TEEN, simultaneously youthful and insistent that age is irrelevant, are not teenagers. They are three sisters and one friend: Teeny (hence the name), Katherine, Lizzie, and Boshra (the friend). Their new album is called The Way and Color and they’re currently on tour with Phantogram, bringing heavy, trippy, fun music to the masses. These women are bonafide rock stars in the making. We were happy to catch up with them right before they released their new album in their current hometown, Brooklyn.
T O M T O M M A G A Z I N E: THE “NOT FOR LONG” M U S I C V I D E O I S PRETTY PSYCHEDELIC. T H E V I D E O F E A T U RED ON YOUR WEBSITE IS N U T S , T O O . W H E R E DID THESE IDEAS COME F R O M ? W H O D I D Y OU COLLABORATE WITH TO MAKE THESE VIDS? Teeny: “Not For Long” was directed by Roland von Tessin, the album teaser was animated by Jake Fried. Both are old friends. The teaser animation already existed and we set the music to it. “Not For Long” was completely Roland’s idea—we knew we liked his work and just trusted his vision for the music. We make it a goal of ours to collaborate with people who we think are original and willing to be far out. “ N O T F O R L O N G ” IS ALSO THE SONG WHERE Y O U S A Y ‘ B I T C H . ’ YOU MENTIONED BEING S H O C K E D W H E N Y O U FIRST HEARD THAT WORD R E C O R D E D . W H A T HAPPENED HERE? AND HOW D I D Y O U U L T I M A T ELY DECIDE TO LEAVE IN THAT LYRIC? T: The original intention was to point at the various stereotypes powerful women are subjected to. You’re either a bitch, too hungry or too willing. It’s very difficult to maintain a respectable and balanced seat. I wrote the song with the lyric in it already. The rest of the girls heard it back after I recorded it and were a little shaken up. We had a long discussion about the importance of the word, and using it. We considered leaving it out, but it felt important not to shy away from or sugarcoat the issue. B O S H R A , W H A T ’ S IT LIKE TO WORK WITH TH REE S I S T E R S ? D O Y O U EVER FEEL LEFT OUT? DOES T H E I R U N S P O K E N LOGIC EVER FREAK YOU OUT? D O T H E Y W O R K T O GETHER WELL? Boshra: It’s never boring! Their sisterhood comforts me. It’s a source of real strength to the band. Everyone cares. And musically—forget about it—you feel buoyed up walking into that. They’re all too perceptive to ever make me feel excluded. It’s more of an open circuit. I have a sister so I get it. I know when to walk away. Most of the time we are all having a laugh, though. FOR THE SISTERS: WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER YOU RECORDED RADIO SHOWS / MIXTAPES TOGETHER AT HOME. WHAT WERE THEY LIKE? DID YOU EVER SING TOGETHER ON THOSE HOMEMADE TAPES?
T: They were mostly gibberish. Some singing happened, but it was a lot of screaming about acquiring food. Katherine used to read books aloud. Then we got into doing skits and characters. LIZZIE, YOU PLAY KEYBOARD AND “BUILD IRRESISTIBLE SYNTH HOOKS”, ACCORDING TO THE INTERNET. YOU ALSO TOOK PIANO LESSONS WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER? COULD YOU DESCRIBE THE EVOLUTION FROM THAT TO THIS? I took piano when I was younger, but I stopped when I was a teenager. I definitely retained some basic theory and facility but it wasn’t totally easy reintroducing myself to the keys. I think that’s been generally a positive thing though and I think it’s informed the way I play synths. I was forced to really listen, focusing the most on sounds and melody. It’s been a constant learning process. And the learning curve with playing synths, like music in general, is endless. I just got a Moog Voyager and the capabilities are absolutely incredible. SEVERAL OF YOUR SONGS, IN PARTICULAR “BREATHE LOW AND DEEP”, HAVE LENGTHY INSTRUMENTAL JAMS (FOR LACK OF A BETTE R DESCRIPTOR). HOW DO THESE COME TO LIFE ? ARE THEY MINUTELY PRE-WRITTEN OR DO TH E Y BUILD/GROW WHILE YOU’RE RECORDING OR PERFORMING LIVE? T: Generally, the instrumental jams happen on the fly. They’re mainly improvised and worked out as we play the songs. KATHERINE, YOU’RE IN THE LEAGUE OF SEL F TAUGHT DRUMMERS. COULD YOU DESCRIBE YO U R LEARNING PROCESS? Katherine: Actually I don’t know if I’d really call myself selftaught or not—I do work with a teacher in New York. But I’m definitely late to the game. I didn’t play drums growing up or anything like that. In the beginning of TEEN, I gradually started playing more and more percussion and started to fool around on the kit just for fun. When our drummer left the band, we had a couple of weeks before we were set to do a mini-tour and it was kind of like, ‘okay, let’s try this’ and then I got pretty serious! At first I was just trying to soak up anything and everything I could about technique and trying to do it on my own. But it wasn’t until I started working with a teacher that things started really developing. At the end of the day, I think any drummer will tell you practice and repetition are key, especially if you’re touring and playing live!
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