Teengirl Fantasy's swirl of Chinese Go Karts, Angelfire, warehouse rave, and The-Dream
Of all the indie bliss-bands to break through in the last year, Teengirl Fantasy -- coming to town Sat/8 -- is the dreamiest. Not just in the heart-dotted Tigerbeat vein, although TF's spangly Angelfire website (teengirlfantasy.angelfire.com ) certainly plays on giggle-driven hormone rushes.
No, Oberlin College students Logan Takahashi and Nick Weiss also meticulously tap into a subconscious slipstream of musical influences — 1990s R&B, '70s soul, Balearic house, Windham Hill new age, bubblegum pop — that roils with allusive energy but never jolts upright into blunt nostalgia or jokey parody. The meticulously layered synth-and-sample compositions on debut album 7AM don't lead directly to the dance floor either. Instead, they amble ecstatically down some long, spectral hallway toward a distant rave. When performing live, however, Teengirl Fantasy moves multitudes.
SFBG Are you guys still in the midst of your big tour? And did you really play the Great Wall of China?
Nick Weiss We still have one semester left of school, so we tour constantly during school breaks. We played a festival near the Great Wall in August. It was amazing — China was such a nuts place to be. Even though the government attempts to create such a restrictive environment, there are plenty of punks and people who party really out of control. One night we were taken to a Go Kart track around 1 a.m. The place where you bought your tickets was also a bar, so everyone was drunk driving!!! It ruled!!
SFBG You've mentioned before that one of the aims of your music is to capture a certain dreaminess or "half-asleep" sensation. There's a rad sound art exhibition going on from L.A.'s 323 Projects right now that reminded me of you. It's called "from one side to the other, I've dreamed that too." Basically, you call this number, (323) 843-4652 from anywhere until Jan.17 and it plays an array of sound art pieces made by different people. What would you put on a Teengirl Fantasy Hotline?
Logan Takahashi My voicemail answering message is a recording of one of those Buddha Machines made by FM3. I've always thought that was a pretty clever idea for a product or a piece, just a bunch of simple, really pleasant infinite loops.
SFBG Speaking of dreaminess and loops, I think one of the best tracks of the year is "Dancing in Slow Motion" from 7AM. It totally reminds me of how everything sounds when you're trying to say something in a dream and you wake yourself up — this kind of shivery mumbling. Guest singer Shannon Funchess' sublimated diva delivery is right on.
NW We met Shannon through her Light Asylum bandmate Bruno Coviello, who coincidentally lived at the studio we were working in. However, we had already seen Light Asylum a bunch of times and knew how amazing her voice was. We wrote the song pretty quickly, but our initial impulse was to make a huge ballad, the size of The-Dream but with a dreamier twist ...
SFBG: I also adore the "Dancing in Slow Motion" video, directed by Mark Brown. Between that and the "Cheaters " and "Portofino " videos, you've been tagged as adopting a "visualizer" aesthetic. How much input have you had with your videos and the visual manifestation of your music?
NW: We really just choose an artist whose work we really love, give them the track, and let them do whatever they want. Working with Mark Brown, Kari Altmann, and the legendary IASOS has been so cool... we really love the videos each of them made. I wouldn't call them pure "visualizer," I'd say that their looks are pretty intentional rather than automated. However maybe we just have a pretty high tolerance for rave graphix. I could watch fractals pulse to trance for hours.
LT: Honestly we never intentionally were looking for a unifying aesthetic between our videos, but it is kind of funny to go back and look at the things they have in common. I spent a lot of time watching 'beyond the mind's eye' videos as a child and I think that had an effect on my threshold for abstract 3D FX.
SFBG The title of your album, 7AM is kind of an in-joke to old-school ravers, conjuring up both the kooky bombast of KLF's "3AM Eternal" and warehouse bragging, as in "Dude, I was there at 7 a.m. when Richie Hawtin dropped 'Pacific 707.'" Do you guys deliberately build references and concepts into your tracks beforehand, or do they come out of a more organic jamming process?
NW It really is an organic process. We won't usually start talking about a track until after we've written and recorded it. Once we start mixing, we might talk references. But when we're writing, it's really more about capturing the live feeling and strengthening improvisations.
LT It helps for us to keep that element of viscerality and response as part of the songwriting process.
SFBG Detroit techno seems a touchstone for you ...
LT Detroit!!!! Still trying to make it to the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, hopefully this year. Huge fan of the music that comes out of that city.
TEENGIRL FANTASY with Pictureplane, Tormenta Tropical, and Donuts DJs. Sat/8, 10 p.m., $5––$10. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com .