Pro Teens are a six-piece band out of Phoenix, Arizona. Led by Andy Phipps (vocals/guitar), Matthew Tanner (drums), and Zack Parker (bass), the band has been churning out imaginative, sunshine-indebted psych rock since debuting back in 2015. Earlier this year they nabbed their highest-profile feature to date, bringing a bellowing hook to Injury Reserve and Rico Nasty's "Jawbreaker." At the end of this week, they'll release Twos, their sharpest work to date.
The album was recorded out in Oracle, AZ, a small desert town just north of Tuscon. Consequently, a dry heat seeps through the crevices of Twos' sonic landscape. Just ahead of its release this Friday, the band is now sharing an early stream of the album along with a track-by-track breakdown of each song on the project. Stream Twos, and read the stories behind its creation, below.
1. "Timmy Gun"
Phipps: Our drummer, Matt, helped me complete the song, which is kind of an overall project statement. It's an acclamation of Pro Teens imperfect sound, and it's also a testament of the trust it takes to start and share a project with another person.
Tanner: Andy has always been very open to collaboration, but this was the most we've explored writing lyrics together. I
2. "Anybody's Baby"
Phipps: The song started with the hook which is a play on "Somebody's Baby" by Jackson Browne. I wanted to turn the bullshit 'damsel in distress' trope on its head. Not all of the verses were finished when I laid down the vocal, and Austin suggested I drink a couple of tallboys before laying it down, so a lot of the verse lyrics are ad-libbed.
3. "Anybody's Game"
Phipps: I believe this was the first track we recorded in Oracle. It's one of my favorites on the album. This song is about the privilege I possess for looking the way I do in the U.S. while also confronting the idea that through hard work anything can be achieved. It's about the pedestal that this society puts me on. I think the line, "At my acceptance speech, lifetime achievement award just for looking the part, I got one question: are the measurements the same?" sums up the meaning pretty well.
4. "Garbage Island"
Phipps: We recorded the song to a Yamaha 4 track live in my roommate's room (he's got the big room). It's about the process of making something and sharing that something with someone else. I was feeling a bit inadequate at the time and when it comes to me and the songs I write I had the thought "it might be ugly, but it's me." "Garbage Island" was this visualization of like, "where do all the bad or forgotten ideas go?"
5. "Mona 2"
Phipps: We have a track on our first record called "Mona" and this song reminded us of that one. It's about the depression and staleness that comes with living a cyclical life, and I love the fact that it's a sequel song because it ties right into that concept of repetitive living. We used the same technique as "Anybody's Baby" in which we pitched down the tape and recorded the vocals at different speeds until we got that demented kids choir / Muppets kind of sound.
Phipps: I like to consider these next three songs a trilogy of sorts because they're about a specific person. I had just learned how to play "Cathy's Clown" by the Everly Brothers and I wanted to make a simple G/C chord love song. The song is about the mania that you go through when you're absolutely crazy about someone. You start to break your own rules and defy your own logic. I have to give a shoutout to Injury Reserve and Nate's verse at the end of "New Hawaii" because I'm pretty sure I subconsciously pulled the idea of being like "this is the sound I hear when you make me feel" then it goes into a beautiful string section. We do that at the end of this song, but it gets dissonant at the very end to represent the feeling of being "Lovesick".
7. "Come Home"
Phipps: This song is a total tease. It's super short, clocking in around 50 seconds, and it's also one of the strongest instrumentals on the record. Austin (producer) suggested we double it, but I wanted the song to read like a short love letter. It's about a certain someone moving far away and a quick, honest reaction to that.
8. "Poorly Wrapped"
Phipps: Another short goody. We had a blast recording this one... specifically the guitar solo. The solo is two solos blended, one performed by our bassist Zack and the other by Wally. This song is yet another love song about that same relationship. It deals with the squishy vulnerability of falling head-over-heels, and, in a tongue-in-cheek way, it's comparing that feeling to my favorite food, burritos. There was a really cool moment recording the vocals for that in which Austin wanted me to drop a real quick spoken world line right before the solo, and off the top of my head, I said the "it's not like I haven't been burned before" line. Everybody was pretty stoked on that.
9. "Fake Ecstasy"
Phipps: One of the more sparse, soulful songs on the record, Fake E is turning into a lot of people's favorites as far as the live set goes. This track has one of my favorite hidden gems of the record. Austin's partner bakes bread to sell to the community once a week, and they were prepping for the next day when we're tracking. With all the space in the song, you can hear the pots and pans banging around in the background and it sounds percussive. As far as the actual track goes, it has one of my favorite bass lines, and I also get to exercise my true tenor in the climax of the song. The lyrics are a bit of a mental health check. Some days you feel like the shit and some days you just feel like shit.
10. "I Don't Have The Body"
Phipps: Ah yes, the feel-good summer barbeque track of the record. The bass line, the groove, the sweet, sweet harmonies, and the west coast rap tribute synth lines are undeniable, but I must admit it's probably my least favorite of the record and I don't know why. This might be one of the corniest yet positive songs I've written. To put it candidly, I have a lot of issues with the way I look, and the lyrics deal with that, but what's different about this song is that it ends in a twist of self-love. Maybe I am strong.
11. "I Don't Think It's Time"
Phipps: I wrote this song back in late 2016 when I wrote a "Tulsa" off our last EP, but it got put aside until we geared up for "Twos". The song is a simple 60s pop worship song about ending a relationship for good. I was listening to Arthur Russell and Guided by Voices a lot when writing this one. Austin laid down the 12 string guitar hook and the rest is history.
Tanner: This is actually my favorite song on the record - Andy wrote it years ago and the band, at that time, always had other things to work on that felt somehow more "Pro Teens", but I always made Andy play it at the end of rehearsals, just because I liked listening to it so much.
12. "Pretty, Baby"
Phipps: Two hours before leaving Oracle and completing the record the melody and lyric for this interlude came to me suddenly. I sang the melody to Zack, and he arranged the piano chords. I think the diddy ties the underlying vibe of the album "it's not gonna be pretty, baby" over a lullaby of a song. We finished tracking it in about an hour and made our way back to Phoenix shortly after.
Tanner: We smoked a joint by the pool, did a lap through the puppy training obstacle course, and then Andy started kicking this melody around. As soon as it became clear that we weren't going to track drums for it, I sat in the other room and read What We Talk About When We Talk About Love while they put it all together.
13. "Death, Cranked"
Phipps: I think this is the most emotionally striking Pro Teens song ever. I listen to it even now and still get bummed out. We recorded it in August last year with "Garbage Island." From the sad space cowboy harmonica in the intro to JJ's gut-wrenching solo at the end, I think we all knew what feeling we wanted to convey with this track. Death, Cranked is an appropriate closer because it's an ultimate goodbye of sorts. It's a message from a deathbed; a total mission statement. This song was also meant to be a message to the same person previous songs are about. "When I'm at the very brink, you're all I see."