With a self-titled album coming from local minimal art imprint Moone Records, and by taking on a darker, more mature and full-bodied sound, it’s taking every effort to resist saying “Pro Teens are growing up.” Indeed, the sextet have come a long way since their singles “Puberty” and “Teen Feels,” leaving their pseudo-surf rock roots for more Roy Orbison or Mac DeMarco territory.
But as frontman Andy Phipps describes, most of the band’s psychedelic tunes still deal with immaturity in some way. “Randal Can’t Handle” is about drinking too much, “Gjeez Kjinny” is about drinking too much, and “Control” is an apology for acting out (possibly after drinking too much.) Yet Pro Teens are far from sloppy — their ecstatic grooves have a delicate, teetering balance — until they collapse into fits of blissed-out rhapsody.
Even mocking police officers on "This Cop is God" mixes their jangly harmony with narcoleptic synth. There is a distinct duality to the album, present in songs like “Mona” and “Lisa” and “I Wanna Die” versus “Don’t Wanna Die.” The band says none of the songs are about real people, except for maybe “Lisa,” which is about the Simpsons character.
“It’s about having a bad scope on how you approach women as a gender in a way,” Phipps explains. “But it’s also about like a fan of The Simpsons who sees Lisa porn and then he can’t see her the same way.”
I met four of the guys in the cluttered, instrument-filled living room of the north Central Phoenix house where three of the band members reside. The boogie bungalow also serves as a practice space for other bands, including Jerusafunk and Wolvves. The guys are cooking pesto pasta and playing Smash Bros — it feels more like a family arrangement than just musicians hanging out.
Most of the album was recorded in this very house by Eamon Ford of the band Lai. The band claims it’s their first-ever physical release, until they remember the split cassette they did with Boss Frog that came out on both Rubber Brother Records and Lolipop Records last year.
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that,” Phipps says. “Please mention that we forgot about that.”
Even while Michael Coto, who couldn’t join us for the interview, is solely responsible for the bands’ lyrics, which Phipps then sings, for the six members of Pro Teens, each role is constantly shifting. During live sets, they swap instruments, most have taken turns writing a song, and all contributions are debated between them as a group. So it’s not exactly accurate to say, for example, Isaac "Ike" Parker plays guitar or his brother Zach Parker plays bass.
“It’s an amalgam of everything,” Matt Tanner, who mostly plays drums, says. “Everyone that has an idea gets played. We at least try it out.”
“We talk about the lyrics, we have like a steam session or something. Not like a sauna or anything, but we’ll start the shower,” Phipps giggles. “But yeah, we consult. We make our brains sweat together.”
“All of the songs are about juvenile stuff,” Phipps continues. “I don’t think it’s that deep.”
“But it’s not shallow either,” I say. “It’s not a shitty pop song. But there’s nothing wrong with a shitty pop song, either.
“That’s true,” Phipps says dryly. “I want to get shittier.”
Pro Teens is not the only band with this name, but the Phoenix outfit has no plans to give up their title. Pro Teens are more upset about other institutions that share the name, including a surgical weight loss program specifically designed for teenagers called PRO-Teens.
“I got into a twitter fight with that guy like a year ago,” Tanner says. “And I was mean. Pudgy kids, making them feel bad, like they need to change themselves with surgery. I don’t like that. Love yourselves, teens … I was probably a little meaner [to PRO-Teens] than I should have been…”
“No, fuck that!” Ike Parker shouts from across the room.
“Fuck that. You’re right,” Tanner says. “This guy is a fucking prick.”
“There’s also a church group,” Phipps says.
“Those guys are fine,” Tanner shrugs.
“We should fuck with them,” Phipps giggles.
“I think we should, too,” Tanner says. “Hey, we got a soundtrack for your next séance. Is that what they do in church? Séances?”
At this point, Chris Del Favero bursts through the front door with Jessie Demaree. The couple, who together front Jerusafunk, are roommates with the Parker brothers, but Del Favero is also Pro Teens’ multi-faceted percussionist. He is often seen bobbing around stage with a tambourine, vibraslap, or many other shaky, handheld instruments. He wasn’t originally in Pro Teens, back when they were a five-piece, so I asked Del Favero how he joined.
“I would just sneak in my room and play the tambourine,” Del Favero explains nonchalantly. “I slowly worked my way through the hallway.”
“It was like a two-month fade-in, it was amazing,” Ike Parker says. “All of a sudden he was there and he was loud as fuck.”
Regarding plans for the future, the band loosely hints at a spring break tour. The new album will be on CD and cassette and perhaps vinyl is on the horizon.
“Moone does vinyl,” Phipps says, “but we might have to grease them really good.”
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“I’ll suck as many toes as I have to get this thing out on something physical,” Tanner says.
Joining Pro Teens at Tempe Hostile will be Red Tank, Lai and Nanami Ozone.
Pro Teens is scheduled to perform Saturday, October 3, at Tempe Hostile.
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