The tenacious pop-punk band primed to reignite Melbourne’s live music scene
18.11.2020

The tenacious pop-punk band primed to reignite Melbourne’s live music scene

Image by Jamie Wdziekonski
Words by Chris Lambie

Meet Mr Teenage.

Launching in 2019, Melbourne four-piece Mr Teenage were set for a busy 2020. Their pop-punk swagger and energy put fans on notice at shows alongside the likes of The Murlocs and Lydia Lunch. This year was supposed to place them on festival stages (Boogie and Meadow) and bill-sharing with Cosmic Psychos and Amyl & The Sniffers.

No matter. Post-lockdown, gig-hungry punters are likely to eat up the band’s cathartic and danceable live offerings.

Their EP Automatic Love is the long-awaited follow-up to 2019 teaser Bandcamp demo ‘Neighbourhood’. The four new tracks were recorded in Geelong later in the year by Billy Gardner (Anti-Fade Records).

Mr Teenage fuse together a tasty mix of influences, somehow creating a very Melbourne sound – the longtime home of each member. Imfeld brothers Nic (vocals, bass) and Joe (lead guitar) grew up in Castlemaine, raised on a soundtrack of folk, jazz and rock’n’roll. Both are self-taught multi-instrumentalists.

Nic is known as a compelling and frenetic frontman. It was a key element of his former band (Tyrannamen) who blitzed stages from The Tote to The Gaso.

Joe, meanwhile, is quietly proving to be one helluva guitar wrangler; the kind of musician that’s soaked up all he’s heard and ready to take it soaring in his own direction. Yes, you can hear the echo of Thin Lizzy (his idols) but in a new, Mr Teenage fashion.

Guitarist Carey Paterson played in bands in Canberra – his home of origin – with a music taste for the obscure. Drummer Nadine Muller was raised on a Ramones and Saints diet in Bendigo. She’s performed as a DJ with Amy Taylor (Amyl & The Sniffers) and in all-girl band The Killerbirds.

The four together bring a raw garage attitude to cannily-crafted song structure and style. Urgent guitars in communion, driving beats and strident vocals give Automatic Love wide and instant appeal. Riffs and rhythms get in your head to quickly resurface after just a listen or two.

The title track jerks and prowls around a serrated proclamation. ‘Waste of Time’ is as catchy as COVID-19. ‘The Loser’ sports the lyrical cheek of The Chats with an early ’60s feel while ‘Kids’ gets its stadium strut on, with Randy Bachman-esque guitar and killer vocals.

To celebrate the release, Nic give us a bit of a track-by-track rundown.

Automatic Love

I wrote this song in 2013 when I was living back with my parents after a very poorly-planned US ‘holiday’. I was in total limbo trying to figure out what I would do next and attempting to write songs while I wasn’t working. This song came after a particularly uninspired week. I was about to give up for the day and as I was putting the guitar down I kind of frustratedly hit a chord and moved my hand and played what became the main riff. I was like, ‘Well that’s something’.

Lyrically, I had wanted to make a song themed around a car. Marc Bolan wrote about cars often (‘Jeepster’, ‘Bang a Gong’) but never drove, he had a fear of dying in a car (which he eventually did). I also don’t drive and know nothing about cars. You can tell I don’t know what I’m talking about — I’m pretty sure engines don’t pump anything and pistons don’t work like that either. If I wanted to be cool, the song would be called ‘Manual Love’.

Waste of Time

This was one of the first songs we rehearsed as a band. Joe had written most of the musical parts and together we arranged them and got the skeleton down pretty quickly. Songs about monotony and boredom have always been in punk and rock music; this is just another one but, I guess, from the perspective of a square peg in an increasingly round hole.

The Loser

We were doing some overdubs and kinda messing about when I’m pretty sure Carey played the first two chords and our ears pricked up. This song was written and demoed within half an hour of that. I’m a huge fan of the early girl groups and bubble gum-y, doo wop-inspired pop.

Schoolyard drama and teenage romanticism lends itself to the genre really well when you think of songs like ‘He’s A Rebel’ (The Crystals) and ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ (The Angels). So yeah, ‘The Loser’ is about bullies. ‘The line “poisoned the other kid’s lemonade” comes from that being a semi-common occurrence growing up; twice at my school, kids got their drink intentionally poisoned… no one died.

Kids

We had been performing for a few months with our original group of songs. I looked at the set and thought about what sort of song it was lacking and decided on a fun and exciting but still basic song. This one is an observation of what people feel they have to do in music in Melbourne  which I’m sure is the same in other cities.

There’s so much social pressure in scenes and stuff and I see people jumping through so many hoops to fit in. It seems really hard. A lot of the fun goes when that stuff happens and music is really meant to be fun. Seriously, it’s only meant to be fun.

Automatic Love is available on limited edition vinyl and in all digital formats, including Spotify.

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