Terri Tarantula: She Walks a Lovely Street

Terri Moeller is an eminently creative Seattle songwriter who has been in several notable Seattle area bands, from playing drums for once-Sub-Pop roots-legends The Walkabouts to most recently fronting the critically-charmed Transmissionary Six.

Like the Las Vegas rain she sings about on the chorus to irresistible opener “Shaker Star” from her self-titled new project Terri Tarantula, Moeller’s voice is a sweet, cool respite in a hot, damnable place. The rest of the full-length keeps up the refreshment, unique in beauty (“Your Small Hands”) as it is in humor (“The Daredevil Way”) and truth (“Someone Else’s Misery”).

Barbara Trentalange (Crooked Fingers, Head Like A Kite), Anna Lynne-Williams (Trespassers William), and Graig Markel (Animals At Night) are just some of the musicians who contribute to the album, which is more keyboard-and-percussion based than Transmissionary Six’s sound.

Besides usually playing live to support a new CD, Moeller has always kept herself busy, like touring with The Walkabouts, and recently lent her delightful voice to the Austrian artist Rupert Huper as well as HLAK’s new album, both due out in spring 2010. She is slated to premier her work as Terri Tarantula February 5th at the Sunset, the date of its official CD release (though it is already available on iTunes and elsewhere digitally). It’s an early show (7 PM) and also features Trespassers William.

Crushing out on her first release since T6’s dazzling finale, Cosmonautical, I asked Moeller some questions about Terri Tarantula.

Is there an official “producer”? Who recorded everything, and which tracks?

When I wrote in the liner notes “played and recorded by” that was the best way to put it: I mainly recorded at Dave Einmo (Head Like A Kite)’s studio, and Graig Markel’s studio, and Matt Brown’s (Bill Frisell, Lucinda Williams).

But others who contributed recorded their own parts at home, like Barbara and Anna-Lynne. So the shorter answer is … it was recorded all over town! As for who played what, every song is different. The one constant is I’m singing and playing drums and play keyboards on every song but one. (Well, that’s almost a constant.) Barbara played wurlitzer on “Coast Is Clear.”

I guess you got to hang with her dogs when recording that. That sounds like fun! What inspired you to do the new project?

I’ve always wanted to write songs on piano and I finally got an electric piano, taught myself some chords and just started in!

How is it different from your previous work?

You’re going to have to tell me! In some ways it feels different, but I’m still the same person as far as songwriting instincts and preferences. Since the songs were built on piano, I guess you could say that was different path.

Name three of the most striking songs for yourself — ones you’re particularly proud of.

The ones that excite me are the ones that turned out to be the most collaborative. When I was writing at my piano, I had no idea or plan for Anna-Lynne to add all those harmonies to “Shaker Star” and I had no clue Dave would come up with such a cool guitar riff for “Someone Else’s Misery.” But now I can’t imagine those songs without those elements.

What is Terri Tarantula about? Is it a collection of expressions, or is there a theme?

As far as theme, once again–maybe you can tell me? I don’t know of one and didn’t plan for one, but they do always seem to emerge, and the writer often finds out when other people point it out!

The full line-up?

“Shaker Star”: Matt: bass and lap steel. Anna-Lynne: harmony vocals. Paul Austin plays electric guitar.
“Your Small Hands”: Deb Bartley: response vocal. Matt: bass and guitars.
“Upside Down”: Graig: bass and backing vocals. Paul: acoustic guitar.
“Someone Else’s Misery”: Dave: electric guitar. Paul: electric guitar.
“Coast is Clear”: Barbara: piano. Matt: lap steel.
“The Daredevil Way”: Matt: guitar and bass.
“Mulligan”: Paul: electric guitar. Matt: bass.
“Bag of Bricks”: Paul: guitar. Graig: bass and backing vocals.

Any artists that you were listening to that helped inspire the songwriting/recording?

Sam Phillips, although it probably doesn’t come through in the songs.

I think it does. It totally reminds me of her work. Any other media (books or films) that inspired a song or two?

These songs were inspired more by people — a drummer named Linda (Pitmon, the drummer for ex-Dream Syndicate frontman Steve Wynn), a motorcycle stuntman named Evel (you know who) … people who were for whatever reason on my mind.

For more info about the songs, how to get the CD, and when and where to see Terri Tarantula play live, head over to her website and MySpace page.

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