Interview - Teen Mortgage
We chatted with James and Ed of Annapolis-based garage rock duo, Teen Mortgage. We sat on the steps of Shaw Middle School on a humid Saturday afternoon to discuss the band's Craigslist origins, the benefits of playing in a duo, Wiener Records, and more. Read our conversation below and make sure you check out their debut EP, out now on Wiener Records.
CSDC: Who are you guys? How did you end up here? How did you start playing music together?
James: Well, it had been a band before that I was in. I'm from Liverpool in England, I was living there. It had a couple of different names, couple of different line ups. I was doing that, had all these songs and then ended up moving here with my girlfriend. I was always gonna keep going. I was desperate, so I went on Craigslist and I basically met him through Craigslist. I just had a SoundCloud and he liked the tracks, so I knew he liked stoner metal.
James: So we kind of like went, "Alright, sick. We're going to get along then."
Ed: It was definitely like fanboy when me met each other.
CSDC: I don't think I've ever met a Craigslist band before.
James: Yeah it's rad.
Ed: It wasn't really like a planned thing. I have another group, and I just kind of was like "I have extra time, let me go on to Craigslist and impress myself and see how many awkward opportunities are out there." People were like, "Oh. We got a band. No people on drugs."
James: Oh yeah, yeah. I love it.
Ed: "Must be responsible adult." You can just tell how someone's been burnt in the past however they put themselves forward.
James: I found one. There was a guy was speaking to before I met you [Ed] and I was like, "Can you show me anything of you playing?" He was like, "No, I'm waiting because I need the right thing to record me." It was like, "Well, you don't have to be amazing just to do a recording of yourself. It doesn't need to be a fucking masterpiece." Then he's like, "Well, I have five drums. I have so many drums." I was like, "All right, bye."
CSDC: So weird.
James: I was like, "You're fucking nuts." I was like, "What kind of drums? What are you talking about? Toms? What the fuck?" Yeah. It was weird meeting with that guy.
Ed: I was actually interested in working with him [James] because I haven't been in a duo I think ever and so things work so much faster.
CSDC: Yeah I was going to ask about that.
James: It's so economical. You don't need any friends. You need one friend.
Ed: Pretty much! It looked really convenient. And the thing is when I first met him too, he had just changed the profile picture so it was just this creepy old guy with a pineapple.
James: I'm going to find that picture again.
Ed: Yeah so my girlfriend was like, "You're not bringing him over here are you?" I was like, "I'm pretty sure that's not what he looks like, but he might look like that."
James: It’s this old guy, he’s got a pina colada and he's smiling. It's so bad.
CSDC: Where did you even find it?
James: I don't know. I have no idea.
Ed: It was an odd choice.
James: Yeah. Anyway, that's how we met.
CSDC: So you met through Craigslist. Have you ever lived in DC, either of you?
Ed: I did, yeah. I actually went to Georgetown.
James: I did not.
James: The first show we played was at DC9. We played with a band called Acid Dad.
CSDC: I know Acid Dad, they're really good. I really want a shirt, do you have a shirt?
Ed: They got the Adidas ones.
CSDC: Yeah. It just says “Acid Dad.” Now the sound dude at DC9 wears one.
James: Yeah, it was cool. Them and Ian Sweet were on the same tour. It's like kind of Dream Pop-y kind of thing. They're very cool. Yeah so that was the first show we played.
CSDC: That was recently or no?
CSDC: Oh really? Wow.
Ed: We just hit the ground running.
CSDC: How did you book that?
Ed: Well, it's a secret.
James: Through the power of email.
James: Yeah, yeah.
Ed: It was good to ask.
CSDC: Yeah man, you just gotta ask for some things.
James: In Liverpool we'd opened up for Plague Vendor, I don't know if you know them, they’re from California. We opened up for Chastity, they had signed to Capture Tracks. Plague Vendor signed to Epitaph. It kind of sounded nice when I approached or whatever. So as to booking, I was just lucky that the tour promoter from out there had the say on it. I asked her twice, she was like, "I don't know. Because I can't pay you." And I was like, "You don't have to pay us! We’ll just play it!" She was like, "Oh whatever. You get a 20 minute set.
CSDC: Cool! I always wonder how that works.
James: Emailing, though. Email. Always email. Just email the shit out of everybody.
Ed: Usually you'll find somebody that books and you'll realize that the band that they're in shows up on a lot of really good shows –not to trash anyone.
James: Go off the Edge.
Ed: You know, it's like I’ve definitely seen a couple of instances where I was like, "Yeah, okay."
James: Yeah. It's totally a nepotistic business model.
Ed: Yeah. Any way you can, man. I guess. It is what it is.
James: We recorded, we bought a four track EP and I think we talked about that. That's coming out May 12th on Wiener Records.
CSDC: Yeah, I wanted to talk about that, too. I was like, "Wiener Records. What is that?" So I looked it up. I was like, "Oh Burger Records!" It's like a subsidiary kind of. Can you just talk about your experience with Wiener?
James: Having been a fan of Burner Records and a lot of those people for so long, that whole scene out there. I just wanted to be a part of that as much as we could, kind of thing. You know hopefully someone over there [Burger Records] –some cool people listen to it over there.
CSDC: You can buy into Wiener, right?
James: You pay the cost of the production.
CSDC: Yeah, that's cool.
James: Then they keep tab, so they'll sell a couple. They said they'll “hype it.” So I don't know what it entails. They're kind of really lax, like every time I get an email, they're like, "Hey, what's up?" They always start it like, "Yo dude." I'm like, "Dude at Wiener Records."
Ed: We're going to find out that like their away message, "Hey, what's up guys?"
James: "What's happening?" They're just like fucking California stereotypical.
Ed: A little crunchy.
James: It's great. I love them so yeah, it's cool.
CSDC: How long have you guys been a band?
James: Well I had the songs and I’d had a couple of other band names, then it was a two piece by the end of it. It's been going on for me for four years. For him [Ed] –we've been playing together for about six months.
Ed: Has it been six months? I guess it has.
James: Our first gig was January when we'd been playing ... We hadn't played that many times.
Ed: He was like, "We gotta play at DC9." I was like, “I still don’t know the names of the songs.” I was like “I can play them and stuff” but luckily he starts loud on a lot of them, so I'm like, "Okay, so it's this one."
James: He was like, "Oh we better get our shit together because we're going to go do this."
CSDC: And it’s just the two of you!
James: That's the fun bit.
CSDC: Is that harder you think?
CSDC: Because you both had played in different bands before, right?
Ed: Yeah, a lot of different groups.
CSDC: Okay, so neither of you had played with two people.
Ed: Not as an actual functioning group.
James: I had. I had definitely.
CSDC: Do you prefer that?
James: It's cool because for me, it was very cool because when I moved here I could just find drummer and we could just go, just start. You know what I mean? You don't have to fuck about. It's cool because it kind of limits you but then it kind of frees you up, too. When you sit there, you think, "Oh I want to change this bit in this tune." I don't want to play it, change a couple of notes or whatever. Then you have to go to the bass player like, "We're going to do this." Then they're going to go, "Oh but I don't want to do that."
Ed: It's one other person. It's like either we're doing it or we're not.
James: I just sit there in the sun and I'm going to "boo" and going to do it. He's just playing, so it's fine.
Ed: At one point I was like, "Sometimes this stuff moves super fast. It's like it a Jimmy John's commercial, you're so fast right now." Alight, let's do that. Sometimes we jack around then cover something like that. We know it. It's like *snaps,* "That's it." Pretty much.
James: Yeah that's the fun bit, definitely. The limitations become like freedoms, a little bit.
Ed: When you play with someone you're tight with, even if you're jacking up it doesn't matter because it's one person that has to realize that something changed. I don't know.
James: The stoner rock thing is cool, too. A lot of it is in unison so it kind of just works in that way.
Ed: I definitely reached the point playing with groups, where it’s like you go off and do all these super complicated things then you stop really being into that. You're like, "I just want to play shit that sounds good." Or that makes you want to move, or I don't know.
James: Yeah, like just fun rock and roll –that's what garage rock is, you know? That’s what I always wanted to do was like, fucking drink-a-beer-and-go-for-it music.
CSDC: Garage rock definitely has that vibe.
James: Yeah, it's just like ... I don't know. Fun.
CSDC: Who do you guys listen to?
James: Oh man. Recently I love Maths.
Ed: Whatever we play.
James: Maths is a band I really like right now. I like a lot of slower stoner metal stuff.
Ed: There's that one Sunn O John Coltrane mashup that's going on right now.
James: Yeah, Sunn O.
Ed: Sunn O and Johnny Coltrane mashed up, surprisingly good.
Ed: Love Big business.
James: Big Business, yeah.
Ed: As far as duos go, Big Business.
James: There's a lot of two pieces, though. Have you ever heard of Ed Schrader's Music Beat? They're from Baltimore.
Ed: It's very Baltimore.
Ed: They're actually opening for Metallica for like six dates, which is the weirdest thing.
CSDC: This is a good musical Education.
James: It's a sick cover and they fucking go for it. I like a lot of Brit Pop as well. Like, I'm a fucking shameless Oasis fan. I love Oasis. I love The Beatles. I like The Wars. Like them a lot. Great stuff. Beatles, huge into The Beatles. Let's see, anything else we should say?
Ed: No, at this point I just want to start trolling.. Tiny Tim.
James: Tiny Tim. The 1975 ...
CSDC:Don't hate on the 1975.
James: Do they not sound like One Direction, though?
CSDC: Don't knock One Direction either!
James: Fair enough.
CSDC: There is something to be said about both of those bands, okay?
James: Fair enough. They make more money than I fucking make at music, so probably.
CSDC: They're doing something right.
James: Yeah. They're doing something better than I'm doing, for sure. They're moving up, eh?
CSDC: I wanted to ask how you guys found your way into music. How did you decide it's something that you're passionate enough about to be in a band and go for it?
James: You want to go first?
Ed: You need time to collect yourself? I’m the one who went to school and shit.
James: I feel like I’ve talked too much.
Ed: I always kinda played. I used to play snare drum when I was a kid.
CSDC: Oh really?
Ed: Yeah, I mean I think playing drums feels really natural. I don't think if I would have tried any other instrument I would have stuck in it. I really enjoy playing my instrument. It led you into things you know. Someone always needs a drummer, especially one that's not terrible and an asshole.
Ed: Not saying I’m not an asshole, at just the right level.
CSDC: Just enough of one.
James: I remember ... I was really into The Beatles when I was a kid. There's a video of them playing, it's like 1963 the first time a rock band's ever played for the Queen. Queen Elizabeth. It was really big deal. At the end of the set, John Lennon says, "If the people in the cheapest seats would clap your hands, the rest of you if you'll just rattle your jewelry." I thought that shit ... I was like, "That's so fucking cool." Because it was like punk rock before punk rock came along. That's what I thought anyway when I was a young kid.