Just because summer is creeping closer doesn’t mean you can’t retreat from the sun and fun by locking yourself up in a dark room with some appropriately dismal tunes. One album that fits that kind of action is the third long player from Philadelphia’s gloomiest sons, Psychic Teens. Formed in 2010, the trio have two albums under their belt – 2011’s TEENS and 2013’s COME – as well as some pretty nasty and hostile covers of the Misfits and Nine Inch Nails.
On NERVE, their first new album in three years, the trio have lightened up on the hissing din of their goth-tinged post-punk with the help of producer Steve Poponi (Into It. Over It., Young Statues). And while the hissing feedback has been kept to a minimum, Psychic Teens surely haven’t lost any of their strident touch. NERVE packs even more of a wallop, while building on the band’s growing talent to write catchy, anthemic jams like the crashing “End” and “Tarnish,” which sounds like Echo & The Bunnymen on a PED.
To go along with our stream of NERVE (out May 13 via SRA Records), we got frontman/guitarist Larry Ragone to answer a few questions about the deep, dark feelings that flow throughout the album, that perplexing album cover of theirs, and Philly’s booming rock scene.
Noisey: What do you hope the listener takes away from hearing NERVE?
Larry Ragone: I have no listener expectations for NERVE. There is an ebb and flow to the lyrics and music that either resonates with someone or it doesn't depending on where they are in life.
Tell me about all of the “ugly stuff” on the record. What are we dealing with listening to NERVE?
While the album is personal, I tried to push a lot of feelings into more ambiguous/relatable territory. With NERVE, you're being exposed to my emotional paralysis due to an overactive mind: memory repression, family shit, messy relationships, weird dreams – all the making for true feel good album of the summer.
You’ve said the song “End” deals with “finding comfort in isolation.” What’s so great about isolation?
Everything! For me, being around other people lately is chaos. Being isolated and alone allows me to focus on things and ideas that I value as opposed to the worry that comes with social interactions and the noise of the modern world.
What do you think is the biggest difference between NERVE and the last album, COME?
Sonically, it’s much different. It sounds a lot less fucked up. Steve Poponi, the engineer at Gradwell House kept me on a pretty short leash as far as pushing my guitars over the top 100 percent of the time. That's my defense mechanism. On COME, having all that noise and feedback helped to disguise my vocals and that allowed me to cheat a little bit. But due to the amount of space and atmosphere created by the guitar's absence, I had to push a little harder with vocals, lyrics, and melodic ideas.
What is the concept behind the album cover for NERVE?
The cover art for NERVE was designed and illustrated by Amandine Urruty, a brilliant young artist from France. I had observed her work and was really impressed, and felt confident enough to contact her to ask if she would be interested in working on something for us. At the time, we had only three or four very rough song sketches/demos, but she really enjoyed them and the old stuff and agreed to come up with cover art. It far exceeded all of our expectations! To me the artwork reflects the many emotions and feelings expressed within the album: each song being a different character or scene; it’s sometimes playful, sometimes very angry, sometimes very large, sometimes very small, sometimes looking into a mirror, or sometimes a slug creature. I'm extremely proud of it and very grateful that Amandine was so receptive to sharing with us.
Philadelphia's music scene is currently exploding, thanks to bands like the War On Drugs, Beach Slang, Nothing, Kurt Vile, Hop Along and Modern Baseball. From an insider's perspective, does it feel like the city is having a real moment?
If we can help turn new people on to going to see and support some bands in the area, I think that is awesome. I do think that music is seeing a resurgence and the fact that Philadelphia has some great enthusiastic people booking shows and running interesting and safe venues certainly helps.
Your new T-shirts are pretty rad. What made you choose those images from Possession, Rosemary’s Baby, and Beetlejuice?
Strangely enough, Dave and I both agreed without any real conversation that this current run of shirts should consist of imagery from Andrzej Żuławski's film Possession. It is an extremely vivid film dealing with the psychological horror within a distressed relationship and I think it left an impression on both of us as something that had parallels within the themes of our material. Coincidentally - within days of receiving the shirts, Żuławski had died of cancer – of which we were not aware.