Cheese and Onions: Sound Bites Interviews My Teenage Stride

One of the great Brooklyn bands of the last seven years or so, My Teenage Stride continue to crank out clever, tuneful indiepop. Through myriad line-up changes that rival The Fall, frontman Jed Smith has kept his sardonic, melodic vision going strong. Smith and the current MTS line-up are currently working on a new record. Until then here’s a classic hit:

MP3: My Teenage Stride – Heart Shackles

But don’t wait for the new album to see My Teenage Stride. I’m proud to have the band launch the second season of the Sound Bites Summer Series at the Fulton Stall Market this Sunday (June 26). The fun starts at 2PM with some warm-up DJing from me, and then My Teenage Stride will take the stage at three. I cornered Smith into answering a few food-related questions which are as follows.

You’ll be playing at the Fulton Stall markets. What’s your favorite vegetable? And why.

I’m gonna go with onions. I probably use them more than any other vegetable, with garlic bringing up a close second.

What’s your least favorite and why?

Okra. Oh dear god, okra.

Has food ever influenced your songwriting?

Only if you count the Frank Zappa tune “Call Any Vegetable”, or if you consider gin a vegetable- I think of it as more of an herb, personally.

Any good food-related band anecdotes?

Our old guitar player Jeff kept to a strict diet of beef jerky when we did a national tour- I’ll let you use your imagination as to why.

NYers, as a rule, don’t cook much. What about you?

I like to cook a lot when it’s practical and affordable. I grew up with a lot of home cooking and baking on a farm with a big vegetable garden and corn and stuff. After ten years in the city, I had hardly even ever ordered delivery until last year, and I gotta say- I find it stressful for multiple reasons, beyond it simply being too expensive. I mostly cook Mexican and Italian type things so I don’t know if it’s really all that healthy, but I definitely feel better after eating food I made myself. This answer contains none of my trademark avoidant humor. Sorry about that.

A lot of people have been in My Teenage Stride over the years. Who was the best cook?

Almost certainly me, though I can’t be sure.

Where do you eat in Brooklyn?

Home, not home, Mexican places in Bushwick

What’s your cheap eats go-to joint? What about when you’re willing to splurge a little?

Tony’s Pizza on Dekalb and Knickerbocker across from my apt. building has one of the best Sicilian slices in the city for 2 bucks and it has great, huge pasta dishes for 6 bucks. There’s also El Sol De Cholula, a Mexican deli with a real good taqueria that’s also real cheap on Wilson and Hart, also right by my place.

I really don’t go to real restaurants more than like 5 times a year at the most because I am cheap, poor, and don’t like to be around people with money, but I love Il Passatore on Bushwick and Metropolitian, but it’s actually incredibly cheap for a really excellent Italian place that’s got real atmosphere and terrific food. I mean it’s a serious place- their gnocchi is to die for and they bring olives and flatbread while you order and it’s a really great restaurant in general but for some reason it’s just very, very inexpensive. Maybe because it’s next to a gas station and there’s a White Castle around the corner? Anyway, HIGHLY recommended.

What’s your go-to hangover food?

Strawberry-banana yogurt smoothie. Cure-all. Makes you feel better AS YOU’RE DRINKING IT.

What food would you imagine your music being paired with?


NYC Popfest 2009: The Ballet + My Teenage Stride + The Metric Mile + Dream Bitches + Soft City | Cake Shop | 5.14.2009

That's 'Up for a Bit with the Pastels' on the turntable, btw.
The third annual NYC Popfest is happening as we speak. Four days of catchy songs, lovelorn lyrics, "bah bah bah" choruses, mostly polite dancing and vintage clothes. The fun kicked off Thursday night at New York's most indie-pop centric venue, Cake Shop, with a stellar lineup of local talent some of whom I've seen before, some not. It was more like a party than a show, everyone seemed to know one another, and it was the kind of event where the DJ played songs like The Pastels' "Comin' Through" or Orange Juice's "Felcity" and they get the kind of crowd reaction that T.I. or Justin Timberlake (or Justin Timberlake featuring T.I.) might get in a Westside club. 

My Teenage Stride

Best band of the night was My Teenage Stride who seem to shed members after each Popfest performance. Last year, they lost a bassist and guitarist. Tonight was MTS' final show with longtime drummer Brett Whitmoyer, and frontman Jed Smith seems genuinely broken up about it. "New York is a shitty place for bands,' he admitted to the crowd before clarifying, "Well, a shitty place for bands to try and make it." It's especially shitty, as My Teenage Stride are at a creative peak if you ask me, with their current string of monthly Emusic singles being some of the best stuff they've done to date. They played their May single, which has yet to actually drop and the name of which I missed, and it rivals "Creep Academy" for awesomeness. (I shot video of it, which is below.) They'll have to rebound quickly, though, as their next gig is Monday night at The Bell House.

MP3: My Teenage Stride – Creep Academy

Dreambitces Second place honors go to Dream Bitches who I'd never seen live and likely never will again as this was supposedly their last show. Too bad, as they were great, sounding more than a little like '90s DC band Tuscadero, with a similar girl-centric POV. Maybe not the most original band, but they do it really well — the harmonies, the attitude, the humor. And it's not like Tuscadero are doing it anymore. Nor Dream Bitches, either. Who'll step up and fill their shoes? Should be noted that Dream Bitches had the most fervent, ready-to-dance fans. One last hurrah.

MP3: Dream Bitches – Video Games

Metricmile This was the first gig for The Metric Mile in at least a year if not more, marking their transition from a keyboard/guitar duo to a five-piece, including current My Teenage Stride's Jenny Logan on guitar and onetime Mahogany member Roy Stiles on "minimalist drums." They haven't quite worked out, exactly, how to pull off their Trembling Blue Stars-esque studio creations in a live setting as a full-on band, and there were some technical difficulties but when it came together there were some really nice moments. Singer Jeff Ciprioni is a good guitarist and I'm a sucker for that kind of spindly lead that intertwines with the bass. Hopefully they'll start writing as a band too which should make things more interesting. 

MP3: The Metric Mile – How to Beat the SAT

Theballet The Ballet got a fair amount of blog coverage a couple years ago and got some pretty choice opening slots (Hidden Cameras, Voxtrot) but they've sort of faded away since then, to the point that I kind of forgot I knew who they were and that they had some really good songs, sonically somwhere between The Magnetic Fields and The Postal Service. Glad to see their still around, or back, whichever the case may be. Live, though, they aren't much to watch and by the time their headling slot came around I was kind of beat. 

MP3: The Ballet – In My Head

Thesoftcity Backtracking a bit, I missed openers Knight School but I've seen them before and like them. I got there just in time to catch the live debut of The Soft City who put out a nice single on Cloudberry Records back in 2007. Since then the band have taken a new direction with founding member Phil Sutton (who spent time in Velocette and Comet Gain) taking a backseat, literally, to the drum stool, handing over vocal duties to Dora Lubin. Was surprised to see Ladybug Transistor/Crystal Stilts keyboardist and all-around funnyman Kyle Forrester on bass, an instrument he seemed to be fairly skilled at. Very jingle-jangle guitar pop, not unlike later period Velocity girl. They seemed to have it pretty together for a first gig. It does seem a waste to only have Ludin sing, as Sutton's got a nice voice too. But we'll see where the second gig takes them.

MP3: < a href="">The Soft City – Wallflower

Video from the show after the jump!

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My Teenage Stride + Pow Wow! | Cameo | 4.02.2009


It's hard to tell how serious My Teenage Stride are as a band. Some of their songs seem like attempts at mimicing other bands (The Wedding Present, The Chills) and main man (and MTS's only constant) Jedediah Smith is prone towards jokey stage banter, like introducing themselves as other bands in between every song. ("Thank you! We're Megadeth.") I guess it doesn't matter when the songs are as catchy as they are, and Smith's sense of humor comes off more thoughtful than "ha ha" in his lyrics. Tonight's show at Cameo is yet another iteration of MTS, as this band blows through band members like The Fall. The new group are tight enough, even when pulling out old chesnuts this lineup hasn't really ever played.

This seems to have no affect on the band, as it is, as they're currently putting out some of their best-ever material via a series of exclusive releases on Emusic. Much like the Wedding Present did in 1992, My Teenage Stride are putting out a "single" every month in 2009. If the rest of this year is as good as February's "Creep Academy" (which will be amongst my Singles of the Year), 2009 looks to be very good to them. Even if they didn't play it tonight!

MP3My Teenage Stride – Creep Academy 

Greenpoint-via-Jersey combo pow wow!, meanwhile, are currently in the midst of making an all-out assault on NYC's popscene. I've been digging their recordings (most of which you can download for free) but this is the first time I've actually seen them play. Like a party band version of The Strokes (or maybe a less laid back Little Joy) are the kind of band you wish would play at Ruby's in Coney Island every summer weekend. Though their recordings are decidely low-fi, live you can tell they've got straight-up pop ambitions, with a soulful streak that rears its head with a shambly cover of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," a ballsy move but one they actually pull off. The crowd are already converts, dancing, and at one point forming an ad-hoc chorus line. Thank god for cheap PBR. 

MP3pow wow! – 23 19

This was my second time at new Williamsburg venue Cameo, the first being the Casiokids/Slow Club/Mumford and Sons show before SXSW. They're making headway towards it being a proper place to see bands but my biggest criticism from before remains: turn up the lights please.

NYC Popfest: Mahogany + My Teenage Stride + The Pains of Being Pure at Heart | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 6.14.2008

Mahogany Despite the torrential rains and a slew of other shows with potentially the same audience (including Love is All, and to a lesser degree, Vampire Weekend), night three of NYC Popfest 2008 was a whole lot of fun. The venue wasn't sold-out by any means — the balcony wasn't open at all — but people who showed up stayed for all five bands on the bill, with very few people hanging at the downstairs bar during any of the performances. Indie-pop fans are dedicated. I'm breaking the evening into two posts, lest it be 10,000 words long or something, so this one covers the first three bands — all of whom are from Brooklyn.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
were the first band of the night and I was anxious to see them, as I've been liking their music for some time, the got the hot mention in L Magazine a few weeks back, and every time I read an interview they mention how much they dig The Pastels. I seemed destined to love them.

And I did. How can you not love great pop songs drenched in distortion and reverb? My Bloody Valentine comparisons abound, but to me they are more akin to Velocity Girl, if Archie had sung lead more. Or the Ropers or early Lilys or any band on Slumberland in the early '90s.

And they are very cute. In particular, keyboardist Peggy bops around on stage like one of the dancers in A Peanuts Christmas. (I'm thinking specifically of the girl who shakes her head side to side.) A friend commented "they just use distortion because they can't sing." (You should hear them play piano.) I would disagree with the not being able to sing part, but even if that was so… so what? I could name a dozen great bands who did the same. Are TPoBPaH great? With only about eight songs under their belt, too early to say. But loads of potential.

MP3: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – This Love is F-ing Right (buy)

My Teenage Stride
are seriously fun and their songs are ridiculously catchy. Sometimes maybea little too obvious in their '80s influences (why yes, that song does sound like The Chills' "Pink Frost" and that one is like The Wedding Present covering the Bunnymen…) but frontman Jedediah Smith is a thief with good taste — and a melancholic sense of humor.

A bundle of energy on stage, the songs had more oomph than on last year's quite good Ears Like Golden Bats. The popfest show was their last with bassist Mat Patalano and guitarist Dakkan Abe (I have a feeling the lineup changes a lot) and it seemed like they were determined to go out with a bang and much jumping around. Patalano, who has his own band The Specific Heats, will be particularly hard to replace — he's a real character. They also  played a few songs off their new Lesser Demons EP, and I thought "Theme from Teenage Suicide" was particularly storming.

MP3My Teenage Stride – Theme from Teenage Suicide

Mahogany_mhowSlimming down from the double rhythm section lineup they had around the time of their stellar 2006 album, Connectivity!, the now five-piece Mahogany gave the best performance of the night and it was definitely the best I'd ever seen them play. (Much much better than their muddled set at Mercury Lounge a while back.) Aided in no small part by the great sound at Music Hall of Williamsburg (which helped all the bands, actually), they just really had it together. The downsizing hasn't affected their sonics at all, which are still a huge swirl of guitars and groovy basslines. And though you could definitely call their music shoegaze, Mahogany don't stare at the floor. They were in constant motion with more than a little posing — which made for some great photos, even for a guy with a crappy point-and-shoot. They still don't seem to be able to play more than a five-song set, though. Or maybe they just know when enough's enough.

MP3: Mahogany – The View from the People Wall (buy)

More Popfest pictures on my Flickr.