Exclusive RoundLetters Q&A: Teen Daze

teen daze four more years interview

I’d like to introduce you to Teen Daze. Teen Daze is one guy in Abbotsford, BC. He makes chillwave on his bedroom computer and doesn’t reveal his name. You are a fan out there in the world, who might not know what chillwave is, but I think you’ll like it, and I think you shouldn’t care about the no-name thing. Now shake hands.

Teen Daze recently released an album titled Four More Years. It’s a beautiful haze of soft sounds and vocals, but there’s also a few adrenaline spurts in there. It will calm you, it will excite you. It will make you appreciate the exact moment you are in every time you listen. It’s funny how dreamy club music can come out of a guy’s bedroom (insert pun), as that inspiration obviously comes from somewhere else, but he nails it, like on the running “Shine On, You Crazy White Cap” or the hula-hoop of “Gone for the Summer.”

Teen Daze is making more of a name for himself in the States right now, using the fact that he’s a recent Pitchfork darling for his solo and remix work to his advantage. He finds that the kind of music he makes has more of an appeal to the west coast, and that’s where more of his kind are coming from. Here in Toronto, we’ve heard many things similar, but nothing has ever been this clear and yet so hazy to me in just the right way. I’m hoping he starts to get more noticed around here and can eventually tour this way. Read on, as you’ll see him tackle all of these topics with me.

Four More Years is a must-hear. It captures nostalgia, dreams and smooth beats, making it pleasing for any kind or time of day. Carry Teen Daze in your pocket as you walk to work when the sun’s still rising, or set him down on a table at a party while the sun’s waiting for its next rotation.

mp3 download: Teen Daze — “Saviour”

Teen Daze recently chatted with me about the album, how people perceive his music, being anonymous, all of the Pitchfork attention and what it’s like looking back on teen days in the mid-twenties, especially after leaving your hometown. So, now that you’ve shook hands, it’s time to get to know the man behind the music.

Tell me a bit about how you started making music.

I grew up in a pretty musical house. Both my parents are pretty musical people. I think my dad played in bands and probably in the late ’70s, early ’80s and did some touring, but never really put out a record. There were always guitars around the house. So when I graduated high school, I studied in a program that was sort of designed as an art philosophy type of deal. I took a lot of classes covering the ‘how’ of music. I took recording classes and I took a songwriting class and general theory. But a lot of the sort of ‘why’ behind it too, which I think has been the most prevalent influence for how I’ve gotten into music. Once I could wrap my mind around ‘why do I even want to make music, what do I want to accomplish with this?’ I actually sent a link to my friend Mikey and him and I had this conversation about how I think every chillwave artist has a hidden emo rock band that they were in. Before they started making electronic music. And I’m totally guilty of that, I actually sent him the link to my old band’s MySpace that’s still up. It’s been hacked, so there’s a lot of cursing and obscenity all over the page, but the music is still there. I was playing in that band, but the whole time I was making electronic beats on my computer and making records, showing them to my friends. Teen Daze has been the climax of that. I’ve made music under different names and played shows and done tours and stuff like that, but this has definitely been the biggest project I’ve been involved in, for sure.

So what made you want to move into making chillwave?

I just really liked Washed Out and Toro y Moi. For me, I really liked the concept of being able to make something that would be able to translate into a club setting, but at the same time, heartening back to the nostalgic side of electronic music. I think Neon Indian especially has been a big influence in that sense, in just listening to his record feels like listening to an old casio demo or some sort of keyboard self-help manual that will point to press a button and it shows you how to play. He takes those sounds and makes something really crazy out of it. So for me, I wanted to do something like that, I wanted to give people something that would be able to be relaxing and something you can listen to in any sort of setting. You can listen to it in your car and have a dance party to it or you could fall asleep to it.

How do you make the music? Do you use instruments or is it all computer-based?

It’s a bit of both. The record that I just put out is mostly any guitar you hear on that record has been recorded live. A lot of it is normally built around a sample or one or two piano loops that I’ll normally play on a mini keyboard. Most of it’s pretty synthesized, which is great for someone who doesn’t have a huge budget to make a record and doesn’t have the money to buy all these expensive synths. It’s nice to be able to do it in the comfort of my bedroom and not spend too much money on it.

So your album is a home-made recording?

For sure. I made the whole thing in the apartment that I’m sitting in right now!

You can’t really tell.

I think a big part of that is just the fact that I have been making tracks in my bedroom for years now. That’s another example of how this project has sort of been a climax for me and that even the recording quality is just practice. I’m just getting better at my craft.

So you say climax, are you worried it’s going to go back down?

*Laughs* I hope not!

You seem to be moving on up.

Yeah, this whole thing has sort of come out of this incredibly productive time for me. It’s eight tracks on the record. The other day I was backing up some files and I think I have probably written 40 tracks in the last three or four months. I’ve got an EP that I’m working on right now that is just four tracks, but it’s really hazy 60s pop songs. Very live instruments, love the guitar and harmonies and Beach Boys sounding stuff and then I’ve got another record that I’m working on that is almost closer to ambient but with an acoustic sort of folk feel to it. Almost like Gruber; I wanted to make something really similar to that. I’ve got four or five tracks that I’ve been working and then I’ve got tons of stereotypical Teen Daze stuff. If this is the climax, it’s lasting pretty long.

You stay anonymous. Do you stay anonymous at your shows?

No, well… that’s actually the funny thing about the whole anonymity. Part of it is just met having fun with it, because I’m the least mysterious person that I know. If someone comes up to me and is like ‘hey my name’s this,’ I’m not going to be like ‘oh I’m Teen Daze’ or wear a mask or anything like that. The whole reason I started it or didn’t just come right out front when I posted the music was a bit of an experiment for me just in the sense that I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking about the idea of how the internet, people tend to brand themselves through the internet. Just the idea of the duality that exists there; I am who I am in real life and then I am someone that I’m projecting myself to be on my Facebook. The weirdness that exists that we look in on ourselves… I’ll look at my Facebook profile and looking at almost a different person in that sense. I thought well how does that affect me as an artist, and when I post music, how does that affect the listening experience? So I know that it’s pretty tough to escape any sort of branding when it comes to online music, because that’s all it is, people experiencing your MySpace profile. I wanted to make something that was completely and 100% focused on the music. And so I took a picture that I thought would be an appropriate soundtrack to the listening experience and I didn’t want a picture of myself, I didn’t want my name, a bio. The very first Teen Daze profile on MySpace was just EP coming out soon and two tracks. I think it’s been amazing to experience the ripple effect of that and the fact that a lot of people don’t really seem to care anything about me or who I am, where this music is coming from, and they’re taking the music for what it is. That’s great, that’s just what I’m looking for.

You really just don’t want the personal attention?

I guess you can put it that way, for sure. When it comes to shows, when it comes to the internet, I’m really hard lined about that in the sense of the anonymity of it, just because I want it to be what it is and not whether I look cool enough or whether my name sounds appropriate for the genre, all of this stuff. I don’t want that to have any affect on me. I want it to be the relationship between the music and the listener. But the live show is a whole totally different thing for me. I want to engage with the audience as much as possible and let them know how cool it is for me to get to share that with them. At shows I try to be as personable as possible and spend time talking to people and getting to know people and letting people get to know me a bit more.

You’ve got two sides going.

Yeah. It’s ironic how I’m like ‘oh the duality of Facebook’ and how we create a brand and yet I’m living a bit of a dualistic, artistic life myself.

So un-rock star of you! So do you think you’ll ever change your mind?

Probably. I was talking to the girl that does press for my label and she’s always on G-chat and I tend to be on it often myself, so we’ll talk about Teen Daze happenings on the fly. Today she said something along the lines of ‘man, there are a lot of people that are just trying to expose you. Why do you think people care so much about that?’ And I was like ‘I don’t know…’ maybe blogs want to have a scoop.

Well, there’s that and then there’s if you establish yourself as mysterious, it’s going to be one of those want what you can’t have kind of things.

Yeah. I don’t take it too seriously. A lot of times I just sit back and have fun with it. It’s strange for me, because it’s not a mystery for me. And it’s not a mystery for my friends, so I just sit back and if I read a blog, it will be like ‘oh this mysterious guy’ and I’ll laugh, like ‘ah, if only you knew!’ Just a regular graduated college student who likes music.

College or university?

College. I was done by April 16, posted these tracks on the 26th and four months later, I’m getting my record reviewed by Pitchfork. It’s been incredibly crazy. And that’s the funny thing, people are like ‘what are you going to do after school?’ And I’m like ‘I don’t know, work at Booster Juice?’

Whatever man. That’s awesome about Pitchfork.

They’ve been incredibly kind to me. We were all sort of, my manager and publicist, we were all sort of dialoguing about it, being like well they posted so much on the Forkcast that we definitely weren’t expecting them to tear me apart or anything. I know that my manager and publicist were hoping for a higher rating, but the review was really great, they were super positive, and it takes so much pressure off me. Now it really gives me something to work towards. I know that in the past, they’ve sort of been pretty quick to give new bands really high ratings, like the big sort of example is how they gave Black Kids’ EP an 8.9 or something huge and then their full-length came out and they gave it like a 5. A lot of people will say that Pitchfork is sort of to blame because all this attention came on this band for one EP but really was there anything significant there? For me to put these tracks out, be around for four months, and get a 7.1 was just amazing. I feel really good about it.

That’s still a good number. If you look at it, a lot of music that they review is in the 7 range, I think.

Yeah, someone was telling me, she was like ‘I normally don’t listen to the record that gets best new music because most of the time, it’s either too out there or too obviously Pitchfork, but I’ll always buy records that are between seven and eight for sure.’ I’m sure there’s a group of people out there like her.

So what made seeing that made me think you’re not huge in Canada right now, but you’re getting reviews in Pitchfork. Usually it’s the other way around.

Totally. I think that’s one reason why I’m so excited to do this California tour, because I feel like there’s more of a scene for this type of music down there, and more attention. I’ll play a show in Vancouver, even, and it’s still new to a lot of people up here. So a lot of people are like ‘this is sort of dancy, but it’s slow and sort of relaxed, so what am I supposed to do?’ But it feels like these shows are going to be really well received.

Is this your plan, or are you kind of like, ‘aw man, Canada!’?

No. I love Canadian music and I love living here for sure. I think it’s a bit harder to break into, especially because my label is based out of the States. Oh it’s so weird to think actually, like it’s hard to break into the Canadian biz.

I think soon it will be different.

Yeah, for me, some of the big things are to have the record reviewed in Exclaim, or there’s a magazine out of Vancouver called BeatRoute. I love Exclaim, I have the one with Shad on my bed right beside me right now. There’s so many really great electronic scene in Canada that’s sort of been untapped. Anything I can do to bring attention to that sort of stuff is the least I can do.

Well, what I foresee to happen is once you start doing more Canadian tours, it will come your way. I just thought it was interesting, usually people blow up in Canada first.

Yeah, just taking a backwards route, I guess.

That’s not a problem.

I’m okay with it. That being said, we listen to CBC Radio 3 at work, I just think it would be so cool to hear one of my tracks coming on after a Caribou track or something.

You’ve put your stuff up there, right?

I think I realized today that I haven’t yet. So I’m like ‘what am I doing? I’ve gotta get on that!’

That’s why you’re not played! Anyways, tell me about the name Teen Daze. It’s either something that has a lot of meaning, or none.

It comes out of… I was working on the songs that would eventually become the EP. My friend Joel was having his 20th birthday and in sort of celebration of his last day of being a teenager, a bunch of my friends took him out to have a Teen Day, so they did everything that they did as teenagers. They got slurpees, they trespassed and loitered somewhere, and ate junk food and candy. Watched a scary movie. I was at work that day, but I guess the whole time, they kept going “Teen Daaaaay Teeeen Daaay!” so to sort of honour my friend Joel, I was going to write him a song called “Teen Days” and have it be about his last day of being a teenager. I have the beat for it, and it’s still on my computer, and I keep telling myself I should record vocals and make that song for him, but the track was called “Teen Days” and I didn’t have a name for the project yet, and I was like ‘that’s sort of a cool name, I’m going to go with that.’ It’s an homage to my friend Joel.

Are you a teenager still?

Nope. I’m 24. I’ll turn 25 in December.

So do you miss your Teen Days?

Not really. I lived in a small town outside of Brandon, Manitoba when I was a teenager. It was just super boring and so I know a lot of… maybe there’s something to that though. A lot of people, their  teenage years are full of experimenting with drugs, getting wasted and all that stuff, and I just did not have that experience at all. A lot of my friends were getting into that kind of stuff, but I just thought that wasn’t for me. I mostly just listened to music and hung out. *laughs* Now that I’m older and I can appreciate the friends around me and the life that I have now that I really love, it’s sort of looking back… it’s weird. I think a lot of people will assume that it is this big nostalgic reference, but it’s almost like I’m creating my own nostalgia, and my own past that I didn’t get to have. It’s almost like I’m reliving it now.

That’s understandable. So you’re just like ‘oh I wish I experimented with drugs!’

Maybe not that, just maybe more of an exciting teenage… I wish that I had more of the television teenage experience. I don’t know, a Saved by the Bell or some sort of sitcom life.

I totally understand you. I had pretty boring teenage years too.

I think most people do, right? If you didn’t, it’s probably because you were the popular jock and you’re still living that life. I love those people who are like ‘oh yeah I wish I could be back in high school’… I’m like ‘you still are, man.’

Where I’m from, not a lot of people left. And they’re all kind of in the same spot. I’ve left and I’ve moved on, and I feel like I’m 10 years older than them.

Completely. I graduated, I stayed in the town for the summer to work and then I went to school. My parents ended up moving to BC while I was at school. I think I’ve been back once, but I honestly have kept in contact with maybe one person. I lived in a pretty small town. We had a grad class of 30 people, maybe. There weren’t a ton of people that I really connected with on a deeper level. It was more just the casual acquaintances. I have no intention of going back there, but it was so weird going back and seeing how many people are still there and still trying to fulfill some sort of teen high school fantasy. I probably shouldn’t judge, I guess I just explained I’m doing the same thing…

More in an ironic kind of way.

Yeah, in more of a ‘I wish I went to high school in the ’70s’ way.

Your music actually reminds me of ’90s stuff.

Oh cool.

Do you sample at all?

The track “Neon” is based around a sample from a Radio Dept song. It’s the first thing you hear on the track, but it’s been reversed and cut up and distorted and stuff. Most of the samples that I use are coming from stuff that’s either… most of it’s pretty recent. I don’t think I take a lot of samples from the ’90s. I should!

It just felt familiar. So you’re not going for the teen nostalgia, you’re going for the ironic nostalgia.

Almost indirectly, it’s just sort of become that.

Just the music feels dreamy in that way.

Totally.

And you’re doing a lot of remixes these days. How’s that going?

It’s almost like a hobby for me. I was on the island last weekend with some friends of mine. I played a show in Victoria and they played a show close to Nanaimo. Northern Island area. We were talking about music and one of the guys was like ‘I can sit down at a computer and work on a loop or a sample and it will be like 20 seconds long, but then my ADD kicks in and I just can’t focus. I just get frustrated and don’t know what to do with this loop.’ Whereas I work on the complete opposite spectrum. When I do a remix, it will be one sitting pretty much every time. For the most part, it will be the same with tracks too. I’ll sit down, I’ll have a general idea of the sound of what I want to do with it, and then I’ll just do it. If I start at midnight, it might be 3 a.m. before I finish or if I get really hungry in between, I’ll stick it out. I’m really disciplined when it comes to that. I think one reason why so many remixes have just sort of come in the last couple months, has just been that I’ve been getting more. So I’ll get the tracks and be like ‘I love this song!’ I’ll just be so excited to work on it, I’ll just do it and get it done really quickly. It will just happen.

Do you know where you want to take it? Can you hear beats that you know you can expand?

Yeah, sometimes. The Yeasayer one, for example, that one came out of me just loving the last part of that song. The disco feel that it has and wanting to be like ‘I want the whole song to be like that.’ That’s basically what I did with it. A lot of times what I’ll do is listen to the song through once and try and pick out certain parts or certain melodies that I really enjoy and that I feel that I could work with.

Out of my own curiosity, do you get certain parts of the songs sent to you or do you have to go cut it up?

It’s a combination of both. More recently, because the remixes have been getting more attention, there’s been more labels and bands sending me tracks and everything. A lot of times, how I started doing remixes was just a lot of remix contests on the internet. The Local Natives remix was really good, they had just posted all the tracks online. I found them and decided I was going to have some fun, and it turned out to be something everyone said was good. That was just some free time I had…

I saw on Twitter today that You Say Party was all ‘hey do a remix!’

Yeah, that was cool. Becky and Steven live in Abbotsford, the town that I live in, and they’ve just been two of the most amazing people for this whole Teen Daze thing. Steven has pretty much done whatever he can to help me along the way. I think they invited me over for dinner recently, I haven’t gotten back to them about that… they just played their first show back in Abbotsford and I had shivers for pretty much the entire set. It was one of the most powerful live music experiences I’ve ever seen. They were just so good.

Was it really emotional?

Yeah, but even on top of that, there was something more to the music. I’ve always loved YSP, they’re the hometown heroes. If you’re here and you’re into music, you pretty much love them. I’ve always thought that they’re so much fun and such a fun, punky dance band. When they played the show, it was like this is music that is actually really affecting me. I think they’re just going to do some amazing things. They played three new songs and every single one was just a knock out. Their new record is just going to be amazing. Becky sent me that Twitter mention and of course that gets my mind rolling, like ‘oh we could do a whole EP!’ Now I’m trying to figure out what track I want to send to her and hopefully we can make something happen with that.

And you just did the Winter Gloves one.

Yeah! Again, that was another thing that was through Steven. He had talked to Trevor from Paper Bag Records like ‘hey this guy, Teen Daze from Abbostford, is just crazy.’ I have two You Say Party remixes that are going to be coming out on the remix album. He basically had sent me Trevor’s info and he was like ‘oh you want to remix this Winter Gloves song?’ and I said for sure.

Teen Daze is just you right? You don’t have a band?

Yeah. For the Western Canadian tour that I’m doing in the fall, I’m going to bring two friends along. We experimented with live drums and guitars over the tracks. It was really cool. It had a My Bloody Valentine vibe to it, which is really cool because I love them and to do anything like that is awesome. But it’s just me.

Yeah, I’ve seen Teen Daze referred to as a band.

I just like messing with people. My first promo picture was of my friends Alice and Greg. A lot of people would take that picture and be like ‘Teen Daze, the male female duo.’ Nope! Just one guy.

Is your CD out just digitally?

Just digital and vinyl and a cassette.

So no CDs.

No CDs.

Way to make it hard.

Yeah, that’s a whole other can of worms, isn’t it?

You’re just trying to make your music hard for people, aren’t you?

Maybe that’s the appeal. Maybe that’s why there’s all this attention. “We can’t figure this out!”

So you’re just going to get the rebellious teen thing going.

Yup, that’s the next facet of teenager-dom that I’ll cover. I’ll put out a punk record.

Yeah, your next album will be Rebellion.

*Laughs*

Talking Back to Parents.

I Don’t Want to Clean My Room!

Hah, are there any themes going on your album now? I noticed skateboarding is kind of a theme.

Yeah. A lot of it is based on experiences with my friends. A track like “Gone for the Summer” is about my girlfriend not getting to be here for the summer and then the part two of that is more just this idea of letting go of inhibitions and being gone for the summer and being someone else and living life a little more. I think that’s a big thing for me, just this idea of almost getting over yourself. The very last track on the record “Spin Around, Go Ahead,” we put these ridiculous vocal samples in there. That was me just having fun and I just want the listener to have fun listening to that track and not worry so much about whether it’s cool to listen to this or whether it’s cool to dance at a show. Do what you want to do and do what makes you feel good. In moderation of course.

Only five minutes of fun a day.

*Laughs* Maybe a bit more. Yeah, I’d say just the idea of trying to do something positive and put something positive in people’s ears. That’s what I want to go for in the live show too, having fun with people and letting them know that there’s love in their live and they have good things and we can be thankful for that.

Good ending note.

I totally planned this out.

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