Interview: Future Teens

Future Teens are greater than the sum of their punchlines, but they owe the band’s existence to their jokes. Formed solely for the sake of a boozy Fourth-of-July party gag back in 2014, the then-duo of Daniel Radin and Gabe Goodman never planned on taking their act beyond a single two-song set. But after the joke turned out to have legs—a few half-serious demos later, Future Teens started sounding like a real band—the pair released their first EP, Still Afraid of Allston. (Naturally, their format of choice was the floppy disk, self-proclaimed “dumb merch.”) The five tracks riffed on the perils of casual dating and the seemingly endless cool of Silver Linings Playbook-era Jennifer Lawrence. By all appearances, the band wasn’t taking itself too seriously.

But much like any good gag, Future Teens’ charm lies in the elements that you didn’t see coming. Almost three years after that first performance, the band has doubled in size and is about to release a second EP, Bored and Alone, with plans for a full-length album soon to follow. The full lineup comes from a broad array of musical backgrounds: Vocalist and founder Daniel Radin splits his time with local folk band The Novel Ideas, but first learned the ins and outs of bandhood as a member of Columbia-signed electropop act Magic Man. His new bandmates, vocalist/guitarist Amy Hoffman, guitarist Nick Cortezi, and drummer Dylan Vadakin, bring a mix of Berklee professionalism and local indie roots to the group. (Goodman left the band in 2016 to pursue other projects.)

As Radin explains, those experiences help the group put its goals in perspective. “[Magic Man] played these huge shows, Terminal 5, House of Blues, shows at places I never dreamed of playing. But it sort of made me realize that, as great a time as I had hanging out with my friends and touring, pursuing my own music, my own creative music, was really important to me. So now I’m not going to say I don’t want to play ‘big’ band music ever again, but now I feel like, okay, I did that. If I just get to pursue my own music on a smaller scale, that’s great to me.”

Tongue-in-cheek writing is still the project’s hallmark, but that humor belies the focused ethic of a band with a honed direction and newfound energy. Though the foursome thinks of itself as a “summer rock” band above all, the bummer rock isn’t far behind, and the fusion of the two is helping the group find its way in Boston’s emo scene. Future Teens’ sound is about as far from the Manic-Panicked, mid-aughts associations as it gets, but it’s right at home in the genre’s more mature (though equally lovelorn) local revival. “It’s tight-knit and can be fun. Boston pretends to be a big city, but it makes for the emo scene to be pretty small and friendly,” says Hoffman.

While Bored and Alone might not seem like the most upbeat listen by name alone, it strikes a careful balance between playful lyricism and sincere emoting. In the span of five songs, the EP conjures the perfect vibes for every variety of romantic limbo, from the post-breakup Tinder bender (“In Love or Whatever”) to finding romance in a drunken fling (“Literally Falling for You”). While Hoffman jokes that it’s “five songs of ‘it’s complicated,” Radin explains that he put the track listing together with a bit more storytelling in mind.

“It’s a little bit chronological. The only one that I didn’t write from my own vantage point was ‘Literally Falling for You,’ which I wrote for a friend who met this dude at a party. They had this good rapport, but she was too drunk, so she fell off the porch and hit her head… I sort of reimagined the situation as if she hit her head, looked up, and was like, ‘Oh my god, this is the guy’  and fell in love,” he says.

That comfort in writing songs from another’s perspective became doubly useful with Hoffman’s addition as a second vocalist. “Kissing Chemistry”, another Bored and Alone track, was written by Radin, but brings Hoffman’s vocals to the forefront for the first time. Jumping into an already-developed sound could prove a challenge for some, but she found the transition natural.

“I really liked Daniel’s songwriting and the arrangements that the guys already had, and there was a lot of room for me to add as a guitarist. And then the couple of songs that I sing on, I had leeway to pop in with my own ideas. That was really cool,” said Hoffman. When it came to filling those gaps, she found inspiration in the ways that the band’s sound differed from her own past projects. “A lot of what I was writing prior to Future Teens was a little heavier, thematically heavier. It’s been fun to channel that ‘summer rock,’ we’re-all-addicted-to-seltzer kind of vibe.”

But in spite of appearances, it’s title track “Bored and Alone” that’s the most uplifting of the bunch, bolstered by an anti-FOMO chorus for non-minglers everywhere: “God, I am bored and alone/ It’s better than you think to stay at home/ No fear of missing out on somewhere you don’t wanna go.”

Coming from another band, those words might’ve been wrought with sarcasm, but the sincerity in Radin’s voice brings a heartening, epiphanic twist to the end of the EP. “I think I’d never, for Future Teens, written a song about being single, which sounds kind of weird to say aloud now,” he says. “But a lot of songs you write about, I guess, getting broken up with, or starting to date someone, or being in a difficult relationship, or being in a good relationship… It was supposed to be lighthearted. It’s such a depressing title that I thought it would be funny to write a non-depressing song. I always think of it as sort of an anthem for introverts.”

Start with a joke at a party, end up with a just-stay-home anthem—Future Teens seem bound for a path that’s paved with charming irony. The band doesn’t mind; they’re all happy to be making “complicated” music. “I think it’s really funny, but can still be really sad,” says Hoffman. “That’s a really nice juxtaposition that makes it fun.”

Catch Future Teens and tomorrow night at Great Scott for the Bored and Alone release show, along with opener Dear Leap. The 21+ show starts at 10 PM, and tickets are available here.

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