Band: Teenage Bottlerocket
Album: Sick Sesh!
Label: Fat Wreck Chords / Edel
Teenage Bottlerocket's latest opus, Sick Sesh! was recorded in November 2020 at the Blasting Room (the band’s eighth straight full-length with producer Andrew Berlin), Sick Sesh! is a little bit rougher around the edges than the last few TBR albums, from the haunting “Statistic” to the panic-inducing “Strung Out On Stress” to the buzzsaw lead of “Semi Truck.” According to Carlisle, that was on purpose.
“We spent a lot of time on guitar tones this time around — that was important for us,” he says. “We made sure to bring the noisy, loud, irritate your fuckin’ mom guitar back. There’s a ton of intentional guitar noise and feedback. We dug up the amps we used for Freak Out! and They Came From The Shadows. This is punk rock, after all. Stay Rad! Is a great record, but it’s very radio-friendly. I wanted to do the opposite of that: Let’s get fuckin’ noisy.”
While the bulk of Sick Sesh! was written in January 2020 (with “Statistic” actually co-written between Carlisle and his son Milo), the COVID pandemic allowed for the band to take a little extra time for fine-tuning, and the resulting tracks are some of the most stylistically diverse on the record. First up, there’s the Templeman-penned “Strung Out On Stress,” the fastest, angriest track on Sick Sesh!, all about losing your mind during the pandemic. On the flip side, there’s the mid-tempo, melodic track “The Squirrel,” written by bassist Miguel Chen and sung by Templeman, that’s literally about a cute little rodent.
“He had too much time on his hands during the pandemic,” Carlisle jokes. “How did it become a Teenage Bottlerocket song? I’m not sure. But it has the best guitar lead we’ve ever written!”
Chen also wrote the infectious sing-along “Ghost Story” and the album-closing “Moving On,” which marks the first time Carlisle has ever sung Chen’s lyrics on a Teenage Bottlerocket album. The song, about the bassist’s decision to move from his hometown of Laramie, Wyoming, to Texas to be with his ailing father, demonstrates a new side of Teenage Bottlerocket that’s reflective, wistful, and dare we say a little mature. (“It felt good to sing that one,” says Carlisle.)
With more than 100 original songs already in their catalog, how does the band stay motivated when they’re eight records deep? “We’re always in competition with ourselves,” Carlisle explains. “The real competition is between me and Kody. It’s like, ‘You wrote a song that destroys everything else on this record. Let me try to do that to you real quick. How’s that feel?” And then he comes back and one-ups me. “It’s all about the songs,” he continues. “The songs carry this record all the way. That’s not to say there are bad songs on our other records — we have a hard time releasing a shitty song. But these songs are especially great. You know ALL’s best-of record where Allroy is dissecting a musical note? I felt we kind of tapped into that record in a great way, not in a ‘Oh no, they’re experimental now!’ way. This is a Teenage Bottlerocket record through and through, but there’s a lot of hidden elements.”
Carlisle’s pride about Sick Sesh! is obvious, but he’s not the only one who loves the album. “Fat Mike called me and said, ‘Hey, this is your best record,” Carlisle recalls. “I said, ‘Cool, thanks for noticing.’” With Sick Sesh! ready to drop, Teenage Bottlerocket will return to the road once more throughout 2021 and beyond, and you can expect to hear plenty of new tracks peppered into their already high-energy sets. Given that the band is already two decades old, is there any chance of the band slowing down? Carlisle shoots that idea down right away.
“I want to have the best next 10 years,” the singer says. “We’ve grinded the grind. Now we get to actually enjoy being a band, and not think too much about different ways to try and ‘make it.’ We’re riding this wave we built ourselves. I wanna surf it for another 10 years.” Well, there you have it: The three things in life can always count on our death, taxes, and Teenage Bottlerocket. But before Carlisle signs off, he has a question for all the fans out there,
“What’s your favorite Teenage Bottlerocket song?” he asks. “Bzzt! Wrong answer. It’s on this record, you just haven’t heard it yet.”
Band: Teenage Bottlerocket
Album: Stay Rad!
Label: Fat Wreck Chords / Edel
Let’s be honest. Teenage Bottlerocket has always been rad. Formed in Wyoming in 2000, they were rad when they released their debut album, Another Way, in 2003 and almost two decades – as the title of this eighth studio album suggests – they remain just as rad. Following on from 2017’s Stealing The Covers – which, funnily enough, was a record of cover versions – these 14 short, snappy and stylish punk songs are centered around the songwriting chops of guitarists/vocalists Ray Carlisle and Kody Templeman and overflow with Teenage Bottlerocket’s typical mix of humor and poignancy, silliness and melancholy. But it’s also the first album of original material that the band – completed by bassist Miguel Chen and drummer Darren Chewka – made following the death of former drummer and Ray’s twin brother Brandon in 2015.
“I'm definitely proud of it,” says Ray. “It's cool how we all came together through something so tragic and made one of our best records. I think Brandon would really love it. Stealing The Covers really helped us get back on our feet and it was a cool in-between, but this record was something we wanted to make as excellent as possible.”
“I think we all had him in the back of our minds while writing and recording it,” adds Kody. “I’d like to think that he would be happy with how it turned out.”
Recorded at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Stay Rad! – which will be released on March 15 – was produced and mixed by longtime collaborator Andrew Berlin and mixed by Jason Livermore. And in keeping with its title, it finds the band channeling the same riotous energy it had at the start. Its members might be older now, some married and with kids, but when it comes to writing songs together as Teenage Bottlerocket, absolutely nothing has changed. “We’re doing what we’ve always done,” says Kody, “which is writing fun songs and having a good time. It doesn’t feel any different than it did when we started.”
Not only that, but their infectious youthful enthusiasm has remained full and intact. “That’s just something we've always held on to,” says Ray. “I think it's pretty obvious whenever you see a band that looks like they've clocked in, like they're at their job right now. We've never really looked at it that way. There's always been a degree of excitement that's encapsulated us before we've gone onstage and it’s the same in the studio. We wanted to make something that our fans would love and we would love and Brandon would love, too.”
While “I Never Knew”, which was written by Miguel, is the only song on the record about a girl – “That’s weird,” laughs Ray. “We must have grown up a little, because we don't write about girls as much and when we do think about them it's positive thoughts!” – it’s still a quintessential Teenage Bottlerocket album. “Creature From The Black Metal Lagoon” charts the story of Norwegian black metal while also ripping on metal band du jour Deafheaven, “Night of The Knuckleheads” turns a Friday night out into a Misfits-esque horror story and “The First Time That I Did Acid Was The Last Time That I Did Acid” is an all-too-real cautionary tale about a bad trip. Elsewhere, “I Want To Kill Clint Carlin” is an affectionate yet homicidal ode to the band’s longtime roadie full of black humor, “Everything To Me” is Ray’s touching but hilarious tribute to his son, and “Stupid Song” is a not-so-stupid song about the drudgery of day-to-day life and using music to escape it. That song was written at the last minute, as was penultimate track “Little Kid”, a poignant ode that Ray wrote about his brother that charts the joys of their childhood together while also lamenting his loss.
Originally, Ray wanted to call this record The White Album – a nod to both The Beatles and Weezer – but when Kody remembered a phrase on the hat a former roadie would always wear, it just made sense. That’s because, like every Teenage Bottlerocket record, Stay Rad! has a good mix of the silly and the sad, but the overriding sentiment is one that echoes its title. It’s a reminder that, despite all the things that can and often do go wrong, being alive is something that should be enjoyed and that there’s always some sort of hope for the future. “Life will throw its stones at you,” says Ray, “and sometimes it's hard to keep your head up and be yourself. I've always thought the most important thing was having something to look forward to. And right now, I’m looking forward to this record coming out and playing some shows and playing these songs live. That's always the important thing – the next thing on the horizon.”
One of the next things on the horizon is a short tour of the US that starts at the end of March before they head to Europe in the second half of April. And as for their hopes for this record? Well, they’re both modest and ridiculous, down-to-earth and sky-high, hilarious and serious. But then, what else would you expect? “I hope that people check it out,” says Ray. “You're always going to have fans that are like ‘I stopped listening to them after Total or whatever, but there are some who stuck with us the whole way and I think they're going to love this record. I hope that everybody gives it a chance.”
“I want to sell a bazillion copies and spend all the money on useless shit,” laughs Kody. “But really, we do this band because it’s fun and it’s what we’re good at. We’re all close friends and I couldn’t imagine why we would ever stop.”
Infos zum vorherigen Album:
Band: Teenage Bottlerocket
Album: Stealing The Covers
Label: Fat Wreck Chords / Edel
It seems hard to believe, but the boys in Teenage Bottlerocket aren’t boys any more: They’ve been a band for more than 15 years, and have spread their pop-punk gospel across the world through a series of killer records like Total and They Came From The Shadows and an equally killer live show, one that is packed full of sing-alongs and circle pits. What’s really wild is that the whole thing all started thanks to a well-placed CD-R.
“The very first tour Bottlerocket did, we burned a spindle of CD-Rs of our music and would give them to anyone who had any interest in our music at all,” recalls vocalist/guitarist Ray Carlisle. “We played Gilman Street, and David Jones from Enemy You was at the show. We gave him a CD-R, he brought it to the Fat Wreck Chords office and gave it to Toby Jeg, who then signed us to Red Scare.”
Despite the rise of social media and digital streaming services, Carlisle knows the best way to connect to music is through one-on-one connections like that—and this helped inspire the creation of Stealing The Covers, the Wyoming punk quartet’s new album, comprised of 14 songs all by bands Bottlerocket has encountered throughout their travels, from groups who share their same ZIP code to complete strangers who passed along a CD at a gig.
“The idea first came to light 10 years ago,” Carlisle says. As far as I can remember, my brother Brandon came up with the idea. We just thought, ‘Let’s do an album of doing songs by our friends’ bands.’ But some of these bands aren’t even our friends!”
For example, take the delightfully named “Shit Fuck God Damn” by Bremerton, Washington’s Artimus Maximus, a song played for Carlisle way back in 2003 by a friend in another band. He has been a fan ever since. “We have never met these dudes,” Carlisle admits. “I don’t know their names, I don’t know what they look like. We reached out to every band, and they’re the only ones who didn’t get back to us.”
Other lesser-known groups Bottlerocket paid homage to include Canada’s Varsity Weirdos (“The Way I Know”), San Francisco’s Onion Flavored Rings (“I Kill Butterflies”), Austria’s the Mugwumps (“Alien Motion Technology”) and Seattle’s HEAD (“No Hugging No Learning”), all of whom gave their blessing for their material to be covered.
“Most of our friends were just fuckin’ thrilled we were doing this,” the singer says.
After whittling down their original list of 32 covers to 14, the band—Carlisle, vocalist/guitarist Kody Templeman, bassist Miguel Chen and new drummer Darren Chewka—gathered at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado, for eight days in early March to knock this record out alongside engineer Andrew Berlin (Descendents, Rise Against). This was the first time Bottlerocket had recorded together since the passing of Brandon Carlisle, the band’s original drummer and Ray’s twin brother, in late 2015, and the experience was as challenging as it was rewarding.
“It’s kind of complicated to jump into the studio and do a bunch of other people’s songs—changing keys to fit our voices, moving tempos around, running into stuff we wouldn’t have necessarily run into if we would have just written these songs ourselves,” Carlisle says. “A couple of the songs are weird. There are some songs we chose to do that were out of our comfort zone. But it was cool to go into the studio and take on this record together—everybody had their say. Darren started tracking his drums on Sunday, and he was done tracking his drums on Monday afternoon. He was a beast.”
The album will mark Bottlerocket’s return to Fat Wreck Chords after a brief but successful stint with Rise Records. As Carlisle tells it, there’s no place else the band would rather be.
“It’s almost as if we didn’t leave,” he explains. “We had everyone at Fat’s blessing to go to Rise in the first place, and we were really happy with the way everything worked out with Tales From Wyoming, but coming back to Fat is like being out of town and then coming back home. We just feel more comfortable on Fat Wreck Chords.
“It’s cool when Fat Mike texts me and says, ‘I fuckin’ love your new record. It’s better than your last two records.’ It’s like, ‘Awesome, Fat Mike. We didn’t write these songs,’” Carlisle says, laughing.
The band will support Stealing The Covers with a world tour this year, bouncing through Europe and Australia before landing back in the U.S., just in time for a prime slot at the Fest in Gainesville, Florida. Expect some of these covers to pop up in the band’s set, too—and maybe even some new originals.
“Kody and I have been writing a lot of songs, and we recorded two original songs recently as well for a new 7-inch out later this year,” Carlisle says. “We’re just gonna keep on rockin’ in the free world.”