The Terrys would not be a band if it weren’t for the pandemic. That’s the line the Gerringong indie rock act has been trotting out since rising to national attention in late 2020.
Our recollections of the early months of the pandemic tend to be characterised by loss and inertia. There was nowhere to go and no one to see; just takeaway burritos and Tiger King on the telly. But, although it’d be uncouth to generalise about the wider Australian public’s handling of lockdown, there was a segment of the population who felt liberated by the introduction of Jobseeker and Jobkeeper.
For these individuals—people who’d been riding the hamster wheel of insecure employment under late capitalism since adolescence—the added financial support provided incentive to cultivate new hobbies and pursue long-deferred dreams.
And so it was for The Terrys, a band of five 20-somethings based in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. None of the band’s five members—not singer Jacob Finch, nor guitarists Lukas Anderson and Ben Salvatori, drummer Cameron Cooper and bass player Trent Cooper—had ever played in a band before.
“We were too fucking scared to be doing that shit, to be honest,” says Finch, speaking from his caravan home in the coastal town of Gerringong. “If Covid didn’t happen and we never thought that the world was going to end, we would’ve never posted videos of us singing and playing guitar on the internet.”
Before Covid, Finch was working as a landscape gardener and Anderson as a carpenter. “Me and Loo both dropped out at 17 and just started working, started breaking our backs,” says Finch.
The pair, who presently live on neighbouring streets in Gerringong, both lost their jobs early in the pandemic, which freed them to act on their suppressed desire to make music. Fast forward 20-odd months and The Terrys are an established part of Australia’s indie rock scene.
Their single, “Our Paradise”, reached #76 in triple j’s Hottest 100 of 2021. “Our Paradise” features on the band’s debut EP, The TerrySonic Mixtape, which came out in September. The Terrys are halfway through the accompanying TerrySonic tour, which has included sold-out shows in Byron Bay, Newcastle, Brisbane, Melbourne and Hobart. How quickly things can change.
“Now we’re just on the tins, talking to Rolling Stone,” says Finch, laughing. “It’s kind of hard to believe what’s going on, but we just have to try not to think about it too much and just go along for the ride.”
While all five Terrys are currently based in Gerringong, 50 kilometres south of the Wollongong CBD, Salvatori is the only one who grew up there. Finch and Anderson grew up in nearby Kiama and the Cooper brothers grew up in Dapto, an outer suburb of Wollongong.
Gerringong is too small to have a music scene of its own, but there are some key cultural markers. “The dominant culture’s definitely surfing,” says Finch. “We’re not quite as good, but we do surf.” He adds, “Gerringong’s a little gem.”
Though, Finch didn’t always hold Gerringong in such high regard. The singer speaks with complete conviction when he says The Terrys “wouldn’t be a band if Covid didn’t happen.” And that’s because he’d planned on leaving Gerringong for good.
“I had a Spirit of Tassie one way boat booked to go away—me and my girlfriend and my dog—and I was never fucking coming back,” he says. “But then my boat got cancelled because of Covid.”
And so The Terrys was born. The first song Finch and Anderson wrote together is also the first song The Terrys released. It’s called “Video Games” and it appeared on Spotify and Apple Music in June 2020. “Video Games” has collected more than one hundred and fifty thousand Spotify streams, but the band hasn’t been sitting around watching the numbers turn over.
“Video Games” was followed by several more singles in quick succession—essentially, every time The Terrys wrote a song, they released it, such that by the end of 2020 The Terrys’ discography was five singles deep.
“We thought that’s what you did,” says Finch. “We would just write and be like, ‘Oh yes, we finally got through a-whole-nother song.’”
The band members certainly weren’t starved of inspiration. Finch and Anderson cite Australian artists like Floodlights, Skegss, Debbie and Teenage Joans as influences. “We just always were at work listening to them on the radio,” says Anderson.
He goes on, “I remember when Floodlights released their ‘Nullarbor’ EP [Backyard, 2019], we were all like, ‘That’s so sick.’ It was really, really inspiring seeing guys like that do it.”
Finch’s lead vocals recall the candid vocal style popular during the late-noughties UK indie rock boom. “The Kooks and Jamie T are both massive, massive influences,” he says. “I’ve always really loved listening to people that can sing but they decide to sing a song so everyone can fucking join in.”
The Terrys have started exercising a bit more quality control in the studio, but they’ve hardly slowed down. The TerrySonic Mixtape was followed by the single “IDK” in early February. “IDK” is the band’s first release to come out via Domestic La La Records, a precocious indie label run by Violent Soho’s James Tidswell.
Finch’s aim to have everyone “fucking join in” is being realised at their live shows, too. In fact, the crowd involvement goes way deeper.
“We’ve been seeing Terrys tattoos,” Finch says. “We’ve been seeing people who put a pair of sunnies on and they write ‘T-E-R’ on one lens and then on the other one ‘R-Y-S’—and they can’t see shit.”
The band’s devoted following will be out in force when The Terrys take part in the Sailor Jerry Road to Rolling Stone free gig series this month. As for the overriding emotion at a Terrys show?
“We just want to push positivity,” says Finch. “So, if you come to a Terrys show, you leave feeling good. If you listen to a Terrys song, you leave feeling good about it.”