Interview with Dorian Dumont of The Teenagers

Hey Dorian – It’s so awesome to be doing this interview with you!  I’ve been playing your 2008 album Reality Check in my car lately and it’s so fun and filled with deliciously dirty lyrics, infectious melodies, and propulsive tempos.  Your pop songs have a youthful, sing-along zest, but are also dreamy and starry-eyed due to your cool guitar lines (that sometime has a rock edge) and synth work.

You started The Teenagers in 2005 in Paris with Quentin Delafon (vocalist) and long-time friend Michael Szpiner (bassist).  Your Facebook biography states “We Are French”, but I’m wondering if there is a London link that goes along with the French connection?

When we started the band, Quentin was already living in London, so when we signed a deal with an English record label, we decided to join him in London; it seemed easier for everything. We’re all French; we just lived in London for a while and our career started with an English label in England.

How did the three of you decide on your band’s musical style of guitar-driven synth-pop with talky vocals?  Were there specific bands that influenced your sound when you first started?

I started composing songs on my computer with the idea of doing some kind of The Strokes-type songs with electronic beats and synths. I don’t think we sound like The Strokes at all, but this was an idea when I started to write songs for The Teenagers. It’s a mix of indie rock and mainstream pop music. So I guess it came naturally.

Based on the t-shirts that you sport at shows, it looks like you’re into a lot of rock bands like Nirvana and My Chemical Romance.  Is there any chance that The Teenagers will incorporate emo, straight-up metal, or other, heavier rock ‘n’ roll styles into the pop format?

I think it would be weird because these are my musical tastes, but we don’t all share those. We all have very different taste in music, and I think what we do with The Teenagers is really in between everything we like. I like heavy metal but I don’t wanna make that type of song at all, and I never really tried. Quentin is more a pop music listener and I think you can feel it in our music. But The Teenagers is a project and we want to keep it like it is for now. The new music we are writing at the moment is different but it’s still The Teenagers.  We are evolving, I believe, in a very good way.

What was it like to make the leap from self-releasing a few of your songs on MySpace to signing with Merok and XL?  Did either company try to censor or change what you wrote or played?

It was amazing!  We just wrote a few songs for our friends and created a funny MySpace profile, and then we found a deal before we even started to play gigs. It was good to work with these labels and none of them asked us to ever change anything.  We had full freedom to record what we wanted, and to sound how it sounds.

What was your level of involvement in Reality Check?  Did you compose all of the music and play guitar(s) and synths?  Is Quentin the main lyricist or do you all pitch in?

Yeah, it’s like that. I mainly take care of the music writing and record guitars and synths.  And Quentin is the main lyricist. We all talk about everything together but songs always start like that.

It looks like you’re also a back-up vocalist when you play live.  Do you sing on Reality Check too?

Yeah, the three of us sing a lot on Reality Check.

You’ve been using a specific guitar at gigs.  It’s black and has duct tape on one corner.  What kind of guitar is it and is it your favorite type of guitar?

It’s a Fender Jaguar, my favorite guitar. Kurt Cobain liked these guitars, so I bought one when I was younger and it’s still my favorite one.

You toured extensively in 2008 to promote Reality Check, hitting 25 countries on your musical journey.  Is that time period just a blur to you now or do certain parts of it stand out in your memory?

I think it’s 35 countries!  I would need to check though, and YES, it is completely blurry… I remember bits, but it just seems so far away. I will always remember the first time we played at Reading Festival in England. We were on at 11am, I think, and we were so stressed that no one will show up. Ten minutes before we went on, I looked at the stage and there were like 100 people in a 2500 capacity tent… I was freaking out, but when we arrived on stage, it was full. And it was my dream to play this festival. Coachella is a good memory too… Well, there are so many good memories… Living on tour is the funniest thing that has ever happened to me – good times, and it’s great to get to see so many places and meet so many different people.

The Teenagers - Reality Check

There are some spoken word and sing-talking female vocals on Reality Check and you’ve had a female keyboardist at gigs.  Who is she and is she a permanent member of the band?

No, we have musicians on tour with us all the time but they are not in the band. On the album, the girl is called Sarah; she’s my BFF.

I think you’ve also recently enlisted William Kuehn (drummer of now-defunct Rainer Maria) on drums.  How did you hook up with him and will he be playing at upcoming gigs and/or on your highly-anticipated follow-up album?

He was playing gigs with us in 2009, and we met him ‘cause he’s been tour managing us for one of our US tours in 2008. He’s living in NYC so it’s not easy to rehearse and to organize tours with him, so we found a French one now. It’s always good to see him in NYC though!

How is the music-writing going for your next album?   Will it be along the same sonic lines as Reality Check?

It’s hard to say ‘cause I’m in the middle of it. It will sound different. We wrote a lot of songs now, maybe 15, and we are going to produce them now. It takes a lot of time, but we want it to be good, so we have to work.  🙂

What else is up for The Teenagers in 2011?  Do you have any gigs in the works?

Not yet. We have to finish our record before we start touring again. So we are just touring France with Two Door Cinema Club, and it’s great ‘cause we never really toured France… Which is really weird and unexpected, but true.

You released a single online titled “Made Of”.  Is this a song a teaser of what your new album will be like?

Not really ‘cause, it’s the first one we wrote after the first album, so I think it still has the same vibe. Some other new songs are very different.  We have more danceable ones, more electronic ones, more guitar ones… There are way more influences on this forthcoming one than on our first record.

The Teengers has done a lot of remixes of other bands’ songs like Air, Goldfrapp, Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, and Au Revoir Simone.  Are these official remixes that are requested by those bands or do you just do that for fun?

Yeah, most of them are requests by bands/labels.

Do you also dj on the side in clubs?  What type of music or mixes to you play?

We play whatever makes them dance. Mostly electronic music.

In 2007 you released an EP titled The World Is Not Fair.  Are any of the songs on the EP also on your debut album or is it totally different content?

Yeah, some songs are on both, but on the EP it’s demos versions that we recorded in my bathroom.

As a teenager you were playing in a lot of other bands.  Were you also playing guitar and/or synths in those bands?  What was that time period like for you?

No, I just had one or two bands before and I was playing guitars. I was more into writing songs alone in my room when I was a teenager.

What is your most favorite band t-shirt that you have and why?  Mine is a t-shirt of Morrissey’s face because I was smitten by The Smiths and Morrissey and went to one of Morrissey’s concerts on his Kill Uncle tour.

It’s my ‘I love to hate Fall Out Boy’ t-shirt, but I lost it on tour… I can’t remember where, or when…

I hope this is not too intrusive, but I wanted to find out the story behind your heart tattoo on the inside of your wrist.  When did you get it done and what was the process like?

I did it on the last day of our American tour in 2008. We were playing in Hoboken, near NYC, and Michael was talking about doing tattoos every day of the tour. We did the sound check, and then we decided to just go and see what would happen. And half an hour later I got that tattoo, and, I don’t really know why, but I never regretted it.  I actually love it.

There are some TV show references in certain songs of The Teenagers, including the original 90210.  Are you watching the new 90210 or “reality shows” like The Jersey Shore?  I’ve checked out the remake of Hawaii Five -0 to at least view some escapist scenery (and some guy candy).

I never saw The Jersey Shore but I’ve heard people talking about it often.  I am more into True Blood, Dexter, Californication, and Mad Men… I’m not really into reality shows.

Can you please give us the official The Teenagers website?  Thanks so much Dorian!  Take care and I can’t wait to hear your new album.