Check out this interview I did with Tim from The Teenage Prayers, one of the many kick-a** bands playing this year’s blogger-approved After the Jump Festival THIS SATURDAY at Studio B in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. [Buy tickets here]
Photo: Orianna Riley
QUESTION: What is the origin of your band name?
ANSWER: Our band name comes from a Bob Dylan song that’s on the Basement Tapes (the so-called “genuine” basement tapes) called “I Am Your Teenage Prayer”. I don’t think the song has ever been legitimately released anywhere. Currently the only place in New York City where you can hear that song on a jukebox is at the Lakeside Lounge.
Q: I read an interview that claimed all the members of the band were somehow related by blood. Is that fact or fiction?
A: My brother, my cousin and I make up the core of the blood relations, but we have a team of genealogists working round the clock in full faith that if one goes far enough back in our respective family trees, one will find a blood or marriage link to our drummer Kyle Wills. And the same goes for the newest members of the Teenage Prayers, Adam Schatz and Steve Espinola, and our original keyboardist Remy Weber (who still plays with us here in NYC when he can). Those who we can’t connect thru the past will be forced to marry our sisters. Actually, we only have one sister and she’s already married, so they’ll be forced to marry our grandmother. But that’ll be okay. She lives in Utah.
Q: Your bio states that the band has been influenced by a number of great rock bands like the Kinks and The Band, but
surprisingly, you’ve also been influenced by the cast soundtrack to Cabaret. Did you have a deep awe-inspiring moment courtesy of Liza Minnelli when you were growing up?
A: That line about sounding like the cast soundtrack to Cabaret comes from our friend Andrea Kremer up in Boston, who threw it at us when we were trying to come up with a one-liner on how we sound. I think what she meant was that our songs lean toward the theatrical – which is a direction I’m always looking to develop. But as anyone can tell you, self-description is a blue nightmare anyway; “the Jesus and Mary Chain meets Paul Anka”; “Hank Williams Jr. meets Smog”. “Otis Redding meets the Band and the Kinks and the cast soundtrack of Cabaret”. What they do after they all meet each other is anyone’s guess. Probably all get together and make fun of me.
Q: Who are some of your favorite contemporary artists? Do you have favorite NYC-based bands as well?
A: Our favorite rock and roller, hands down, is Mr. Steve Wynn, who is both contemporary And a New Yorker. We were blessed to have him produce our upcoming album, “Everyone Thinks You’re the Best” – without him at the helm, i know the record wouldn’t have come out Nearly as good. While we’re shouting out our all-time faves, we’d be remiss to not mention Solomon Burke, the Godfather of the Teenage Prayers, who flew us to LA when we were just starting out on this road to help us finish our first record “Ten Songs”. No one will ever have a more profound impact on us than He did. In terms of contemporary acts that we enjoy, well, there’s too many to list. Between the core four of us, we cover an awful lot of ground.
But i’d say that Eli “Paperboy” Reed is one we all love, and the Dansettes, who sat in with us when we played Celebrate Brooklyn recently.
Q: Speaking of Steve Wynn, I hear you have a side-project with him called “Hazel Motes.” Can you tell us more?
A. Hazel Motes was Steve Wynn’s idea – we were mixing “Everyone Thinks You’re the Best” up in Boston with Paul Q. Kolderie when he came up with it. We both really love gospel music and loved the idea of getting a full-scale gospel explosion together, playing it out – like, the most satanic, whiskey-fueled gospel band ever. So the group is all the Prayers, Steve, Linda Pitmon (drummer for the Miracle 3), Steve Espinola… as many people as we can cram on stage. We’re covering all kinds of outstanding stuff – Hazel Motes will Save your Soul!!
Q: As an independent band “that is doing it all on [your] own”, what have been some of the most challenging moments in your career, and what have been some of your greatest successes caused/facilitated by the fact that you have complete control over what you are doing?
A: All of our most challenging moments have been van-related — leaky transmissions, blown radiators, rusted oil pans. 6 months ago, the rear quadrant finally succumbed to rust damage to the point where the doors won’t close any more; on the van’s way to that sorry state, there were more than a few unexpected cockpit decompressions – 75 mph and suddenly the back doors are wide open, flapping in the breeze. Very exciting stuff. I think one of the most gratifying moments we’ve had recently, aside from playing Celebrate Brooklyn, which was amazing, was when we played the Viper Room in LA and Solomon Burke actually came to see us play. That was insane.
Learn more about The Teenage Prayers on their website: http://www.teenageprayers.com/