Even though Teen Canteen have been together five years, songwriter and vocalist, Carla Easton, remains adamant their musical journey has only just begun. “I would hate to say I’d ever established my sound,” she tells me. “Then there’s no point in continuing. I’d hate to plateau. You should always try to better yourself and explore new territory.” And her four-piece always seems to be exploring, bringing together sensual and wise lyricism, layered perfect-pop, and stunning vocal harmonies.
Easton, together with bandmates Sita Pieraccini on bass, guitarist Chloe Philip and Debs Smith on drums, grew out of an ever-vibrant Glasgow music scene. They follow the proud heritage of an area which gave us the singular brilliance of The BMX Bandits, Orange Juice, Belle and Sebastian, and The Soup Dragons. “It’s still a music city. There’s a great independent venue scene which really nurtures new talent and smaller labels.” As well as the support back home, they also received encouragement from further afield. As with so many bands today, the internet has spread their magic everywhere.
A debut LP, [Say It All With A Kiss], was unveiled last September and made possible by fan investment. Released on Last Night From Glasgow, the world’s first crowd-funded membership label, it revealed the full weight of the band’s abilities. “A lot of people were wanting us to finish it. It feels like it’s not just us that made it – a lot of people made it. It was amazing to see pledges come in from all over the world…” The finished work is a collection of beautifully crafted pop goodness, which evokes comparisons to classic girl groups and retro synth bands. Easton says she’s just as influenced by electronic music producer David Holmes dance productions as Phil Spector’s ‘Wall Of Sound’ genius. “I take quite a lot of inspiration from poetry, or films and musicals, or just things people say. Obviously, you can’t, as a music fan, not soak up some of the stuff you’ve grown up listening to.” Love and sadness are big themes, like any great pop record. It’s a captivating release, which ebbs and flows and bristles with both experimental flourishes and soaring choruses. A rather individual work, each track seductively draws you into its layers in a different manner.
From the glories of [Honey] and [Vagabond] to the odd interludes scattered throughout, and the electronic throbbing [Friends], the sound is unafraid to change direction before you think you’ve the measure of it all. Sure, you can hear shades of classic pop outfits like The Ronettes or The Chiffons, but Teen Canteen ambitions allude to a wider musical spectrum. “We quite often get the girl-group comparison. But I think that’s just the harmonies. But my favourite Phil Spector song is the George Harrison one, [All Things Must Pass]. I think I heard that one when I was 13 or something. But equally, with the synthesisers I’ll always strive to get the sound that’s used on New Order’s [Your Silent Face] – that icy synth thing.”
The success of the album has seen the quartet playing significantly more shows outside of their hometown, delighting those who’ve listened to their music for years but not had the chance to catch the Teen Canteen live experience. This sees them calling on Brighton’s Green Door Store on Thurs 27 July, a second visit to the city this year after their shows at The Great Escape. The new music festival saw them play two shows, including an outside slot on the Saturday under sunny skies – the perfect setting for a band such as this. Teen Canteen confidently release full, rich three-minute pop epics into a cynical world – and it’s a better place for it. “We’ve been pretty hard at it since July 2015. That’s when we released our single [Sister]. It was the first time people heard the production we’ve done with Stephen Watkins and got a flavour of what the album was going to be. It’s nice to feel like two years of hard work are paying off.”
Teen Canteen play Brighton’s Green Door Store on Thurs 27 July.
By Stuart Rolt