Meet Teen Jesus & The Jean Teasers, who channel teenagehood into 90s grunge
On their new single Desk Chair, the rising Canberra group share a “tribute to teenage feelings” with nostalgia to rock’s grittier days.
Header image by Claire Warren.
Teen Jesus & The Jean Teasers are more than just a great band name - much, much, much more. Formed at a year ten sleepover after watching School Of Rock, the band are at the forefront of an Australian rock explosion (or re-explosion, depending on who you ask) via the next generation; the grittier, grungier heyday of Australia’s rock history (according to your Dad) reignited and brought forward into the future through four Canberra-based teens still trying to navigate the confusing part of your life that comes following high school.
That shouldn’t mean you should underestimate them, though. Their two singles of 2019 - I Like That You Like That and See You In A Bit (I Still Care) are blistering dissections of early love (and, in the case of the latter, love-hate) that sear with a fierceness of a band you’d expect to have been doing the rounds for decades now. It’s gritty and rough-around-the-edges in the most charming of ways, finding a new niche that works uniquely in their lane as Australia’s rock scene diversify themselves from the surf-rock revolution of the last few years, hooking itself upon the sounds of the 90s and early 00s.
It’s worked too. After taking a year off in 2018 to finish their schooling, 2019 was an explosive year for the group that didn’t so much as throw them in the deep end than catapult them there. They’ve performed alongside everyone from Northeast Party House and Alex Lahey to WAAX and Slowly Slowly and played slots at music discovery hub BIGSOUND - where they were a highlight amongst a festival full of highlights. They also played Groovin the Moo and Sydney’s leg of Laneway Festival, as well as touring the country with Falls Festival - where they helped prove that the future of the festival is most certainly in the next generation.
Now, a year on, Teen Jesus & The Jean Teasers are injecting everything they’ve learnt from the past twelve months into the next, kicking it all off with their first single for the year, Desk Chair. It’s a single that doesn’t veer too far away from how everyone fell in love with them last year, but instead shows their evolution through this increasing sense of growth and maturity. Their songwriting has become a touch more potent - Desk Chair is about teenage self-sabotage, for example - and their melodies richer and incorporating more elements, bringing together the realms of striking pop and grungey guitar-rock into one action-packed three minutes that doesn’t need any longer to showcase its charm.
“Desk Chair is a tribute to teenage feelings, and the problems that seem life-changing but turn out to be insignificant,” says guitarist Scarlett McKahey on the track. It’s an all-too-relatable sensation for those working out life following high school and/or study: Is the problem really that big? Or do you just not have the confidence to feel like you can overcome it? You soon realise that the things that seemed life-changing as a teenager suddenly don’t mean a single thing. “It’s about self-sabotage and wanting what you don’t have.”
Dive into Desk Chair below, and catch up with Teen Jesus & The Jean Teasers as we revisit their year just gone and ask them what’s coming up in 2020 - there’s plenty to be excited about in Canberra when you’re looking beyond Parliament House.
2019 was a big year for Teen Jesus & The Jean Teasers, which involved writing, recording and releasing two big singles and some big victories - BIGSOUND, Falls (!!), triple j Unearthed feature artist, Slowly Slowly tour - coming almost straight off the back of high school. It’s a bit hard to imagine being thrown into the deep end like that, how does it feel reflecting on it now?
There’s probably no way to describe 2019 other than being overwhelming! It was the best year of any of our lives, being able to play shows as amazing as those have been super surreal and pretty weird honestly. Every time we get an incredible show offer or play a festival like Falls we can’t help thinking how insane this would have seemed to us even just one year ago. We started off 2019 playing on a small side-stage at Laneway Festival and we were pinching ourselves the whole time because of how excited we were to be playing at an actual festival, so we never would have dreamt that we would finish off the year with the entire Falls Festival run! It’s frickin awesome and we are so keen to dive into 2020.
There were a lot of victories in that time, but one of the - if not the - biggest ones came touring nationally with Falls, which is an opportunity that often comes to acts yeaaaars deep in their career. What was that experience like, and was there anything you learned doing a full-length, proper festival run?
Falls was heckin insane! We are still completely in shock at the fact that we got to play, and we definitely learnt a lot while being there. The first thing we learnt was how short our sets usually are, which we hadn’t really thought about before. We had a couple of slots at Falls where we had 50-minute sets when we usually only do 30-45 minutes. This was actually really great though as it gave us a chance to play some of our older songs and get used to being on festival stages for longer than a few minutes.
We also had to get used to being more upfront with people and get ourselves sorted out!! It can be super-duper scary as an all-girl teenage band from Canberra being thrown into this huge, male-dominated, intimidating situation. Everyone who worked on Falls was lovely though and once we got over the hurdle of realising we were really playing at a major festival then everybody around us made it the nicest experience ever.
You’re jumping straight into 2020 with the release of Desk Chair, can you tell us a bit about this track?
Desk Chair is a tribute to our Year 11 selves! It follows a theme of teenage feelings and self-sabotage, basically just wanting what you don’t have until you get it and don’t want it anymore. As 16/17-year-olds, every problem we had felt like the end of the world but would turn out to be insignificant in the long run. Desk Chair is about chasing mundane forms of affection (hinted in the lyrics “sit at my desk chair, pay for my bus fare”) to cure the self-conscious teenage loneliness that every 16-year-old feels at some point. Angsty as hell but we like it!
It’s a single that, like your other work, focuses on this grungy, gritty rock sound - something really characteristic of the 90s/early-00s rock. Is there anything about this sound that personally - as a band - attracts you to it? Or even the era from which it grew popular?
You’re so right, we absolutely love 90s/early-00s rock and it’s definitely our main influence. You can tell from the amount of plaid tennis skirts and docs we wear. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about that era that we love, but we are definitely drawn to the unstoppable force of 90s rock gals. Some of the faves are Kim Gordon, Darcy Wretzky, L7, Kim Deal, Gwen Stefani, Bikini Kill, Hole, and of course the Spice Girls. They’re all so powerful and awesome but still so much fun which exactly what we wanna be. For us, taking the ‘rock show’ performance and throwing it in with some Spice Girls inspired energy is the absolute dream.
The new single also arrives with a tour, which as mentioned, comes off the back of a lot of touring and shows in the year past. We’ve seen your set before - at BIGSOUND- but for those who haven’t, is there anything people should expect? Is there anything you’ve taken from touring in the last twelve months that you’re applying to this tour?
We are definitely becoming a lot more confident on stage with every show that we play! Since we were thrown in the deep end a little bit with the gigs we have been playing, we had to adopt a bit of the “fake it till ya make it” attitude with our onstage confidence. But after all the festivals and tours that we did in 2019, we can safely say that we have the best time on stage and it’s starting to show. We really didn’t realise how difficult it was to play instruments and dance at the same time!! It’s so fuckin' hard!!! But we now definitely have a boogie or two up our sleeves, so expect a lot of shimmying from our live shows. We want everyone in the audience to feel comfortable and to create a super fun but super wholesome environment wherever we may be!
Then you’ve got a slot at The Great Escape too, which is a big one for Australian artists looking to break in the UK/Europe. What are you looking forward to there?
We have never played an international show before, so being asked to play at The Great Escape was so exciting. We have a few other festivals to do over there too so it should be amazing!! We are really looking forward to seeing how English crowds are and meeting some new bands with nice accents. We’re hoping to get to do some cute touristy stuff too, like how obviously we will need to go to the Dr Martens factory. Getting over to the UK is a huge amount of work for us right now, but we have never been more excited for anything in our whole lives.
What else do you have planned for the year ahead?
There’s nothing specific in plan that we can really discuss right now, but we are so pumped for the next best year of our young lives. We just wanna play more nice shows, see some bands and spend more time with our fave gal pals (by that I mean each other). Who knows, maybe there’ll be even more of us to see in the UK and Europe…...
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