Interview: Teen Daze
Posted in Interviews
"For the most part, I’m not the sort of person that it’ll take me a year to write a record. If I’m going to start something, I’m determined to finish it."
Thursday night, Jonathan had an opportunity to spend some time with Vancouver's Teen Daze in Miami, Florida before his show at Bardot. Bardot was a wonderful space for his type of swirly, dreamy, and dancy tunes. The bar/lounge has a very warm feel to it. There are huge couches on either side of the stage and ornate rugs padding the floor. The lighting is dim and warmly colored with reds, blues, and non-blaring greens. The walls are lined with wood cabinets that house various bottles of liquor and a few books and cups. And there's also a pool table. All these little details contribute to the ambience of the venue. It felt very homely and connected you to the artist even though he may have been in his own world.
Teen Daze's set consisted of a lot of new material, which he will briefly explain in the interview below. It made for an interesting evening as Jonathan had little to no idea as to what he was actually playing. At the same time, however, it made the evening very special. Teen Daze was in his element, feeding off the energy of the tightly packed crowd. There wasn't time to necessarily stop and listen because no one knew exactly what to listen for. As a result, his set was thoroughly enjoyable. It gave an opportunity to those who didn't know his music to watch and listen to him play, and for those who did know his music to watch him work and hear new material.
Before the show, however, Jonathan sat down with him to talk about his records, the United States' political woes, and the Stanley Cup.
Did you feel a difference between finishing A Silent Planet versus your other albums?
Yeah, I think it had more of a complete feeling to it. I actually felt like I had finished something. Four More Years, Beach Dreams, and My Bedroom Floor were all products of working on tracks just to work on tracks with no specific purpose to make an album. A Silent Planet was a succinct selection of songs. Definitely had more of a finished feeling.
Did the cohesive quality provide more of a challenge to writing the record?
I don’t think so. I tend to write better when I have a bit of a concept in mind. Even if it is a broad or vague concept of just writing an LP or EP as opposed to sitting down and writing a standalone track. I tend to write better with an obvious goal.
In doing A Silent Planet did you encounter any hiccups during the writing or recording process?
At the start it was going to be an actual linear, retelling of the novel (Out Of The Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis). Over time though I wrote six tracks that tell the first three chapters. It sort of dawned on me that if I’m going to make this a record, it’s going to be like 50 songs if I’m going to get through it at this pace. So it sort of turned into a thing of its own.
For example, originally the album was supposed to be a full length, but the Japanese version has all these bonus tracks on it. I remember thinking if I took the six songs that are the EP now, this will be such a better EP than it will be a full length. The bonus tracks aren’t really songs; they’re more ambience or just plain sound. But in my mind they sound like pop songs. It has led to reviews of people saying the record isn’t accessible enough for them to get into it. And that’s so funny to me because it sounds like a pop record to me; it may just be because I wrote the lyrics and the music, but there are definitely differences in perception.
In writing the record, I was going through and looking at all of the stems and recordings I had, and because I can be a bit unorganized sometimes, I was trying to find this one final stem and I literally couldn’t find it. I had to send the track to the guy who mastered it and say, “This is it, I can’t change it at all; if anyone wants to remix this one track, they’re not going to be able to.” I just kept thinking about how embarrassed I was that had happened, like, I’m just such a mess. So, now I have a full length finished, and I was very diligent and meticulous in labeling every file and saving it in the right place.
Also during the course of writing I got a new laptop and had to transfer everything over… weird stuff started happening with my software… it was just a nightmare.
Tell us about your new LP.
I have 16 tracks done and ready to go. I was going to put it out as a double record and then I stood back and said there’s no way my first full-length will be a double record.
That’s something Kiss does after, like, 20 years of rockin’…
Yeah, exactly, it would be the most pretentious thing ever. I actually posted two tracks that are in that “folder”. It’s definitely more of an electronic record. It’s almost like a scrapbook of all this electronic music I like. There’s some French house stuff, obviously more chill stuff, some sample based stuff, almost like Ghostly/Gold Panda type stuff. And then I have 8 or 9 tracks of a more 80s/new wave type stuff – like Wild Nothing or Beach Fossils.... definitely more guitar based. I’m sort of working on a Two Bicycles record right now too…
Do you see differences in finishing a Two Bicycles record as opposed to a Teen Daze record?
Yeah, as I was writing A Silent Planet I was also writing the last Two Bicycles record. Because they were written simultaneously, I definitely hear similarities. For example, I would intermingle techniques for arriving at the right sounds. So when I finished this last Two Bicycles record, I wrote the songs knowing I was working on a full length, but had no idea of where it was going to go. So I was like, okay, I have 11 tracks done; this is going to be the last one. I pieced the tracks together and listened to it. Afterwards, I was shocked at how much I liked it. It blew me away; I was not expecting to have such a personal connection to it. I had a visual depiction of how I wanted the record to sound, almost like a soundtrack to a movie or something, and I heard my story perfectly in the record. It’s so powerful in the sense of what I was feeling at the time of making the record. It surprised me. These were just songs that I recorded and collected, and they surprised me.
How do you know when you’ve finished a song?
Oh, that’s a good question. I’m definitely not an OCD writer. But I’m the kind of person that when I write a track it has to get done in that session. If it’s more of an electronic track, then it’s an afternoon normally. I’ll start with a certain sound or idea I want to have in a track, and I’ll build around that. Most of the time I’ll finish a track and realize it needs one little thing to be added here or there. I’ll just throw that in whenever.
For the most part, I’m not the sort of person that it’ll take me a year to write a record. If I’m going to start something, I’m determined to finish it.
Who are you listening to now?
Ohhh, I really like the new Balam Acab record. It’s just…
Haha, yeah. I’m really just blown away by the feel of that record. I really like the new Toro Y Moi EP. I really like the new Twin Sister. I’ve been listening to that in annoying amounts. Paulina can attest to that. I’m also listening to A. A. Bondy. I love his music. His new record is unbelievable. It’s really spacious, definitely more of a full band feel, but there are moments when it gets really dark and psychedelic. And then there are these dream pop songs, but you can tell they’re folk songs at heart. They just have this great feel to them.
So many of my friends make music. The new Born Gold record, it’s just something everyone should be listening to. I love Purity Ring too.
I’ve also been trolling different blogs for stuff for my CMJ DJ set.
You're looking for UK bass stuff?
Not really that heavy, but more like Swedish stuff I’ve been getting into. Also, Air France.
Who’s going to win the Stanley Cup this year?
Oh, gosh… it’s so hard to tell. Obviously, I’m going to say Vancouver, those are my boys. I mean, it changes every year anyway. They were talking about when was the last time a team won it two years in a row?
The Wings, right?
Yeah, maybe, or the Penguins, but um, it doesn’t seem like Crosby is coming back anytime soon, so I’m writing them off right away. Man, you know what, the Capitals, too. I’m a big Ovechkin guy, I really like him. I’m sticking with the Canucks though. Kessler is going to take us all the way. Forget Luongo. The Sedin twins will perform exactly as they should. They’re two of the most reliable players I think. Yeah, go Canucks!
Are you following American politics?
Yes. They’re so theatrical and entertaining. Canadian media loves American politics. I read Reddit a lot, so American politics tends to be in the general sphere of what I observe. I know that I really don’t like Michelle Bachman. I really don’t like her.
I am more liberal, so I’m definitely going for Obama reelection. I really don’t know much about what he has done though, and I feel like that’s not a good sign. I was really excited to see what was going to materialize with the whole health care debate. Especially as a Canadian, I realize even more now how fundamental it is to society. I was talking with a few kids in Denver about this. So say you break your arm. What happens? I go to the emergency room and they fix me and I go home. They were like, “you don’t pay massive bills?” I was like “no.” In British Columbia, where I’m from, you pay one general fee and you get a health card. But if you make under a certain amount per year, then you register for low income and the government takes care of it for you.
That’s the big question here, whether the government can force you to purchase something.
I know that’s something that’s going on with the republicans too. There was the whole thing during the tea party debate:
That’s the opposite of what we want health care to do. That being said, Teen Daze has no specific political message, just love people, as much as you can.
What do you think about the Occupy Wall Street movement?
When I first read something about it, I never thought it would have exploded to this magnitude. It’s very hard for large groups of people to get a very specific message across because everyone has their own interests and their own lives that they’re living. But I think it’s great that people are banding together and doing what they can to create change in the world.
What's in the future for Teen Daze?
Like I said, I have this full length ready to go. I’m aiming for next summer. I have another Two Bicycles record in the works too. In the next little while I’m going to be taking a break except for a few shows in December I’ll be doing with Baths. I’m excited to hang out at home, to have a very quiet Christmas, spending time with friends and family.