DOWN A DAMP, Nameless Alley in Morocco the sounds of a carnival fade through both the distance and a cold wind. The moon is camouflaged orange behind gray clouds. A heavy door toward the end of the alley rattles from the bass within and deep red light pours out through its cracks. The audience inside the velvet burlesque is a flock of king cobras. They are perched upon their tails. Their charmer is Sherry Fraser. Her band: Two Ton Boa. The snakes lean, slip, and bend together like blades of grass. Every so often one strikes another and the victim falls lifelessly to the floor.
That's how I imagine it anyway. And for the last couple years, fans of TTB have had little choice but to imagine where Fraser and Co. might be hiding out. Flash back to 2000. TTB is sharing tours alongside Blonde Redhead, L7, and preparing for their full-length debut. The New York Times calls the band's self-titled EP one of the "Undeservedly Obscure" Albums of the Year. Fraser's efforts are paying off. The band is ready to pop.
And then it all went to hell.
"The whole grind of being in a working band, it was a lot of weight to carry," Fraser explains. "I got burnt out pretty quick. I took a break to write some music and then in a few months I'd think about [the album]. I started this break and I sort of unraveled."
Fraser began a struggle with intense depression, which turned songwriting into a near impossibility. "I'd either be too depressed to write or too excited to make things cohesive. I was a big tangled pile of crazy ideas."
Looking far and wide for answers, Fraser went on a 10-day silent meditation retreat. It helped, but it wouldn't be enough. Finally, Sherry was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Her doctors put her on a simple anticonvulsant and it worked.
"It's why I'm doing music now," Fraser said. "It's why there's an album out."
But don't think for a second that prescriptions have lightened TTB's approach—they're just as dark, driving, and catchy as ever... call it a sensual nightmare.
Parasiticide, just released on Kill Rock Stars, is the creepy cousin of Rid of Me-era PJ Harvey (thanks in no small part to producer John Congleton, a colleague of Steve Albini). But where Harvey draws blood with her nails and teeth, Fraser's touting a sledgehammer. And this time, Fraser's in for the long haul.
"When I said, 'Okay, I'm going to do this again,' I'm not thinking, 'I'm going to do this for two or three years and then quit if I don't like how I feel.' No, I'm going to do this for six or seven years, at a minimum."