TEENANGER TURNS A BAD TIME INTO A GOOD TIME. Teenanger was on the edge of a precipice in the spring of 2018. It had been a weird year. The band had just completed the promotional cycle for Teenager, a sprawling, diverse and pseudo-self-titled 2017 album that was an uncanny reflection of Teenanger’s pending restlessness.
Teenager’s release also marked the end of the band’s first decade together. With a lineup unchanged since its inception, the members had become inseparable companions, and their then-new album was a testament to all this.
The corresponding tour was celebratory, culminating in a near-rapturous performance at Sappyfest 12 in a Nova Scotia Legion hall. The band was anxious to get back to Toronto and start working on new material, channeling all the positivity and inspiration from the last 12 months and turning it into an album to be proud of.
Instead, they found themselves creatively empty, convalescent from a months-long case of writer’s block that was unexpectedly placing Teenanger’s existence in jeopardy. They talked about adding additional members. They talked about breaking up. They struggled to figure out where the malaise was coming from. In the end, it boiled down to physical space.
Teenanger had been rehearsing in the same room for years now, sharing it with a revolving door of local musicians and toiling within the confines of a twice-a-week jam schedule. It was the literal definition of routine. The space was so firmly rooted in Teenanger’s past that it was sabotoging its future. It was time to move.
One Craigslist ad stood out among a sea of online postings. It was tersely written, and incorrectly listed as an apartment for rent, but two words stood out: “Music OK.” This was enough to prompt a viewing the very next day, and before the band members had a chance to second-guess themselves, a lease was signed. The space was christened “Studio Z,” a basement that spent its early years doubling as a reggae studio and afterhours club, run by the son of the restaurant owner upstairs. It was then left vacant, a space for rats and spiders to coexist in subterranean harmony. It wasn’t pretty nor was it safe, but it was affordable, drenched in vibe and offering the one thing their previous spot could not: change.
Teenanger moved in and immediately started working. Studio Z’s setup allowed them to install a fully-functional recording studio adjacent to its claustrophobic live room. Songs were roughly sketched and immediately captured, allowing unlimited creative flexibility as they multi-tracked, edited and reconstructed them into album-ready material. Little did they know, this newfound freedom would be a tradeoff for the perpetual complications Studio Z would create.
It seemed that as soon as one problem was solved, another would arise. The band dealt with vermin, two major floods, constant mold and a CO2 leak that, if left unchecked, could have killed the 20 people living and working in the building’s vicinity. Through it all, Teenanger continued to work. This album was shaping up to be different. Special. These things couldn’t get in the way.
Two weeks before the record was completed, the building’s hydro was cut off indefinitely. This would prove to be the final straw. When power was restored, Teenanger returned to Studio Z one last time. They made their final tweaks, sent the files to Sandro Perri for mixing, disassembled the studio and left for good. The two-year saga that led to the creation of Good Time wa
Good Time is Teenanger boiled down to its very essence. A lean and muscular eight-song album that is the sound of a band who simultaneously has everything and nothing to prove. It’s what happens when seasoned songwriters flex their chops in an environment that fosters boundless creativity. It is also Teenanger’s most fun album. Choruses soar to previously unattained heights, descending to a rhythmically fertile ground to pull earworms that will stick inside listeners’ heads for days. If its songs were citizens, they would reside in a diplomatically neutral city-state, melting pots of art rock, pop, dub, post-punk and new wave.
The music of Good Time certainly elicits pleasure, but lyrically things are more weighty. The band does not shy away from its commentary on contemporary issues. There are calls to reject societal norms, ruminations on humanity’s obsession with technology and warnings about our impact on the environment. Teenanger never gets too earnest, delivering everything with an irreverence that has been there since day one.
Good Time captures a pivotal point for Teenanger. The decision was made to take a leap of faith, leaving the confines of their past and moving into a space they could call their own. This allowed the band members to embrace a new way of making music and existing together. They may have almost died in Studio Z, instead they were reborn.