Words: Brad Harris
Lou Terry is a man without pretensions. It’s clear in his latest single, essentially a two-note vamp that builds and builds into one of the most obscene and raw vocal performances put to tape. Sweetly reminiscent of the post-ironic sincerity of artists like Miracle Legion and David Berman as well as the storytelling chops of contemporaries such as Phoebe Bridges or Lomelda, Rowan’s Advice tows the line between uplifting and down-to-earth, reaching that sweet spot of beauty and passion that few achieve.
Despite the references to being overlooked by fabled institutions the Brixton Windmill and Parallel Lines, Lou finds himself right at home on London-based tastemakers Warm Laundry, a haven for touching songwriters including deathcrash, Cavernzz and Jerskin Fendrix. The label itself notes that he once won the heart of John Cooper Clarke who stumbled upon him performing in a pub and was so entranced that he missed his train home.
This is truly what a song is; some unfathomable thing that elevates the artist’s inner world to stir us in inconceivable ways. I caught up with Lou to delve a little deeper into this world and to get a grasp on his relationship with the mysterious process that is writing.
Hi Lou! Would you say that your new track Rowan’s Advice is a love song?
“Partly. It’s about realising how lovely someone I know really is. I think it’s also about how inconsistent I am as a person, but that the best times are always when we help one another out, and not when we beat ourselves up over stupid things like not getting gigs. ”
How do you navigate that difficult balance between sincerity and humour?
“I have a few cans between songs.”
Judging by a cursory Youtube search, the song is a few years old. Has its meaning changed over time and how has it been to revisit it?
“As a song it’s felt quite static, it means exactly the same to me now as it did when I wrote it. And I’ve played it at most gigs, so it hasn’t felt revisited. The only difference is that I’ve now played the Windmill a few times. Still waiting on that Parallel Lines show though…”
How does it feel to have now sold out the Windmill in support of this song as well?
“Kind of annoying coz loads of my mates can’t get tickets! So you better all come!!”
Often people talk about their process as a kind of love-hate thing; it’s painful, it’s a struggle, etc – but that it’s worth it because you end up with this thing that is both beautiful and is the thing that makes you happy. What’s your relationship with songwriting like?
“Maybe this is slightly sad, but song writing feels very embedded in how I feel about myself as a person, so it is love-hate naturally. I feel alive when there’s time in life to write songs, and even when you’re not actually writing during those periods, all the in-between things like hanging out with mates or going to the shops might turn into songs, so everything’s potentially really exciting. But a lot of the time too much stuff gets in the way, and then those in-between times can’t turn into songs and you can go weeks without writing anything. That feels like dead time to me. Maybe it’s unhealthy to have so much of my feeling pinned on songwriting, but I guess the aim is to get paid enough so you can write more of the time and get rid of the dead time.”
Now that it’s behind us, how did you find the last year? Were you able to write at all?
“First lockdown (as I’m sure is the case with a lot of people who make art or write) was really helpful. For the first time in years I felt on top of my ideas. I wasn’t building up a stack of phone notes but actually writing the songs as they came to mind. I think that makes a big difference, though sadly it’s a luxury we don’t often get. I put out an album of old songs (‘If I’m Me Who Are the Other Three’), which felt like clearing out the basement or something, and I also managed to get an album’s-worth of new songs written, which I’m working on recording.”
“I remember a lot of things suddenly seeming pointless when covid hit, but music didn’t. It’s weird coz I often think music seems pointless, on the occasions when I do some activism or go on a march, I feel useless just making songs. But in covid I genuinely think music really helped people, so that encouraged me to write. The last few months have been harder I’ve got to admit, sleeping is an issue, there’s someone who drops weights on the floor above me in the middle of every night…got a new song about it at least…”
What was the last thing that moved you emotionally?
“To be honest probably coming home drunk and finding a mouse had eaten my last bagel. But a couple of days ago I was moved in Deptford square where the Field Mutual Aid Group from New Cross were giving out free meals as they do every Wednesday. My friend Charlie (great songwriter by the way, Piglet and Speed Training) has been telling me to go for months. I finally went down, and the number of people, all different ages, and in very different clothes, all there for the sole reason of providing free food to people, in a world that mindlessly puts profit before anything else, and lumped with a government that won’t even provide food to kids in poverty in schools, and actually relies on food banks to feed people, it was very moving.”
To finish, what do you have in store, and do you have any recommendations (musical and otherwise)?
“As I said got a bunch of new songs written. Got one I really wanna release as another single, it’s a really fun one, and sounds great with the new band. Then let’s get an album recorded?! Yes, Music: Piglet – Mill, Baggio – I Have Thought About You Every Single Second Today, Italia 90 – Borderlin, Paddywak – Spacey Daisy EP and Potpourri – Magic Girls. Other: Sister Midnight (when it reopens at the Ravensbourne Arms in Lewisham), The Field Mutual Aid Group, Foodhall Sheffield, hunt saboteurs, Essex Pig Save, Jamaican veggie patties and tomato and three bean soup from Sainsburys.”