So here’s the thing: There are lots of bands in Birmingham, Alabama. Always have been. Good ones, too. Rock bands. Loud-ass rock bands. But here’s the other thing: You’ve never heard ‘em. And why would you? Aside from the late, great Verbena and the recently reformed Man or Astroman?, very few of the Magic City’s finest rockers have found an audience past Nashville (if that).
But things are definitely changing. Acts like Alabama Shakes, Jason Isbell, and The Civil Wars have rightly garnered national attention thanks, in no small part, to the allure of The South’s rich musical history – blues, country, R&B… The South is modern music’s Fertile Crescent. Jazz was born here. Rock was born here. Sun Ra, despite his celestial origins, was buried here – and that’s important mainly because Alabama has a lot of wonderful weird.
Teen Getaway is part of that wonderful weird. The band’s latest album, Hits & Missives, is a fine companion through Alabama’s musical landscape -- one that travels the Lost Highway with Pere Ubu, Television, XTC, Throwing Muses, The Wedding Present, and R.E.M. as well as Hank Williams. There’s a little twang, a little bump, but a whole lot of what the band calls “Bubblegum Skronk”: Catchy songs battered and fried by copious distortion.
For a band that was originally conceived as a recording project, Teen Getaway has only released a handful of studio recordings. Ask the band about why that is and you’ll likely get a shrug and some mumbling about timing or luck – two things that are essential to a band whose strengths lie not in studio trickery but by ensemble playing. Together Teen Getaway writes songs that are often birthed by improvisation, refined by Oblique Strategies, and then pummeled into a well-oiled machine… Albeit one held together by duct tape or the odd piece of thread. But who cares? Hits & Missives was worth the wait.
Featuring 13 tracks in a mere 39 minutes, Hits & Missives is a record ready for people who are once again ready for Fenders and fuzz. . Despite the standard line-up of two guitars, a bass, and some drums, Teen Getaway’s every squeak serves the melody. The dual guitars of Janet Simpson and Jim Fahy lead the charge, but Andy Sizemore’s bass always carries a key melody, and Spencer C. Shoults drumming – both driving and economical – always find the right place to sing along.
Lyrically, the songs of Hits & Missives deal with a variety of themes and strange characters, including (but not limited to) drunken lunatics, stoned cosmologists, sexual deviants, occult dabblers, and fallen heroes. There’s also a song sung in French. With each song comes an anxiety that’s worked out via each character’s particular dialogue and its twitchy musical accompaniment. Some find what they’re looking for. Others don’t. All long for release... But, then again, who doesn’t?
A large chunk of Hits & Missives was recorded live over the course of cold weekend in January, with Simpson and Fahy later adding vocals and sordid overdubs. The songs were then mixed, slammed to 1/4" tape, and turned back into 1’s and 0’s -- passing through a vintage Neve console all the while.
When not tending to Teen Getaway duties, its members are involved in other musical projects. Simpson has created quite a name for herself thanks both to her other band, Delicate Cutters and her involvement in the latest (and greatest) incarnation of James Jackson Toth’s enduring Freak Folk ensemble, Wooden Wand. Shoults and Sizemore also serve as the rhythm section of one of Birmingham’s most beloved punk outfits, Nowhere Squares. Fahy creates rock songs and soundscapes under the name First Kentucky Post and helped launch Birmingham-based record label, Communicating Vessels (home to Man or Astroman?, The Great Book of John, Sanders Bohlke, The Grenadines, and The Green Seed).
Hits & Missives comes to the world via This Is American Music – an up-and-coming label out of Atlanta who have become home to fellow Birmingham rockers Dorado, Cosmonaut on Vacation, not to mention a slew of other fantastic rockers from the southeast (including Glossary – who’s mercurial guitarist, Todd Beene, still has the guts of an old Teen Getaway album hiding in some forgotten hard drive). Needless to say, the band is glad to be in such fine company.
Oh: One more thing: Don’t forget to play it LOUD!!!
released May 28, 2013
teen getaway is:
james p. fahy - guitar / vox / etc.
janet e. simpson - guitar / vox / etc.
spencer c. shoults - the drums
l. andrew sizemore - bass
produced by jim cifone, james p. fahy, and kyle ginther
mastered by daniel farris at denial labs
recorded and mixed by jim cifone at audiostate 55
additional recording and mixing by kyle ginther at comm vess
art by spencer c. shoults, james p. gahy, and shawn avery