Who is Terry Ohms?Wes McDonald heeds the voices and channels his inner goof

Horse power: Wes McDonald, commanding horses as his quirky alter-ego Terry Ohms.

Terry Ohms is about to release his very first full-length album, and he doesn’t exist. That is to say, he exists only in some dusty corner of Vulture Whale frontman Wes Mcdonald’s brain, waiting patiently for his moment in the sun. Well, that moment is now, and the result is the confident and slightly silly album “What Do You Mean, What Do I Mean?” (WDYMWDIM).

Though he’s donned a moniker for this project, McDonald indicates that it wasn’t really an attempt to assume a new identity. “I was in a band in Athens, Georgia called The Ohms. As a joke we all had Ohms names. I was Terry Ohms. We had Guilty Glen Ohms, Ron Ohms and Lance Ohms. Then, I got to the point where I didn’t want to put out Wes McDonald albums anymore. I just got bored, and it kind of gets weird with your name out there. We had [Wes McDonald] and The Plan and Wes McDonald and the Fizz, never anything felt really good, so I said if I did anymore solo stuff i was just going to be Terry Ohms. It’s a lot more fun.”

McDonald doesn’t get to spend much time playing with his alternate identities, because Vulture Whale, his primary focus, has been more than a little successful. In fact, they will be returning to record another album shortly after the Terry Ohms release. In many ways, Terry is a reaction to the environment of Vulture Whale.

“In Vulture Whale,” McDonald says, “everything is done with four guys doing what bands do—consulting with each other, bouncing off each other—and that’s a totally different energy than someone doing a solo project where one person is calling all the shots. So, with Terry Ohms it’s just me and I can do whatever I want, and it’s the total opposite. I play everything on the album.”

And he really does mean everything. WDYMWDIM has a very full sound with plenty of layers, and it’s a testament to Wes McDonald that he’s solely responsible, especially since the songs were written in stolen moments and over a long period of time.

“It’s really, truly a side project,” says McDonald, “that I do in my spare time. I try to do songs that don’t fit the Vulture Whale thing. Vulture Whale is sort of a straight ahead, let’s see what we can do with four guys—it’s kind of a gang mentality. Terry is just some other part of the brain. [Vulture Whale] is more of a rock band and Terry Ohms is more of a goof.”

That he is, and though some of WDYMWDIM’s more eccentric moments are just downright weird, they give it zany charm. Anyway, I’m willing to forgive any weirdness, because at its core, this is a really fun rock album. It’s got just enough dance to get your toes tapping, and just enough familiarity to make you comfortable without boring you.

If all this is sounding like your cup of tea, then you can do something about it. The Terry Ohms CD Release show is this Friday, November 12 at Bottletree, and according to McDonald the lineup is really out there. “Hank Lazard is doing his puppet thing and you got [local chip-tuner] HROM. It should be a really weird night at the Bottletree. I’ll be singing and playing drums at the same time. I’m playing drums, and Les Nuby is playing guitar and Drew Davis is playing bass. James Brangle from  Through the Sparks is playing keys and guitar. Drums were my first instrument and singing was my last instrument. So, I’m going to be doing both, and I have this helmet, the Terry Helmet, because I don’t want to look like an operator or Garth Brooks or Celine Dion.”

Though he’s only just released his first full-length, McDonald is already looking forward to the next one. “I’ve got a bunch of songs to do another one; I’ll probably do that one with the band. I really like the band I got going with those guys, and I love to play drums, but I never really get to, so it’s kind of an outlet for that as well. That’s another big difference between Vulture Whale and Terry, is the drumming. Jake [from Vulture Whale] is a rock drummer. He can pull out all the stops and I can pull out only a couple.”

That may be so, but it doesn’t stop WDYMWDIM from being a thoroughly enjoyable album, and it won’t stop the November 12 release show from being a good time.

The show starts at 9 p.m. and costs $8. To purchase tickets, visit www.bottletree.com. For more info on Terry Ohms, visit www.terryohms.com.

Sam George is the managing editor of Birmingham Weekly. Please send your comments to editor@bhamweekly.com.

Orig­i­nally printed in Birm­ing­ham Weekly on November 11, 2010.

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