We go undercover with experimental outfit from Falmouth, Cornwall during a recent rehearsal to find out more about the illusive outfit
On a Friday afternoon, I arrived at The Cornish Bank in Falmouth, where I would be meeting Jacob Ifans, Henry McCabe, Alex Mantle, Eric Eggert, and Iolo Taliesin Puleston, who together form TEG.
The cell-like room known as The Vault was furnished only with equipment and one oversized vintage floral lamp. Upon entering the room, arms and wires were flailing from left to right. Henry was angrily pushing aside leads fed into various objects. From a corner of the room, I watched TEG gearing up for their rehearsal. This consisted of aggravated grunts, cigarette stops, and noise – a lot of it. I studied the scene for several minutes; it reminded me of a movie. Lots of shiny guitars in the hands of brooding men in dark musky rooms. I smiled abashedly at each member of the band, before tending to my camera. Tiring of the small talk, the rehearsal was underway.
The sounds were foreign to me. Somehow each member in each corner of The Vault synced up with one another so perfectly. It was a refreshing alternative to my Spotify Discover Weekly. Stepping carefully back and forth, over the leads and under guitar necks, I began to take my photos. Angular faces peered back at me through the lens.
When I had finished, they wanted to run through their set one more time. I put down my camera and sat on a small smelly couch in an adjoining dark room, falling into a trance staring at the stickers on one of their instrument cases, and listening to the loud and tangled sounds. Their bodies swayed hard to the music, rocking forward and backward. As the set ended, the guys laughed and joked.
I corralled the troops outside to talk to them about their music. I asked each of them to state their name and what instrument they play (purely for my benefit when it came to writing this up later). Let’s start with the name TEG.
Henry interjects: Are people allowed to say TEG?
I was unaware that I was pronouncing it incorrectly, the guys joked about the five extra ‘e’s’, maybe thrown in with an ‘i’ and an ‘h’ to pronounce it the ‘Welsh way’.
So, folk stories are a primary source of inspiration I ask.
Jacob: It definitely makes it easier to write songs when you can kind of hide behind the pretence of folk stories I suppose. There’s the Norse folktale, Cornish, Welsh. But I’ve kind of realised recently it’s taking a little bit of a step back from the folk, it’s just becoming more ‘airy fairy’ I think.
Other than folk stories, TEG draws its inspiration from a pool of genres and styles. Eric listens to a lot of Sonic Youth, and grunge, but in terms of psychedelic it is more like Krautrock. For Jacob, it’s a lot of Radiohead, and more recently The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Similarly, Alex says they’re a massive influence for the drums. Henry enjoys Spacemen 3, this gets nods of approval from the others, in terms of the distortion and feedback. Lastly Iolo:
To be honest, I’m alright at tambourine, I just sit there and sort of look cool really. You’ve gotta have one person to do that in a band. It’s a very easy job for me…I’m the vibe carrier, I guess.
Other suggestions were ‘The Multifunctional Guy’ or ‘The Synthy Hype Man’. “Except I don’t really do much hype man stuff” Iolo replies, “I’m just a man.”
Language is a powerful aspect of TEG.
Jacob: We’ve got a couple of songs in Welsh, we’ve got Gwaelod and Ceridwen. Gwaelod comes from an old folktale about a village town called Cantre’r Gwaelod which was lost to the sea. The lyrics basically mean the bells are ringing under the sea because they say the folktale is if you stand on Porth Bay or Cardigan Bay, you can hear the bells of the town still ringing.
There are also a few Cornish ones like Mermaid of Zennor, Jacob says that’s “a Cornish steal!”.
Similarly to TEG, artists like Gwenno have opened up possibilities for using different languages, to add to the ethereal effect. Jacob says it’s important that we don’t just hear the English language because there’s such a treasure trove of other sources to find inspiration from.
“The lyrics basically mean the bells are ringing under the sea because they say the folktale is if you stand on Porth Bay or Cardigan Bay, you can hear the bells of the town still ringing“Jacob – TEG
Jacob: I feel like I’m quite fortunate being Welsh, I can kind of hide behind that a bit. But for sure, they’re not my stories. But somebody’s gotta tell them I suppose. Particularly in Cornwall, it has lost a lot of its heritage surrounding issues like the second home crisis and a loss of land, it’s important to remember them even if it sounds like pure whack!
As long as you do it with respect towards the culture, you’re not just doing it to be cool. Growing up in Wales, it wasn’t cool to speak Welsh when I was younger. Now everybody wants to.
LE: Alongside this Celtic revival, particularly in Falmouth, there seems to be a revival in Psych music. What is Psych?
Alex: It can be anything that’s sonically interesting I suppose, in a way that makes you question what’s going on a little bit. Probably quite noisy at times, with elements of 60’s Garage.
Jacob agrees that it’s quite crass and bold, whatever it’s doing it is different; making weird noises and calling it a song.
Iolo: It sort of can be anything though. With like The Wanted, but then if they had these huge bad ass like tree costumes and all these effects on stage and they had weird instruments but still played The Wanted songs, that would be psych.
Alex has also set up the Kernow Psych Society, to put on more gigs where people could play, initially 60s garage, and then a couple of bands sprouted out from this. He says there’s a lot of punk groups in Falmouth, so he just wanted to push the psych scene on a little bit more. There seems to be a Psych versus Punk versus Jazz war in Falmouth.
The future for TEG is looking good. Other than being able to pay rent and live, Henry says they want to explore their sound.
Jacob: We’re still honing down what we’ve got and finding our sound, and that just means playing more essentially and seeing what people think of us as our sound because it is about sharing it. Just keep playing really and then I think probably get recording if it feels right.
It is also quite nice being part of the community that people like the Kernow Psych Society provide.
Also the natural world will be an inspiration. Artists like Daisy Rickman and Klen are quite entwined within the natural world; stone circles and standing stones and this kind of looking back I suppose. It’s just playing into the ethereal – I use that word way too much but I don’t know what else to use.
That was it. At 4pm TEG went on their way, hauling amps up narrow staircases all wearing the same content expression. They struck me as having an invigorating attitude towards music, an openness to being different and a bit alien. Luckily for TEG, it has really paid off.