Notes-Worthy: Colin Althaus of Tara Terra

Notes-Worthy: Colin Althaus of Tara Terra

Paul Wood chats with Colin Althaus, 17, who has lived in Champaign-Urbana all his life. He plays guitar in Tara Terra. The current lineup features Emily Otnes, vocals and guitar; Joey Buttlar, drums; Alleya Weibel, violin, trumpet and backing vocals; and Nick Soria, bass.

What are you excited about right now?

Right now we've finished three new songs since the release of our first album, "Daughter" in August and we're working on several more as I speak! We're aiming to make rough recordings of the new material in December and January, and head back into the studio sometime in the first quarter of next year. We're also shooting a music video for "Bare Feet," which will have plenty of awkward closeups of myself and the rest of the band.

"We are working on putting together a brand new sound as well as playing out of town, and we want to come back to Champaign with a bang." Tell us about the new sound.

We're still figuring out exactly what the new sound is! But in general, we're moving away from the way we used to write songs, which was the band writing our parts around Emily's central song, and toward a more collaborative process. Now there's more band-wide input and criticism on central components of the songs. For example, Alleya just wrote some lyrics for a new song, and Joey and Emily have been working together on turning a few riffs and chord progressions into something cohesive as a song. I'd say so far, the "new sound" has more dual guitar work, unusual time signatures, stronger grooves and lots of space and ambience. That's pretty vague, but I have a hard time defining the sound of a song till we record it.

Am I hearing a little bit of flute on "Bare Feet"?

Yes! That's Emily playing flute. Or more like, four Emilys playing flute at once. That song had some other cool features — Alleya played trumpet and Ryan Groff (of Elsinore) sang in the second half. We had a lot of fun recording that song — we just put stupid amounts of everything in, lots of guitars and percussion. And we recorded it in tons of different places beyond the studio (Earth Analog), our friends' living rooms, our parents' bedrooms, our friends' parents' bedrooms ...

Where does the name Tara Terra come from?

It's kind of a "Gone With The Wind" reference; the idea of becoming a young adult on your home ground is pretty familiar to us, as most of us have lived in Champaign our whole lives and go to college here. But it's really just a name. If anybody cares (because we don't, really!), we pronounce it Tare-Ah Tare-Ah.

How did The Weekdays join the band?

The story goes something like: I offered to record Emily as a solo artist before I ever joined a band with her, way back in the summer of 2013. She wanted a drummer on some songs, so I recommended Joey, whom I already played in a band with. Joey did some tracks with her, became one of the first Weekdays, and soon Emily asked me to join on electric guitar. Nick arrived soon after we played Pygmalion Music Festival in September, and Alleya joined early this year. We changed our name to Tara Terra when we released our album this August.

Do you think there's a thriving music scene here right now?

I think there are great bands and artists here right now making music that they love, so in that sense yeah, definitely! Many of my favorite bands right now are either based in Champaign or have some kind of Champaign connection. And as a new band writing original music, the scene is really friendly and accepting to "break into," which is a term I don't even think makes a ton of sense here. There are all the right things in place to support independent musicians and original music: music stores, recording studios, repair shops, concert venues, booking agencies, record labels, etc. The one place where I could see growth in the scene would be the audience base for live local music. A lot of the time, your crowd ends up being 75 percent your friends and your friends' friends, and audience members who just enjoy live music and go to unfamiliar shows are definitely a minority.

Is tobacco still a band vice?

If you're referring to the song "Smoke," then it was only autobiographical for one of us, anyway! And more of a metaphor than anything else. Either way, cigs don't help us write songs, so they're no good.

How did you first grow interested in music? Does your family have a musical history?

There was always music in the house growing up — the music I remember most was The Beatles and Artur Rubinstein's Chopin Collection. My dad played guitar and bass, and my mom played cello. I took classical piano for nine years, which was definitely tedious but in retrospect, a great move on my parents' part. I started guitar toward the end of that, and it's been my primary instrument for the past four years or so.

Which bands did you like growing up?

I started listening to U2 pretty early on and they've been a really formative band for me, in terms of my playing and the way I write my parts. I always admired their surface-level simplicity and catchiness, but also their complex atmospheres and production underneath. Nowadays, I'm listening to a lot of Their / They're / There (Chicago indie rock/math/emo), Santah (ex-Champaign indie), and The Dodos (San Francisco indie folk rock), as well as bigger bands like Radiohead and The National.

Do you have a favorite instrument? What kind of amplifiers do you prefer?

I love my Squier Classic Vibe 50's Telecaster and my Epiphone Sheraton II, and I play through a Vox AC15. I bought the Vox during my U2/Edge-inspired years, and have built my tone around it since then. That amp has a really warm, chimey tone that works great with the pedals I use.

Is touring still fun or has it become a chore?

Touring is still a pretty new concept for this band — a few of us have been on tours with other bands, but we've only played out of town as Tara Terra maybe three to four times. Each time has been really great, though. We got to play for an entirely new crowd back in April in St. Louis, and it was a real confidence booster to see our music well received. We're hoping to head back there this January, and play around Chicago sometime in February too. And we're planning on booking a Midwest tour sometime during the summer of 2015!

What's your favorite song? What's your favorite song by your own band?

Wow, that's a hard question. I'm not sure I can say with confidence that I have a favorite song, but "Nude" by Radiohead is one of those ones that never gets old and is just always beautiful. Favorite song by my own band: probably "Don't Call Me Darlin' " although we have a new one called "Rope Swing" that I'm pretty excited about. Lots of cool dynamics and changes in feel, and it's in the key of B flat, which is one of my favorites!

What's your favorite clothing item for performance?

Without a doubt, performing in metallic green leggings (dressed as Robin from Teen Titans) was one of my most enlightening experiences ever on stage. There are pictures on our Facebook page! You can find us at: facebook.com/taraterratheband.

Topics (2):Music, People

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