In March of 1992, Phillip Hill and Matt Benson left the band they were in to play their own brand of melodic punk rock. The band was called SPRING CHICKENS. Matt was the lead singer and chief songwriter. Phillip played bass and sang back-up vocals. Their decision to leave the band was based on musical direction of the other members of the group. The other members were leaning more toward the Seattle grunge trend of SOUNDGARDEN and PEARL JAM while Phillip and Matt were getting back to bands like the RAMONES and the DESCENDENTS.
After leaving the band, there was the next step: Find the right band mates! In order to do that, they had to make a demo tape of what they wanted to play. Using Matt's mom's boyfriend's 4-track, the two ex-CHICKENS and a drum machine cranked out punked up versions of RICHIE VALENS' "Come on, Let's go", the RAMONES' "S.L.U.G.", and a few originals.
This time Matt was on vocals and bass and Phillip was on guitar and back-up vocals. This tape was passed along to potential band members, and after audition after agonizing audition, the boys were getting discouraged. So, they started backtracking.
They remembered an old drummer from SPRING CHICKENS, Chris Trio. Chris lived about 30 miles out of town in Murfreesboro, TN which made practice a little difficult. But they did it four times a week. It was decided that they would find a bass player so Matt could be free to concentrate more on singing. He also liked the idea of being able to move around on stage more. Now they had to find a bassist who could handle Matt's bass lines and also sing a third harmony vocal. That's when Janell Saxton fell right into their laps.
Phillip was very fortunate to attend the only high school in the state to offer a recording class equipped with it's own 24-track recording studio. Being a senior, he was given the bigger recording projects. One such project was recording another high school's bluegrass string band. The lead singer of this band grabbed Phillip's attention, not only for her amazing voice, but he thought it was unusual for the singer in a bluegrass band to have the side of her head shaved, spiked wristbands, and wear EXPLOITED t-shirts! But he wasn't looking for a singer and bass was the only thing on his mind. Which brings us to the next day. The regular bassist couldn't make it to the session, so Janell picked up the bass and said "I can play his parts." This was no ordinary bass. It was an upright, or what the players from the '50's called a "doghouse" bass. After the session, Janell came up to Phillip and told him she had heard that he was looking for a bass player with vocal ability and she wanted to audition! Phillip talked it over with the other guys. At first the idea didn't go over so well, but they were running out of options.
Janell showed up with her dad's bass and after the first song, it was apparent from the looks on the guys' faces, she was in. Chris lived right down the street from a bar the offered an open mic night on Thursdays, so the figured, "What the hell?" After a fifteen minute set of punked-out cover songs and a couple original tunes, a beer soaked crowd of college students let them know that they were on to something good.
After a show at Janell's high school talent show, the band decided that they needed a real name. They had been calling themselves STURGIS, which came from an inside joke about a local scenester named Sturgis who was at all the death metal shows and has red hair that looked like an old Brillo pad. After brainstorming topics of common interest among the band, Phillip came up with the name TEEN IDOLS. It held and imagery of the '50's greaser gangs and rock-n-roll rebels they all loved. It stuck like glue.
After a handful of local shows, the next step was the studio. Phillip booked time in his studio class, and the band recorded two songs "Old days, Old ways" and "Valentine." These tracks were dumped onto tapes that were taken to the local college radio station, 91.1 WRVU in Nashville. After the two songs debuted on the local show, the dominated the top slots on the "Top Five at Five" show for six weeks! These songs were also dubbed onto cassette tapes and sold for 50 cents at TEEN IDOLS shows. This minor success proved to be Chris's downfall. He became lazy about practicing and driving to shows was a nightmare.
Luckily, Janell's little brother Steve Saxton was a great drummer who was just coming out of his heavy metal phase, which made for great fast drumming and a bad haircut.
With Steve replacing Chris, TEEN IDOLS were actually teens, the eldest being Phillip at 19, Janell at 17, Matt at 16, and Steve at 15.
The next big step for the band came with the interest of Nashville's House O' Pain Records. Local college student, John May, was in a recording class at Middle Tennessee State University and needed a band to record for his final exam. He called Donnie Kendall from House O' Pain Records, who suggested local favorites TEEN IDOLS. Three songs from this session became TEEN IDOLS first 7" on House O' Pain Records. 500 records were pressed for the "Old days, Old ways" record. Another song, "Shadowman" was used for a House O' Pain Nashville compilation 7", "Our Scene Sucks"; to be released with House O' Pain fanzine # 10. A friend of the band was starting his own label, Vorgo Pass, and the song "One Day" was used for his compilation 7", "Nashville Coming Fire."
Soon after these records were released, the band was dealt a rough blow when Matt decided to leave the band. His reasons were "creative differences", while everyone else believed it was the influence of his new girlfriend.
The band was virtually at a standstill as they auditioned new singers for six months. Finally, they found their new voice in Keaton Sims. Unfortunatly, this lineup only lasted one show. Due to the Punk Rock Lifestyle and failing grades in school, Steve had to move back to Idaho with his mom.
Local scenester, Wes White, who had just left his band HELLBILLY, stepped in to fill Steve's shoes just in time to record their follow-up EP, "Nightmares" for the House O' Pain label, who pressed 1000 copies. Soon after, the band went back to the high school where they had first recorded to cover the song "Camage" for a DESCENDENTS tribute album on Coolidge Records. It was during this time that the band played with an up-and-coming Lookout! Records band, THE QUEERS. After the show, the bands swapped records. A few months later, their bassist, B-Face called to ask if TEEN IDOLS would be willing to tour with them.
It seemed as if things were looking up for the band, but internal bickering would prove to be disasterous. In Janell's eyes, Wes could never measure up to her brother Steve, and she refused to get along with him. Keaton didn't like the idea of touring and tried to get out of it by getting a new job, essentially quitting the band three weeks before the tour.
Janell decided that she wanted to settle down and start a family in Idaho, so she left too. Matt Benson agreed to come out of retirement to do the tour, but his house burned down. The current line-up agreed to get together for one more show to raise money for Matt and his two kids. At that show Keith Witt, whose band BRUTUS FLY had just broken up, said he would be happy to take Keaton's place. Local musician, Geoff Firebaugh said he could handle the bass spot, but without the now trademark female back-up vocals it would be far from perfect.
At that same show, Rocksan Biggerstaff who was in the next generation of the same high school string band Janell came from, pointed out that she was better suited for the band. But she was sixteen and still in school, so she couldn't tour yet. The next three weeks were spent having double practices everyday, one with Geoff and one with Rocksan, who had never played bass until Phillip taught her how.
After their first tour, the band went back into the studio to record their third 7", "Let's Make Noise" for House O' Pain, who pressed 1000 copies. From this session came "Go Away" for a compilation CD on Interbang Records and "Breakin' Up" for the Just Add Water Records compilation. Things were really taking off for the band when Joe King, frontman for THE QUEERS, requested two songs for his upcoming compilation for Lookout! Records. The band used a week of Rocksan's spring break to tour the east coast to New Hampshire's Fish Tracks Studios, where they recorded "One Pill" and re-recorded the song "Nightmares" with Joe King on back-up vocals.
Things started to get out of control after that tour as Rocksan's ego started to swell. She was too immature to handle the band's growing popularity and imagined herself to be some sort of rock star, refusing to ride in the same van as the rest of the band or carry her own bass guitar.
Eventually, Keith and Wes declared it was either her or them that had to leave the band. And with that, Rocksan was the first person to be kicked out of the TEEN IDOLS since Chris Trio. Luckily, Heather Tabor, who ofter attended TEEN IDOLS band practice, was a quick study and jumped headfirst into learning to play bass and sing. Within a week and a half, Heather played her first show.
Two months later, in July of 1996, the band ventured west on a six week long tour they booked themselves with Philadelphia natives, THE HALFLINGS. On this tour, the stresses of the road proved to be too much for Wes to handle and he decided to leave the band after the tour. THE HALFLINGS were having similar difficulties and their drummer Matt "Drastic" Yonker said that he would move to Nashville to play for TEEN IDOLS.
In September of 1996, Matt moved to Nashville and became an official member of TEEN IDOLS. Not long after Matt had joined, Phillip got a call from SCREECHING WEASEL/RIVERDALES frontman Ben Weasel. Ben said he was interested in producing a few new bands and TEEN IDOLS was the first one he was interested in. SCREECHING WEASEL had just signed a record deal with Fat Wreck Chords and he wanted to try to get TEEN IDOLS a deal for a 7" on that label. He sent Fat Wreck Chords label owner/NOFX frontman Fat Mike a copy of the "Let's Make Noise" 7". Mike said he needed to hear the new lineup before making a decision, so TEEN IDOLS recorded a five-song demo tape at the famous Sonic Iguana Studios in Lafayette, Indiana. With Mass Giorgini in the producer's chair, they ripped through five new songs. Fat Mike liked the tape so much, he decided to sign them to a two album record deal for his new label Honest Don's Hardly Used Recordings.
So, in the spring of 1997, TEEN IDOLS went to Chicago's Uberstudio and recorded fourteen blazing punk anthems with Ben Weasel in the producer's chair and Mass Giorgini at the controls. The self titled record came out November 4th, 1997. And the rest, as they say, is history....
CONDENSED VERSION BIOGRAPHY
TEEN IDOLS are a group dedicated to the power and fury of melodic punk rock. Inspired by the rebel rock of the 1950’s and the pogo punk of the 1970’s, these four young musicians are energetic live performers who press the very spirit of their music into every recording.
In the spring of 1992, when the world was beginning to embrace the Seattle sound of grunge, four high school friends decided to play the music that they loved. Combining the three part harmonies of 50’s doo-wop with the frantic paced pogo punk of the late 70’s, they dominated the “top five most requested songs” playlists of local college radio stations with their first recording “Old Days, Old Ways”. A string of 7” 45’s followed, recorded and pressed by the band themselves and distributed by local indy label House O’ Pain Records. One of these records, “Nightmares”, was nominated of Independent Recording Artist Of The Year by the Nashville Music Association, with stiff competition such as Vince Gill and Alison Krauss.
The TEEN IDOLS have toured the country several times as a supporting act for bands such as the Queers and Squirtgun, and also as a headlining act themselves. It was on one of these tours that the band met Ben Weasel of Screeching Weasel fame. He was attracted to the band’s unique sound and their tough greaser look and offered to help them find a good record label and produce their next record. That label was Honest Don’s Hardly Used Recordings.
It is with Honest Don’s that the TEEN IDOLS have created their powerhouse self-titled debut LP, “TEEN IDOLS”. Recording at Chicago’s Uberstudio and mixed at SONIC IGUANA STUDIOS in Lafayette, IN, with Ben Weasel in the producer’s chair and reknowned engineering whizkid Mass Giorgini at the controls, this album brings you 14 blazing punk anthems destined to be classics. From the thunderous drum technique of Matt Drastic, the spine-tingling harmonies of Phillip and Heather, and the vocal stylings of Keith Witt, TEEN IDOLS prove they are ready to conquer the world
note: this is from Honest Don's, i didn't type it!