Dummy Mix 558 // Scratcha DVA
TEENGIRL FANTASY are on time. In an era where Fuck Buttons can make more than a ripple in the wider music world, Growing can organise a US tour that doesn’t just mean playing in their relative’s garden sheds and the Big Pink are featured on the front of every music magazine from here to Japan, their weird DIY noise is something that people can actually understand. Though Teengirl is an essentially electronic band, Nick Weiss and Logan Takahashi’s initial experiences of music came from an exposure to punk rock. They incorporate spasmodic samples and a thick haze of sound to communicate a clatter very much of that attitude. Their computerized, celestial, all consuming soundscapes caught the ear of Milo at Merok two years ago, and now Nick and Logan are about to release their debut album on the Dalston-based label.
Last Friday, they played the No Pain In Pop Halloween showcase at Goldsmiths Student Union, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to get to better understand where this racket came from. As I entered the venue and witnessed the sea of enthusiastic day glo-clad and mummified revelers dashing all over the place, it became even more clear how wide the appeal had stretched. So, as I was shown to a small room backstage to speak to the softly spoken, unlikely pair I was super keen to find out how they had got here.
How did you guys get into playing music?
Logan: Well, we met, basically, within the first few days of orientation at Oberlin. We started playing music together in the first week or two, just jamming, kinda messing around. It just started from there, just for fun. We, basically, put the band together to play this house party, and then we just made a MySpace.
That was actually going to be one of my next questions, because I’ve heard this before, like what the hell kind of house party did that turn out to be, that you would play?
Nick: It was a really crazy party. It was neon, I guess…
Logan: It was kind of a disaster…
Nick: …yeah, in terms of musically, it was a disaster like…it was the first and only time that we tried using a laptop during out set, and it just didn’t work. So, we just ended up playing the same song over and over, kind of…but people seemed to like it. I mean, it wasn’t a huge deal, but it was definitely a fun show.
Logan: It definitely made us decide not to use a laptop in our live set haha, it really didn’t go well.
How did your sound evolve into what it is now? Before you guys met each other, what were you playing?
Logan: I guess that we were both in various bands at High School. Just lots of different projects. I guess, I got my first drum machine when I was a Sophmore in High School, and I started making stuff both on my own and with other people. It was pretty natural, I think, for us to collaborate.
Nick: I guess, I was also in bands, but they were more like a full rock set up, and I was doing electronics for them…and I guess, that we both decided that we wanted to do something, like, a little bit more pure…and really electronic. I think that that was probably how it started.
What were you guys listening to before Teengirl Fantasy came together?
Logan: So much different stuff…Maybe a lot of our stuff is maybe informed by the fact that we both listen to so many different genres. Maybe like Basic channel to like minimalism to a lot more experimental stuff…pop music I guess…I wouldn’t say specific records but, for me, I lived just outside New York City, so I was always going in to see shows, which exposed me to all these weird different types of bands…there was this one band called Excepter, if you’ve heard of them? They used to come and play at my High School every year. That was a big influence on me, really.
From that first house party, how do you think that the live show has progressed?
Nick: It’s hard to say. I mean, we’ve been playing a lot of the same songs, or the same ideas for songs, since that very first set. I think, like, maybe one of two of those songs from that first set two years ago are still, in some form, in our set. I think that, from playing so many shows, we’ve gotten, I would say, a little bit better at evolving and being able to improvise a lot. Our set is definitely different every single time. We try to cater it to the audience and the space and the sound system.
How does that work, then? Is there any communication between the two of you or do you think that you’re both pretty in sync with what the other is thinking?
Logan: More or less. I mean, we have a basic template for each song set up, and within that there is space to mess around. There is certain moments when we know to do certain things, but it’s pretty open to stretch around it.
Considering that your music isn’t exactly run of the mill pop formulas, I was just wondering how did you set about constructing your songs? What do you discuss between the two of you to put those together?
Nick: I don’t know how much we actually talk about it, talk about the songs whilst we’re writing them. I think a lot of the time they’re a just written by playing, you know, for a couple of hours, just working off of one idea, one loop, and then usually just in the live format is just how we write the songs. Once they are recorded, we put them into the computer and we can like edit them down and make them, maybe, a little bit more precise. Then we’ll talk about how we want them to sound.
Logan: They definitely evolve in, like, a live setting for sure, how the songs are processed.
Nick: That’s probably why the songs can go…why they’re usually based on kind of infinite structures, and they’re about something really repetitive…or taking a really repetitive sound or loop or sample, and just building and building on top of it. Then, maybe, dropping it all out and trying something new.
I found it interesting that you don’t think that your music is necessarily ‘drug music’, more like “dream music” …I was wondering whether you set out with that intention, to make music in a “dreamlike” state?
Logan: I think it’s definitely something that came naturally to us. I think we are both inspired by, like, similar goals. We never consciously talked about it, it just happened.
Nick: I think it might also come from where we started writing the music at our school, which is in rural Ohio. We wrote a lot of the songs in the basement of this one building, like…sometimes there was just a lot of snow outside and you couldn’t really leave, and it might be like Sunday afternoon or something…I think that maybe that kind of feeling crept into the music, and we’ve kept it, whether we are recording under those circumstances or not. It came from a cold, isolated place.
Logan: You definitely have to make your own sort of thing there, at our school, because it’s kinda in the middle of nowhere. In that way it is kinda like fantastical or whatever in the way that your creating it.
That school is pretty infamous for creating new bands, isn’t it?
Logan: For sure. People like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, half or two thirds of Deerhoof…
Nick: Beach House…half of Beach House…just a lot of bands that are kinda in the New York scene.
Did you go to the school with the intention of starting a band or was it more of an organic thing that just happened?
Logan: Yeah, for sure.
Nick: I think in the back of my head, I did yeah.
It’s very strange with Teengirl how you seem to simultaneously straddle two areas, electronica and DIY/Lo Fi (although I am growing to hate that term) – I was just wondering where do you think that Teengirl fit into the spectrum of things in general? I mean, how would you describe the music that you make?
Logan: I think that a lot of our ethos comes from a DIY spirit of things, of doing things on our own.
Nick: I think, like, Punk House could be a good term.
Logan: We’ve talked about this before with other people, but it’s a funny thing that Lo Fi is such a big thing right now, especially as everybody has GarageBand…It’s just as easy to make things sound shitty as it is to make things sound clear.
Nick: We weren’t trying to go for a Lo Fi sound. I think that that was more because we weren’t as sure, or maybe not as good at mixing the tracks, but hopefully the album won’t necessarily sound Lo Fi to people…not that that is a bad thing, but maybe it could sound dreamy or like shoegazey, but could still be really clear or sound polished…not perfect but sound nice.
Your new LP is coming out on True Panther/Merok next month – how did you end up settling on those to release the record?
Logan: Merok was the first record label that contacted us, two years ago, and they did the single last February. We definitely enjoyed working with them, and we’re releasing it in the UK with them.
Nick: They put a lot of effort into the label, and I think the way that they run things is also similar to True Panther, in that it’s really just about the music and they’ll release the weirdest shit and it doesn’t matter what people like it aside from them. I appreciate that.
And how long did the record take to put together? Did you have the tracks ready to fill it already, or did you cater the tracks to put on the new album?
Nick: Well, it’s not done yet haha.
Logan: We could have released a record, like a year ago I guess, but I think that this coming record is going to be like part songs that people will have already heard and part completely new stuff.
Nick: When we were first writing the music, we didn’t really anticipate anyone ever hearing it, aside from our friends, and we didn’t anticipate touring or any of this. So, I think the music needed a little more time to be informed by all the crazy shit that has happened to us since we accidentally started this band.
Logan: It definitely changes it knowing that there is going to be some sort of audience watching us.
Nick: We’ve just had so many weird experiences together in the past two years, that I couldn’t even fathom foreseeing…so I think it will make the album better.
I watched the video for ‘Portofino’ over the last couple of weeks and thought it was a really good point of comparison to the music. I was wondering who produced that?
Logan: It was our friend Carrie, and she’s from Baltimore. She’s this Baltimore based new media artist. She’s really awesome.
Nick: She, also, goes by Black Moth.org. She’s amazing. She’s like a video artist, curator…she doesn’t just make videos, she takes a really artistic perspective on new media and internet based art. It just seemed like the perfect person to work with.
Do you think that the visual thing will morph into becoming an integral aspect of Teengirl Fantasy, because when I’ve seen you guys before there wasn’t any visuals or video facet to the set…
Logan: We’ve done stuff with visuals and live performance before, but I mean…I own a projector, but we need to get a new bulb for it haha. And once we do that then we’ll be adding something more.
Nick: We’ve worked with live visual artists or VJs before too. Carrie has been on stage with us before, performing as kind of a member of the band…maybe we could do more stuff like that. We are also working much more with syncing the music with the visuals to create a really immerse environment. We can’t say yet exactly what it’ll be like. Maybe we’re going to get into set design too or something. It’s what we’ve been talking about at our school.
Do you think that Teengirl Fantasy is like an evolving project then?
Nick: Definitely, yeah.
Logan: We’re working on a lot of visual stuff at the moment, and I think that we maybe want to put some of those ideas into a VHS release, with like equal part sound and visuals…like a video mixtape almost.
Nick: Yeah, but hopefully, if we continue to play shows or start playing bigger shows, I dunno, I think the set will definitely evolve. Hopefully, it will become more of an experience rather than just getting to hear the music.
Logan: We are not as interesting to watch as a lot of drummers or guitarists but…
Nick: …we are going to try and make it more exciting.
What part of this European tour are you most looking forward too?
Logan: This school in the Northern Netherlands have invited us to give like this little chair, where we are going to try and give a lecture haha. We are still figuring out what exactly we are going to say.
Nick: We were going to try and have the class throw a huge rave or something…I don’t know, I think we need to make a syllabus or something. It’s happening at the end of this month.
Aside from you guys, do you think that music is in a good place right now, with bands such as yourself able to get a fair amount of exposure?
Logan: It’s really an exciting time, making art or music or whatever. It’s just, you have a global audience…
Nick: …and a global network too. The fact that we’ve met, initially met, bands that we’ve toured with online, which is totally crazy. We did a whole West coast tour with a guy that we’d never met, Kixly, who was originally from Tijuana. It was amazing. He turned out to be a great person. It’s just nice to be able to connect that way.