Pro Teens is a band from Phoenix, Arizona formed just last year. Ranging in age from 23 to 26, many of them have been a part of the local Phoenix scene for the better part of the past decade, playing in projects like The Wavelengths, Jerusafunk, and Drive-By Doug. Frontman Andy Phipps organized the ensemble, which includes Matt Tanner on drums, Michael Coto and Molly W. on guitar and keys, Molly J on bass, and Chris Del Favero as their self-described “first tambourine player.” Their first EP, stylized ~everything so far~ <3 includes the tracks “Puberty” and “Teen Feelz,” both of which were featured on a split release (put out by Rubber Brother and Lolipop Records) with fellow local favorites Boss Frogs. Pro Teens' forthcoming LP Accidentally is due somewhere around late April or early May, and Phipps hints that the band is planning on packing in thirteen to fourteen tracks. “It’s a serious length. We’re not fucking around” he says, before joking self-deprecatingly that the record is a lot of “flailing arms” and “shitty noises.” Phipps can afford to laugh his music off though, because the four tracks the group has released so far are nothing short of impressive. And for their full-length, they've got an exciting set of ears behind the boards with Eamon Ford recording and producing all the new tracks for the release.
The band started out as primarily a live act, letting their performances shape the direction and sound of their songs. There’s no planned aesthetic, Phipps says at one point: “we don't deliberate and say ‘this is how we’re gonna do it, let’s try it make and sound like this.’” And the group writes their songs cooperatively—or so says Phipps. Over the phone, in the background, a member shouts “Bullshit.” Phipps laughs. “I’ve just been lying this whole time,” he says. “We’re all really from Virginia. I mean, I’ve got a cousin who lives in Phoenix and I heard it was tight but really we’re just from a small town in Virginia.”
Despite their lack of planning, Pro Teen’s sound is far from scattered or disjointed. Phipps describes it as deeply personal music, pop to be specific:
Rare Candy: Twenty years ago, pop was a really demonized term in the underground, and now it seems like bands are increasingly self-branding with that label. Which is strikes me as really great in some ways but also as meaning that the genre term is getting significantly stretched. Why would you identify as a pop act rather than a rock group?
Phipps: I’m not sure if I know the difference between a pop song and a rock song. There’s an unspeakable adhesiveness and catchiness about pop music I guess. Programmed in a way. It just sticks to you - pop has a melody that sticks rather than challenges. It’s always been about melody too, though nowadays it seems like it’s become all about production. “Pop” taken literally just means whatever is popular, and right now that means house beats, so I don’t know.
RC: I’m curious: you have also have a very classic sound, and surf rock itself, which you pull from, is a very nostalgic, California-pining genre. I’m curious how you see yourself as a contemporary band tapping into these foreign eras and geographies? Unless you think that’s a bullshit question, which is also fair.
Phipps: No, I don’t, I don’t think that’s a bullshit question. I listen to the R&B station station a lot. I don’t have CDs or an Aux cable in my car so I listen to the R&B station always, or the oldies. Motown, 104.3, Xavier the X-Man on Sunday mornings. So yeah, I definitely am digging for another time in the pop music I listen to.
RC: What are your release plans for Accidentally? I’m curious what your thoughts are on the value of music, on giving away versus charging for music. Do you think the piracy and pay-what-you-want culture devalues the worth of the art or isn’t a big deal?
Phipps: We’re talking to Wyatt of Lolipop right now, but we might self-release. Most music I think should be free. We’ll come up with some other bullshit way to make money. There should be somewhere to pay, but if not, no obligation. Like In Rainbows. Like In Rainbows.
RC: You’re exiled from civilization for the rest of your life. You can bring one musician, one book, and one record with you.
Del Favero: Instead of an album, the song “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” by Michael Bolton. Musician or famous person I’m going with Nelson Mandela. And then Story of the Eye by George Bataille.
Phipps: Fred Durst, Chocolate Starfish and Hot Dog Flavored Water by Limp Bizkit. If I go with a movie it sounds like I don’t read books. But Dracula 2000.
Coto: I’m bringing Nat King Cole. For the book, I think some sort of optical illusions book. And for the record probably Sgt. Pepper’s. That’ll last me a while, there’s a lot of variety in there.
Molly J.: The Unicorns’s Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone, my brother [Molly W.] as the musician, and a couple Where’s Waldo? books.
Molly W.: I’m going to do a two-for-one with Hall & Oates as my musician. And then Greatest Hits of Liberace. My brother took the Waldo books so I think I’ll read the Miles Davis autobiography for eternity.
Tanner: Does Nick Cannon count as a musician? He’s got some survival skills. And then one of those teen books like Judy Bloom. On an island no one’s asking questions. If it’s me and Nick Cannon we’re bringing Mariah Carey. I’m counting on a murder-suicide two weeks in anyways.
More of Pro Teens' music can be found at their Bandcamp. Their forthcoming LP Accidentally is due out later this spring.