|Psych Gospel Pop
Dave Cromwell - January 4, 2013
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 called TEEN, a psych gospel experiment. 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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.