One of Vancouver’s best offerings Teen Daze has just released another beautiful record Morning World. Recorded in just ten days at San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone recording studio, the artist (aka Jamison) lures the listener in with thoughtful songs that soothe the soul. We caught up with him during his busy tour schedule to discuss his new album, the recording process, and “Abbey Road.”
AMBY: Your new album “Morning World” is gorgeous.
TEEN DAZE: Oh, thank you.
AMBY: When did you record it?
TEEN DAZE: I went down to San Francisco in October of last year to make it. It was made at a studio called Tiny Telephone, which is run by John Vanderslice who also produced the record.
AMBY: How long were you down there for?
TEEN DAZE: Actually, not a very long time… I played a festival the day I got in – or maybe the day before – and then we started recording. We were only in the studio for ten days actually, which is crazy when I think back on it now. The studio time went by really quickly. Then I hung out in the studio for about four days, and then headed home! So the whole experience couldn’t have been more than two weeks.
AMBY: That’s jam packed!
TEEN DAZE: They were very busy workdays but… never… there was something about it. It was this weird vacuum where time didn’t seem to have any effect on our productivity or there was never a deadline. We knew we had a looming “Ok, we only have ten days to work and get it done,” but I never felt any pressure.
AMBY: Isn’t it nice when it just comes naturally?
TEEN DAZE: It was amazing. My friend Simon came down with me and played drums on the record and also co-produced it, and we spent time rehearsing and making sure we knew the parts and everything… but a huge part of it was that John made the atmosphere so easygoing and relaxed that it was truly a pleasure to make the record, it was just so easygoing and fun.
AMBY: It totally comes across – it’s beautiful. Can you speak about how you hooked up with John Vanderslice at all?
TEEN DAZE: The label that I was working with at the time introduced me to him because at the time they were planning on re-releasing one of his old band’s records or something? It was a surprisingly “network-y” connection. But from the first time we spoke on the phone it was just like, “Oh this is going to be a good relationship.” The good thing about the studio is that it’s completely analog, and all the records get recorded to tape. And with the demos that I was writing, I just knew that that was going to benefit the overall sound of the record.
AMBY: Are you a perfectionist in the studio or do you like to keep some natural mistakes that might occur along the way (within reason)?
TEEN DAZE: For this record I was probably less of a perfectionist, but I don’t know if I would even go that far. I know friends that will work on one song for a month and invest a lot of time into the editing process. I like to write and record something at the same time and then say, “Ok, right, it’s good.” and then move on. In that process there’s a lot of looseness or you get a lot of the “happy mistakes” that can happen. But in past records I spent a lot more time combing over them and really trying to get better at editing. But ten days in the studio doesn’t allow much time for nitpicking or over-analyzing. We just made it and said, “Ok, on to the next thing!” You know?
AMBY: You probably got your best performances out of it, too, because you just had to do it.
TEEN DAZE: Yes – that’ s a big part of John’s process, too, is that he really loves those records where you feel the energy of the first take and the looseness that comes along with that – that’s what a lot of it was. A lot of the guitar parts on this record were just me playing along as Simon was recording his drum parts. They were meant just to be a guide for him to know where we were in the song, but we ended up keeping a lot of them because we thought they sounded great.
AMBY: Did you learn anything from John during the recording process that you might not typically do yourself? I guess you just answered that – sticking with the first take feel maybe.
TEEN DAZE: Totally. I think a lot of my music in the past has been a lot more computer based, and there’s a lot of limitations in the sense of “the grid” or this idea that you’re always locked in with a time and a click track… things can get very mechanical and computerized when you’re making music that way. I’ve fallen into those traps before, but John was a big influence on my ideas and process of having things sound looser and a little more improvised maybe.
AMBY: But it still sounds like you, which is perfect somehow.
TEEN DAZE: Totally.
AMBY: This album feels a bit more intimate than your previous work on the surface, too, and I think it’s maybe easier for the listener to get close to you because we hear so much of you singing on it. Was that pre-meditated that you wanted to sing more on this record?
TEEN DAZE: Yea. I knew that I definitely wanted to try and do something different from what I did on the last record “Glacier” which was much more ambient or spaced-out. I just always admired artists that can re-invent themselves, or maybe not even necessarily that, but just do something different with each release. I wanted to force myself to write songs again, and what came along with that was in the demos and home recordings that I made before going into the studio, it sounds a little more like a homemade teen daze record. So, there’s lots of reverb on the vocals and it sounds spacey…
I wanted to write songs, and wanted to write vocals, but it was really being in the studio and having John be like, “Let’s hear your voice! Let’s hear what you want to say here.” It sort of gave me that boost like, “Okay, maybe this is a good thing,” and I’m so happy he did.
AMBY: So what’s your relationship with singing now verses how it used to be?
TEEN DAZE: Vocals were always just a texture. It was something that just contributed to the whole – I never wanted it to be a focal point of the music. I think the biggest shift is that now I need to be a bit more prepared when it comes to the live set, because I used to only sing every once in a while live. But in this set, I think there’s one instrumental and I’m singing on the rest of them. So it’s a shift in getting used to taking care of my voice and making sure I’m doing warm ups.
AMBY: All the care.
TEEN DAZE: Yea, and even being conscious of… “How much coffee am I drinking during the day?”
AMBY: It’s funny hey, it’s like taking care of someone else.
TEEN DAZE: Exactly. It’s sort of thing that’s only come back into my life since making this record. But it’s good because this record was supposed to be more of an intimate experience, and I think it’s important that people can actually hear what I’m saying.
AMBY: Do you like playing with the full band more? Because you used to be more DJ-oriented before.
TEEN DAZE: I do really love it. I enjoy both sides of it… when I look at touring and performing… You have an hour onstage, but then you have like, you know, twenty-two and a half hours off of the stage where you’re either spending time with the band. Which can be really fun. I would say I enjoy travelling with people more just because of that. But I like playing by myself, too, because it’s a much more simple experience, you know what I mean? When it’s just me and my laptop –
AMBY: You’re in control.
Teen Daze: Exactly. I have a greater control over the entire sound. There’s less moving parts, so there’s technically less to stress out about, but the benefits of playing with people and having it be a little bit more dangerous and be like, “Anything could happen here. Someone could play a wrong note at any moment, and I can’t control that.” I think it’s a good experience for me to be able to give up a bit of that control.
But actually I’m very happy to get to do both. Even on this tour every once in a while I’ll be doing solo ambient sets for some in-stores at record stores, so every once in a while I’ll get a chance to perform just by myself. I’m happy that I’m in a position to do that, so I’m not locked in like, “This is the way the performance needs to be, every single time…” I think that would be really boring if it were like that, so I’m happy to have other options.
AMBY: Do you think about anything before you go onstage?
TEEN DAZE: Some people have asked me that before, and lots of people, I think, have this idea that it’s all about getting pumped up and really like, high excitement – like you need that energy boost to get on stage and have the confidence to perform. But me and the guys in the band are pretty mellow about everything, so it’s way more about how can things be as relaxed as possible before I go up there. I like being in a headspace onstage that’s more… I don’t know just, a little bit slower? I think if I’m up there with a ton of adrenaline and energy, I’m more likely to be scatterbrain onstage, and I like to be in a place where everyone’s at the same sort of energy level.
AMBY: One question left for you. It’s kind of like a Sophie’s Choice question. So you choose – “Abbey Road” never gets made, but “Kid A lives.” Or, “Kid A” is wiped from existence, but the Beatles make “Abbey Road.”
TEEN DAZE: Hoooooooooo man…. Ok… Jeez.
AMBY: Take your time [laughs].
TEEN DAZE: That’s weird on so many different levels, because that’s just like – we’ve been talking about both of those records a lot in the last week of rehearsals and stuff.
AMBY: They’ve both aged very well.
TEEN DAZE: Yea they have. Side B of “Abbey Road” is absolutely perfect. But “Kid A” is definitely the most influential. If someone were to ask, “What’s your favourite record?” “Kid A” would definitely be the answer for at least the last… I dunno, ten years or something. But I’ve been listening to “Abbey Road” since I was a kid, I just…
You know what? I’m going to have to go with “Abbey Road,” in a weird way, because if it weren’t for that record I probably wouldn’t be making music. As a kid listening to that record it was like, “Oh I love the Beatles, I wanna do this too…” and “Kid A” definitely took me from I want to make music to like, “Oh… I didn’t know music could sound like this.” It was a totally mind-altering experience, but if it weren’t for “Abbey Road,” then I wouldn’t even know that “Kid A” existed.
AMBY: And “Kid A” might not have existed…
TEEN DAZE: There you go! So I’d have to say “Abbey Road,” I guess.
AMBY: That’s a totally respectable choice and I appreciate it. Thank you.
TEEN DAZE: Thank you.
Thank you Teen Daze, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Rosemary Fairweather