Good Shit

"We play in Miami all the time, we've even toured Europe, but we've never played in Fort Lauderdale," says Juan Rozas, 28, singer and guitarist for the Argentine-born, long-time Miami-based alt-rock outfit Tereso, a name with a history of its own. Maybe as a reflection of the members' attitude toward the way things were in the music business, or because two of the musicians are also artists, one night they spat the name as a practical joke: In Argentina Tereso is slang for "shit," plain and simple. The irony is that the band is far from smelling bad.

Like many peers far from their native port, the four members met in Miami, shortly after arriving as teenagers in the early Nineties. Brothers Juan and Alejo Rozas (bassist, 26) and Chelo Crocetti (guitarist, 28) started the band eleven years ago and lasted three years. "Everything was up in the air, including the shows and the music," says Juan. Crocetti went back to Argentina for two years, and with his departure Tereso's evolution froze. Once he returned in 1996 they changed drummers, adding Frenchi Di Paola, 26, and decided to start all over.

Six years later the band will release its first album and still hasn't gotten to Fort Lauderdale. They never got the call-back club owners up there promised if they liked the demos. "All they want are cover bands," the Teresos complain. To a certain extent Tereso's original stuff sounds too arty, with too many hardcore beats and screams to be classified as easy listening. It is pleasant, though, dark and energetic at the same time, certainly worthy of any club, here or there.

Anyway, they didn't get to Lauderdale but did make it to Europe. One of the band members was invited to a wedding in Biarritz, France, and the rest followed to embark on "the invented tour 2000," renting a van and driving around Europe for three months. Using a live show at Churchill's as the demo presentation they picked up gigs in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain along the way.

The highlight of the tour -- the best surprise out of many -- was sharing the bill at a festival of radical Basque rock bands from Bilbao, Spain. It happened to take place in an abandoned house in Bologna, Italy. Tereso was quickly hired without an audition just one day before the fest at a camp, properly dubbed "Camping Relax." They arrived at the festival to find an unusual audience: mostly retired, mostly over 60. The grandpas loved it! Even better, the next day the grampsters fed the band in exaggerated Italian style. "Sitting outside at dawn, everything looked like heaven," remembers Juan Rozas.

Back in Miami, Tereso concentrated on more gigs and recording an album, which is almost finished now. The flowing, dark, heartfelt songs are heavily influenced by early Pink Floyd and Argentine Eighties reggae-rock legend Sumo. The legacy of Luca Prodan -- the late Italian singer who fronted Sumo -- inspired younger generations of Argentine musicians like those in Tereso, even though they left Argentina for good three years after Prodan's death in 1987, having been too young to go to Sumo concerts.

In Eighties Argentina, where everybody was singing in Spanish, Prodan sang in English, and people understood anyway. Today Tereso has an album with a balanced number of songs in both languages and a different dream of crossing over. "Why can't an American listen to a song in Spanish and fly away, totally loving what he hears whether he understands the lyrics or not?" wonders Crocetti. "I don't think the language is a barrier."

Rozas says that, inspired by Sumo, he started to write songs in English even while still living in Argentina: "I was writing awfully, but always trying." Crocetti doesn't believe in English lyrics as a marketing tool but as an attitude. "Sumo opened a window for many of us. When someone plays a Sumo song at a party here, there's always an American friend asking about the band that's playing, they want to know," explains the guitarist. "You always have your imagination. When we sing in Spanish most of our American friends don't get one word, but they love the music anyway."

"When we got together for the first time in 1991 there was no MTV Latino, but we dreamt about being the first band to break through. Only [Brazilian] Sepultura was there. Now every band can be universal," Rozas says with a grin.

Crocetti adds, "We never saw a commercial edge in Tereso, we always treated it as art, pure art." But now they feel more confident, experienced, and surrounded by a scene that is brewing into what they call a powerful "musical soup," with no less than twenty bands sharing bills in every local club available for rock. "There are bands coming out of Miami now, when not long ago it was an immediate association: Miami? Ugh, plastic," offers Rozas. Things are changing with the immigration. "Pals haven't come here to live the fashion life, they're here working their ass off, looking for a future. This is a continuation of Latin America. It isn't going to Disney World anymore," says the singer.

Rozas isn't all that interested in talking about the past. "The last six years are history now," he says. "I'm thinking about 2003, and 2004. The album [still untitled] is a good review of our evolution, with some new songs and some written back in 1997." An example of the latter is "Cabezas," a song about the assassination of Argentine photographer Jose Luis Cabezas, who took the wrong pictures at the wrong time. "Some of our songs come off like an old newspaper; had ['Cabezas'] been released at [the time of the assassination] we'd have had a good reaction, but it's strong enough [musically] anyway to be included in the list," says Rozas.

For now Tereso will release the album independently in March, then shop later for a record deal. The band members want the album to be distributed in as many places as possible. Given the delicate economic situation in Latin America, especially what their family and friends are living through in Argentina, they honestly don't care if people have to copy the album to get it. They'd love to hear some reaction back in Argentina the same way they dream about hitting China or Japan. In order to do so, they are putting up a Website, www.tereso.com, where they'll handle shipping and distribution deals.

Tereso doesn't see Miami as the city of the eternal beginning for the band. Instead Rozas believes that they're releasing the album "at the right moment" on the burgeoning scene. "It took time but it was worth the wait," says Rozas. "As a tourist-based city, Miami makes it natural to start [over] every day, but there's been a movement for a while, and we've grown." Models attract a bigger audience than rock bands, laughs Crocetti.

But Tereso isn't complaining. "Anyway, we were never affected by the world of DJs and clubs, and the more obvious Miami scene," says Rozas. "It's always possible that someone who goes to a club and loves electronic music, gets there and sees a rock band and loves it too."

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Javier Andrade