Los Angeles singer/songwriter Terry Price creates achingly beautiful, folk-tinged dream pop under the name PhotoOps. His voice is unmistakable - resonant and clear with an edge of suffering. The songs are compact and upbeat, richly textured, and full of lyrical insights about beauty, pain, and the connections between people.
Photo Ops began as a way for Price to find meaning in an onslaught of traumatic life events. A sudden medical condition, the death of his father, and the breakup of his long-time band, Oblio, inspired Photo Ops’ 2013 debut, How to Say Goodbye.
The follow-up, Vacation (2016, Bad Friend Records), solidified Photo Ops’ reputation for combining ethereal soundscape with raw emotionality. Price paired up with producer Patrick Damphier (Jessica Lea Mayfield, Mynabirds, Fences, Aaron Lee Tasjan, The Arcs) again to record an album that earned critical praise and attracted millions of plays on Spotify. Several songs were licensed for film and TV, including in the trailer of “People, Places, Things” with Jemaine Clement, and episodes of ABC’s Blood & Oil and CW’s Valor. Later that year he signed a publishing deal with Secretly Canadian.
Like many people, Price found himself shaken by the events of November 2016. He ceased touring on Vacation, went dark on social media, and left Nashville, where he’d lived for 15 years, for Los Angeles. “I needed to shed my skin,” he says. The change of scenery answers what became a sudden need for Price: “I needed to look outside myself for inspiration. It’s a matter of survival to know that there is beauty in the world. So that’s my mission now: to show that there is still beauty in the world. I honestly don’t know how else to write right now,” Price says.
In February 2019, new songs began to emerge that are among the best of his career. They do what great Photo Opsmusic does – taking deeply personal experiences and finding their meaning through music.
“July” channels Tom Petty, with a lyric that makes peace with being misunderstood. Price sings with a mix of detachment and compassion, “I did you right. / You just won’t know it for a while.”
“Palm Trees” follows a wandering train of thought on a beach. As if meditating, Price acknowledges a succession of thoughts and emotions without judgment. “Sailboats on the horizon / they don’t mean a thing.”
One of the biggest changes in these new songs is in Price’s voice. There is a clarity to the upper register, as Price relaxes into high notes in a way that calls to mind the Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson. It’s partly an accident of location, Price says. “In Nashville, I had a garage. I could go out and make as much noise as I wanted. In LA, you have to be thoughtful about your neighbors.” The need to sing quietly has opened up a whole new vocal palette for Price, allowing him to experiment with space and restraint.
There is also a new immediacy to the production, stemming in part from Price’s time spent studying Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour. As he made his way through the southwest during his move, Price listened to Dylan’s Sirius XM show on repeat. “They were mostly old songs. What struck me was the spirit that was behind them. They’re just people in a room with a microphone, so they would have to self-correct and really conjure a spirit in the moment. Something about that felt so vital to me. It sounds like a time and place,” Price says.
The new Photo Ops material features that same sense of immediacy, using an intentionally limited set of instruments: one acoustic guitar, one electric guitar, a Ludwig drum kit from the 60s, a stand-up piano, a Hofner bass, and a small Casiotone keyboard. Price is working remotely with Damphier, who is in Nashville, as producer. Songs are recorded as soon as they’re written.
A third Photo Ops album, Pure at Heart, is fully recorded and is expected to be released this year.