Listening to a Future Teens song is the equivalent of wistfully mourning a breakup while swiping mindlessly through your Tinder matches: Somehow the band has carefully articulated the art of being both lovesick and anxious in the digital age. Future Teens are wallowing in their emotions, turning to an app to heal their hearts, then realizing it’s never that easy.
The Boston four-piece, whose current lineup is comprised of dual live vocalists Daniel Radin and Amy Hoffman, bassist Maya Mortman, and drummer Colby Blauvelt, originally began as a recording project between Radin and musician Gabe Goodman before taking on its current live band format. “We just recorded stuff in our apartment and there was no intention of playing a show. It just started as a joke and slowly became more and more real,” recalls Radin.
Before Hoffman joined Future Teens, the band’s 2017 debut Hard Feelings was mostly written, and its previous lineup had already played a handful of shows. But fate stepped in, and Radin and Hoffman both happened to swipe right on Tinder. “I messaged them and I was like, ‘Hey, I know this isn’t what Tinder’s for but, you want to play guitar in this band?” says Radin, laughing over the phone. “That worked out. It’s the most successful Tinder match I think either of us have ever had.” The band has gone through a few lineup changes since then, adding Green and Blauvelt, who played in Radin’s now-defunct country-folk project The Novel Ideas.
With the group’s second record Breakup Season, the biggest difference is that it’s a much more “collaborative effort,” since Hard Feelings was largely penned before Hoffman was a part of the group. “It’s infinitely more us,” says Hoffman. Together, the emo quartet’s influences range from the Pixies to Death Cab for Cutie, Fleetwood Mac, Emmylou Harris, and Carly Rae Jepsen. And it all makes sense when you listen to the group’s work, which is a twangy, charming jaunt into pop-punk territory. It’s also a fitting transition, considering the band spearheaded an emo Carly Rae Jepsen cover compilation for EMOTION that went viral last year (they contributed a cover of “Run Away with Me”), which Hoffman calls “the best emo record ever made.”
Future Teens unveiled “Emotional Bachelor” as the album’s first single, which also happened to be the first song the group had written together for the new record. “I started writing it while Hard Feelings was about to come out, so it was like a sort of logical step between the sound of Hard Feelings and the sound of Breakup Season,” says Radin. The track’s charmingly awkward lyrics narrate the abundance of miscommunication in modern dating overlayed with an aching to fix past mistakes. “Everyone’s afraid to say how they feel all the time, and sometimes you’re feeling the same thing as somebody you’re kissing, but neither of you say anything so you never actually find out,” Radin explains. A follow-up to “Emotional Bachelor” was infectious breakup anthem “Frequent Crier,” the band’s take on “The Boys Are Back in Town.” “It’s like a list of all the places that I cried in 2018 and the reason why I was crying publicly so often,” says Hoffman. “It’s the story of a couple of painful endings for me and written in the living room where one of those endings started.”
“Everyone’s afraid to say how they feel all the time, and sometimes you’re feeling the same thing as somebody you’re kissing, but neither of you say anything so you never actually find out.” — Daniel Radin
Every song on Breakup Season tangentially has to do with the emotional aftermath of breakups. With “Happy New Year,” the band depicts the sound and feel of Hoffman being alone in a room. The self-explanatory “Swiped Out” is almost too on-the-nose for Millennials and Gen Z, as Hoffman ruminates on the exhaustion of online dating post-breakup (“I swiped myself to sleep last night / I want to set my iPhone on fire”). Over a sea of brash guitars, Radin picks up where Hoffman leaves off, questioning the idea of FOMO that today’s generations deal with: “Is it wrong to have a fear of missing out on moving on?” On “Heavy Petting,” Future Teens takes a different songwriting approach with a track that sounds like it’s about a person, but is actually about a cat (“But you love that old shirt of mine so much / And I still find your hair on everything I touch”). “That one was challenging both in terms of the arrangement and just getting to the heart of what we wanted to write about and what made that cat and person special,” says Hoffman.
While the record is specifically about a romantic breakup, the breakups Radin and Hoffman experienced were significantly different. Hoffman’s emotional output came from the end of romances, while Radin’s stemmed from the end of The Novel Ideas after six years together, something he chronicles longingly on “Passed Tense.”
“There were two or three months, maybe even a little longer, when The Novel Ideas had broken up, and of course before Future Teens started touring heavily, I was like, ‘well maybe I won’t tour as a profession anymore, because I’ve basically been doing that since 2012,” recalls Radin. “A couple of the new songs that I wrote kind of deal with that thought process of like, maybe things won’t work out how I thought they were going to.”
This time around, the songwriting process began with ideas from either Hoffman or Radin, which they worked on together to make cohesive. “He and I wrote all the lyrics together and fine-tooth-combed them, and then would bring either whatever we had done or an idea to Colby and Maya, and flesh out the arrangement with them,” explains Hoffman. Together, Hoffman and Radin aimed to craft lyrics by “trying to pull the most honest thing out of each other.” Instead of drawing from a forced perspective, the pair often focused on how they were actually feeling in the memory they were penning lyrics about, rather than attempting to create flowery metaphors. “We’d try to pull a really empathetic perspective from painful things,” they add.
While the record was an open wound, Hoffman and Radin are ultimately glad they poured their hearts out. Radin’s found a way to describe it aptly: “Emotionally difficult, but musically fulfilling.” FL