, which was inspired by a wave of serial arson that swept a small Pennsylvania steel town. The rockers highlight some obscure but favorite bands, as well as present a valid con list against recording in major cities. Other, more lighthearted, items on the agenda include the perks of living in a van and why Terrible Things has in fact turned out to be one really, really good thing for its members.
YRB: What are the positive and negative effects of you all coming from different bands and now uniting as one with Terrible Things?
Fred: I feel like we’re only gaining experience from each other. There aren’t too many hurdles. People could say, what about expectation? But I feel like we just went and made something that I think will make our previous fans happy. At the same time, we did that by going somewhere else with it and not just rehashing something any of us did. It wasn’t about a style. It was about writing a song and getting a message across. Any artist that sticks to that gets to keep making music.
YRB: How do you feel the sound of Terrible Things varies from the sound of the bands that you were previously in?
Josh: I would say it’s more mature. We like to use the word “classy.” We were young and there was a lot of angst and singing about girls [back then].
YRB: So it was more punk before?
Josh: Not that this is not punk, but it was more about singing what came out right then and there, where as [Terrible Things] we honed in on these songs and thought about lyrics and rewrote lyrics.
Fred: We worked with Jason Elgin, who produced the album. He didn’t know anything about our scene or our past records. And I think it was actually better because we were happy to get out of that. That’s why we aren’t doing those bands. It was real healthy to just get into a new headspace.
YRB: Where did the band’s name originate?
Fred: We actually had a song called “Terrible Things” and we thought it would make a great name. Of course, there’s also the idea of having a theme song. Actually, I went back and rewrote some of the lyrics. I didn’t want it to just be a love song; I wanted it to be something that all three of us might relate to. It fit because the album is a concept record based on fires that happened in my hometown.
YRB: Who are your biggest musical influences?
Fred: All different, I would say.
Josh: Led Zeppelin
Andy: And, collectively, there’s definitely some staples. One of the funny things is when [Fred] and I were kids, one of our first concerts was David Lee Roth [Laughs]. Not that that’s an influence on what we’re doing right now. I listen to a lot of hip-hop. Always did, always will. Love pop music.
YRB: What do you guys listen to now?
Fred: Well Circa Survive, who we were just out with.
Andy: Imogen Heap. We were playing one of her more recent records, not her newest one. That was really fun listening to because musicians can really dig her stuff. I have one of her records. It’s one of my absolute favorites.
Fred: Some of the newer stuff that I’ve been getting into is Good Old War and this band, Fun. And Say Anything is probably the CD we’ve been listening to the most this year.
Josh: One more band to throw in there, Queens Club. They’re from Kansas. The drummer and the guitar player were in the band, The Chariot. It’s just so off-the-charts different.
Andy: We live in a van together, so it’s actually been fun for me discovering new bands with these guys. It’s ultimately something that makes the band better.
Fred: First off, there are a lot of bands right now. And secondly, there are a lot of bands all doing the same thing. One band does something and then 50 bands do that. I think the ones we listed are definitely doing something different. We’re confident that when you listen to our record there’s not gonna be anyone else out there doing it the way we do. That’s one of the reasons we’re proud of this record.
YRB: Do you think there are any other bands in a similar lane as you?
Josh: I think there’s nods to other things, there’s elements. We’re a big, loud rock band with a pop overtone. There’s certainly bands out there with good songs, but I mean we got guitar solos, man. Who’s doing that? It’s a nod to a more timeless era of rock n’ roll. I think it’s all our own. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think that we’ve got that on lock.
Andy: We’re all older dudes that listen to groups like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. We’re not the younger kids who grew up on Taking Back Sunday, Hot Rod and bands like that. We’re trying to bring back that rock n’ roll. That was a big thing we all talked about in the beginning – not crapping on what we did, but making more of something that your dad could listen to.
YRB: What’s your favorite part of being a rock star?
Josh: The chicks! No, my girlfriend wouldn’t like that. For me, touring is like camping with your friends. The best part for me is I feel like I have a new family. That’s a deep thing to say.
Andy: We’re always talking to fans or that one person that never heard of you that night. Obviously, there’s a little bleed over of fans. It’s that connection dude. Just going and rocking, there’s no feeling like it.
Fred: I think that all three of us, when we’re home for too long we get that itch and we need to go meet some people and drive around. That’s probably the best part for me. To our own self-damage we are restless people and this allows us to get it out of our system every night and go wild and sweat.
YRB: What made you decide to go the route of a concept album?
Fred: Well, it happened supernaturally. I used to look at people who did those records and say I could never do that, cause I can’t focus on one subject for that long. But the town I lived in since I was born – and I lived there ‘til about two years ago – had a series of fires. After about 25 fires they had arrested some people and it was actually on CNN. I never thought I’d see Coatesville, PA on TV. They said ‘We caught the guys. They confessed, it’s over.’ And I was really kind of mad about it. Then two days later there was another fire and I got kind of scared.
YRB: Did they catch the wrong guys or did they just miss somebody?
Fred: I think it was more of a group copycat type of thing. It really has remained a mystery. I wrote the first song called “Steel Town” because that’s really how our town started, as the steel company moved out. It became a more and more depressed city to the point where this was able to happen. It wound up being 50 fires. As it went on, I wrote a song because I didn’t know how else to deal with it. Then I had a handful. I didn’t really think of making it an album until it grew. I met Andy and he had actually had a house fire where his house burned down. He related to the subject matter. Josh is sort of into dark concepts and that helped bring it together. We wrote the rest of the album together and they gave a lot of input on the existing songs.
YRB: Do you feel like the whole album is dark?
Fred: Yeah, there’s some fast songs, but they still stay pretty dark. There’s a song called “Conspiracy” where Josh brings in sort of a hip-hop vibe. That’s kind of a standout track as far as something new that none of our past bands could have dove into at all.
YRB: Andy, did you contribute more to the songs “Not Alone” and “Wrap Me up Tight?”
Andy: We all write together, obviously, for the most part. “Wrap Me up Tight” was one of those songs I had actually written before we were a band. It had a different chorus. All the songs don’t necessarily talk about the fire. “Conspiracy” is not about the fire.
Josh: Still, one could draw a line through each song. That’s the fun thing about a concept record, it doesn’t have to be so convoluted that you’ve got to know the story to enjoy the song. They each stand on their own.
YRB: You went all the way to Alabama to record. Is this the first time that you guys tried to sort of isolate yourselves during the recording process?
Fred: Well, I went out to L.A. to record once for the last Taking Back Sunday record that I was a part of. I found it really distracting to be in a really popular city with tons of industry people dropping by, parties every weekend and all that. Alabama is not like that. It’s the opposite. There was Taco Bell instead. That was the most happening thing in town.
Andy: In the past, I’ve made records in New York and you can’t ever find your band members because they’re at a show or whatever. There’s so much to do around [NYC]. We didn’t have those distractions in Alabama.
Fred: It was the perfect experience for making something real. There was nothing going on to affect you.
YRB: Where will you be touring for this album?
Fred: Everywhere. We’re starting a tour with a band called Mae. We are actually doing their farewell tour. It’s gonna be smaller clubs. We’re just hoping to fill ‘em with our fans and get the word out.
YRB: What’s the overall goal for this record?
Andy: To be huge. WORLD DOMINATION!
Josh: To reach as many people as possible. We want to be successful because we love music. It doesn’t come from a place of selfishness or greed. It’s ‘cause we want to play music for a living and we have families and people that depend on us.
Andy: I think there’s a big misconception. People are like, ‘Oh, you’re rich,’ but it’s like we’re not making any money. I slept in the van last night. We’re back to the streets and the van and we’re excited about it.
Josh: It feels like it makes Terrible Things its own new thing entirely. I’m glad that we’re in a van. There’s always gonna be problems, but this is the most fun I’ve had, literally, in years. If we started off on a bus and were drawing thousands of fans off the strength of our other bands, well guess what man? I wouldn’t feel like I feel right now. This band is a new chapter and a new era completely. The buzz is starting to happen. I have a really good feeling, I really do.