Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Teen Interview - Psych Gospel Pop

Fresh from honing her craft as a member of Here We Go Magic, creative force Teeny Lieberson embarks on a more personal project with her sisters, the psych gospel project TEEN. There is a retro feel to their debut album “In Limbo,” with the initial example being the opening track “Better.” Buzzy brass synth beds and jammy melodic keyboard lines run throughout. The lyric “I’ll do it better than anybody else” is repeated in a chanting cadence that serves as a hypnotic mantra of confidence. Though synths dominate, it definitely is not “dance music” by any stretch, as the drum track is firmly rooted in the rock canon.

The spirit of 60s girl groups like the Shangri-Las run through an ambitious in length, over six minute sprawler simply called “Charlie.” Methodically paced and bordering on David Lynch/Julee Cruise hypnagogia, a surreal element hovers over it all. Another slow building epic-length track is the meditative "Roses & Wine." With a steady bass pulse providing anchor for hypnotic, swirling vocals to weave around, clever word-play emerges from the lyrical content. "I break for roses and wine- for just a little more time - for there to be sparrows where there are crows - for the nest to pull into the undertow," ultimately putting forth the universal question "will you be missed when you're gone?"

* * * * *

Q: What motivated you to choose the uniquely retro musical style for songs like “Better?” Can keyboard rock once again carve out its own meaningful niche in present times guitar dominated indie rock?

A: When I wrote that song I was listening to a ton of Neu! and Brian Eno. That's where the 'retro' part comes in, I suppose. I wanted for drum tracks to just go on and on. I was doubling synth over synth to get that really thick sound that happens a lot in Brian Eno recordings. At that time, I wasn't really playing guitar, but now I'm playing it exclusively. So hopefully keyboard and guitar rock can merge it's own powerful thing.

Q: Presenting universal themes that are easily related to can quickly endear artists to their listeners. Is this kind of personal revelation cathartic once recorded? Is there sometimes a point where a song becomes less about you personal, and exists simply as a literary theme?

A: Absolutely. I find as a songwriter, if it's too close to home, the song can lose some sort of imagination. I don't really like to talk about my personal life that much, so by creating a character, the music becomes more inspiring, more like a play. It morphs into something magical and less intellectual. A cartoon version of yourself.

Q: Many of the songs on this album are over five minutes in length, with more than a few well over six. Do you see any risks in putting tracks this long out there, especially in today’s quick soundbite driven environment?

A: You know, I didn't really consider it because I just wanted to do what felt natural. We were all listening to a lot of kraut and psych so having long songs didn't seem like a big deal. But people definitely have less patience for it now. I'm still not sure if we'll take that into consideration for our new music.

Q: Did you intend “Roses & Wine” as a declaration to make time for the good things in life? The song seems to evolve into an internal rumination on having an impact on the world, or at the very least - some else's life. Would that be an accurate interpretation? Any other thoughts on what you might expect a listener to take from this track?

A: Yea, that's pretty close! I wrote it while my father was very sick and practically immobile. All I wanted was for him to be able to experience simple things like talking a walk, eating a big meal. I would've done anything to help him achieve that. So I wrote this song as a sort of prayer.

Q: How was the experience of working with producer Sonic Boom on the tracks for In Limbo? Did he offer advice on how certain things should sound?

A: Pete's wonderful. We really had a great time working with him. He really took basic ideas and turned them into swirling space. When he came into the project, our songs were full of track on top of track. He eliminated about half of them immediately. He's also a master at lifting things off the ground, and by taking the drums out, or the lows out of the bass, he would achieve that "alien" sound. It was really exciting to watch him work and understand that simplicity is key.

Q: Do you perceive your sound as a new twist on what is part of the psych-rock genre? That is, with emphasis on floating layers of vocals, as opposed to extended instrumental guitar jams?

A: Yes I would. And I hope other people do too. Our vocals are key to our sound because they're used as another instrument, another texture. I rely on them as a writer to do things that a guitar or a keyboard could. But I wouldn't count out guitar jams in the future. We might have some coming.

This interview appears in an edited form in The Deli Magazine, Print Issue No. 33, which can be found here:

And directly on The Deli Website here:


What you should know:

Preferred band Website address :

Origins: Halifax, NS & Maplewood, NJ.

What it is: Psych + Gospel + Pop + Psych.

For those who like: Warpaint, Pond, Maroon 5

Relevant info: TEEN's debut LP, 'In Limbo' was released 8/28 on Carpark Records. Produced by Sonic Boom. Played shows with Ariel Pink, Dean Wareham and Santigold + toured with Hospitality. "Better" was #38 on Rolling Stone's 50 Best Songs of 2012

Equipment/Recording interview for Delicious Audio

- How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?

About half and half.

- If you use a studio, what do you record there and what do you record by yourself and why?

It's fun to record on your own because you have absolute control. It can get so much more experimental when it's just you. But going into the studio allows the sound to be that much bigger and that much better.

- What are the pieces of equipment that you find particularly inspiring when recording at home?

Tascam 424 Portastudio- 4 tracks just do things on their own accord, so you never know what you're gonna get. Sequential Circuits TOM- great drum machine... the sounds are wacky and tunable.

- What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup (cost not an issue)? Why?

Anything that would make my vocals sound the best that they can. I still can't totally get them sounding as clear or beautiful as I want them too. Oh and a Korg MS-20 because it's my favorite synth ever.

- Do you expect your next record to be self-produced, or would you like to work with a producer? If it’s the latter, who would you most like to produce your band, and why?

Nah- we're gonna work with a producer I think...No more home sessions with the band. I'm really hoping to work with my friend Daniel Schlett at Strange Weather on some future music. He's super talented.

- Do you use rack effects or guitar pedals to forge your own sound? If you do, please list the ones you use the most and let us know why you love them.

Pete (Sonic Boom) used a Roland SDE 1000 on our vocals (I think that what the unit was) and it sounded great. And Space Echo always get the job done.

- Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for? What techniques do you employ to recreate it?

I approach things differently with different groups of people. When by myself, it's all spontaneous. I don't write anything beforehand. But with TEEN, we're trying to only track what we can play live, so that requires some rehearsing.

- Who determines the direction and style of your recordings?

Depends on who I'm working with!

- Is there a person outside the band that's been important in perfecting your recorded or live sound?

Sonic Boom.

-What other artists would you say have had the biggest influence in your approach to recording? Why?

The whole Here We Go Magic crew. I kind of learned everything I know from them. They taught me the value in improvisation, looseness. Nigel Godrich was amazing to work with because he wouldn't let you get too in your head. Mistakes can be happy.

- Would you say that your live show informs your recording process or that your recording process informs your live show? Both? Neither?

Both. I think they naturally influence one another.

- Is there a piece of equipment that you find particularly useful on stage?

Boss Metal Zone. Dirty and kinda cheesy.

- With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band - fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.? Do you do these things yourself or is there someone that the band works with?

We've worked with a lot of people, all of whom have been amazing. Valerie Gnaedig + Annie Lenon ( did our website. Sam Fleischner + Megha Barnabas worked with us on the "Electric" video. Janis Vogel has done two videos for us now. I think the visual aspect can be equally as interesting as the music and we're always aiming for that. We've been very lucky to work with these amazing artists.

- What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?

Self-criticism. Allowing things be loose. You don't want to lose spirit but it's so easy to get caught up in minutia. It's much better to let things be.... But when you get out of the heady struggle of mixing and you feel kind of proud, being able to share your music with your friends is the most rewarding.


Misty said...

oh, i love this!

i think 'electric' is my fave song here.

excellent interview. i really like a lot of her open and honest answers.

The Midnite Rambler said...

Thanks Dave - without your blog I may have never come across this band.

DaveCromwell said...

That's great to know. Since what I present here (and at The Deli) is primarily focused on emerging artists, it's good being made aware that this music is reaching audiences that might not (at least initially) be exposed to it.

Mr Smork said...

cool entry. nice interview.
this is kind of specific band for a specific taste i'd say. :)
and not least not bad looking ladies. ;)

William said...

Seems like a very down to earth and interesting musician(not a common occurance)- definitely worth checking out!!

DaveCromwell said...

Sometimes women can can't help looking good, Mr. Smork. We'll try not to hold that against them (but they can certainly hold themselves against us, if they like ;-))

But - seriously folks - there is a lot of ideas and muscianship floating through the grooves here.

And for that - I thank them!

Anonymous said...


DaveCromwell said...

Oh, Anouk!
(you rascal)

Ivanka said...

some really good sound! Thanks for sharing Dave!

Unknown said...

Enjoying this sound girl group meets mystical psyche meets moog ;)

DaveCromwell said...

Ha! I like that AVP - "mystical psyche" - I dare say you've coined a new genre!

Patricia Mena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patricia Mena said...

It's an interesting and detailed review Dave. Nice band! :)