Interview with ‘Teenage Love’
It’s 9 p.m. this past Thursday in October. Anna Lidell and Katy Gunn have just performed an energetic and quite intimate concert at Herlev Library in the context of the local Subkult 2015 festival, wherein we’re very lucky to get an interview.
Interview & Photo: Peter Henrichsen, Youth Culture Denmark
Right now the two ladies – also known as transatlantic pop duo ‘Teenage Love’ ride a promising rocket headed towards success with currently more than 80,000 plays on SoundCloud, loads of airplay, booked gigs and new ideas. It seems the only thing slowing them down is a lack of time as their project is barely one year old.
– ‘Teenage Love’ was formed about a year ago now. How did it all start?
Anna: We put one song on SoundCloud and also sent it to ‘Karrierekanonen’ (loosely translated as: ‘The Cannon Shot Career’; a radio program and website through Danish national radio featuring up and coming bands) and within 24 hours it was picked up and played on P3 and P6 (also Danish national radio stations). We became band-of-the-week, and then we were like ‘Okay, now we’re a band – right!’
Then we put more songs on SoundCloud and music blog HillyDilly.com and an EDM site picked up one of our tracks to feature. People started contacting us – radio, some PR agencies and also publishing companies. We chose the PR we thought was best, and they really were; Danger Village based in Los Angeles (U.S.). They got our music featured on various tastemaker blogs and even some radio airplay.
Katy: We released our first EP this past July (2015) and it’s now available on Spotify and iTunes in. We’re working on the second one now.
– How has the last year been?
Katy: I think we’ve had a lot of luck this year. Luck and just … things happened really quickly for us. We coughed up a few songs and then as soon as we put the first track out there (on Soundcloud) we got an immediate response. The same followed with new tracks we put up.
Anna: We’ve been doing a lot of shows in Denmark when together. We have played at Nakkefestival, Rust, clubs in Copenhagen, HeadQuarters in Aarhus, playing around the city. People have been contacting us to play gigs.
– And how does it feel?
Anna: It’s really exciting!
Katy: It’s fun and exciting, yes. The thought of being able to go on tour and play for audiences – make a living out of being a musician, create new material and make that your life – it feels great…
Anna: And to move people! We have had a lot of good feedback on this project. People either say, they get their inner child out, or they feel like they can be different, they feel like it’s just pure fun. Denmark is a very serious place sometimes. I think we need some cheerful music.
– Right now you’re playing in Denmark. Are you a Danish or an American band?
Anna: We are basically a transatlantic band because Katy’s American and I’m Danish. We met in New York. I was on a trip there, and I didn’t know anybody, so we were introduced through a common friend who wrote me on Facebook and gave me Katy’s contact. Then Katy and I met for a coffee and after about 30 minutes, she gave me the key to her apartment because she was leaving town – told me I could stay there while she was away.
– How come you became so close in such a short time?
(both Anna and Katy are laughing)
Katy: Because I liked Anna instantly. My friend’s a Danish musician and he just wrote me saying, “Anna’s coming, she’s a musician, she would like to meet you’. He didn’t tell me she needed a place to stay.
Anna: I know, it’s like Wow, that’s really trusting, you know?!
(Katy smiles and Anna laughs.)
“So I got the keys and had my own place in Williamsburg for ten days, which was amazing …”
Anna: So I got the keys and had my own place in Williamsburg for ten days, which was amazing, and then for about three years we’ve been traveling forth and back. Katy would stay at my place in Copenhagen when I was gone, and I would stay at her place in Brooklyn, when she was gone. So we weren’t really there at the same time. In spring of 2014, when both of us were finally in New York, we talked about doing a project. So, last summer in 2014, we went to my family summer house in Mols and just recorded a bunch of songs and had a lot of fun.
– How did music come into your lives?
Katy: I started violin when I was two and half … but that was because my older brother was playing and I wanted to play too. That’s what my parents tell me but honestly, I don’t really remember. I’ve just always wanted to make music (smiles). So basically, I’ve always played violin and I ended up at the Oberlin conservatory of music.
I was strictly trained in classical music, but in college I started to sing. I wanted to start writing songs – so I did. I started performing in music venues when I moved to New York City. At first I just wanted to play, but when want to take your career to the next level, you play clubs to get exposure and build your fanbase, hopefully playing for some people in the industry, if you can. Networking.
“You have to be self-reflective enough to figure out how to change, so that you’ll get to the next step.”
There were a lot of great shows and I had a good time. It was hard when I first started because I had another full-time job and not a lot of free time. You have to pay your rent, and it’s ridiculously high there. And then there’s the insanity of New York City when you actually live there – totally different story. On the entertainment side, in New York City you’re competing with thousands of other bands (and everything else that’s happening in that city – you’re competing with MOMA, art galleries, famous bands, local bands – EVERYTHING for attention, so it’s very challenging to be noticed at all. But you can’t focus on that. You have to focus on writing great music, performing well for your audience and having good experiences along the way.
– So you never had the blues?
Katy: Sure I did. You get the blues when you’re trying really hard and you don’t feel like you’re getting far enough fast enough. But it’s basically like this: you have good taste or you don’t. You of course have to start somewhere, but you’re always somewhat ‘bad’ when you start, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you need to get it all out there and keep moving towards good taste. You can’t focus on where you are when you begin. You have to focus on what you wanna become and watch your progress along the way. If you don’t get where you are shooting for, you have to change something. You have to be self-reflective enough to figure out how to change, so that you’ll get to the next step.
– Anna, it’s very common that Danish musicians start playing music as early as high school. Did you also major in music in high school?
Anna: Mmm. Yeah. Actually I also started playing violin, but I was never good so I admire people like Katy who can play it really well; I’m very impressed. I turned to guitar instead. That’s a more social instrument. After high school I just wanted play music! I saved up money one year and got into London Music School. I was originally going there to play jazz guitar – that was actually my goal, but then I started recording and it was so much fun, so I got more into electronic music.
– Electronic music. It’s a big step from playing the guitar?
Anna: Yeah. YEAH! Well, it’s a long story, but I guess the short story is that I played violin for ten years but I didn’t want to practice, so every time I had to practice, I played something else, so I bought my own drumkit, guitar and bass and amplifier and put everything in the basement.
In London Music School, a lot of the teachers were really lazy and never showed up, so I didn’t learn much from them, but they gave me the keys for the recording studio. It was an amazing studio where ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is recorded and everything, so I could just experiment with all this great gear.
When I started recording and doing electronic music, I realized it’s only a good thing that you do a little bit of everything.
“… the teachers were really lazy and never showed up, so I didn’t learn much from them, but they gave me the keys for the recording studio. It was an amazing studio where ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is recorded and everything, so I could just experiment with all this great gear.”
– What kind of music did you play before the ‘Teenage Love’ project?
Anna: I currently have a dream pop duo – I was doing this before Teenage Love and I’m still doing it. It’s more guitar-driven, actually, but also electronic. For Teenage Love I don’t play guitar at all. It’s quite different.
Katy: I had (and still have) my own solo project – I write, produce and record all my own work and release it independently.
– Tonight you played here at Herlev Library. How many libraries have you played at?
Katy: We only play in weird places (giggling).
Anna: Yeah, we only play in really weird places, actually. Last week we played in New York …
” … it was this huge hall in a warehouse space where they shoot videos – David Bowie had just been there shooting a video two days before we performed!”
Katy: We also play in very normal places – music venues like Rust. But for instance – last week in New York City we played on a sound stage – it was this huge hall in a warehouse space where they shoot videos – David Bowie had just been there shooting a video two days before we performed. It was basically a white infinity room, so there was white all around us.
Anna: We’ve even played in a pizza bar, and a living room in a house in Nordsjælland. House shows are a big thing in the States and it’s slowly coming to Denmark. Sometimes it’s even better, because you can talk to people more intimately from the audience – it’s more engaging in a way. When you’re building something up, it’s important to have this close relationship with the audience. We wouldn’t mind doing that more often.
“We’ve even played in a pizza bar, and a living room in a house in Nordsjælland.”
But I think libraries are really important, and they’re becoming cultural spaces. And it’s not only about the books it’s about the whole … having a place for community. They’re creating a cultural space and especially if you’re in a smaller city; how to feel the world other than to go to the library!? Of course you can go online now, but I realized that a lot of my close friends have almost grown up in libraries, because they grew up in cities like Bornholm or Esbjerg or places where they couldn’t find other people who liked the same things. So they went to the library to find some subculture in the world – to get out of their little place.
That’s why I like playing places like this: because you expose your music for people who would never hear it otherwise. If we play in a venue, people go there ’cause they already like the music.
– You both seem so confident on stage. Where do you think this confidence comes from?
Katy: From years of practice performing for audiences. I wasn’t this confident five years ago.
Anna: Yeah, I had a lot of different bands before and played all kinds of shows. There’s always something that’s not working, and it freaks you out and you don’t feel confident in the beginning. Or it can be that some people are out there and you don’t want them to be there, or you make a mistake and you focus on it, or what clothes to where being an issue, etc.. All these little factors. Once, you’ve played hundreds and hundreds of concerts, you don’t care. It’s just the feeling of being there that you want.
– What are your plans for the nearest future?
Katy: World domination!
No, just kidding… we wanna focus on writing really great new material that brings connection and joy to other people.
Anna: Yeah, that – finishing the next EP is our next endeavor. Then we probably want to work with a booking company to book more shows because it’s a lot of work.
– Are you planning to stay in Denmark?
Katy: I think Europe is probably a great place for us to tour and in certain areas in the United States, so we’ll probably end up doing that. I don’t think there’s any one place where we are ‘based’, really. I haven’t had a home base for several years as I’m bouncing back and forth between Europe and New York. We’re in Copenhagen a lot and in Brooklyn, because Anna lives here and I technically live there.
– The guitar-playing, elecronically-minded Anna and the strictly trained classical violinist and songwriter Katy could sound like opposite poles. Is it superglue or opposites attract? How come you work so well together?
Katy: I’m maybe the perfectionist and Anna’s the “Let’s try everything!” (both laughing) it’s a great combination – it works really well. But don’t forget we both do a lot of production and songwriting, so it’s not really opposites, just different backgrounds.
Anna: It’s so much fun! and it’s a mix between the fact that we have different backgrounds, but we also have kind of the same aesthetic and taste. We connect, but we also have different inputs.
Katy: Oh, and the fact that we’re both two female songwriters and producers means we switch chairs a lot and it gives us the chance to wear different hats – we never get bored. It makes for a great collaboration.
Anna: It’s okay to be playful and experimental!
– Have you got any advice for teenagers playing music in high school right now, wanting to take it further, like you did?
Katy: I’ll give you the same advice my teacher gave me: “You have to want it so badly, you want to kill for it!” Well, not kill… You have to really want it – and also, don’t avoid it if it’s what you really want to do, don’t go off and be a lawyer when all you ever wanted was to play clubs and tour, or you’ll waste a lot of time in your life and just have to come back to it later. Life has away of steering you back to what you really want, I think.
Anna: Collaborate! That’s my advice. You’re never gonna be the best one at everything, and also it’s more fun to share with other people. Even if you have some collaborations where it doesn’t go as expected, you’ll still learn from it! So, don’t sit and wait – just do it!
Katy: Good advice.