Teens in Trouble, a Raleigh-based indie-rock project led by Lizzie Killian, gained traction in the Triangle’s music scene after the band’s performance at WKNC’s Double Barrel Benefit earlier this month. Through the project, Killian has found a space to branch out, experiment and hone her musical abilities.
Killian, a California native who moved to Raleigh in 2020, said she has been in bands since she started high school. Teens in Trouble was first established in 2015 with the release of Killian’s single, “Santa Monica.” Since then, the band has put out two singles and a self-titled EP.
“The first song that I put out with ‘Santa Monica’ sounds funny,” Killian said. “It's weird, because it felt like my first time taking the lead in songwriting and really making the song the way that I wanted it to sound.”
Killian said the gap between her first single and the rest of her music is because of trouble finding a balance between her work and artistic life. She said the pandemic gave her a chance to buckle down and develop her artistic skills through online songwriting workshops and voice training.
“Every week we would meet and just do some writing prompts and share works, share songs that we're working on each week,” Killian said. “There was this nice accountability. It'd be like, ‘Okay, I had to write a song.’ Where, before all that, I used to wait for inspiration to hit when writing music. What I've been learning over the past few years, it's just like writing every day, even if it's bad. … A lot of the stuff that I've written will never see the light of day, but that's fine.”
Killian said Teens in Trouble has given her a space to experiment with her vocal range and different styles of music.
“I've been in a lot of rock bands where all we do really is yell,” Killian said. “I've had to actually learn how to sing. … Over the years, I've learned I'm gonna try to sing things that aren't too hard for me and really learn what my range is and be fine with that and just feel comfortable with my own voice so that I can just focus on what the message is versus techniques.”
Teens in Trouble is signed under Asian Man Records, a small independent record label based in Monte Sereno, California. Through the label, Killian met Randy Moore, the band’s producer, recording bass guitarist and additional guitarist.
Being a Raleigh-based band that operates in California, Teens in Trouble has two different lineups, one for recording and the other for touring.
Killian said her live lineup consists of drummer Pat Stovall and bass guitarist Fikri Yucel, both local musicians Killian connected with through mutual friends.
The band’s recording lineup consists of Killian and Moore along with lead guitarist Mike Huguenor and drummer Henry Chadwick.
Moore said Huguenor plays guitar for musician Jeff Rosenstock, who happens to be a big influence on himself and Killian. Coincidentally, Moore wrote a guitar solo for “Old Starnes Cove Road” in the style of Huguenor without knowing Huguenor would be playing it in the future.
“We had this really big fuzzy Weezer-type, kind of slow jam that sometimes Rosenstock leans on also,” Moore said. “I tried to come up with my best Jeff Rosenstock lead line there, and then when Lizzie started doing the Teens in Trouble stuff out here and she had Mike Huguenor, who plays guitar for Jeff Rosenstock, play that line, it made me laugh because it's just like me trying to replicate Rosenstock being played by Jeff Rosenstock.”
The project’s songs are centered around experiences Killian had and feelings associated with them. Killian likened her songs to journal entries and bookmarks in her life.
For instance, Killian said she came up with the lyrics for the single “Decomposing” while gardening. The cheery song creates a space for listeners to infer and reflect on their own mortality and come to terms with it.
“That one just came to me when I was gardening, and it's interesting, because that song, taken literally, is about gardening,” Killian said. “But if you dig deeper, I feel like it could also be interpreted as just how finite our lifespan is and kind of this existential crisis kind of thing. But, I was literally in my backyard, taking up dry leaves and putting them in compost, and I just started humming what would become the chorus of that song.”
Killian said garage-rock bands like Weezer, Thee Oh Sees and The King Khan & BBQ Show are some of her biggest influences in terms of Teens in Trouble’s sound, but is hesitant to associate the project with a specific genre.
“I feel like normally I'd be like, ‘Oh, it's a little indie punk and alt rock and some indie pop.’ But, you know, I feel like after saying that so many times it seems sort of meaningless because it could be a lot of things,” Killian said. “It's hard to be tied into [a genre] when you're sort of just still exploring what you're doing. So everybody I do tell I’m like ‘It's fuzzed-out indie rock for dog people.’”
Killian is touring the east coast in March with Tierney Tough of The Pauses, and performing a solo set at Schoolkids Records in Raleigh March 1 with Tierney Tough, Plastic Flamingos and My Sister Maura. Tickets can be purchased from the band’s website.
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