TEEN's Kristina "Teeny" Lieberson: "We Like to Crush Ignorance"

Categories: Interviews

Shawn Brackbill

Naming your band TEEN can have some repercussions. Just ask Kristina "Teeny" Lieberson. While some might assume a band called TEEN might feature a least a few teenagers, Lieberson simply used her childhood nickname as the inspiration for a moniker. And there is nothing immature about the music of this TEEN. Mixing brooding, experimental rock with slight elements of pop, Lieberson (along with her two sisters) are on tour in support of their great new album The Way and Color.

Speaking from a tour stop in Chicago and in anticipation of Wednesday's performance supporting Phantogram at the South Side Music Hall, Lieberson spoke with DC9 about being in a band with her sisters and how sexism is still alive in rock and roll.

Is Teeny a nickname given to you by your parents?

Yes, my parents started calling me that when I was really young. People have always called me Teeny.

Where are you originally from?

I'm originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia. The band is based out of Brooklyn and two of the other members are my sisters.

What's it like playing with your sisters? Is there a family bond or do you get sick of them?

Kind of both. There is definitely a family bond that makes creating very simple and compatible. We get on each other's nerves because we are sisters. We annoy each other. For the most part, it's pretty easy because I think we were meant to be doing this. It hasn't been too much of a pain in the ass. We resolve issues very quickly.

Do people see the name TEEN and think you are five teenage boys?

Yes, we've had people expecting to see a boy band. Honestly, I started the band four or five years ago and my name is Teeny and that's where the name came from. I didn't think it through as to what people would assume. I have a completely different association with the word teen. Hopefully, we will have a big enough audience that we will not have that assumption.

Being in an all-female band, do you think there is still sexism in rock 'n' roll?

Yes, unfortunately, you have to deal with that. There can be a different attitude in the way people treat you. People act like you don't know what you are talking about and that can be very frustrating. Honestly, at this point it feels very silly. I didn't feel it nearly as much when I was in Here We Go Magic. So, it is clearly a different thing when it is a band of four women. As far as audiences are concerned, some people go in with these preconceptions that a female band can't play powerful music. We like to crush that kind of ignorance. That is such a silly assumption.

Many critics only compare Teen with other female acts.

Yes and that is ridiculous. We get compared to Haim because we are sisters and we get compared to Warpaint because we are all women. There's nothing wrong with either of those bands, but if you actually listened to the music, it sounds nothing like each other. It would never happen with an all-male band. It's sad to think that because we are women, we make music that sounds like other women.

When it is hard to find a band to compare another band to, that's usually when the music is interesting. Are you comfortable with your music being described as experimental pop?

I appreciate what you said. I agree that if you can't label it, it means you are doing something nobody else is doing. We strive to be just ourselves and when you do that, hopefully you will be original. I think we are definitely moving towards a pop direction. When people ask me what genre music I play, I say that I don't know. I just write what I write. We just create what we create. Structurally, we are heading more towards the pop realm. Fitting yourself into a genre can be a dangerous thing. We sound like Teen. What does Kate Bush sound like? What does David Bowie sound like? I feel like the people that I admire the most sound like themselves. You can't explain what they sound like. You just have to listen to it.

You were with the band Here We Go Magic. Why start a new band?

I actually left to really pursue Teen. I made a record while I was in Here We Go Magic, but I felt like this project needed more attention. I left Here We Go Magic to focus on Teen.

Are you still in contact with the members of Here We Go Magic?

Yes, Luke Temple is one of my favorite people. I talk with them and see them sometimes.

As Teen, have you played Texas before and specifically Dallas?

Yes, we were just in Texas playing SXSW. We played in Houston and Dallas with Hospitality and Eleanor Friedberger.

This time around you are supporting Phantogram.

Yes, it's a really big tour and we are happy to be on it. Apparently, we just got chosen out of a bunch of bands that were submitted. We were just lucky that they liked our music. We couldn't be happier about that.

How many shows have you played on this tour and have the audiences been receptive to the band?

This is the fourth or fifth one. Yes, it's actually felt really compatible. You couldn't ask for anything more. The audiences have been really, really friendly. We've actually sold some CDs.

Your new album, The Way and Color, has gotten some great reviews. It has been described as a drastic change from what you've done before. Was the change intentional?

Some of it was intentional and some of it was the band's natural evolution. We've been playing together for two more years and have matured sonically. The approach production-wise was certainly intentional. We wanted it to be clearer, less hazy. We just play better as a band, so some of that stuff comes naturally.

Do you read the reviews?

I read the good ones. I don't know, but I can be pretty sensitive, so I try to avoid bad reviews. For the most part, with this record, it's been mostly positive. That feels really good because we feel really good about this record. It's nice that people are hearing it like we felt making it.

TEEN performs with Phantogram on Wednesday, April 23, at the South Side Music Hall.

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