The Mystery of Terror Jr: Music’s Conceptual Reinvention or Ultimate Mind Fuck?
From the start, Terror Jr has injected pop culture with a major dose of mystery. Their origins seemingly unknown, even in this age of the internet’s omniscience, the band claims the project is an ongoing “social experiment.” Their website describes Terror Jr’s inception: “Born on the first day of spring…. 3 seeds… morphed together to create a demented flower. Growing on the edge of Bop City… They observed the people and wrote about their experiences as their own. Bop City is full of regret, attraction, ugliness, hope, and terror. Lots of terror.”
When asked to elaborate on the story, the band attempts to throw us off their scent yet again: “It’s a story that’s been passed down for generations — a mother reads this to her child before they drink their grape juice and go to bed,” they say.
Before the curtain goes up at The Roxy at a Terror Jr performance, the stage glows purple and is filled with a thick haze — so thick, that when the curtain finally rises and the band takes the stage, their silhouettes are barely discernable. The crowd is filled with millennials — and a man dressed in a full grape costume. The tour’s theme: Grapeland. Pillars with faux grapes adorn the edges of the stage, and a starry-lit background peeks through the thick haze. As Lisa Terror walks onto the stage, there’s no spotlight, just the occasional glimpse of her blonde hair and sparkly pants, narrated by the crowd’s deafening screams.
The fans are ravenously reaching for her as she gently pushes their camera phones out of her face. She coyly smiles at them, almost to remind them to be “in the moment” instead of watching her through their screens — or maybe it’s just all in the name of preserving the mystery? They’re giddy with excitement and singing every single word of every single song. It may be the first usage of the word “pussy” in the chorus, but this does not stop these kids from singing along at full volume. In fact, before the show, one fan told me his favorite of the three Bop EP’s is Bop City (the first EP), because the lyrics helped him through a bad breakup.
Terror Jr’s music produces die-hard fans or haters, with few in between. From the outside, Lisa’s heavily auto-tuned vocals and strange lyrics may seem unlikeable, but don’t tell the hordes of Terror fans that. The bigger picture here is that they’ve ultimately succeeded in reinventing music as a concept. I’m sure you’ve read about other bands who think that their music creates a “world” for their fans — but does it? Does it have nameless characters with mistaken identities? Does it have a motif that spans three EP’s and visuals that make Bop City seem like an actual place? And in the end, does it still make you want to live in Bop City and be friends with Lisa Terror?
Their first single “3 Strikes” accompanied a lip-gloss commercial for Kylie Jenner, and sparked rumors of Terror Jr’s lead singer being none other than Kylie herself. Terror Jr kept mum about their bandleader’s identity. Fans listened carefully to the auto-tuned vocals on Bop City, obsessing over just who it could be.
The group seems to enjoy leaving fans in turmoil, stating that when they initially heard that fans thought Lisa was Kylie, they thought, “This is gonna be fun.” When asked if their initial plan for Terror Jr. was to keep their identities secret, they claim, “Nothing is by accident.” Even after Jenner denied the allegations, stating clearly that she was not in Terror Jr via Snapchat, the mystery caused months of fan investigation, and multiple articles appeared in major pop culture outlets attempting to prove that it was, indeed, Jenner.
The summer or 2017 marked the group’s first tour and revealed Lisa Terror to the world—a real singer, and a fucking amazing performer. On the third of the Bop EPs, “The Girl Who Cried Purple,” Lisa sings without her signature auto-tune on “IDK + IDC” — perhaps the closest that Terror Jr. has gotten to a traditional love song with pop undertones. But maybe the entire project isn’t about the music at all, and Terror Jr is the ultimate storefront? It’s likely the band will never tell.
From inside such a social experiment, it’s hard to know if the band simply gets off on throwing us off their trail at random, or if we are actually being manipulated in a strategic way. Could it be that their origin story is a metaphor? That we could actually be the citizens of this so-called “Bop City” and that the band simply is observing us, all the hideous things we do, and has gathered them into a trilogy of EP’s that are really a comment on us as a society?
The added elements of secrecy perhaps point to the fact that as a society, we are obsessed with fame; that we scurry like rats following pop culture and feeding off of its seemingly decreasing supply of “cool” (i.e. grape juice from Bop City?) and we fall in line like zombies to purchase the in-demand items that will ultimately “make us cool”— like Kylie Jenner lip gloss? Could it be true? If it is, Terror Jr is undoubtedly the ultimate punk rock mind-fuck eff-you to society, while also embodying the future of integrating visual worlds and deliberate motifs into the music scene.
What’s next for Terror Jr could be meticulously planned or could be a happy accident — but the band says they’ll likely be moving onto “something new” rather than continuing the Bop series a fourth time around. Just as they’ve loved leaving clues for us to follow, the only inkling of a clue they’ve given us is simply: “If you follow the breadcrumbs, there’s bound to be a pastry somewhere.”
And here we go, again.
Dress Vintage, Jacket by Colin LoCascio, Belt Vintage.
Dress by Alex Huang.