It's easy to forget once you've attained the age of majority, consigning your expertly-rehearsed fake birthday and battered four-inch platforms to the attic with it, that there was once a time when getting into indie clubs was an absolute nightmare (and if you did, you'd invariably be sleazed upon), and getting into smaller gigs in most major cities was even worse (and a more heartbreaking defeat) due to the stringent licensing laws of many small venues.
Disenchanted with the elitism against those under eighteen they encountered firsthand, Same Teens came together just under a year ago to create a relevant and non-exclusive series of clubnights, gigs and other assorted outlets for the music that matters to them and their peers, not the music focus groups, marketing men and youth workers reckon all teenagers listen to.
Thank heavens someone's seen fit to take the logical step of extending the underage scene out of London, where it's flourishing - and upon speaking to them last month before their latest gig at Zavvi, the reception Same Teens have received for their relentless work ethic and refreshing honesty is well deserved. Anyone who subscribes to the stereotypical notion that teenagers are a) sulky, b) lazy or c) trouble should put that copy of the Daily Mail down and count themselves lucky that they're actually proving each and every one of your misguided conceptions wrong.
Anyway, after an introduction full of mirth and merriment and the revelation that The Fugitive Motel really should start carrying spare triple A batteries around, proceedings eventually commence as we sit down to chat to Same Teens Manchester’s Hannah, Jade, Ryan and Tom, with contributions from “Lord of the Manor” Nick, “Lady of the Manor” Andy and The Answering Machine, headlining the collective’s gig at Zavvi, where we’re conducting the interview.
Hello, Same Teens. We only came to know what you guys were doing very recently, so how did you get started up?
Ryan: We were all at the Koffee Pot, and we got talking and realised that there was nothing in Manchester for under-18s [into music]. We realised there was loads in London - it was all going on in London - but that Manchester really needed something like that. From that, we just got all the DJs and all the people who help us out with the gigs and clubnight.
Did you all know each other before then?
Jade: No, we didn't.
Ryan: No, not at all.
Jade: I don’t really like him (!)
Ryan: Shut up (!)
Hannah: We tolerate each other…
Jade: Barely that, really (!) It’s strange, but y’know, we get along…
How do you go about finding a group of people to get involved?
Jade: Common interests, and experiences of not getting into the clubs and gigs we wanted to, and so we just said “right, let’s start something else up.”
[At this point, the tape decends into its first moment of multiple overlapping conversations, during which Patrick commends Same Teens’ DJ-ing skills, before…]
So what did you start out doing? What’s the link with the Koffee Pot, and how did it come about?
Hannah: I don’t know, really. It was just where we all met [initially] and then Nick [from the café] got involved.
Ryan: He was really good with contacts and helped us out a lot. We couldn’t have done it on our own really.
Hannah: He was a lot of help in getting us venues and stuff.
Andy: He’s pretty much the lord, basically.
Jade: Yeah, he’s pretty much a lord of the manor type. Not like in The Riches, though.
We had an interesting encounter with him before, actually. We were walking through Stevenson Square and he stopped us and said “I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but judging by the bags you’re carrying and the way you’re dressed, I’m helping out with a gig you might be interested in later this afternoon.” And we were like “Yeah, The Answering Machine at Zavvi? We’re on our way there now to interview Same Teens.”
He also offered us two tickets to the football which we politely declined.
[Unfortunately at this point, further technical difficulties hit the Technically Inept Motel, to give us our actual title, and unfortunately we lose the audio from our next question in the process, which is about the clubnight. The jist of the following couple of minutes is that all Team Same Teens are united in the line of thought that running their own clubnight provides a space where their peers can behave as they want, uninhibited, with nobody telling them to clear off or find something useful to do, whilst at the same time giving like-minded folk common ground.]
Problematicos technicales over and done, we move onto the matter of the Kendal Calling festival…
Can we pick up from your involvement in Kendal Calling again? Sorry!
Jade: Yeah, of course. We helped with picking the bands for the main stages, like The Mystery Jets, The Long Blondes and so on. We’re DJ-ing too - it’s taking place from the 1st to the 3rd of August. There’s a load going on there as well. They’ve got fashion stalls and all sorts.
Hannah: Yeah, loads is going on there. And it feels like it’s got more of a community vibe to it than, say, a big commercial festival like Reading or Leeds.
Jade: It’s cheaper too. £55 for the whole weekend with camping!
Do you reckon that there’s a great deal more going on within Manchester’s music scene than the mainstream media chooses to pick up on?
Jade: The mainstream media seems to be fixated on bands like The Courteeners, and they’re not giving enough credit to bands like The Answering Machine or The Whip who really deserve such attention…it’s just not fair on them.
It’s quite surprising that [one band] doesn’t then motivate the mainstream media to go out and find out what’s going on down here, especially if they think ‘oh, there’s one really good band coming out of this city…’
Jade: It’s just lazy, really. You can get a rehash of another band from Manchester, and [the mainstream media] fixate on it and say “oh, they sound a bit like Oasis”…it’s lazy journalism…[some people] can’t be arsed.
Do you have any more plans to expand what you’re doing? Bringing in new projects and so on?
Hannah: Well, hopefully we would like to start a record label in the future, when we’ve got things established and we’re a bit sturdier. And we’d really like to do a printed fanzine…
[Somebody comes in to talk about the microphones to The Answering Machine, during which The Motel is reminded of an incident at a gig the band played last year where they got electric shocks from the microphones. And then Nick arrives…]
Nick, we’ve been told you’re the Lord of the Manor.
Nick: Yeah right. Who’s the lady?
Hannah: He’s the lady! [Points at Andy].
Andy: I have a son! If anyone’s the lady, then it’s him [points back at Nick].
Jade: You have a son, then that would make sense! See?
[After some more laughter and discussion of the Same Teens feudal system, we return to the matter of the fanzine…]
So, you were saying before we became waylaid, you have a fanzine online at the moment?
Hannah: [Beaming with pride] Erol Alkan has read our fanzine!
Jade: He loves us! We want to get on our feet with it first and establish it, then expand. The online edition’s at www.myspace.com/sameteensmanchester.
[The conversation splits off for a bit, then turns back to getting involved]
Jade: If there are any other people who think like we do and want to be involved…well, there’s so many people who’ve sent messages…
Hannah: We’ve done the fanzine on our own [to date], but we think it would be good to get other like-minded people’s perspectives and see them contributing. Plus it’s a nice feeling seeing your name in print.
Even though the underage scene is fairly thriving in London, compared to how it was five years ago, d’you think it’s not really spread very well outside of the capital?
Hannah: It hasn't really, no.
Jade: I don’t know, it’s just that venues just seem reluctant to open up to under-eighteens.
Hannah: …which is strange, because, I mean…I wouldn’t claim that they’re the best music fans, but they are more responsive to the music, in that they don’t feel stupid dancing. They’ll be the ones down the front.
Nick: For example, look at where Robots in Disguise play, venues like Weymouth and Hitchin. They don’t follow the set pattern [of a few dates in big ‘touring’ cities], they’ll just book venues, like function rooms above pubs, even, that will fill up with fans. They’re sort of redefining it really.
Andy: You go down to see them and there’s over 300 kids at a lot of their gigs…the bands who are more underground like Daggers and The Answering Machine and Lowline, who we’re putting on next month…people actually like these bands and turn up to see them. My argument is that the media should pay more attention to these bands [as a result].
Nick: When you think of the level of the bands at the Underage Festival, there’s no real definite headliners. There’s people who are at the forefront of the scene like The Horrors, but most of the bands are on a set, similar level. For example, if you asked anyone who read one of the music monthlies who Bombay Bicycle Club were, they wouldn’t get them until [the mainstream press] run a feature on it. And some of the coverage of the underage scene has been quite patronising - I’ve seen some pieces which have asked “why they’ve gone and got older people in the industry to back them up?” - Well, those established industry figures are the ones that the people who come to these kind of events listen to on the radio in the evening when they’re doing their work in their room.
Andy: An odd thing is that I took Tom flyering recently, and we didn’t realise we needed a pass, so we were stopped by officials from the council who said “you can’t do that”. I asked them why, and they said “well, [it’s because] all these kids hang around in town and cause problems.” So I showed them a flyer and said “well, we’re actually giving them somewhere to go” and they seemed quite embarrassed.
How much do you have planned here with the sessions and clubnight - is it monthly?
Hannah: It’s usually monthly. We’ve got Lowline playing in May, we’re not having a clubnight though because of exams, and then we’re back in July.
Ryan: It’ll be our first birthday party in July.
Jade: We’re planning something big as people from the first one will be popping up…it should be good!
Hannah: We’ve got gigs coming up DJ-ing for The Metros, Black Kids, Noah and the Whale, We Are The Physics…
That’s quite a wide range of bands - how did you get in touch with all of them?
Hannah: Do you know of Get It Loud In Libraries? They do…
Nick: ...They just got in touch, didn’t they? They’d read about it and you just got a message from…those Cheeky Cheeky and the Nosebleed guys, who are on tour with Vincent Vincent and the Villains. Imagine the signwriter outside the venue for that. [Laughter]. “We’re going to have to phone up for some ‘V’s.” Anyway, I think maybe Erol Alkan pointed it out to the Late of the Pier guys, who told The View, then they told The Metros, and then The Metros got in touch about that, so it’s kind of…I think there’s a pretty small network of people who pass word around.
Hannah: We’ve found that bands have been so supportive of us.
Jade: They’ve been really encouraging, and they’ve often said that teenagers are the best fans to have at gigs, because they’re so uninhibited by acting cool. They’ve got no inhibitions. Yeah, the bands have been really good to us.
Yeah, we spoke to some of Daggers (pictured) after last month’s gig, and they were genuinely amazed at the fact that people had made the effort to travel from Leeds and Sheffield especially to see them.
Nick: Those same kids have come over from Leeds today, actually.
Hannah: We did stuff with Cajun Dance Party last year, and then just the other week they rang us up and said “we have the first album playback, and you can have it for your clubnight,” so it’s nice that they’ve obviously remembered us and kept us in mind.
interview by Kate Goodacre and Hannah Bayfield, April 2008
pictures of Daggers by Kate Goodacre, March 2008
Same Teens host Lowline at Zavvi this Saturday, May 31st - doors are at 15:30 and entry is free. They DJ for Black Kids at Lancaster Library on Saturday, June 7th as part of Get It Loud In Libraries, and will also be DJing at the Kendal Calling festival between August 1st and 3rd. Find out more on their numerous exploits at www.myspace.com/sameteensmanchester.