Herra Terra channels New Wave on 'Hyperborean'

Wired for sound
By CHRIS CONTI  |  March 27, 2013

 HTerra_Top_Image.jpg
'SYNTH-ROCK-PORN-POP' Kusumah-Atmadja, Pelkey, Tonelli, and Andrade. [Photo by Molly McGrath]

Herra Terra has a new label, new drummer, and a new EP flush with New Wave-inspired electro-grooves titled Hyperborean. The Worcester-based quartet will take its acclaimed live show on the road for a handful of regional shows, including a release party this weekend at Fête, as well as a big one with party-monster Andrew W.K. at PVD Social Club in a few weeks. Pick up the new EP at a show or download right now for just $4 at herraterra.bandcamp.com.

Admittedly, I had no idea what to think of Herra Terra at the first few shows I caught in 2010 prior to the release of their debut full-length Quiet Geist (released via Athens, GA post-punk label The Mylene Sheath). Between the lighting and stage setup — a huddled mass of gear and wires — I was expecting something between the Mars Volta and Secret Machines. But even on a prog-rock number like Quiet Geist leadoff track "Ejection Seats," there is no denying the nod to '80s New Wave swirling around the catchy hooks penned by lead singer/keyboardist John Tonelli. Apparently I wasn't the only head-scratching scribe out there; later that year Herra Terra was nominated for a Boston Music Awards — in the Metal/Hardcore category. I was looking forward to the band's appearance at the 2011 Rock Hunt, but ultimately all those wires led to their undoing — an abbreviated set mired in technical difficulties. Business picked up quickly behind Quiet Geist, however, and led to trips to SXSW in '11 and '12, and toured heavily behind the album. I have since read folks referencing everyone from M83 to Muse to a "modern Duran Duran" (Tonelli could crush a cover of "Girls On Film"), along with Kraftwerk and Spandau Ballet mentioned in the same sentence (while we're at it — how about Stabbing Westward meets Triangle Forest?); the band pegs it as "Synth-Rock Porn-Pop."

Boston Phoenix music man Michael Marrotta nailed it with his "post-electroni-core" summation, and referred to Hyperborean leadoff track "Portals" as a "comet-trail of synth-song." The band went the DIY route this time, aided by a successful Kickstarter campaign. New drummer Shawn Pelkey comes in pounding behind Tonelli's wheezing keys, a sound tailor-made for sweaty, Molly-induced dance floors. Guitarist Gregg Kusumah-Atmadja and bassist Adrian Bettencourt Andrade ramp up the action on the title track.

The band just released a video for "Reason To Lose It" (featuring MTV's Cara Maria), chock-full of bikinis, confetti, and Silly String. "It really sets a good tone for the new record," Tonelli told me earlier this week, though lyrically he does get a little darker this time around. "Everybody wants to shoot a fang into a bleeding vein," he sings on the EP's best track, "Buried Youth"; the final song, "Kittens," addresses a discordant relationship with the lines, "Keep talkin' about the ones who rub you so wrong/But the enemy's song is the one you rely on."

"The darker lyrical content was a product of watching to many documentaries on Netflix and researching too many conspiracy theories," Tonelli cracked. "The music and melodies bring in that light and sexy vibe to balance out the darkness."

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Related: The 2011 WBRU Rock Hunt semi-finalists, pt. 2, Tuneful throwdown, ’Bru Bracket-Busters, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Andrew W.K., WBRU Rock Hunt, Herra Terra
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