Having previously reviewed TeenCanteen’s new single the Sirens EP I was looking forward to catching up with Carla to find out more about who Teen Canteen are and what they are up to.
Hi Carla! Tell us a bit about who TeenCanteen are.
Who are we? Oooh well we are four girls who are all friends. Me and Debbie (Smith) actually met when we were 11. I then met Sita (Pieraccini) at Edinburgh College of Art and we were in a band together called Futuristic Retro Champions. Chloe (Philip) I met through my friend Duglas from BMX Bandits. She would come to our gigs and I got to know her really well. She eventually joined us on guitar.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard you before?
I had to do that quite a lot recently when I visited Canada for a Songwriters residency. Everyone was getting up and describing very folk, singer /songwriter influences and they were like “What do you do?” and I was like….pop, we’re a pop band.
I’m of the opinion that pop is not a dirty word. I am influenced by the classic songwriters from the Brill Building. I am obsessed by the girl group genre, specifically records that came out between 1958 and 1963. Which ties in with the producers Phil Spector and ‘Shadow’ Morton.
That Phil Spector sound is evident on your debut album Say It All With A Kiss, was that a deliberate nod?
I wanted to do a record that referenced the records that I loved so we recorded it in mono, but then do that in a new way. I love how Phil Spector’s productions sound almost like mini operas but condensed into three minutes. It was like, how big a sound can we get with just the four of us really? I was speaking to Stephen (A Watkins, Producer) for well over a year before we even got into the studio.
I don’t know if I’ve got a really old school view of what a Producer is but I felt like he was coming in to be the voice of the songs. He would tell us if we were doing something that the song didn’t like. I remember him asking if my favourite girl group was The Ronettes and I said no it’s The Cookies. He then immediately reeled off a list of equipment used to record those records. I was like, yeah, this guy knows his stuff.
My big thing was I wanted an inner lyric bag. As a record collector myself I love it when you get the lyrics, a record for me is the whole package and that includes great artwork. The t-shirt cover photograph was an art installation by Ross Sinclair from 2013 in Jim Lambie’s Poetry Club. It’s really nice to see something that’s been an idea in your head finally materialise.
The album was four years in the making and that was for a reason. We wanted to do it right. You only get one chance to make your debut album after all.
You have also worked with fellow Glaswegian Joe Kane on the project Ette.
Yes, I had been writing for four years for TeenCanteen and had lots of songs that never got recorded. I had demoed a bunch of songs and fleshed them out a bit more with some synths and drum machines etc . These songs didn’t feel like TeenCanteen songs to me. I was put in touch with Joe via Duglas and we immediately got together and recorded four songs.
I sent these songs off to Olive Grove records thinking that they could get some of their artists to use them. They suggested that I recorded 5 more songs and they would put it out as an album. Me and Joe then recorded those songs over five days. It was really quick and that was how we produced the album Homemade Lemonade.
It was really good fun. Me and Joe played everything ourselves taking turns and because he plays in Beatles tribute Them Beatles all the instruments were replicas of Ringo’s drums, Paul’s bass and stuff. We had such a good time and I made a really good friend too.
With the Sirens EP being launched on RSD17 did you be head along to your local record shop?
Record Store Day is great but I’m a year round record shopper. I’m a firm believer in supporting independent retailers. My favourite record shop is Backbeat Records in Edinburgh. It’s basically a converted flat that’s so full of records you need to leave your bag at he door to fit in to browse.
When I lived in Edinburgh I would visit regularly and they would keep girl group records for me for me to look at. That, for me, is what is great about an independent record shop. They can take the time to get to know you and your tastes. They can recommend stuff you wouldn’t normally listen to or know about. I feel I get that at Monorail in Glasgow too. They know me really well too.
…at this point in the interview we spent ages talking about the bands we love like The Pipettes and The Polyphonic Spree. Especially The Polyphonic Spree…….
Sooo Sirens EP then tell us about the songs on there?
It’s meant as a natural follow on to the album. The theme of loss being a positive thing and not an ending but the start of something new, something better carries on.
The song ‘Sirens’ is about taking that sound of an emergency and re imagining it as the sound that defines the starting point of you and who you become “let the sirens be my sound”. ‘Millions’ is kinda the same thing but kinda looking back and your still holding on.
‘What You Gonna Go About Me’ is just this defiant, fun cry of not really giving a fuck and ‘Starry Eyed’ is linked in with ‘Sirens’. It opens with the line, “I was reborn in my own tears”, again another analogy that things happen for a reason and it’s those things that make us stronger and who we are.
TeenCanteen’s Say It All With A Kiss is available now, on USB card, direct online from Last Night From Glasgow.