In­ter­view Teenanger

The lo­cal four-piece re­luc­tantly em­brace adult­hood

NOW Magazine - - CONTENTS - By RICHARD TRAPUNSKI

teenanger aL­BUm re­LeaSe SHow with new frieS and HooDeD fang at the Horse­shoe (370 Queen West), Au­gust 11, doors 9 pm. $12. tick­et­fly.com, ro­tate. com, sound­scapes­mu­sic.com.

Teenanger’s fifth al­bum is not self­ti­tled, though it looks like it is. Read closer: it’s called Teenager.

“Peo­ple have been call­ing us Teenager since prob­a­bly our first show,” laughs drum­mer Steve Si­doli, over the phone from his day job at Ge­orge Brown Col­lege. “Ini­tially it was an an­noy­ance, then we kinda stopped car­ing about it and now we just find it re­ally funny. So we fig­ured, why not just con­fuse peo­ple even fur­ther?”

Trolling with their al­bum name isn’t likely to im­prove their Google rank­ing (the search en­gine al­ready auto-cor­rects when you search “Teenanger”), but re­leas­ing a not-quite-self-ti­tled al­bum fits the Toronto punk band’s cur­rent tra­jec­tory.

Typ­i­cally a self-ti­tled al­bum later in a mu­si­cian’s ca­reer sig­ni­fies a new be­gin­ning, like hit­ting the re­set but­ton.

Af­ter 10 years to­gether, Teenanger are fi­nally com­fort­able enough to re­lease the al­bum that fully rep­re­sents them, but they’re not shed­ding any of the things that have al­ways made them so un­der­rated: that hard-tode­fine, fun-as-hell mix of Melissa Ball’s bass bounce, Jon Schouten’s solid riffs and Chris Swim­ming’s snotty vo­cals.

But af­ter a hand­ful of lean, gritty punk al­bums, Teenager is by far the most var­ied of their re­leases. Some songs jan­gle brightly, some shim­mer with synths, some strad­dle the line between post-punk and new wave. There’s even an elec­tronic in­stru­men­tal and a goth bal­lad, with tem­pos that dip slower than ever be­fore. Af­ter years of try­ing to out­run the “garage rock” tag, they’ve to­tally buried it.

Far from lo-fi, Teenager was recorded in five stu­dios over the course of eight months and self-pro­duced for the first time by Si­doli and Schouten (who also run their la­bel, Tele­phone Ex­plo­sion). They felt con­fi­dent and at ease in the songs, which came from re­sist­ing com­pro­mise and be­ing ruth­less about qual­ity con­trol.

“When you start a band, whether you know it or not, you’re a bit of a slave to the zeit­geist of that era. You’re in­flu­enced by your friends’ bands or what­ever’s pop­u­lar at the time,” Si­doli the­o­rizes. “Now we’ve been to­gether long enough that we can ac­tu­ally just sound like our­selves.

“If you’d asked us what kind of record we wanted to make be­fore we made it, I don’t think any­body would have been able to ar­tic­u­late it, but when we fin­ished, we all looked at each other like, ‘Yeah, this was the record we needed to make.’”

What makes a Teenanger song, says Si­doli, is the com­bi­na­tion of the four peo­ple in the band. If you re­placed a mem­ber, it wouldn’t sound right. And if the band now sounds dif­fer­ent, it’s be­cause the peo­ple in it feel dif­fer­ent. Between mem­bers spend­ing longer pe­ri­ods of time abroad and hav­ing angst about scrap­ing by in a city that’s be­com­ing less and less af­ford­able, he says, they feel like they’re in flux.

Toronto has al­ways been a char­ac­ter in Teenanger’s mu­sic, but now songs like N.O.B.L.O. (which stands for “North Of Bloor, Life On­wards”) con­flate the city’s real es­tate situa- tion with the re­spon­si­bil­ity to grow beyond the bo­hemian life­style of an artist.

“You know how pre­vi­ously Bloor was kind of the north wall that peo­ple who were into art and mu­sic were al­ways south of?” asks Si­doli. “Now, be­ing forced to move north of Bloor is like a new fron­tier be­cause you’ve been priced out or you want a big­ger place. There’s an anal­ogy there between hav­ing to do that and mov­ing into adult­hood and other phases of life.”

It’s as if the Toronto they’ve lived in and re­leased records in for a decade no longer feels quite so rooted. You could de­scribe that as the over­ar­ch­ing con­di­tion of the punk scene they come from, as rock venues shut down left and right, in­clud­ing the Sil­ver Dol­lar where Teenanger played count­less times. (Dan Burke is a close friend and col­lab­o­ra­tor.) Gen­res, too, are be­com­ing less rigid as stream­ing tra­verses for­merly solid bound­aries.

But, says Si­doli, shed­ding old-school rock venues could open up op­por­tun- ities for ex­cit­ing stuff to hap­pen in the un­der­ground, at DIY spa­ces led by a younger gen­er­a­tion.

“That’s why Not Dead Yet is the most im­por­tant fes­ti­val in Toronto,” he says of the an­nual punk event. “It shows that there’s still some coun­ter­cul­ture left here, and that [the scene] can still be re­ally vi­tal and youth­fo­cused and at­tract peo­ple from all over the world.”

Maybe Toronto, like Teenanger, isn’t ready to grow up just yet. richardt@now­toronto.com | @trapunski

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