Teenage Bottlerocket. By now, you probably know who I’m talking about and, if you don’t, you’re missing out. Since forming in 2001, in Laramie, WY, the band has been on a tear, bringing a party to each city they play and garnering a reputation as one of punk rock’s most exciting bands. And with their fifth LP – second since signing to Fat Wreck Chords in ’09 – Freak Out! cooling on the sill until they embark on yet another world tour, they exhibit no signs of fatigue.
While in Baltimore for Insubordination Fest, I had the opportunity to catch up with TBR singer Ray Carlisle and get his take on the new record and being in a band on a flight-path to Jupiter.
On their latest album, Teenage Bottlerocket seem to have taken a different approach to songwriting, as evidence by songs that seem slightly less cohesive and love-stricken.
“We wrote most of these songs from titles this time. Brandon [Carlisle, drummer] wrote ‘Cruising For Chicks’ — that was a title before it was a song. It’s different and a lot of fun to play live,” says the vocalist. With songs like that one, “Maverick,” a tune, not surprisingly, about Top Gun, “Done With Love,” “Mutilate Me” and “Headbanger,” which any TBR fanatic should recognize from their live show over the past few years — and also off a side-project album the band did in the early 2000s under the handle SACK, which is essentially Teenage Bottlerocket after rounds of shock therapy – Freak Out! lacks a lot of the love-heavy material the band has issued in the past and perhaps indicates a new direction in songwriting toward more party-centric subject matter.
“It turned out that way,” Ray says, “but it wasn’t intentional. [‘Headbanger’] was one of [guitarist] Kody [Templeman’s] best songs. He wanted to add it to the new record and we were all about it.”
Aside from Ray and his twin brother, Brandon, Teenage Bottlerocket is rounded out by Miguel Chan on bass and Templeman, of the Lillingtons fame, sharing guitar and lead vocal duties with Ray. Since their inception, the band has demonstrated a very clearly conceived b(r)and aesthetic, from song titles to stage show to brand new, beautiful, custom guitars (made by Jason Ingrodi), which has set them apart as professionals and undoubtedly aided the band in gaining awareness. When dealing with multiple creative visions, this is not often an easy task.
“Brandon and I started the band. I would say we are responsible for most of the creative calls. We don’t force anyone in the band to dress a certain way. And, I think the whole leather jacket and Chuck Taylor thing is completely gone for us at this point. As far as the live show goes, we like it when bands have their shit together on stage, so we try and do the best we can as well. Sometimes it all clicks, sometimes it falls apart.”
Since their Vancouver debut at Video In Studios in 2006, Teenage Bottlerocket has toured Western Canada thoroughly, capping their Canadian invasion off last summer with a nationwide tour with NOFX. Thankfully, they’ve come to know and love our fair country.
“We love it there,” admits Ray, “the shows in BC and Alberta always rock the fuck out. We can’t wait to get back.”
Catch Teenage Bottlerocket at the Avenue Theatre (Edmonton) on July 20, the SAIT Gateway (Calgary) on July 21 and the Venue (Vancouver) on July 22. Freak Out! was released on July 3 via Fat Wreck Chords.
By Evan WansbroughAB, Alberta