From COVID derailing a promising year to recording a record in eight hours.
Before COVID-19 turned everything upside down last March, people were planning. It was the spring, so folks were planning summer vacations, bands were planning tours, and if you’re a music journalist like myself, then you were applying for press passes to a bunch of festivals.
All of this blew up in our faces before we even knew what was going on, and Boston indie rock act Future Teens can relate. They were riding the high of a successful 2019 into a musical expedition-filled 2020 while sharing the bill with some cool bands, and then it all stopped before it started.
Fortunately, they made the most of the rough year and released the Deliberately Alive EP, which was released via Take This To Heart Records nearly an exact 12 months after the pandemic hit on March 12.
I recently spoke with co-guitarists and co-vocalists Daniel Radin and Amy Hoffman about having to cancel some big gigs, having only eight hours to make the record, evoking their own take on Cher, and waiting for it to be safe to play shows again.
What was the band preparing for before the pandemic hit in March?
Amy Hoffman: We were gearing up to tour a lot while writing for both the EP we just released and the next full-length. Then everything kind of veered off course from there while we waited to figure out what the next year was going to look like.
How many shows did you have to cancel?
AH: We had a weekender booked with the Brooklyn acts Pronoun and Proper the same weekend when everything shut down along with four or five other dates. We also had a full US tour that was going to happen with Spanish Love Songs from Los Angeles and Dollar Signs from Charlotte during the spring. I think that’s as far out as we were booked.
What did you aim to do differently with the Deliberately Alive EP than what you did with the full-length Breakup Season that came out in 2019?
Daniel Radin: I think one of the freedoms that you have with an EP is that all the songs can feel really different while taking chances on arrangement and song structure. You’re not trying to create a super cohesive concept album so we definitely tried to push ourselves in terms of songwriting, lyrics, guitar tones and just the sounds in general. A lot of it came from working with Andy Park on the mix for it and he also mixed Breakup Season, so we have a nice working relationship that we’ve built already. We were building upon that foundation from the full-length into the EP, so that’s probably the biggest shift. This is also the first time as a full band that we got to record a cover, which was exciting.
What inspired doing a rendition of Cher’s “Believe” on the EP? It’s kind of a banger, so it’s interesting to hear a rock band taking on that energy of a pop song.
AH: A couple of years ago we were asked to do a few Halloween shows and we were trying to figure out what our cover set should be. We kind of cheated and chose Kidz Bop Vol. 1, that record is just filled with bangers front to back and “Believe” is one of them. It’s also where our cover of Smash Mouth’s “All Star” came from for that cover set, we arranged it as if you could do it through a Blink-182 filter. We only had eight hours to practice together and Daniel and I wrote the songs for the EP over FaceTime, then we brought everyone together for a socially-distanced rehearsal for one single day. At the end of the day we had to pick a cover which is something that we all kind of know and we can put our own spin on.
“Believe” was everyone’s first pick. It’s something we’ve covered before and we were able to re-work it in a way that sounded like us.
Another track on the EP that really sticks out to me is “Guest Room,” where you have a bunch of people contributing additional vocals. How were you able to get all these folks to do backing vocals for the song? Were they all done through Zoom and socially-distanced fashion? Or did you have them all go into a room together with a mic in a remote way? How were you able to accomplish that part of the song?
AH: We kind of just called and texted all of our friends and asked, “Hey, do you want to do this? It doesn’t have to be fancy.” Some of them recorded themselves on their phones and sent it to us and others set up mics and stuff in their own homes. Luckily, since no one had anything else to do, we were able to turn it around really fast after giving everybody really short notice.
That’s awesome how it worked out seamlessly. With live music being nonexistent due to COVID-19 can we expect a virtual show to promote the EPs release? Do you have other plans where you’re looking to utilize social media as much as you can for the time being for marketing and promotion purposes?
DR: We haven’t really gotten to see each other since the pandemic started other than the one day we planned ahead for the EP. We’re all working now again so meeting up is very difficult. I think we’re just kind of hoping that there’s some sort of show that we can do in a safe way this summer either outdoors, at a drive-in or something like that. We really want to do the songs justice in a way and we’ve thought about doing a livestream, but it feels like it’s not quite as exciting as us getting ready and actually playing the songs in a real live format. We’re kind of waiting for it to be safe and structured at this point besides the fact that we’ve only gotten to play these songs together for one day. We definitely need to practice and to do a livestream that needs to be involved, which is something we’re still figuring out but we’re hoping to properly play the songs live for people when it’s safe to do so.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.