May 6, 2021
Terrence Richard has never been hard to find in the Charlotte community. Whether it’s a show at the Neighborhood Theater, a DJ night at Petra’s, or the patio of a local bar on any given evening, you can usually count on seeing the Junior Astronomers’ frontman with a big smile around friends and strangers alike. However, in the wake of the past year, his scenery has shifted. Without stages to play and patios to patronize, he spends afternoons sitting in a fold-out chair, relaxing in the cool breeze of his sun-soaked Plaza Midwood backyard. His bright demeanor is evergreen, and he’s ready to discuss the changes he’s had to make, his latest work, and the changing music scene he will be returning to.
Richard won’t be returning from this forced hiatus empty handed. He’s been hard at work developing his latest musical endeavor, Alan Charmer, a bedroom-pop project that channels and blends Richard’s strongest musical influences such as hip-hop and pop. Even though Alan Charmer has only recently debuted with two singles to date, the music has already demonstrated Richard’s deft control over those inspirations, both past and present.
February’s single, “SQUEEZE” serves as a soft intro for Alan Charmer. It’s a somber mix of strings and synthesizer, all bound together by a tight, yet subtle beat and the stirring vocal stylings of Richard. That release was followed up by March’s “LOST/CONTROL” which features a far more up-tempo beat, but falls right in line behind the former single stylistically, as Richard croons about regret and the changing dynamic of relationships.
While Alan Charmer is a clear step away from Junior Astronomers in terms of genre at-large, Richard has made sure to maintain several of the elements that drew fans to his original band in the first place, and the new moniker served as a much-needed break from the new normal of early 2020.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, I was hanging out, just getting super drunk, and I said ‘I gotta figure out something to do,’” he said. I had a lot of time on my hands, so I bought a MIDI from Colin [Watts of Junior Astronomers] and he fixed my computer. Then I started working on Logic, slowly started growing my equipment, got a bunch of mics, got some synthesizers, and started learning a lot of stuff on YouTube, which is a fantastic tool.”
His serious tone slipped into a full-blown laugh as he paraphrased comedian Zack Fox, “‘Who needs fathers anymore? I don’t need a dad, just go on YouTube and look at this stuff! My dad was actually mad supportive. He was on the same wave, buying a bunch of recording shit. He was doing that at the same time as I was doing this, so we bonded over that.”
Alan Charmer may be what long-time fans of Junior Astronomers are paying attention to, but Richard has accomplished more than his solo project during his quarantine free time. He’s been hard at work on a television pilot that he’s planning on shopping in Los Angeles.
As a constant in the social and music spaces of the Plaza Midwood and NoDa neighborhoods, Richard admitted to having dedicated little time to working on his personal creative needs, finding himself instead caught up in the tangle of friends, family, and other social obligations.
“What it comes down to is boundaries. For me, there weren’t enough boundaries for what I needed to do. I’m a huge people pleaser, so if someone is like ‘Hey let’s go do this!’ I’m like ‘Hell yeah, let’s do it!’ Because you want to do it, but you have to set those boundaries,” he said. “Alan Charmer and the TV show are things I’m doing for myself, but I’m not by myself. Anybody that I’ve ever been connected with, musically or otherwise, I’m going to bring them with me.”
However, even with little outside distraction, Richard still had to face down another obstacle. With all the free-time in the world and no one to hold him accountable, the only thing separating him from his work was self-motivation, and a slight preoccupation.
“My vice was Call of Duty. But, if I didn’t do anything up until now and I was about to go back out, I would have nothing to say to people. That was my biggest motivator: ‘I can’t get back into the world and not have anything to show for it.’ I never want that. I didn’t want to be the same person after this as I was before it,” Richard said.
Having motivated himself to get both Alan Charmer and his TV script out of the development stages, Richard took a moment to reflect on his past. He changed gears without missing a beat, shifted on his seat and talked over the passing traffic about the old Tremont and Amos’ Southend shows, ones that Junior Astronomers shared with local famed acts like HRVRD and Sugar Glyder. He recalled the Charlotte music scene of the mid-aughts and early-’10s with bright eyes and laughter, citing his local heroes of the day, like Secret Lives of the Freemasons and how he’s become closer with those heroes in later years, now as friends.
After the stories come to a close, Richard refocused on the present: on what the Charlotte music scene will look like post-pandemic, both for Alan Charmer and for Junior Astronomers.
“I think everybody’s gonna eat,” he said. “I want to see more new people now that Charlotte’s grown so much. People that moved here during the pandemic haven’t seen what this city’s about yet.”
This passion that Richard openly displayed for his work does not shift between discussing Alan Charmer and Junior Astronomers. To him, they’re one in the same, both extensions of his musical ability and the goals he’s set for himself within this industry. When it came time to talk about Junior Astronomers, Richard didn’t shy away:
“You’ve gotta make sure that [the band] knows that everything that you’re doing is to help the whole situation, to help them, to do something for them. In anything in my life, I’ve never wanted it to just be me. That’s one of the reasons that I didn’t want to do solo stuff at first.”
View this post on Instagram
Richard made his dedication to Junior Astronomers paramount, revealing that at the beginning of his work on Alan Charmer, he would make it a priority to send demos to his other band members.
“It’s about a team. It’s about my responsibility to that team. They’ve had total faith in me for so long, so I’m not giving up on them. I’m just taking another route to see if I can get in from this side,” he said.
What began as a detailed look at Alan Charmer morphed into a time map of Charlotte’s music: past, present, and future. He’s someone who’s been around the scene long enough to remember moments that most have never heard of, and involved enough to have a story about everyone who’s been a part of it. He’s also nowhere near quitting. In fact, he’s planning to be an even bigger part of the city’s fabled history, both with Alan Charmer and Junior Astronomers. For Richard, no matter the time or the place, everything seems to circle back to his hometown.
View this post on Instagram
“I love this city. I love Charlotte so much; it’s my favorite place, it’s the greatest place on Earth. It has a lot of stuff that sucks, but it’s also got a lot of really great people,” said Richard. “Even going into other cities and seeing people from Charlotte, it’s like, ‘You are cooler than all of these other motherfuckers.’ It’s sick. I love it.”
As the city begins to reemerge, we can count on the stages reopening and the patios overcrowding once more. With those constants returning to daily life, Charlotte’s local music denizens should count on seeing one of its greatest contributors and supporters coming back in full-force with the usual big grin. Terrence Richard isn’t going anywhere, and he’s working hard toward a community that can stand tall and proud, one made by and for his contemporaries and the next generations of artists to come.