Two years after their celebrated debut, Teengirl Fantasy are back with Tracer. This time, the Brooklyn duo have replaced the 70s samples with exciting vocals – but they’re keeping the vibe somewhere between a chill wave version of house and techno pop. Wonderland photograph Nick and Logan and get the low-down.
When you started doing Tracer, was there any conceptual approach?
N: What we do is definitely influenced by composition. But it’s not like new classical, it’s more influenced by techno and pop. There’s elements of classical you could read into techno, but we’re not avant-garde. I definitely enjoy a lot of that stuff to a point. But once stuff gets too conceptual…
You use guest vocals by people like Panda Bear and Laurel Halo that pretty much replace the vocal samples from your first record. What kind of role did these collaborations play in the composition process?
Logan: Well, the process was pretty similar. We basically wrote the instrumentals first and then the vocalists added their thing to it.
Nick: With a bit of exception on the Laurel Halo track, because we were in a room with her at the same time. That was a little more back and forth, but it was cool that each vocalist gave as much as they wanted to give musically.
The whole lyrical side of the tracks is pretty much their work?
N: Pretty much. We sent Panda Bear an instrumental and he sent us back a song. With Anthony it was similar, we gave him two tracks and he gave us two ideas and we just picked one, but he had already recorded it.
L: We didn’t really give that much input, it definitely felt more like collaborations.
To find a balance between the precision of all these machines and still sounding human – is that something you think about?
L: Definitely! We never fully beat-match everything right on the grid. It’s more fun for us while we’re playing when there’s more of an live element.
N: I think at a certain point everything in music started to get very very quantized and because we do play most of our music live when we record – we have eight or 16 tracks and we just do a full take of the song – it ends up sounding really different from if we had loops. That’s how a lot of electronic stuff is made …
That would be the Ableton way to go… Working with clips and layering them.
N: I like doing that too, but for this project a lot of the sound comes from the fact that everything is constantly shifting. I think that’s makes it so organic.
L: Both of us grew up playing acoustic instruments. Nick plays piano, I studied violin all my childhood. I’m sure musically that influences the way that we think about playing with each other.
You guys met at college, what did you study there?
L: I studied electronic music, composition and technology.
N: I was in the film programme, but I also did a lot of stuff in the music programme.
Your music would definitely work well on a lot of film soundtracks – what makes a good score?
N: It really has to heighten the film itself. But a good score can stand on his own and you can listen to it but it’s also functional within the context of the film. We’re both really into Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack to Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. That was an inspiration I think.
How did you come up with the name Teengirl Fantasy?
L: We were hanging out at 3 in the morning with our friend and talking about boy bands and she was like, “oh, Teengirl Fantasy would be the perfect name for a boy band” – and that’s how it started.
N: It was a total joke. When we started making music it wasn’t careerist or serious, it was just for fun and that seemed like a really funny name to us and then that got stuck. And now we have to tell boarder officials that’s our name.
L: It says Teengirl Fantasy on my passport.
N: Yeah, it says it on our passport a billion times.
Tracer is out on 21 August.
Words: John Luas
Images: Malte Seidel