Emo Prom 2019 Q&A: Tweens

By Kwase Lane, Staff Writer
[Photo by Joe Medlen]
Q&A with guitarist and vocalist Bridget Battle and guitarist Phil Valois of Tweens.

So, you guys have been together for a while, right?

Bridget: No, not necessarily. I’ve been a part of Tweens since about the latter half of 2012 and I had an initial lineup of my friend Jerri and Peyton, and actually, Jerri played tonight in Vacation. That was his band before he joined Tweens. He’s a good friend. We all live in the same neighborhood in Cincinnati. Peyton and Jerri left, and I reformed. Now I play with Phil, Ben Lehman and BJ Marsee, and we’re working on the second record.

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What do you think some of the challenges are with being in a group and having to play together?

Bridget: I think it’s having a work ethic where you’re constantly always going for it. The funny thing about Tweens is that everything always moves so fast early on, and it’s just constantly playing not just local shows but even shows regionally like this prom tonight, which was really fun. Just playing as many shows as you can and kind of tuning up the new songs, and also just trying to keep writing as much as you can because that’s what makes it tune up the quickest. We just always have new things to put in people’s faces, and one of the best ways to work on new songs is to play them regionally. That way you get them really tight, and then when you go in the studio, you know exactly what you want to put out.

What does your musical genre, Trash Pop, mean to you, and what do you like most about playing it?

Bridget: We put that out really early on because my initial vision for this band was a mixture of a lot of things, and one of them was the “Phil Spector kind of era” girl group from the 1960s like The Ronettes to The Crystals, even The Shangri-Las, though they weren’t Phil Spector. Then I wanted to fast forward it to the late ‘70s with The Ramones because a lot of those late ‘70s New York bands like The Ramones were honestly just Shangri-Las’ songs but faster. The Ramones even had a Phil Spector record around that time, and they were fast, and they were driven, but they were still throwing back to the melodic and harmonizing era of that time. I also really loved ‘90s budget rock, and there was kind of a revival in the mid-’90s of garage punk bands who would cover both the Ramones and the Shangri-Las, and they made it sound like the shit. They would record on tapes, and they would make it sound really cool. They didn’t care if they made any money; they didn’t care what they did with that band or if it went anywhere, but they just had these records and tapes that I worshipped. I really listened to it before I started Tweens, and I wanted to sound just like them … the Bobbyteens and the Mummies and stuff.

I was looking through your Facebook earlier. You have a lot of cool pictures, and I wanted to know who was in charge of that. And how you decide on your aesthetic as a group?

Bridget: That’s always been a big thing for me from the get-go because I think that if you have a visual representation of what your band looks like, people really catch on. There’s so much to be said about that too because if you have a vibe for a band, there is absolutely no dispute over what art people make you, even if you don’t ask for it, what merch you want to be made for you, album art when it comes down to it and photography. I think that for Tweens from the beginning, I always had a general look for it, and it was really saturated. It was really poppy, and I always posted “inspo” pictures and stuff from Tumblr when it was relevant. I don’t really get on there anymore, but even when I was promoting shows in Cincinnati before Tweens started doing really well, I would always use those images as Facebook event images to promote the show. If someone saw that or saw that, it was something in the vein of Tweens. They would know that that’s what it was. I feel like that’s what made it relevant if that makes sense. Everything I went into I always had an inspiration for, and I never really thought too much about the visual aspect of it because that was one of the most fun things about being in a band. It came so easy, and it looked so cool that I never really had any issues about it, but I was also fairly particular about it. The name Tweens comes from … the teenybopper spectrum. Back then, we were thinking about Beatlemania where there were just tweens and teenage girls going fucking crazy over all these rock ’n’ roll bands; it’s like the Beatles came to America and teenage girls are crying and losing it. And I liked that idea. I like the idea of someone young being so hyped on a rock ’n’ roll band. I think that’s so cool, and they’re so obsessive and so stoked. That’s what I wanted the artwork to look like, and that’s what I named the band after.

Did you ever go through an emo phase when you were younger?

Bridget: Yeah, totally. It’s funny to hear all this stuff because I was even talking to Phil out here like this is nostalgic and has relevance because I was watching MTV when System of a Down was on. Nobody was present, the TV was my babysitter. I watched System of a Down, I watched Staind, all that shit. And then as I got older when I was in junior high and when I was in high school, it was all Fall Out Boy and our hometown heroes, Hawthorne Heights. And that shit was so popular, and I know all the lyrics to all of it. I grew up with it. I had so many friends that were into it. I had so many friends that weren’t into it. Yeah, I remember all that shit, that was my time. What’s emo for you?

Phil: Emo was a little different.

Bridget: Was it like Sunny Day Real Estate or something?

Phil: No emo was Embrace and Rites of Spring. It’s Dischord bands.

Bridget: Dischord bands? Seriously, so like Nation of Ulysses and Void and stuff?

Phil: No, no, no, Well yeah but…

Bridget: Are you talking about late ‘90s Dischord?

Phil: No, late ‘80s Dischord.

Bridget: What?

Phil: Yeah, that’s when emo came out. It’s pre-Fugazi.

Bridget: If I think about early emo, that’s not mall punk shit. I think about Sunny Day Real Estate, but you’re telling me Fugazi, really?

Phil: Yeah, pre-Fugazi was Embrace and Rites of Spring.

Bridget: Are you talking about that instrumental record?

Phil: No, pre-all Fugazi. Emo is attributed to Rites of Spring, really. Listen to that first Rites of Spring record, and that’s real emo punk.

Bridget: Whoa, you’re blowing my mind right now.

Phil: Yeah, but it changed; it’s not the same thing.

Bridget: It definitely did turn because they made it profitable, so it became Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy

So, did you ever go to your high school prom?

Bridget: Oh my god no, but it’s funny that you ask because, for the first record, I wanted to do the video for the song “Forever”, and I wanted it to be a prom because I never went to my prom. And that is actually probably how I met Phil because Phil was really hands-on, and he helped decorate for it. And so, what we did was we rented out this old Masonic lodge, and we used almost half of our entire budget on prom decorations. We bought it out, made it look really nice.

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