Interview TEEN: ‘People Belittle Us By Calling Us Cute’

Kristina Lieberson and co. talk debut album ‘In Limbo’ and working with Sonic Boom.

The words ‘Teen’ and ‘In Limbo’ are a perfect match: Many of us associate our teens with identity crises, being told you need to get a job all while you just want to go out and have fun. Exams, crushes, growing up - the experience can easily be defined as ‘in limbo’. Whether through purpose or coincidence, TEEN, led by Kristina Lieberson, who’s best known as Here We Go Magic’s keyboardist, decided to use the phrase as the title of their debut album, out now on Carpark Records.

DIY spoke to the Kristina and co. about working aesthetics, learning to be a leader, dating people in order to distract yourself of a lost love and travelling across the Basque country.

Teeny, how does being in this band compare to your work with Here We Go Magic? Do things operate differently and if so, how?
It’s very different. We don’t improvise as much as Here We Go Magic. We tend to stick to a more structured formula. I’m also the leader this time around which is a whole new world. In HWGM, Luke would bring in a song and I’d be the one trying to figure out a part. Which can actually feel harder sometimes when the song hasn’t grown from your imagination. You have to think of making music in an entirely different way.

When and how did Carpark Records approach you for the release of ‘In Limbo’ and how have they been in terms of offering support for the debut?
Carpark have been great. Really couldn’t have asked for anything better. It feels like Todd and everybody else stand behind the record and do the most they can to get it out there. They’ve also been incredibly lenient with creative decisions which is a huge plus.

How do you feel when people label you as an all-girl group? They’re stating fact, yes, but do you feel like you’re being pigeonholed at all?
It’s hard to say really, because I feel like people in general need to categorize things in order to feel like they have some sense of control, of understanding. I’m not sure if that happens even more because we’re women but it sometimes feels that way. There’s definitely a sense of needing to belittle what we do by calling us cute or by talking about the way we look rather then just focusing on the music.

The video for ‘Better’ convinced me that the aim of your music is first and foremost to be fun - would you say that’s a fair statement?
I think that’s fair to say for that song. It was definitely written out of jest. But as far as the rest of the record is concerned, or how I write in general, I’m usually just trying to feel what’s happening in the moment and do my best to communicate it.

‘Unable’ surprised me as a song because it’s so much more sparse and haunting than your other stuff, and it reminds me of Braids a little. Do you always try to stir things up a bit and try new things when songwriting?
I mean, I think it’s good to challenge yourself constantly in order to keep things interesting, but I would say that happens more in the arrangement then in the songwriting. If I were to play that song really straight on the guitar (as it was originally written), it sounds like a pretty straightforward rock and roll song. And we had it originally tracked with drums and everything. But when Pete (Sonic Boom) came in, he took all the drums and bass out and took it into outer space. We were all really impressed and thought it was a gutsy, awesome move. It’s always great to explore a new approach to a song.

There’s a lyric in ‘Unable’ - ‘I’ve met all your folks and I’m inspired’ - what’s this in reference to? Is ‘Unable’ a love song, so to speak?
Hahaha yeah I guess it is! It was written in a time where I was struggling, so hard, to get over somebody and just couldn’t. So I would date and hang out with people in order to distract myself, but it just made me feel incapable of connection. What was really happening is I was just in love with somebody else.

The video for ‘Better’ looks like the best summer holiday in the world, actually. Where’s the best place you’ve ever gone in the name of travelling?
Good question. There was one summer I spent traveling around the Basque country. I went from staying with my best friend (our old drummer Maia Ibar) in St. Martin D’arrossa and Biarritz to travelling with her to Bilbao and then meeting up with my sister Lizzie in San Sebastian. We had some crazy times to say the least.

What are your plans for the rest of 2012?
We’re playing some more shows around NYC then touring with Hospitality. Then hopefully more touring. Then maybe some writing??? I’m excited for some new songs!

TEEN’s new album ‘In Limbo’ is out now via Carpark Records. Stream it in full below:

Tags: TEEN, Features

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