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Sounds x Interview: Teen Body // Validation

Brooklyn-based band Teen Body – made up of Shannon Lee on guitar and vocals, Xela French on bass and vocals, Alex Bush on guitar, and Marcus McDonald on drums – play a genre of music they self-describe as “Dreamo,” a clever blend of synthy dream-pop blended with a dollop of emo. Not only has Teen Body made up their own genre classification, they’ve also titled their upcoming LP with that exact same word: Dreamo.

This week, we’ve had the fortune of hearing from Teen Body right after they’ve released their new single, “Validation,” off their upcoming LP Dreamo via Broken Circles Records. We sat down with Teen Body and asked them questions about their creative process, upcoming Crazy Town show with last week’s featured band Grim Streaker, and most obviously…time travel.

I read that you originate from Virginia; what made you decide to move to Brooklyn, and how was that transition of music scenes?

SL: Technically, French is the only member truly from Virginia. I’m from Queens/Long Island, Bush has been here for ten plus years but was brewed in Arkansas, and Marcus is an army brat, so he’s been all over the place. He did spend a good amount of time in Blacksburg, Virginia through college. I guess we all ended up in Brooklyn the same way any young person playing music or making art or writing or doing anything creative ends up in Brooklyn.

AF: Yes, funny fact: Marcus and my old bands used to play together in Virginia, but we never talked to each other. Our original guitarist, Evander, and Marcus went to college together in VA, so the Virginia origin is maybe half true. It was the Virginia music scene that drew me into the band because Evander and I went to a mutual Virginia friend’s show (name drop George Clanton) at Bowery Electric, and started talking about playing music together.

It’s cool that your transition to the NYC music scene sort of originated with the musicians you all knew from Virginia. Where do you currently rehearse?

MM: We practice in a big old warehouse building in Brooklyn. The rooms are pretty small and the ceilings are very tall. There are tons of practice spaces in it, so if you know anyone in a Brooklyn band, they probably also practice in that building.

AF: It rhymes with man-bro.

I think I’m picking up what you’re putting down. Favorite band activities outside of playing music?

SL: LARPing, MTG, Catan, Munchkin, eating, being outside, record hunting, murder mysteries.

AF: Eating comes first.

AB: Second Breakfast

“Dreamo”—can you explain how you came up with that word to define your genre and why you decided to name your upcoming record after it?

SL: It’s something our friend Casey Halter mentioned to us at a show one day, while we were racking our collective minds trying to come up with a name for this record. None of us could agree on anything—rounds of Gush, Marshmellow, Second Breakfast, Smoke Weed and Listen to These Songs, Si(ck)x Songs. Dreamo felt like a perfect, concise summary of the mood of this record. It’s funny though; we thought it would be a super original thing/genre but I guess it’s already out there? Like Sean Nicholas Savage just came out with a record called Screamo with a track titled Dreamo, so…

MM: I think it felt appropriate to kind of classify all of these songs under the umbrella term we’ve been using as a tool to understand our sound. Personally, I feel like using Dreamo as a title will allow us to evolve it and us.

Looking forward to hearing it! How is your upcoming record going to be different from your first record? Any changes to your sound/vibe/inspirations?

SL: I think we’ve grown into ourselves a lot this time around and are way more confident as songwriters and performers. We also have a different guitarist, Alex Bush, writing a lot of lead parts and he’s got a super distinctive sensibility.

AB: The new record sounds less scrappy. It’s more cinematic, sonically swimming in deeper waters as a result of sharpening our vision and French’s thoughtful production.

AF: Freshman releases are always kind of hodgepodge and feeling out what our niche is. We made a conscious effort on this one to focus more on the vibe side rather than the kind of “youthful jangling” that Get Home Safe is so flush with. The biggest difference for me is that I produced this one, so there’s way more textural control. I have a big affinity for vocal echo swells; I think it is a huge part of what defines “dream pop.” I probably spent more time on the vocal echoes in Dreamo than I did on any guitar.

Where did you record the new LP?

AF: Our friend Matt Molnar (of Kissing is a Crime) offered to record the initial instruments, so we posted up in the practice space and my studio to get the base tracks. I borrowed his Juno, overdubbed some stuff, and recorded vocals after that then took forever to mix it.

MM: French made everything sound like it was gifted to Earth from visiting alien majesty.

Sounds cozy! What’s the band’s songwriting process like?

AB: French or Shannon usually bring demos in that we chip away at for an extended period of time. One song on the new record, “Fell Off,” originated from building something from a riff I brought in. Marcus elaborates on top of the drum machine demos and constructs new patterns when things start to go off in different directions.

AF: It is still an evolving process. Get Home Safe had Evander, Shannon, and I all bringing in songs ranging from scraps and riffs to full demos. There was a lot of group writing back in those days, and we were super fast. I think we had seven songs within the first three months of being a band. At some point, we had to chop it off at 12 songs and cut the record. One of the stragglers, “Other Places Pt. 2,” actually made it onto Dreamo at the last minute. I have a kind of chronic love for demoing, so this album was a little heavy on songs I brought in. But we try to aim for a healthy ratio of group to individually written songs. Also, a song is never a song until Marcus sets the vibe.

 If Teen Body could time travel together as a band, what year would you transport to and why?

SL: As a band? Uhm…I don’t know. There’s an internet thing where someone asks if there are any musicians from like the 1440s that sound like Weezer so we should probably figure that out/become that band for this anonymous asker.

AF: I second Shannon. Medieval minstrel. Just post-plague, please.

AB: Late 80s or early 90s; my favorite music still comes from that period

MM: Are you kidding me guys?! 100% the future. Maybe like 3001? I need to know how soon the world ends. If it hasn’t happened by 3001, then it’s not happening.

You’re opening for Crazy Town February 23rd at Sunnyvale with our featured band from last week, Grim Streaker. Are you all excited? What do you expect the show to be like? Ironic fans? Genuine fans? 

MM: It’s really hard to tell what the show will be like since no one actually thinks it’s happening. I feel like there are going to be die-hard Crazy Town fans that know all the words to all the songs off their 2015 record The Brimstone Sluggers. And then there will be a ton of people ironically attending, awaiting their international superhit “Butterfly.” I just want Shifty Shellshock to stage dive during our set.

SL: I hope Shifty and Co. like shoegaze inflected dream pop? My friend Lauren said she thought the Facebook event was a joke but was also confused because as a joke, it wasn’t that funny. To be clear, it’s real.

AB: I’m expecting a really wholesome evening…or something wildly dramatic to happen.

Well, I am definitely looking forward to the show. Any tours or final news you’d like to share with our readers?

MM: Too soon to announce anything yet, but we are working on setting up some dates in May. We’re also really stoked to share a couple videos we’ve had in the works.

AF: We are adding a 5th member soon to play keys!

Nice! Thanks again for speaking with us Teen Body!

Check out their latest release “Validation” below and stay tuned for their upcoming LP, Dreamo, via Broken Circles.

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