TEEN on “Good Fruit”
How to Not Show Up
Apr 26, 2019 Issue #65 – Mitski and boygenius
Lizzie and Kristina “Teeny” Lieberson can’t make small talk. Of course, the two sisters chat amiably enough from the former’s apartment in Ridgeview, Queens. But when it comes to writing for their sorority synth-pop act TEEN, big-picture concepts always come to the fore, particularly about living and loving as a woman in the 21st century. “This is our outlet, and this is how we process what’s going on in the world and what’s going on in our lives,” Teeny tells me. So while Good Fruit might read ostensibly as just another breakup album, Teeny and Lizzie see their third work as a conduit to discuss letting go of more than just sour lovers.
Unlike Love Yes, their giddy New Wave statement from 2016, Good Fruit seems to follow a much more deliberate path. That’s an intentional shift—since sister, drummer, and soon-to-be-mother Katherine switched from pounding drums to programming beats, the trio decided to lean even harder into their collective obsession for synths. So instead of the spontaneous, full-band writing sessions from last time, TEEN steadily built their next album, block by block, over 18 months. “Lizzie and I write really moody songs, and it was nice to dig into that even further,” says Teeny. “It took some adjusting, but I feel like it was very beneficial, because we came out with something very different, which was what we wanted.” This led to energized bangers like “Runner,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on a playlist with Santigold or Janelle Monáe.
But while Good Fruit might glisten like pop with these fresh coats of varnish, the Lieberson sisters still hold nuanced discourse on the subject of letting go. As Teeny explains, the album breaks neatly into two halves, with the Kate Bush-like meditation “Connection” bridging the gap from holding hands to parting ways. “The first half is really thinking about the desperation of connection, and needing it so badly, and the comfort of that,” she says. “The second half is the processing of that…the process of moving forward, and what it means to be valuable to another person, and how to show up, and how to not show up.”
Back on the first side of Good Fruit, lead single “Only Water” might sound like a night out in a packed rave. But under the strobes, Teeny talks about how to move on from the loss of their recently deceased father. “It’s reflecting on possession, and the idea of attachment to somebody within your lifetime, and trying to let go,” she says.
Ultimately, Teeny and her sisters hope that listeners can dig as deep into Good Fruit as they can. “What I find in music, or what I search for, is some sense of understanding,” Teeny says. “However you relate to the music, I hope that people seek that solace in music that we make. That’s why I listen to music. So I feel like, if that were uplifting or inspiring to people, that would be the greatest thing.”
[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 65 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]