Getting To Know... Teen Mortgage

After turning out a blistering array of anthemic alt-rock offerings these last few years, Washington DC-based duo Teen Mortgage return once again with their latest energetic effort 'Smoked'.

Bringing the same bold and tenacious attitude as acts like Death From Above 1979 and IDLES, 'Smoked' sees the pair return in fine form. Filled with vibrant hooks, killer riffs, and an unstoppable pace, this one will have you pumping your fists from start to finish.

So with the new single available now, we sat down with them to find out more about their origins and what has inspired them most over the years.


What were the first instruments you fell in love with?

James: guitars, surprisingly enough. Johnny Ramone was a revelation because I knew what he was doing was attainable.

Ed: I taught myself how to play drums in high school. My friend wanted to start a band and I had a year of snare drum ensemble in elementary school, so I was the most qualified available person to fill the slot. I scraped together my own money, bought a shitty used kit for $150 dollars, and joined when I didn't know how to even play a beat. I only started taking lessons once I went to college because I wanted access to a practice room, which turned into a minor in music. The shells of my main Teen Mortgage drum kit are from that first set I've bought, modded and re-wrapped in faux pink fur.

What has been the most prominent inspiration behind your music so far?

James: Teen Mortgage at our core is a commentary on capitalism.

What kind of music did you love as a teenager?

James: I was fully committed to the indie rock of that era. A lot of Canadian bands like The Unicorns, Wolf Parade, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, etc. I was also really big into The Beatles, 60's guitar bands, and Britpop. I got into heavy stuff later.

Ed: I listened to a lot of nu-metal and prog-rock. I definitely bumped a lot of Deftones, Tool, Cold, Slipknot, Mudvayne, Type O Negative, Soulfly...etc... with more psyche and stuff like Pink Floyd and the Doors towards the end of high school. I was also a bit of a juggalo and rocked everything I could get my hands on by them up through the 6th Joker card.

Can you remember the first song that made you want to pursue a life in music?

James: The Beatles playing ''Twist and Shout'' at the 1963 royal variety performance. When John Lennon said “Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewelry." It was a punk rock moment more than 10 years before its time. I was like I wanna do that.

Ed: I feel like I kind of fell into being a musician. I couldn't pick a singular song that made we want to pursue music.

When you wake up in the morning, what kind of music do you like to listen to?

James : Dad rock and coffee is a vibe. Van Morrison, John Lennon, Neil Young. Also Lo fi beats playlists.

Ed: I listen to the most music when I'm working out. Most mornings, I drink some caffeine and go for about and hour walk around my town and try to run whatever new albums I want to check out. It's a good opportunity to crush unfamiliar material, albums by bands we're going to be playing with, friends' projects, bands people have recommended, etc. When I'm lifting weights, it's a lot of stoner metal and doom.

How many of your songs have you written about people in your life?

James: I would imagine all our songs are inspired by a person. People have direct and indirect effects on the way we perceive life, so in some way a person has created a chain reaction where down the line I have written a song about the way I feel about it.

What have been the most memorable moments in your career so far?

James: One of my favorite moments was when we played a show from a truck bed while driving down 18th St Nw in Washington, DC during the part of the pandemic when restraints did most of their business on the street. Every time we've opened for a band that I've listened to for a long time, that's always so surreal.

Ed: A while back, somebody tagged us in their instagram story. They had just gotten the artwork from our Such is Life single tattoo'd on them. I hadn't prepared any mental response fir the notion someone would connect with Teen Mortgage's music in such a way that they'd permanently alter their body.

Outside of music, what is your biggest passion?

James : skateboarding. I will talk your ear off about skateboarding if you let me.

Ed: I've been in love with weight lifting since I was a teenager and I will also talk your ear off about it if given the opportunity. I fortunately had been in the process of building a garage gym when the pandemic hit. With our music performance schedule sidelined, most of my time was spent powerlifting.

If you weren’t musicians, what other path do you think you might have taken?

James: skateboarding for sure.

Ed: I'm currently also a registered nurse, which I got into because it gave me a flexible schedule so I could play music. I don't know if I would have gone into the profession otherwise. I think I might have gone into kinesiology or physical therapy instead.

And what advice would you give to other musicians looking to start a career in music?

Ed: *shrugs*


Teen Mortgage's new single 'Smoked' is available to stream now. Check it out in the player below.