You know Terry Banks from so many great bands! Tree Fort Angst played at our very first chickfactor party with live music in Sept. 1993, he played in glo-worm with chickfactor cofounder Pam Berry, Terry was featured in the zine with The Saturday People, did time with St. Christopher, and currently plays with the poptastic D.C. band Dot Dash. We wanted to check in with him just before his band plays at D.C.’s Fort Reno on Monday, July 24. Read on, pop nerds! Interview by Gail / Images via Terry Banks
Chickfactor: When did you write your first song? What was it about? What was it called?
Terry Banks: The first one I can remember was in a band in Richmond called Roy G. Biv. It was called “The Joy of Transportation.” It was just kind of jokey nonsense, a bit Housemartins-y, but that was our schtick.
Were you musical as a child?
I played saxophone for about two weeks as a fourth grader and that was it. A long time later, around age 19 or 20, I started playing guitar, but it was my roommate’s guitar. I didn’t get my own until summer 1986—an Ibanez Strat copy for a hundred bucks from a guy I knew.
Were you from a musical family?
My dad played drums as a youth. We listened to a lot of music at home, but no one played an instrument.
What were you like as a teen?
I can’t really remember. I think I was kind of reserved. Around 16 I got very into, for lack of a better term, the ‘new wave’ music that was happening at the time. A friend of mine and I went to see Split Enz and we were sold. Then I got very, very into The Jam, The Buzzcocks, The Undertones, The Clash, stuff like that. The first Echo and The Bunnymen album led me back to The Byrds and The Velvet Underground. I wore a long coat to school.
Where all have you lived?
I grew up in suburban Baltimore; went to college in Richmond; spent a few years in England and Australia. Everything else has been D.C. I wish I’d lived a few more places. Maybe there’s still time.
Please name all the bands you have been in that aren’t active.
Roy G. Biv (we later changed our name to The Kickstands), The Knievels, Tree Fort Angst, St. Christopher, glo-worm, The Saturday People, Julie Ocean.
Was guitar your first instrument? What kind do you play and why?
Yes. I’ve always picked guitars by how they look. These days, I play a Vox Phantom. Before that I was playing a Vox Teardrop (the real name is Mark III.) I like the 60s vibe of these guitars but, equally (maybe even more so) I feel like there’s an early 80s post-punk thing going on, too – kind of Siouxsie or Robert Smith.
How did you first meet Pam Berry?
It was right after I first moved to DC. I put an ad in the City Paper’s free classifieds in the music section saying I played guitar, liked Orange Juice and The Byrds, and wanted to form, or join, a band. Pam called my number, which was listed in the ad, and said “Who are you?” From that, I met her and Dan Searing and all those people. They were cool.
What was it like being in glo-worm?
It was good. I could never tell what Pam’s lyrics were until we recorded and then I always liked them. I think the album that came out, Glimmer, is really good and some of those songs — ‘Tilt-a-Whirl’, ‘Holiday’, ‘Travelogue’, and ‘Change of Heart’ all come to mind — sound (to me) like lost classics or something. Our gig-related claim to fame was that we opened for Radiohead once. I commented on them having Yoo-Hoo on their rider (there was a lot of it backstage) and the lead guitarist guy was like “Oh, do you know about Yoo-Hoo? It’s brilliant. It’s like chocolate milk, but fizzy”
What was it like being in The Saturday People?
It was fun: a lot of humor, in-jokes, pseudonyms, and ongoing laughter.
What’s Dot Dash up to these days?
We had an album, called Madman in the Rain, come out at the end of 2022. Like all its predecessors it was released by Canadian indie label The Beautiful Music. Since lockdown ended, we’ve played about 15 shows in the past year and a bit with people like Bailterspace, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Richard Lloyd and a bunch of other rocking combos. It’s fun to be playing out again. We’re playing at Fort Reno in July.
What kind of pop scene does D.C. have going on?
The Quarry House has a great vibe and is booking lots of stuff. The Black Cat and DC9 are still going strong. Comet does a lot of stuff. A place called Songbyrd started up a while back. We know these guys in a garage band called Apollo 66 who do a club night once a month in an American Legion hall in Silver Spring where they’ll have three indie-ish bands of varying sorts and that’s always fun. There’s also the Runaway, Slash Run and Jammin Java and I’m probably forgetting a few others. In terms of D.C. bands, Bad Moves are excellent and have a bunch of killer pop songs.
Do your kids play music? (How old now?) Do you like any of their music (if they like music)?
The oldest is 24 and plays guitar and writes songs. The younger is 21 and dabbles with guitar. One of their shared faves is Taylor Swift, who I think is pretty great. (If you’re unconvinced, check out “All Too Well” – there’s something Joy Division-y about it.)
What is on your turntable these days?
I think the best new thing I’ve heard in a good while is The Reds, Pinks and Purples. That guy (Glenn) is super prolific and it’s all great.
What are you reading/watching?
A bunch of music-related books. Some recent ones include Starman by Paul Trynka, Record Play Pause by Stephen Morris, My Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend by Tracey Thorn, Small Town Talk by Barney Hoskyns, and Playing Bass with Three Left Hands by Will Carruthers. There are always more piling up.
What else is going on in your life? Day job? Pets?
I do media relations for a renewable energy org. We have a cat named Fergus. He spends a lot of time outside, spying on passers-by. My phone can no longer save anything because it’s filled with photos of him.
Listen to Dot Dash here!