“It’s almost like people think we’re proving a point just being a band. Like, ‘Oh, you guys are so brave!'"
Members of Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers – Neve van Boxsel, Anna Ryan and Jaida Stephenson – sit at home in Wollongong, stifling yawns and generally relaxing. At the time of writing, three-quarters of the Canberra rock outfit have just finished the first two of nine shows supporting DMA’S on their tour. One was a hometown show in Canberra, where Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers have quickly become part of the elite group of musicians of whom the country’s capital can boast immense pride.
Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers, formed while in Year 10 at school in 2015, have come a long way from being kids at a sleepover watching School Of Rock, thinking forming a band would be a good idea, even though they were unable to play instruments. In the last 18 months, the outfit has, much like their rampant sonic concoction of post-punk and riot grrrl music, revved up their activity to quickly gain critical and cultural acclaim, performing at major festivals at home and abroad, like Groovin’ The Moo and Laneway.
So, to play Canberra as the fast-rising forerunners of the new Australian punk-rock sound is for Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers, quite simply, weird. “We go to Canberra a lot but not that often to play,” begins Stephenson, the band’s bassist. “Being there doesn’t feel that weird, but playing was really fun.
“I think our biggest support has come from Canberra - Canberrans have a lot of pride in their artists, like, everyone’s obsessed with Genesis Owusu because he’s from Canberra, so going back there, it’s nice to see people appreciate our music a lot.”
Genesis, indeed, is one such artist who, in recent memory, has emerged from Canberra to amplify its music scene for not only the rest of the country but the world. Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers made a significant contribution to that with the release of their EP, Pretty Good For A Girl Band, in 2022, though none of the band’s members can say they foresaw having an impact on the scene in this capacity.
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“When we started, it was because we wanted to do it for fun and because we were underage and wanted to go to music venues and try and sneak alcohol if we could,” – knowing titters from Ryan and van Boxsel meet this remark before Stephenson continues. “I dunno, it’s just turned into this massive entity now.”
Now, with the release of their debut album, I Love You, Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers can look back at their illegal attempts at underage club access, look at who they’re rubbing shoulders with within the scene today, where they are performing, and unanimously agree life is surreal.
Stephenson says, “Looking at the last 18 months is crazy because even though from an outsider’s perspective it looks like a big jump, it doesn’t feel it [for us] because we’ve been in it.” Bandmate van Boxsel agrees with the sentiment, adding, “People have been saying, ‘It’s been so fast-rising, good for you!’ but for us it feels so long.” “It’s like when you don’t see someone’s kid for a year or two, and then you and you’re like, ‘Woah, you’ve grown so much!’ but really, no, it’s been a long time!” Stephenson finishes.
Listening to I Love You, replete with punching conviction, blistering beats, and an exciting post-grunge revival, may render just one pressing question – whom is it Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers love? “We’ve wanted to do an album forever,” van Boxsel says wistfully, “and I feel like writing it and recording it was overwhelming. So, I feel like this is for each other, but also, everyone that listens, everyone that’s supported us.”
“It felt like a really nice title,” says vocalist Ryan, taking the reins, “because it was a long haul writing the album, but it was also so much fun.” Stephenson says, “I also feel like anyone who contributed to the album, be it us, our fans, our parents or whatever, we genuinely do love them.” Her bandmates agree; so much love went into this album.
Indeed, music such as this doesn’t happen without a massive amount of support, guidance, and rallying from an absolute cohort of people – and that’s a fact Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers aren’t ashamed to admit.
In fact, it’s those influences that shape the I Love You sound, Stephenson humbly saying, “I guess all the help we’ve had from the industry in general, everyone’s been so kind, loving and supportive. We’ve learnt so much from everyone we can then put it into our music.” Ryan adds, “A lot of it was organic experiences; meeting [album collaborators] The Grogans on The Guts Tour and really getting along with them and then being like, ‘Oh my God, we have this song that you would be really great on.’ It just made a lot of sense as we were working through it.”
It's been said that Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers – by the band and those in the scene – comprise four very different personalities. That, they say, doesn’t apply to their approaches to the album’s writing, soundscape, and production. “I feel like where it differs is more in our personal lives rather than the band,” says Stephenson. “We all kind of have a similar idea of what we want the band to be like,” van Boxsel says. “Especially because we started it so young, we’ve grown as musicians together,” returns Stephenson.
“It’s a similar vision, and we’re so close that if people do have differences of opinions about how the creative content is going, it’s pretty comfortable talking about it.”
As a band, there are, of course, other areas in which they’ve felt a sense of growth. “Not being as hard on ourselves,” says van Boxsel, to the agreement of her bandmates. “I feel like it’s pretty difficult being a non-male in this industry. You constantly feel like you have to prove yourself.
“This album feels like a breaking point for that – we feel like we don’t have to prove anything; we’re just going to do what we want to do. And we love our album!”
As well as summoning their individuality and personal direction in the music they produce, the outfit, to some extent, they agree, take the opportunity to create music to share their political and sociopolitical leanings to share their views and opinions in the hopes of making a change.
Van Boxsel says, “I don’t think we’ve ever sat down and said, ‘Let’s use this platform to be political’; we’re just talking about our experiences, and they become political.” “I also think a lot of the time that if you’re a non-male and not already in the music industry, you have a pressure put on you to be political about it,” says Stephenson.
In some ways, that’s another stereotype introduced there that the band must contend with – stereotypes on stereotypes. It doesn’t make their job easy. “It’s almost like people think we’re proving a point just being a band,” van Boxsel says, Stephenson and Ryan emphatically agreeing. “Like, ‘Oh, you guys are so brave!’ So, I feel like it’s becoming political because of those kinds of comments.”
Regardless of the efforts of others to restrain Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers – be they conscious or not – the outfit, particularly in the recent 18-month window, has had and will have opportunities to perform alongside and to work with some major household names. Indeed, their support slot with DMA’s not only weaves into their own album headline tour for I Love You but sees the stretch conclude with a support slot with none other than Foo Fighters.
And I Love You (produced by Holy Holy’s Oscar Dawson) hasn’t only impacted their musicianship but also their approach to the business of music. “The biggest influence is Oscar because we worked so closely with him,” says van Boxsel. “It’s weird – he’s so professional but in such a chill way. I feel like we were more uptight, and he was like, ‘Just chill.’” “He’d be like, ‘Let’s slow it down, go for a walk to the beach, then come back and record that guitar,’” remembers Ryan. Stephenson says, “I feel like we’ve taken that into our life outside the recording.
“Now, on tour, I think we’re less like, ‘Gotta drink, gotta have fun, gotta really push ourselves.’ Now we set boundaries and try and look after ourselves, enjoy the little things.”
This new mentality of looking after themselves will apply to the album tour, they say. “I feel like, not that every live show we don’t put our absolutely all into it, but the album live shows, it’s like our little baby, so we’ll go hard!”
Released on Friday 6th October, I Love You has received a mecca of dazzling reviews from media and fans; the band’s social media littered with praise from mesmerised people praising the release and keen for a follow-up. The band is acutely aware of the positive feedback. “The response to the album is so good,” Ryan says, somewhat disbelievingly, “It’s kind of crazy.” “Yeah, I was trying to read all the messages by fans who have listened to it, and they all seem to love it,” says Stephenson. “I feel like we don’t get too obsessive with [reviews],” reasons van Boxsel.
Ryan says, “At one of the album parties – and I feel like this was the best moment for me – I want to say this kid was eight years old, but she came up with the vinyl, the inside slip and said, ‘Hi, big fan, I’ve listened to it three times now, could you sign it here, here, and here?’ she was like, so professional, and I was in awe of how adorable she was. It was so cute.”
When it comes to people’s in-person responses about Teen Jesus’ music, the best thing that could happen, they say, is everything. “Every response,” says van Boxsel. “I think I’ve been really surprised when we go to these really rural areas and people knowing us and singing all our lyrics,” Stephenson says, narrowing it down. “I’ve been like, ‘Woah.’” “I swear, even if there’s one person in the crowd singing all the words, I’m stoked!” says Ryan. “I feel like we don’t have any expectations,” says van Boxsel, “I think it always shocks us.”
Without expectations, everything is in the band’s control, and though they’re comfortable with that, van Boxsel says it’s only a recent thing. “We used to have so many expectations and put so much pressure on ourselves. I feel like we still have a little bit of that.”
Moving forward, it’s only natural that some of those anxieties will be alleviated within Teen Jesus’ professional and personal growth. “[We’re] just being more sure of ourselves,” says van Boxsel. “We started when we were teenagers, so that’s, like, not even a musical growth, that’s us just not being teenagers anymore!” The band laughs.
From kids to professional young people, Teen Jesus fully embraces the weirdness of their lives. Ryan says, “I sometimes think, literally, ‘What the hell would I be doing without this band?’”
I Love You is out now via Domestic La La. In the coming weeks, you can catch Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers on tour with special guests Logan.
Friday October 27 – Meanjin/Brisbane, The Triffid
Thursday November 2 – Tarndanya/Adelaide, UniBar
Friday November 3 – Naarm/Melbourne, 170 Russell
Friday November 10 – Wadandi Boodja/Margaret River, The River*
Saturday November 11 – Walyalup/Fremantle, Port Beach Brewery*
Friday November 17 – Eora/Sydney, Metro Theatre
* Logan not appearing