It’s hard not to smile when listening to San Francisco band Terry Malts. Its fuzzy, reverb-infused pop-rock is bouncy and cheerful — exactly what the band wants.
“The pleasure principle is a driving force of the band,” says Corey Cunningham, who sings backup vocals and plays guitar.
Terry Malts, which plays the Rickshaw Stop on Friday, includes Cunningham, Philip Benson and Nathan Sweatt. All are former members of Magic Bullets, a group that had a completely different sound.
“We spent a lot of time fighting off Smiths comparisons with Magic Bullets,” says Cunningham. “It’s nice to have new comparisons. Now it’s the Buzzcocks and the Ramones.”
Terry Malts’ joyful, singsong tunes make crowds pogo. But the killer hooks are sent through powerful distortion pedals more often used by the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain, muffling and expanding the sound beyond punky pop-rock.
Even Pandora.com doesn’t know what to do with the band. Its Terry Malts station plays song after song of banal pop-punk heard in teenybopper stores such as Hot Topic — nothing like Terry Malts’ “scene,” if it had one.
“We get the question about a ‘scene’ a lot nowadays because of other local artists like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees,” Cunningham says. But while Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees are fond of distortion pedals, they use them differently, recalling surf guitar, psychedelic pop or rockabilly rather than three-chord pop.
“It’s not a scene in the traditional sense,” Cunningham says. “Maybe there’s just some weird zeitgeist or something happening, though, that’s making us all play with the ‘fuzz factor’ sound in different ways. I don’t think it’s an intentional trend, though.”
With their new sound, Terry Malts’ players have a new attitude in their post-Magic Bullets careers — more casual, and more chaotic.
Their shows pack a wild and frenzied crowd, and they practice only about every two weeks. The band actually evolved onstage, making up new songs after shows, and after a few too many.
“I love the mindlessness of this project,” Cunningham says. “We can get as wasted as we want, and it ties into the original idea of the band and all of its punk influences, which is to do whatever you want, and have fun.”