High school is a breeding ground for existential crises, especially in a small town where the most promising activities are getting drunk, toking up, and having sex. Hailing from Cincinnati, the self-described “trash pop” band Tweens captures the desperate desire to escape the mundane and just get wild on their self-titled debut. Though they range in age from 21 to 27, singer/guitarist Bridget Battle, bassist Peyton Copes, and drummer Jerri Queen sing about teenage problems with sincerity and a zero-fucks attitude.
Pop ’stache sat down with Tweens before their April 10 show at Schuba’s to talk about high school, prostitutes, and DIY tattoos.
A lot of the album’s content is reminiscent of high school. Why is that?
Bridget Battle: Because a lot of the songs were written when I was 19. [It’s about] coming into your 20s, adjusting to being a woman and becoming a woman. That sounds so stupid, but growing up and falling in love for the first time and dating so many assholes and feeling intimidated, but also being young and wanting to…
Peyton Copes: Live it up.
BB: Live it up, exactly. Be young and in the city.
Is it more like the high school experience that you had or the high school experience that you wish you had?
BB: It’s weird, because I feel like another big aspect of the content is… I met these guys when I was maybe 16 or so, so I hung out with a lot of older people towards the tail end of my high school career. So I started dating older guys, maybe living too fast, but trying to keep up. I feel like the songs reflect that.
PC: Well, with “Don’t Wait Up,” we lived in a loft space where we had shows for years and I met Bridget as she was waiting in the cold outside the door, and I was like, “You can come inside.” But looking back, it’s like, dude, you were fucking 16, school night, going to a punk show.
Jerri Queen: In a weird neighborhood.
PC: One of the weirdest neighborhoods in town.
BB: [Laughs.] My mom dropped me off.
What did you think of her?
PC: I was like, “Who is this little punk?” I was stoked. It was cool to keep doing all-ages shows in Cincinnati, running a space that held that, but I felt like there weren’t a lot of people under 21 that were using it.
It’s exciting when really young people make it to those shows, because that’s how you get involved. That’s how we got involved playing music.
So, Jerri and Peyton, do you guys write lyrics? I’m just assuming that Bridget writes them, because so many are from a female point of view.
BB: Jerri wrote “McMicken.”
What is that about? It sounds like a burger place.
BB: [Laughs.] “Are you just a freak or do you want some more?”
JQ: It’s like a street with no rules in Cincinnati and I’d ride down it to work every day on my bike. You just see the craziest shit happen. I was going for the…
JQ: Well, not that. I [wanted to] put myself in the perspective of this person that I honestly know nothing about, what the life is like, it’s just me riding my bike down.
BB: But I think what I was really stoked on was younger women being promiscuous and open about their sexuality. So I feel like “McMicken,” when [Jerri] wrote that, it was kind of like, “I’m doing this, but I’m also empowered by it, because I’m doing what I want and I’m not being judged by it.” Unashamed.
JQ: Yeah, like, “Fuck you. I’ll do what I want.”
You come off as a bit of a man-eater on the album. How close is that to your actual personality?
BB: I feel like after dating older dudes and being out of my element and getting my heart broken so many times, I kinda started just making out, hanging out with a lot of different guys. Just not caring and having fun, no emotion connected to it whatsoever.
I’m trying to figure out what I like and what I don’t like in terms of emotional, physical, and mental relationships.
Which song would you say is the most personal?
BB: They got so much more personal the later [I wrote them]. I would say “Forever.” That was about my fear of falling in love with someone for the first time and always conditioning yourself into not opening up because you’ve been hurt by so many bad relationships. So that one was definitely written about some real shit. Then “Want U” is about accepting that love, so that’s a personal one.
If we were in high school and I came over to your house, what would your room look like?
PC: I probably had a lot of dirty clothes on the ground. Probably had a stack of CDs that I don’t really listen to anymore. Probably a pipe. Probably bad grades. Probably a complete lack of motivation.
JQ: I spray painted a stencil or three of my bands on the wall, smelled up the house for a few days. [Had] the old Squire guitar and a million Green Day tabs.
BB: Weren’t you doing motocross when you were in high school?
JQ: Yeah, but you know, stopped probably halfway through. I didn’t have like my helmet [on display].
PC: Trophies lining the walls.
JQ: I would’ve had trophies in there, but Peyton came over and broke ’em all.
PC: Yeah, we were listening to this NPR thing about problem children the other day, and we were talking about shitty things we did as a kid. I went to my brother’s baseball trophy and just snapped it in half. He’s like, “Why’d you do that?”
BB: Just ’cause you could.
PC: I think because I thought it was gold. I didn’t think I could actually break it.
Jerri, tell me about the tattoo on your hand. Why a tooth?
JQ: Because my friend from Chicago was in town, actually, and we got drunk and gave each other tattoos one day. That’s what all my tattoos are. I have a lot of them.
Do you ever do draw them on yourself?
JQ: Yeah. I’ll show you. [Rolls up his pant leg to reveal a tattoo that says “Do shit.”] But yeah, I’m actually really fuckin’ good at ’em.
PC: He gave me one. [Points to a tattoo on his upper left arm.]
BB: He’s given us all stick ’n’ pokes.
JQ: These are okay. I did somebody’s knuckles once.
BB: I was wasted when I got this one. [Points to a crescent moon beneath her right collarbone.] I was sippin’ on the Lime-a-Ritas, big old can of it, already pretty fucked up. It was to ease the pain.
PC: I had my legs up a wall.
JQ: That’s just like the worst spot.
PC: I’ve got a lot of man meat right there.
How does that even start? Just like, “I’m bored”?
BB: I feel like I was just like, “I can go for a tattoo.” Of course, when you’re drunk, everything’s great.
JQ: It’s just cool because it’s something that people pay so much money for. There are obviously really good artists that do amazing work, but it’s like, you can just do this to yourself at home. It means way more.
BB: It does. Now I have a tattoo that Jerri gave me.
PC: Yeah, if Jerri and I have a terrible falling out, I can’t pull this out of my skin.
JQ: Exactly. You’re stuck with me forever.
BB: Blood brothers.
Tell me about the first time you did that. How old were you?
JQ: I think I did this when I was like 20.
PC: It was definitely when we were living in that space. Things got a little crazy there, frequently.
JQ: It was kinda like, “If I’m gonna get a tattoo like this, I’m gonna get it on my hand.” People always advise not to, so I thought that was the best place to get it.
Once you’ve got a hand tattoo, that’s it, you’re done for.
So, if you weren’t in a band, what would you be doing for a living?
BB: I’d be so bored. I’d probably be working my two jobs that I have now [at a coffee shop and a record store in Cincinnati].
PC: I’d be serving drinks at a show elsewhere.
JQ: I’d be recording bands.
PC: You sure you wouldn’t be drinking in a ditch, with that hand tattoo?
JQ: Probably, yeah. Frying up a rat.