When I get on the phone with Kristina “Teeny” Lieberson, she’s immediately forced into consoling me about a drunken outburst I had with my boyfriend the night before. The frontwoman of the New York-based band TEEN coaxes me through my ranting, offering her own stories of fights with her boyfriend. “I think you and I get along because we’re both Canadian,” the Halifax-born, now Greenpoint-based songwriter says, referring to our connection. “Canadians in America always have an immediate connection.”
From the minute I became aware of Teeny, I was intrigued by her and her band. Rounded out by Teeny’s younger sister Lizzie on keyboards, her older sister Katherine on drums (the girls grew up with a composer father and a mother who played with folk artist Maria Muldaur through the ’70s), and new bassist Boshra Alsaadi, the four women work ’90s-inspired R&B harmonies and psychedelic builds and freakouts into catchy, lyrically intelligent pop songs. After three years playing keyboards in Here We Go Magic, Teeny started writing songs in her cramped New York apartment as a composition exercise. Both her sisters moved to New York (Teeny had already been there for nearly a decade) and joined the band. They were scooped up by Carpark Records and have released two critically acclaimed albums since then. Their latest effort, The Way And Color, is gathering even more, much-deserved attention from places like Vogue to Elle. The Way And Color follows a lyrical story that deliberates the current female position: feminine representations in pop culture, love, and motherhood from the voice of a 31-year-old woman with life experience.
“I am not afraid to talk about [motherhood],” Teeny says. “We have such transient lives. There isn’t much stability in music and touring. The idea of children is nice but it totally freaks me out because of what I do. It’s a scary thing for me to talk about as I am dating a younger man, so to explore that idea is taboo for some fucking reason. It’s a constant battle that I am trying to figure out.”
Other songs on the album centre around death, due largely to the recent death of the Liebersons’ dad. “That has been an exploration for me: the suddenness of loss. When I write music it’s really hard for me to stick with one concept as I write from such a personal place.”
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That’s what makes The Way And Color refreshing and relatable: in a sea of immature indie superstars, a band like TEEN feels forthright. They are hard to categorize. They don’t really sound like any other band, yet on first listen, the music is comforting and powerful. It’s a pop record stuck in the indie pool, joining the ongoing conversation about the current female condition without being alienating to a larger audience.
“There’s this mentality that being creative is a privilege,” Teeny says. “I don’t agree. I think we need artists.”
Right now, we definitely need TEEN.
[magazine month=”May” year=”2014″]