Every [two weeks?] Jamie Hale takes a long, hard look at the music industry and the blog scene that feeds it. Here, he releases those findings and makes snarky, sarcastic remarks. Admittedly, both Jamie and Knox Road are a part of this scene. So sue us.
The other day I was listening to “Drugs,” by Black Lips when the message of the song really set in.
The track jump starts: “Rad attitude and my nose is a runny / I like you lots but you think that I’m a dummy / Can I pick you up with me and my buddies and chill.” We’re immediately introduced to some sort of juvenile delinquent, looking for nothing but a good time. But it goes so much deeper than that.
The song continues with the same delinquency: “We’ll hammer down in my Plymouth Barracuda / Huffin’ and a puffin’ on that BC Buddha / Don’t worry ’bout it sugar you’ve got nothing to lose.” But after “Drugs” winds down its chorus dedicated to all things fun and destructive, it crescendos with the real message of the song: “We’ll laugh about this tomorrow / It’s times like this I hope will follow.”
It’s that line that struck a chord inside me. While I’ve never been the skateboarding, get-drunk-and-smash-your-gear kind of guy, I’ve always had an appreciation for the passion and sheer audacity of the guys in that scene. The people in “Drugs” might be out to get high and drive fast, but in the end they’re just trying to make the best out of life, no matter what. But who are these people?
Last month, out of nowhere, I met them.
The band’s name is TEENS, and like the people in “Drugs,” they’ve gained a reputation around Boise for being raucous and destructive, all while playing their incredibly tight form of ’60s-inspired basement surf-rock. I sat in frontman Dave Wood’s Pocatello, Idaho home, as the guys talked about their storied past.
“We were too drunk to play, like on the ground, everyone’s like, ‘Eeehhhhllllggghhhh,’ like I was out of tune the whole time,” Wood said of a TEENS show at Boise’s Red Room. The four friends said their shows usually entail more than a few beers before, during and after their sets, and when that cocktail of booze and bonding takes center stage it tends to get a little out of hand.
TEENS even claim to be banned from The Knitting Factory, one of Boise’s biggest venues, but they can’t exactly remember the reason. It could have been the stage diving (an act banned at the venue, they said), but then again it could have just been the public displays of debauchery. Or it could have been the slip ‘n slide they made with beer.
But Wood said the wild shows aren’t exactly what they seem. “It’s not intentional, it’s like we’re hanging out,” he said. “This is what we would do if we didn’t play music.” His comment struck me. I probed further.
Bassist Gabriel Rudow told me while the band members are all great friends, they’re in sort of a long-distance relationship: He and lead guitarist Chris Kolody live in Boise, but Wood lives nearly four hours away in Pocatello, while drummer Chris Robinson lives about 14 hours away in Medicine Hat, Alberta. All four might be destructive hooligans as TEENS, but individually they’re just guys entering the more-adult stage of their lives, starting careers and getting married. The music gig isn’t a way of life–it’s an inevitable byproduct of their rare rendezvous.
“We’ve had a lot of resistance,” Rudow said. “That’s why when we play and we finally get to play together it’s like so powerful and energetic because we’re doing it, we’re finally doing it, you know?”
Robinson, who had the biggest reason to agree, agreed. “We live normal lives, so to be able to get together and play music and get rowdy and party, it’s a release, it’s something that you can absolutely look forward to,” he said.
When a lot of people see a rowdy band like TEENS or hear a similarly-themed song like “Drugs,” they’re quick to dismiss the themes as immature and juvenile. But how can you not have a soft spot in your heart for these guys? Sure, they smashed their instruments at a SXSW set this year and sure, they once destroyed a floor tom with a skateboard. (It’s even rumored that the Knitting Factory asked the Boise Fire Department to bring in the hose on the guys.)
But shouldn’t we overlook, or at least look past the juvenile antics to see the earnest heart of this ilk? The skate-surf-basement-rock scene shouldn’t be just about the stage diving and drunkenly-slurred lyrics, it should be about the intentions and motivations at the core of their songs.
As “Drugs” winds down, after more verses full of weed and cars, they push the real message of the song all the way home, and it’s a message with which TEENS could agree: “We’ll laugh about this tomorrow / Times like this I hope will follow me / I hope they follow me / I hope the follow me / I hope they follow me.”
NOTE: The interview with TEENS was first published in a story I wrote for The Bannock Alternative, a newspaper out of Pocatello.