Teenage Joans Go Track-By-Track On 'The Rot That Grows Inside My Chest'

12 October 2023 | 1:10 pm | Cahli Blakers

Ahead of the release of Teenage Joans' long-awaited debut album, 'The Rot That Grows Inside My Chest', vocalist/guitarist Cahli Blakers has provided an in-depth track-by-track on each song.

Teenage Joans

Teenage Joans (Credit: Giulia McGauran)

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Hospital Bed is obviously the opener, and it's funny because our label, Domestic La La, they're the best; we love them. When we sent them this album, they were like: this is a great album, but our only comment is you should make Hospital Bed longer. And it's the only thing where we were respectfully like: we're not going to do that because it sits as an opener for a reason. And it's cool that they liked the song enough for them to want it to be longer.

But we wrote this song as an opener. We had that very clear vision in mind, and I think it's very inspired by Teresa by YUNGBLUD and Otherside by Perfume Genius, which is one of my favourite opening tracks ever for an album. We also wrote this in the studio; most of them, we wrote at [drummer and vocalist] Tahlia [Borg]'s house, which is our usual writing spot. But this one, we wrote in the studio, and we just jammed out the piano, and then it kind of just all fell out. We knew we wanted it to be big and dramatic and chaotic, and I think we nailed the vision. 


This song used to be called Funeral, but we changed the name; we just wanted more. It has that very classic cheesy pop-punk song kind of vibe, so we wanted a long title to encapsulate that aspect of it. But this is a pretty old one, we wrote this one in 2019, and it's just our take on a cheesy pop-punk song. It's the only love song on the album that's not a sad love song. It's the only happy upbeat love song, which is cool. The album kind of takes a natural progression of it starting good, and then it kind of gets a bit heavy, and then it lifts back up again, then gets heavy again. So, we put this right at the start. We were like, just hit ‘em with the cheesy pop-punk song!


Superglue we also wrote in 2019, and it's funny because when we were putting the album together, we hadn't even finished writing all the songs, but we just felt like it should be the first single because it really bridges that gap between Taste of Me and then Terrible, and now the album. I think it has that very classic “Teenage Joans feel” to it, but the writing's just a bit more mature, and the production's a bit more mature. And we've been playing it live since 2019, so people know it, people like it. And also visually, there is something to come visually, which we're going to obviously talk about when the time comes. But Superglue and Candy Apple were the two songs that inspired all the visuals behind this album. And you can see it in the photo shoots too.

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Yoke is probably the weirdest song on the album. It's definitely nothing like we've ever done before, but we love it. I think it's one of our favourite tracks collectively for the team on the album. And we called it Yoke because originally Hospital Bed was called For Two, and then I think I moved that name to Yoke because I liked it. But then I was like: I think it's a bit basic. I want something that's a bit more silly and unheard of.

So, I looked on Google Thesaurus for something like that and tried to find words that meant “two”. And I found out that a yoke is basically the headpiece that they'd put between two horses or two cows or two animals pulling a cart in olden times. And I really liked that idea of being almost trapped in this thing with another person or another being.

I think Yoke is a good song for that because it kind of talks about how we're both stuck in this situation together. We're both kind of sucking the life out of each other, but we're trapped; there's not much that we can do kind of thing. I think it fits the title well. It's not an egg yolk, contrary to popular belief! Yoke was also very fun in the studio. We just went crazy with it. We were like: this is the one song where we can just add the randomist, crazy stuff. And I think it turned out really cool.


We wrote Candy Apple at the end of 2020. Usually with songs, I'll come to Tahlia with just a little piece, but this song actually just fell out of me. I couldn't just wait until I saw Tahlia, so I wrote the whole song, and then we sort of put it together properly and added drums to it together. This is the second single off the album, which we also had a feeling would work well because we got a really cool response from it live. Every time we'd play it, people would come up after our set and be like, that Candy Apple song, it just hits hard; it reminds me of this situation in my life and things like that. And our fans really resonated with it. So, we were like: yeah, that's a good choice for a second single, because people resonate with it live, and people love it. It goes off.


We wrote You’re Not The President on the first day we ever met our producer, Jarred Nettle. This was pre-EP too, so we'd written the ep, but we hadn't recorded it yet. And we were meeting him for the first time so he could sort of get the vibe. He came to one of our practices and watched us practice, and then he was like: “cool”. He didn't say too much, he is a pretty quiet shy guy when you meet him at first. So he was like: yeah, cool, I got what I needed.

And then he left, and afterwards, we wrote this song. Obviously, there's a little Adam Sandler reference in there from Bedtime Stories. And I think on this song we really wanted to capture kind of like a 90s grunge sound, especially in the chorus and even the verses. This one's a bit crazy as well, we did this weird rockabilly solo in it. This was the song that if we were to write another album and then boot a song off this album, this was going to be the one that got booted off the album. But it's funny because once we recorded it fully, we just loved it so much. On that topic, we don't actually have any B-sides to this album. This is just the full album!


Sweet Things Rot is the very first song ever written for the album. I wrote it on my computer when I was 16. I think just before I'd met Tahlia, and I wrote it as just this little weird instrumental thing. And it's funny because I didn't know I was going to be in a band at the time, but I just had a feeling that one day this was going to be an interlude on an album. It just felt like an interlude. I was like, I don't know if I'm going to use it or if I am going to get in a band.

But in this writing process, we were looking for that sort of opening song, middle song, and closing song. And I was like: I have this, this is the interlude! The lyrics used to be different, so we changed them to fit the theme. But apart from that, it's still got some of the old production that I did when I was 16 in there, and we just kind of beefed it up; we changed the key as well so that it would go straight into Ruby Doomsday. That was also another thing we wanted to do, we wanted to really focus on how each song finishes and how each song starts in relativity to each other. And Tahlia loves Sweet Things Rot as well. I wrote it before I'd even met her and she was like: yeah, this is sick!


With Ruby Doomsday, there was this pinnacle point in my life where there were three songs: god save me, but don’t drown me out by YUNGBLUD, To Lose You by Mannequin Pussy, and There, There by The Wonder Years. They were these songs that just would make me feel so much but weren't quiet, and the lyrics aren't necessarily depressing; they're more desperate. And I just love that these bands captured that feeling within that song, that almost yearning feeling.

I wanted to write a song like that, and I kind of combined the feeling of all three. I actually wrote the chorus of Ruby Doomsday to To Lose You by Mannequin Pussy. Sometimes when I'm just piling up with inspiration, I can't wait till I get home, so I just have to put on a song in the car, and I just riff off of that and turn the volume down and try and write over that. And that’s how this song got started! Then I just changed the chords a little bit and added my own spin to it.

We wanted this song to be really dramatic as well, we wanted these moments throughout the album that really have a dramatic flair to them. And we got some strings on the album, I'm pretty sure this is the first song where it really pops up. And it's just a crazy, chaotic, dramatic song. And I think that encapsulates a lot of the feelings behind it as well.


I was listening to a lot of Courtney Barnett for this one, actually. I love her melody structures; I feel like they're so unique and so unlike any others. So, I really played off of the inspiration of that for this song. And I had this chorus that was talking about “my dentist hates me”, blah, blah, blah, all the teeth references. And we kind of just honed into it for the rest of the song where we were just like: all right, how about we just make this whole song to be about teeth and dentist metaphors?

I think it follows Ruby Doomsday really well as well, because there's this whole metaphor of wanting something so badly, and I feel like it plays into the metaphor of, as a kid, you want candy so bad or something, or even as an adult. And it's just like: “My dentist hates me because I've been chewing on you for too long”, it plays into that whole candy theme again and the sweet theme, which I think sort of lingers from Taste Of Me as well. And then we've got the crazy heavy ending; a lot of people have loved that we tapped into a darker, heavier side for Terrible. And I think we definitely wanted to add some screams on this album, and we’ve got that at the end of My Dentist Hates Me!!!.


I think this song was actually the second to last song we wrote for the album. And we knew that we already knew the vibe of the album, but we really felt like we needed a softer, more sad song, because the sad songs we already have were Candy Apple, and I guess Ruby Doomsday. Those songs are sad, but they're more desperate and just more of a yearning versus an actual just sitting in your sadness sort of song. We had the chorus for Moneymoneymoney, and I just took it to Tahlia, and we fleshed out the rest. And I think it's really nice to have a lot of Tahlia's vocals on this album, specifically on this song. It really showcases her range, and she's so much more than just a great drummer; she's also got a beautiful voice. It was cool to put that on this song, and we actually played it for our tour. We had a tour last year called The Big Kid Tour, it was our first-ever headline tour of Australia. We played this song on that run, and people really liked it. And we've got trumpets in this one; we've got the violins coming back too. We wanted to make it feel like a sad song, but dark and with a little bit of a twist to it, which I think hopefully we nailed in the end.


Tennis Skirt was also one of the earliest songs that we wrote for the album. I think we wrote it at the same time as I want to say either Honey or Superglue, I can't remember which one it was, but we wrote it around the same day or maybe the same week. But this one was a really stressful one because the way it is now, it's very different to the original way we wrote it. And I think most of our songs we kind of write, it sits in its spot, and we'll play it live and adjust one or two little things. But this song, we Frankenstein-ed, this one, we just put this bit here and put this bit here, we shifted all the sections around.

This song to me almost feels like Three Leaf Clover’s more mature, maybe older sibling. And I hope that the Three Leaf Clover fans will realise that there's a song for them, but it's just a bit more mature and a bit heavier. I think this song brings a nice dark energy to the album that I think without, it would feel just a bit more poppy. I think it brings that really rotten feeling to the album too, which is cool. This was a tricky one to work out, but once we worked it out, we were really happy with it. It just took ages, and I wasn't sold on it originally. Our producer was, and Tahlia was, but I wasn't, I was like: I don't know guys. And they were like, just trust the process. It turned out really cool though. I'm really happy with it!


So, 5 Things I Can Taste was the very last song we wrote for the album, we were kind of slotting in the final bit. With Moneymoneymoney, we knew we wanted a slow, sad song. But with 5 Things, we wanted sort of a faster punky upbeat song. We realised we have a lot of punk or punk-y songs on the album, but none of them are really at that fast adrenaline-pumping pace. I think it's funny because for a lot of these songs I'd already written the chorus or the hook, and then we brought them in to write them for the album. But this one just naturally came out, and within the week of writing the chorus, we'd written the whole song; we sat down for a day and just wrote it, fleshed it out.

But when we wrote it first, there were two things we knew: the first thing we knew was that it had to be a single. We were just like: it feels so fun. It just has to be a single, it's got very much Teenage Joans vibes. But it's also closing the chapter and really solidifying that this is the end of the album process. And then that brings me to number two: we knew that it was the last song that we were going to write for the album, and the label was like, no pressure. This is a great album, but if you want to write more, we'd love to hear more.

And we just kind of were like: look, we can write more. But then we're turning on the second tap, we're turning on the tap for the next release. So, it felt like the end of the album. And that's why we put it near the end too, because we were just like: this feels like a good way to go out, it feels like a good way to close this chapter, but also open the chapter for whatever we do next. We don’t even know what we’re going to do next yet, but we'll figure it out at some point.


I'm pretty sure Kaleidoscopes was maybe the fourth song we ever wrote together as a band; we wrote it back in 2019. And it's funny because we didn't know that we were even going to write an EP yet, let alone an album. I mean, you always hope for it, but we didn't know what it'd be like and if people still would care and things like that. But Kaleidoscopes just felt like an album closer. And when we wrote it, we were like: yeah, dunno where this is going to go, but it just feels like we need to hold onto it for something bigger. And so that's why we didn't put it on the EP. And I still think that it's one of our best songs.

It’s cool because it encapsulates the first year that we'd known each other; it encapsulates that feeling. But it also was just so mature for our age. I even listened to it, and I'm like, I can't believe we wrote this at the start of the band; it’s crazy to think about. But we really wanted to end the album with a bang, and with the last lyric from Kaleidoscopes, “you came back when you put me on hold”, we did a play on that for Hospital Bed. The first lyric of Hospital Bed is: “I'll hold on until you come back”. And so it's almost like opening the story, “I'll hold on until you come back” and closing it with “you came back when you put me on hold”. And I just thought it was a nice way to tie the rest of the album into Kaleidoscopes, which is a song we'd written so long ago and is so different.

I think we want to continue to write more songs like Kaleidoscopes in the future. And I think it's a good way to end the album and close the story. It’s like one of those things where the album almost does have a storyline. It's not really a concept album, but it's bordering on one. And Kaleidoscopes is fun because we don't really end the story, but you kind of get a happy ending. You get that little last moment of: everything's gone to shit, but maybe there is hope. And I think that's a cool way to end it.

The Rot That Grows Inside My Chest will be released on Friday, 13 October, via Domestic La La. You can pre-order/pre-save the album here.