Behind The Beat: Terravita
For over a decade now, Jon Spero & Chris Barlow of Terravita have been mastering bass music. They have continuously stayed ahead of the curve in a fast-paced, ever-changing scene. Only the Beat had the chance to sit down with these two gentleman prior to their sunset performance at Global Dance Festival in Colorado.
Only The Beat: We know that you two grew up in the Northeast, but where specifically did you grow up and how did you two meet?
Jon: I grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts which is about 45 minutes outside of Boston and Chris grew up in Newport, Rhode Island. I was probably 19, Chris was roughly 21 and we were not very friendly with each other at that time. Since then we’ve grown to enjoy each others company.
Chris: I still can’t stand him (laughing) still can’t stand him.
Jon: We have a working relationship, I don’t like to see him otherwise. We spend way too much fucking time together bro, way too much time.
Chris: We don’t call each other.
Jon: We’ve been working together since around 2004, we meet back in 2000. That’s about it really, no big story there. Both of us came up as event promoters, doing our own thing, we ended up meeting locally and things kind of ended up working out I guess.
Chris: Here we are twelve years later.
OTB: During that time period in Boston – the hardcore music scene was massive, were you two part of that culture?
Jon: I was not part of that scene at all, Chris wasn’t either. He is more of a metal kid, where as I am more of a hip-hop kid. Those were the scenes we were in. The hardcore scene in Boston was enormous, it was probably the biggest scene in the Boston area for a long period of time. I knew a decent amount about it, but it was never my scene.
OTB: You guys just recently released a new EP called ‘The Fallen” what’s up next on your agenda?
Jon: Well, we’re kind of in the middle of it right now and we’ve got a bunch of new stuff we’re working on but we don’t know exactly what. We might be planning an album for next February. We’ll be releasing music throughout that time though, we’re not going to stop releasing music. Just going to keep writing music and see where it goes. If we bring a cohesive EP out, it will because we think it is really going to go well. But tentatively right now, were working on an full length album.
Chris: Some might call that an a LP / a long play / more than an extended play / a long player.
Terravita – The Fallen EP
OTB: How many tracks are you looking to place on this long player?
Jon: I would say somewhere in the 10-15 track area. But, you know you gotta scrap the stuff thats not great into the whole graveyard of fucking tunes that no one will ever hear.
Chris: Yeah, we’ll see how it comes out.
OTB: We’ll be looking for that in the months ahead – going back to growing up, were either of you classical trained to play music?
Jon: I played the saxophone poorly in high school and played drums for a little bit. I was never really good instrumentally. I was more into vocally-based stuff, and no formal training. When we lived in Boston we used to own a record store near Fenway Park, over by The Berklee College of Music. We would just sneak into the lectures we wanted to see and get into all that stuff. We read all those books, so we kind of trained ourselves.
OTB: You owned a vinyl record store by Fenway Park, tell us more about what that was like?
Jon: The store was all vinyl, well maybe a few compact disc’s here and there, but it was mainly an all vinyl record store.
OTB: Any chance you guys might be considering re-opening the store anytime soon?
Jon: Oh, fuck no.
OTB: Even with vinyl making a possible comeback?
Jon: Get out of here with that shit! (laughing)
Chris: No, no, no.
Jon: It’s not coming back like that.
Chris: People say its coming back, but we are talking about kids that would come in and spend $150 a week buying drum and bass albums – they don’t even make $150 worth of vinyl anymore.
Jon: Yeah, we couldn’t keep the lights on nowadays, actually even when the store was in its hay day we couldn’t keep the lights on, so.
Chris: It was a passion project.
Jon: That store was a shit ton of fun, it was a blast, like the atmosphere in our shop was awesome. The store was a place you could come in with a six-pack, drink, watch sports and shop for records. A place where you could shoot the shit, it was a fun place, kind of like a barbershop for records, basically.
Chris: Yeah, we should have had a barber in there dude, that would have been awesome.
Jon: Yeah, we could have just got Lou n’ them from down the street.
Chris: Fuck yeah, we should have done that.
OTB: You guys have been around for over a decade now, thoughts on staying active and in the forefront?
Chris: It’s been more than a decade since our first release so were officially 10 years older, do we get tenure? I’m pretty sure that means we can’t get fired.
Jon: Yeah, can we not get fired now? That would be great. No, staying relevant is difficult, it’s very difficult. Fortunately, we’ve got a lot of friends who have been doing stuff as long as we have. The down side is a lot of people really have soured over the years. Like the biggest part of that is adaptability, being able to adapt to your surroundings while still enjoying what you do. There is this sense of ” Oh, I have to do this to make money or people will call you a sell out, this, that, or the other thing.” And I agree to a sense, I mean if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, and you’re just kind of writing for the money. I mean I get that it’s a job, and I don’t hate on anyone who does any of that kind of stuff. But for us it’s just like we’ve always enjoyed new trends in music. You see something cool and you want to build on that, or somebody comes out with a new sound and you’re like holy shit, thats dope!
Chris: At the end of the day, you want the people at your show to enjoy the fucking music.
OTB: For sure, how difficult is that to do with how quickly things have been changing recently?
Jon: Oh it’s fucking rapid fire dude, I mean everything, we’ve gone through 10 new genres in the past two years, and some of them are already out.
OTB: You’re speaking of sub-genres upon sub-genres, correct?
Jon: Ha, I stopped worrying about that shit years ago dude, I will leave that up to the professionals. I’ve got no fucking idea, its’ just like music. Tempo is a variable you know. At this point, I just sum it all up under bass music, I don’t even have words for it really. It just is what it is, it’s an amalgamation of shit that’s just there.
Chris: That’s the melting pot.
Jon: Now you can get away with a lot thought which is cool. There was time where you just had to play 140 BPM, or you just played drum n’ bass, or just playing this. Now you can play from 90 to 174 BPM and play 10 different genres between and it’s considered basically the same thing. So for us that’s been fucking great, like we come from drum n’ bass so we get to pull from all over the place now. That really helps build arches, peaks and valleys in the set, which is fun. You used to just do this stuff one speed and that’s when you would let build-up a few breakdowns. But it’s not as good as being able to have, a hip-hop bridge and chorus and switch that straight into a ‘tear your face off’ dubstep track. Directly moving from dub into trap, future bass and it goes into baseline house. Now it’s just cool, you get away with a shitload.
OTB: So, what type of equipment are you utilizing in the studio to blur those genres together?
Jon: We’re all pretty much in the box, we just got the laptops.
Chris: I’m using an Axis laptop.
Jon: I use an Alienware, we’re basically running Ableton and writing tunes. We have an audio interface and a few monitors.
Chris: We used to use all kinds of audio stuff, now we’ve just simplified it. Keeping it simple, the easier the better.
Jon: Plus, hardware is expensive. We’re working on a lot of like hip-hop, bass stuff right now.
Chris: Lot more vocal stuff, melodic vocal stuff.
Jon: We’re working with a lot more female vocalists right now, moving in a more melodic direction. Having a bit more fun with that aspect of it. For a long time we didn’t, our songs weren’t very melodic. This is something we haven’t tackled yet. For us that’s the fun, cool thing about this you get to try and tackle new stuff. We had another project where we only wrote electro house and techno. We’re creating a career from where you’ve been able to successfully write any type of electronic music, thats what’s fun for us. Just kind of exploring.
Chris: “We’re going where no Terravita has gone before.”
Road To Paradiso 2016: Terravita
OTB: Speaking of “going where no Terravita has gone before”, explain to us how you made it Paradiso this year?
Jon: Oh fucking ah bro…the ride to Paradiso!
OTB: Yeah, so what happened?
Chris: I’ll call it, so we’re driving. The traffic was stopped on the highway and there’s only one fucking way to get there. We looked at our GPS, and it said we were going to show up five minutes after our set started. We were like this can’t happen, there has to be another way. So, we looked it up on my phone using Google Maps. My phone had a route that you go off the highway and around through the mountains. The roads were all sorts of windy, and then it joins back up with the highway after the traffic. So we did it right, it’s dirt roads, and these roads kept getting sketchier and sketchier, then eventually we’re in water!
Jon: The road kept getting narrower and the trees.
Chris: The car in front of us pulls over and turns around, eventually it gets to the point where the trees branches are growing into the roadway. Bro, these were not the tips of the branches either. The poor transport chick, was just like “sweating bullets” it got to the point where there was no going back. She couldn’t turn the vehicle around, and we had to get there. Finally she was like, fuck it, and just gunned it. There we are ripping through all these trees, then eventually it just opened up and the highway was right there.
Jon: We had to pull a few tree limbs from out underneath the vehicle!
Chris: We showed up an hour before the show started, instead of five minutes after dude!
Jon: And there was no damage to the car.
Chris: Well maybe a little bit, the under carriage, it wasn’t that bad.
Jon: Well, there might have been a decent amount of damage to the car. That’s what damage waivers are for.
OTB: Glad you made it to Red Rocks with no issues, now that you are here what’s in store for Global Dance Festival?
Jon: We have an extra special set today just because it’s fucking Red Rocks.
OTB: You guys have played Red Rocks in the past, what makes today’s performance special?
Jon: Today is a special occasion and a big, milestone for us, we are finally playing the Main Stage. After being at this for so long, you don’t have many firsts anymore. This is pretty cool, not going to lie I’m pretty nervous about it. The sun is going down during our set, I’m looking forward to it. Not to mention the people here are what make Colorado special. They come out there from the beginning of the show to watch the opening DJ, and stay till the end of the show just loosing their minds. I don’t know how they do it to be honest, my body can’t do that shit anymore. Red Rocks itself just has this magical feeling to it, you’re in this natural amphitheater. It’s so beautiful here you can’t ignore it.
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