By now, it’s common knowledge that Future Teens began as a joke. The pop rock group formed when Daniel Radin and Gabe Goodman decided to turn a concept into a sound. Ask around, though, and few people know how it actually got started.
“Honestly, the concept we came up with—which is really not funny—was that the band existed in high school, that Gabe and I got in a fight and broke up, and then years later were having a reunion,” says Radin. “So all the songs would be the same songs we played in high school. We would have a Myspace presence, would release the songs on PureVolume. That was the concept, and our first EP was supposed to be the only thing we released.”
Future Teens designed its old website to look like a GeoCities offshoot. The band released music on floppy disks. Soon after, Goodman left for New York, Dylan Vadakin responded to their Berklee ad looking for a drummer, guitarist Nick Cortezi signed on, and Amy Hoffman joined as the bassist and vocalist at the end of 2015. The new lineup began working on music in the following months. This time, the group was excited about their songs because they genuinely liked the music they were making. One of Allston’s first truly self-aware bands figured out how to inject sincerity into their sound when no one was looking, even if onlookers fail to notice. You can’t blame them. Even their formation feels comically surreal.
“Amy and I matched on Tinder, and I immediately messaged her, ‘I know this isn’t what Tinder is for, but do you want to be in our band?’” Radin laughs. “She asked to hear it, I sent her the first EP, and she sent us her album. I immediately sent her music to Dylan, and we were geeking out about her guitar playing and her voice.”
But over time, that changed. Humor slid into the backseat even if it splashes itself across their song titles and lyrics. As Radin, Hoffman, and Vadakin sit in the back of Club Passim to talk with me, they crack jokes about skeevy “future teens” indirects and Grey’s Anatomy surgeons live-tweeting, but they clearly care enough about Future Teens to meet after 10 pm on a weeknight. It’s not all comedy. Several days a week, Vadakin drives to Boston from his home in Connecticut to rehearse. The group signed to Western Mass record label Take This to Heart for last year’s Hard Feelings, an album that in title and in sound encapsulates their interchangeable “bummer rock” and “summer rock” tags. Future Teens was born on humor and rides goofiness to this day, without ever feeling forced.
That casual approach permeates every facet of Future Teens. It’s intentional, at least for Radin. It’s an outlet to be nonchalant but sincere. Radin used to be in Magic Man, an electropop group that signed to Columbia and followed the traditional major label route. Understandably, he wanted a break. “When Dylan joined, our big goal was to play Great Scott,” says Radin. “That was our Madison Square Garden.” Because the band hit that goal with its EP release show, it’s new goal is to play the Sinclair. That, or to open for a touring band like Camp Cope. It’s a different world than the one his old band used to reside in.
The rest of Future Teens carries that same attitude, though. Members raised the bar for themselves in side projects that became nearly impossible to scale, as self-imposed expectations do. Yet as Future Teens, those same members allow themselves to coexist with potential mistakes or unintentional errors, for the better. “The best is when we get stumped on a song and don’t know how to change it, so I’ll start playing half time and louder,” says Vadakin, with a laugh. “Suddenly, we’re into it again.”
“I’m not nearly as hard on myself when I’m writing with the band as I am when I’m writing alone in my room,” says Hoffman. “I’ll sit there with my guitar, yelling at myself for not being creative anymore. But then we work at practice and writing is fun again.”
That comes through clearly. Everything Future Teens creates shines with a youthful coyness. There are song titles like “What’s My Sign Again” and “D.T.F.L.” (an acronym for Down to Fall in Love). There’s self-deprecating humor, which Hoffman says she uses to cope with life. She balances cheekiness with sighs thanks to lines like “Cut me slack / I’m just trying to get back on my feet / To do the things I thought I’d have done by 19” and “I’m really glad you feel okay to date / Heard that he’s an asshole / He plays a sport I tried in second grade.” It’s a constant process. Each member keeps a running list of idioms, puns, and jokes to be repurposed into song material.
“Goofing around, having fun, and thinking of stupid things is sincerely the most awesome thing ever,” says Vadakin. “Not taking ourselves seriously is how we take things seriously.”
But there’s still some sincerity in the band’s work. As they chip away at their own dating failures and adulthood struggles, the members of Future Teens can’t help but sing with a bit of sadness. Going on dozens of Tinder dates can make you question if you’re a boring person. Living in a city of undergrads can make you wonder if the person you will click with is out there. But if you reverse the viewpoint, something funny will stand out. “Kissing Chemistry,” which isn’t their funniest song by any measure, is the one they find the most humor in: “All that we had was just good kissing chemistry.”
“I have a tendency to pour all of my sadness into what I write,” says Hoffman. “Everything I’ve made outside Future Teens has been devastating. So coming into this band has been a fun and cathartic exercise in writing differently from an alternate perspective. Having the influence of these guys in my songwriting has been pretty powerful.”
At the end of the day, that’s what’s helped Future Teens to grow. The band has learned that keeping things casual and comedic lends itself toward a much healthier path for growing, as musicians and as people. And because the band doesn’t treat its music as a precious commodity, each practice moving forward has space for the group to keep pushing forward. They may be joking, but the group is seriously talented, which is perhaps the best, and last, laugh of all.
FUTURE TEENS, GREAT WIGHT, COSMIC JOHNNY, PAIGE CHAPLIN. THU 1.18. VFW POST 529 – GEORGE DILBOY POST, 371 SUMMER ST., SOMERVILLE. 7PM/ALL AGES/$8. BROWNPAPERTICKETS.COM