Interview with Teenage Bottlerocket

Teenage Bottlerocket don’t want to be the next emo band to decorate your bedroom walls. Instead, the gentlemen enjoy creating music that doesn’t purposely define who they are as band; music is just what they do. With their sixth LP Tales From Wyoming already out, the gentlemen are making it very loud and clear and that they aren’t here to write for the sake of writing. Guitarist and vocalist Ray Carlisle took the time to talk with Cliché Magazine on their latest studio album and pulling out the best in themselves with a little help from producer, Bill Stevenson.
Cliché: Each record that has been written had come forth with their own personality. Your 6th LP, Tales From Wyoming, sums up the band’s work to date. How would you characterize your experiences over the years?
Ray Carlisle:
I would characterize our experience as to having a lot of fun. We feel real fortunate because when the band started out, we played a lot of shows in front of no one. Now it seems as though everyone is interested in us and when you have a lot of people showing up to your show on a Monday night, that makes things really exciting for us. We are really excited for what the future holds for us. Basically what I mean to say is that we’ve had a lot of fun and we’ve made a lot of memories.
Tales From Wyoming is diverse regarding subject matter such as topics like Metallica, junk food, relationships, etc. Do you compose on such an array of topics so you do not pigeonhole yourselves on over-saturated subjects?
Oh yeah. You know what it is? I find it easy to write “girl” songs or “love” songs; especially songs about a girl specifically in the negative light. It is easier for us to write what we call “bad girl” songs. [Laughs] Whenever we are done writing a record, at the end of it all before we go in the studio, we review it and go, “Ok, well how many songs are about girls?”  It turns out to be about half. The Metallica song is sort of a relationship/girl song, but we do have stuff like “Too Much La Collina” which is about junk food and “Haunted House” which is about a …well, Haunted House obviously.
One thing that made me laugh about this album is the fact that fans and critics always seem to mention that your album cover is now tri-colored instead of double. What’s your take on people pointing out something so trivial?
[Laughs] I mean, I guess I understand since our last five albums have all had one background color and one text color, but it’s nothing to freak out over. Tell the crying guy to stop! [Laughs]
The acoustic ballad, “First Time,” is a beautiful break in the chaotic diversity of subjects on the new record. The song was kept acoustic because it did not sound right as a full band. Why was the decision made to keep such a drastically different song?
I’ve always enjoyed playing acoustically. I wrote “First Time” and to be honest I was a little embarrassed to show Brandon (Carlisle) the song. When I did show it to him, I got a real positive reaction. Everybody in the band was real supportive of it and I’m not about to walk out on stage with an acoustic guitar. We are a punk band and we do not want to sound like that, but it is cool to do something different. In my opinion, the song turned out beautiful and we wanted that to happen.
I guess the decision to do it was really weaved around the fact that we all like the song and people started to say that we are a Ramon-core band. Everything is Ramones, but we have always had songs like “Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid” or with “The First Time” on this new record, where it did not adhere to that formula. This song is also proof that we are not afraid to dig outside the box when it comes to song writing. I really love the way the song turned out and I love reading people’s reactions to it. Half the people hate it and half the people love it, but I think it is cool!
“We want to sound like Teenage Bottlerocket with each new record and that is what we are going to keep on doing.”
Bill Stevenson and Andrew Berlin pulled Dee Dee Ramone inspiration out of Miguel for his bass lines. Was there any inspiration that Bill and Andrew were able to pull from you for your contributions?
Just vocally. I wanted to sing the best that I could. I put in a lot of takes for my vocals and I had to make sure that he [Bill] got the best performance that he could out of me. That’s definitely the most contribution that I had made on as an individual on this album. No one can sing like me and that’s because it’s my own voice and I needed to do the best that I could for this album.
Bill Stevenson kept a watchful eye and played his hand when he had to, but gave you all breathing room instead of watching the clock to write. Would you say that this approach help you all grow in terms of song structure?
Absolutely. We never worked with a producer that did that was like that.  We’ve always gone in and produced the records on our own. Andrew has been involved as far as takes are concerned, but Bill really jumped in there and said, “Hey, let’s try this song with this beat” or “use this arrangement for this song.” Not every suggestion that he made ended up flying with us. Sometimes we said, “No, let’s not do that,” but a lot of the things that he did suggest, we listened to and it made the cut and it influenced the album. We never worked with a producer that was willing to take the reins and say, “No, dudes, let’s try this instead,” and for the most part we had no problem saying, “Hell yeah, let’s try that,” and other times it worked out for the better. It was cool to finally work with a producer like Bill that got really involved with the album and helped make it different. We love Bill for that and we love working with him.
Teenage Bottlerocket has been able to grow without changing your sound completely or “moving in a new direction.” How important is it to you to remain within the walls of what defines TBR instead of molding yourselves to what others expect?
We set out to do is to write the songs that we love. We’ve always loved this style of music. I don’t mean to say that it’s not important, what I mean is that music is important to us. We write songs that have always been our sound and moving in a new direction with our music is something that we aren’t interested in. We aren’t going to come out with an emo record or ‘oh here is our weird album!’. That’s cool that bands do that, but we aren’t interested. We want to sound like Teenage Bottlerocket with each new record and that is what we are going to keep on doing. It’s something we don’t think about. We write songs and record them. That’s how we work.
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Interview with Teenage Bottlerocket: Photograph courtesy of Teenage Bottlerocket

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