Good Fruit, the stunning fourth studio record from TEEN (Lizzie, Teeny and Katherine Lieberson), is due out this March 1st, but you’ll be able to hear some of the new material at a FREE Baby’s All Right show on Wednesday (January 16th). The band will also be hitting the road with Methyl Ethyl this spring, so if you aren’t able to make it out to Baby’s, rest assured you’ll have more live opportunities soon.
In the meantime, I was able to catch up with Lizzie (the youngest of the three TEEN sisters) about the process of making this self-produced LP, returning to the band’s home province of Nova Scotia to shoot accompanying music videos and more, so internet-eavesdrop on our full conversation below, and be sure to pre-order Good Fruit right here.
Congrats on the forthcoming record! Now, is this the first one that you guys have completely self-produced as TEEN?
Yeah, I mean, we’ve sort of always worked with Daniel Schlett; he’s produced every other record we’ve ever done, except for the first one. And even though we’ve always been really involved in the process, this was the first time we were alone doing everything ourselves in the studio.
How was that experience? Were there any big learning curves, or do you feel that your past involvement in the process made it pretty breezy?
We all also make music on our own and have been doing that for a long time, so technically it wasn’t a problem. But I think we were all a bit hesitant at first, because having a producer there with you, you know, that person acts as a mediator. And we’re family, and we were a little worried about the decision-making process and how that would be. I wouldn’t say it was easier, but it worked in a way that we were very pleasantly surprised. It was very enjoyable and incredibly efficient. I think when you’re doing everything yourself, there isn’t a time crunch; you’re not paying someone to work with you, so that’s why we worked on this record for a really long time, and really took our time with it. We’d never done that before. I think the longest we’d ever taken was a month, or a little longer than a month, but this time we took our time with it for at least a year, maybe even a little over a year. So that part was also really great.
That’s fantastic! Of course, sometimes having the luxury of time has the potential to hinder the process, because it can muddle the feeling of knowing when the work is actually done. Was there any feeling of needing to impose some sort of deadline on yourselves to keep things moving?
Right. You can always make changes and make things better. But I don’t know, it didn’t really feel like that. I think it did get to a point where we felt we needed to finish it, and felt like it was done and that we didn’t want to keep working on it. We actually ended up cutting three songs that aren’t on the record, and it’s not because we didn’t love them. We got way more material out of it than we anticipated, and there was no pressure from the label. I think we just kind of felt that it was time for it to be done. It was a natural thing.
Cool. Now, I don’t know how much you want to talk about your dad today; mine passed away a couple of years ago, too, and so I know that (even with a little space in between) there are days where it’s just like, “Can we not?” But if you’re up for talking about the way his life and passing influenced this particular record, and/or the ways in which you feel those things have affected your creativity, either collaboratively with your sisters or just on a personal level, then I did want to ask about that.
It’s interesting, I wrote a song on the last record about my dad called “Please”, and that was really difficult, but also very cathartic. This time, Teeny wrote one called “Only Water”. I think my sisters and I all process it in different ways, but I think we all became more serious about the band in general after my dad passed away. It’s emotional, and it never gets easier, and it always feels weird to talk about my dad not being here. I don’t know if you feel like this, but it still doesn’t fully register no matter how many years have passed. It still feels strange that he’s not here, you know? I think just through writing music and being together and working together, I think that’s how we process it. I don’t know. I also think doing everything on our own this time…I don’t know, I just think that over time our relationship with each other strengthens, and I feel like anytime there’s a song written about my dad, it’s always an emotional experience.
Absolutely. And I definitely agree with you about how surreal it can feel sometimes to think about the fact that they’re gone, like to the point that you’re like, “Wait, there’s no way that really happened.”
Especially when it’s an untimely death, when someone dies before their time, you know. My dad was in his early sixties. It’s not like when a grandparent dies and it feels like they’ve lived a full life. (Not that it’s easier as an experience when that happens, but I think it makes it a little easier to process.) When someone dies before their time, especially a parent, it’s a feeling that you can’t really explain unless you’ve experienced it.
Completely. Now, since you brought up “Only Water”, let’s talk about the music video for that one. I really love the visual narrative, you know, emerging from the water and going through the forest and eventually ending up in a meadow. That symbolically feels like a pretty complete process of grieving and acceptance to me.
We worked with Charles Billot on that one. We went to Nova Scotia and shot four videos, and he directed all of them. So we worked with him closely about coming up with a treatment and ideas for the video. I feel like the narrative of the video and how it turned out happened after we shot it in terms of how we put it together, and the theme of coming out of the water. I don’t know, I feel like it all came together post-production narrative-wise. But it was also really important for us to do it in Nova Scotia, because that’s our home, and it’s also incredibly beautiful. Even if we’d come up with some elaborate treatment, it wouldn’t have mattered, because the scenery is so beautiful and stunning. It’s such a special place for us. And we knew we wouldn’t have to do much with it because of that, so that’s why we kept the clothing simple, no makeup, just kept everything very earthy and simple since the surroundings are so incredible. We basically stayed in this one location and did little day trips around, and it was such an amazing experience. We’d actually never been to that part of Nova Scotia, and it’s just crazy how beautiful it is. And there’s nobody there! It’s completely, totally remote. Nobody knows about it.
Which part was it, exactly? I’ve been to Nova Scotia before, but I went to Cape Breton. Probably definitely not the same place, but that was a really beautiful island, too.
So we grew up in Halifax, and it’s basically two and a half hours outside Halifax (which is the biggest city in Nova Scotia), and it’s called Advocate Harbour. We rented this old schoolhouse on Airbnb, it was like $70 a night and could sleep like ten people, and the house was located on acres and acres of wild blueberry fields. So at the end where we’re dancing, that’s like all wild blueberry fields. It’s such a beautiful place. But yeah, I’d never been there before. That’s the thing about Nova Scotia; I’d lived there for twenty-one years, an there are so many little spots that you can discover all the time. It feels like you’re at the end of the world. It’s so pretty.
Amazing. Alright, so you guys didn’t really talk so much about a narrative for the video beforehand, but what about the record as a whole? Was there any sort of discussion about what you were aiming for before you started writing?
We don’t ever really do that, we kind of just start writing. Teeny and I will usually write something on our own and then bring it to the band, and then we’ll kind of flesh it out that way. This time, how it originally started was that we got a grant from the Canadian government, which they give out to record music. We were approved, but we had to record in Canada, so that’s how we first started going to Montreal. We went twice last year, and basically because we were doing it ourselves, we wanted to see how it went if we all just got into the studio (which we rented from a friend of ours) together to write; usually Teeny and I will bring in the basic structure of a song with maybe a vocal melody, and then we flesh it out, but we thought, “What if we just jam together and see what we can come up with?” So we did that for ten days, and I think we got two of the song ideas that ended up on the record, but we basically scratched everything else from that session. The next time we went back, Teeny and I had a couple more basic song structure ideas. But yeah, we tried a bunch of different methods for this record that we hadn’t tried before. And then we worked on it in New York. There were a lot of different iterations, chunks of time, that we worked on this record. We don’t ever really come up with a concept, though. Teeny does her thing, I do my thing, we bring it to the band, and then it becomes more of a band song.
Totally. And people get very hung up on the fact that you’re family and in a band together, which I imagine comes from most of them being unable to picture doing that with their own siblings. But let’s say there are some family members out there considering playing music together professionally – do you have any advice in terms of setting boundaries?
If you’d have asked me this question eight years ago when we started, you know, we’re in a completely different place now. When you work with family, you kind of have to fast-forward and work through years and years of dynamics and any kind of history. Or, maybe it’s not that you have to work through that stuff quickly, but it’s more of a consistent thing that you have to work on. But in the beginning it was really tough. Teeny and I are only two years apart, so we grew up best friends, basically. But working together is a totally different thing, and it’s definitely challenging. There are still moments where it’s very challenging. I don’t know what advice I would give, though. Patience? [Laughs] I don’t know!
Right, I guess dynamics will vary from family to family.
Yeah, I think it’s just a process. It’s like any relationship in that you have to continuously work on it. And I think on some level we’ve separated. We still hang out all the time, even if we’re not working, but it’s hard. You find a balance, but you also still have crazy fights. We’ve figured out a way so that even if we get into a huge fight and blow up at each other, we take a breath and literally five minutes later we’re fine. That’s how we deal with it if we have a bad fight, but I don’t know. [Laughs] It’s just about accepting your situation, and having patience and respect. I’m the youngest of the three of us, and I think sometimes if I come in with a song, it can be hard to shift the dynamic where I’m like, “This is my song, so maybe try playing this,”; me telling them what to do can be a challenging thing since they’re my older sisters. And then I kind of have a thing where I’m like, “Don’t tell me what to do, because I’m the stubborn younger sister!” [Laughs] But anyway, you kind of figure it out. It’s not always easy, but it’s also the best thing ever once you get into the swing of things.
And on that note, let’s lastly about how this family dynamic is about to get bigger, huh? I hear you and Teeny are about to become aunts, if that hasn’t happened already!
It’s so funny, because nobody’s really mentioned it yet! Like, Katherine is incredibly pregnant in that video, and nobody’s said much, so I’m sort of like, is this people being afraid about being politically incorrect? [Laughs] I just can’t believe that nobody’s mentioned it. I mean, maybe one or two people have, but it’s just so funny. Anyway, she’s due January 3rd, so she’s about to burst. And she moved back to Canada, so that’s also an adjustment. But I’m very excited. I can’t believe we’re going to be aunts! We’re gonna spoil the shit outta that kid. [Laughs]