Bush Tetras are an American post-punk band from New York City that was popular in the Manhattan club scene and college radio in the early 1980s but never achieved much mainstream success. Their music combined funk rhythms and dissonant guitar riffs.
Lead guitarist Pat Place and vocalist Cynthia Sley produced the most distinctive aspects of the Tetras sound. Place's guitar lines were rhythmic and distortion-filled. She had been the original guitarist and one of the founding members of the no wave band The Contortions. With Bush Tetras, Place continued to pursue some of the musical ideas she had explored in the Contortions, although her distinctive slide guitar is absent from many of the Tetras songs. Sley's vocals were half-spoken, half-sung. In songs like "Too Many Creeps" and "Can't Be Funky," she repeated simple phrases over and over again, creating a hypnotic monotony similar to Place's guitar rhythms.
Place appeared in some of Vivienne Dick's movies, co-starring with Lydia Lunch and other musicians from New York's thriving late 1970s and early 1980s music community, an offshoot of no wave. These appearances contributed to the band's prominent position in downtown New York in the early 1980s. New York's post-punk revival of the 2000s was accompanied by a resurgence of interest in this period, with the Tetras' influence heard in many of that scene's bands.
The group scored two dance hits in the U.S. in the early 1980s - "Too Many Creeps" peaked at No. 57 Dance in 1981, and "Can't Be Funky/Cowboys in Africa" peaked at No. 32 in 1982 - before their initial split.
Sley later joined up with Ivan Julian of Richard Hell and the Voidoids to form Lovelies. They put out one percussive post-punk album, Mad Orphan (109 Records), in 1988. In 2008, she formed Command V with Pat Irwin of the Raybeats and B-52s, and Rachel Dengiz. They released a self-titled album in 2012 on Mush Records.
Drummer Dee Pop also performs with improvisational jazz groups Radio I-Ching and Freedomland, and has performed or recorded with rock-oriented bands and artists including Floor Kiss, Immaculate Hearts, The Shams, Black Flies, John Sinclair, Jayne County, The Amazing Cherubs, Fur, Michael Karoli (Can), Richard Lloyd, James Chance, The Slits, Odetta, Gary Lucas, Bobby Radcliff, Patti Palladin, Darlene Love, Andy Shernoff, The Walsos, Nona Hendryx, Band of Outsiders, Lenny Kaye, Jahn Xavier and the Gun Club. He also performed with jazz musicians Eddie Gale, Roy Campbell, Marc Ribot, Mark Helias, Dick Griffin, Billy Bang, Borah Bergman and Hanuman Sextet.
Bush Tetras briefly reformed in the mid-1990s and released the album Beauty Lies in 1997. In 1998 they recorded an album titled Happy with producer Don Fleming (it was not released until 2012). In 2005, they added bassist Julia Murphy and resumed performing in New York City. They toured Europe in summer 2006.
Laura Kennedy, the band's original bassist, died on November 14, 2011, after a long battle with liver disease.
In February 2013, Cindy Rickmond (formerly of Cheap Perfume, Grayson Hugh, Church of Betty and Unknown Gender) replaced Murphy as the band's bassist.