Now that the wall between rock purism and the digital dancefloor has been reduced to mere rubble, a suite of newer, harder, brighter, faster bands are getting down to the business at hand: having a good time. This week, three 20-something Frenchmen become the voice of a generation... just not their own.
Fittingly, The Teenagers met in high school in the bucolic town of Sèvres; just six miles outside Paris, it’s an area more famous for porcelain manufacture than indie-pop bands. Every Saturday afternoon, they would gather around to catch the latest installment of trashy American TV shows. Above all, they loved Beverly Hills, 90210. While Shannon Doherty’s badass Brenda was the favorite of lead singer Quentin Delafon, he also had a soft spot for Tori Spelling. “She had the wonky boob thing,” he muses lovingly. “That’s what happens when you get your boobs done when you are 15.”
The Teenagers have since parlayed this half-ironic taste for American kitsch into a viable career, cheekily expressing the nervy angst and budding sexuality of the tragically-under-21 set in songs like “Sunset Beach” and “Starlett Johansson.” Not bad for a band that was accidentally conceived during a drunken winter’s night in 2005 by Dorian Dumont (guitars/synths), Michael Szpiner (bass), and Delafon, who had never even thought of making music before. MySpace success and a bidding war followed, and the group ended up on cool-kid British label Merok Records (who also discovered Crystal Castles and Klaxons) before being offered an album deal by XL Recordings.
Their debut LP, Reality Check, carefully preserves the DIY aesthetic of their French demos, though they’ve since moved to East London and begun working with a producer named Lexx. Dumont wrote all the music on the record, but the wanton, sexy lyrics–which express the unbearable lightness of being underage–are a collaboration between all three members. On “Fuck Nicole,” the first track they recorded, Delafon channels Transformer-era Lou Reed, talk-singing about a self-obsessed girl destined to OD from too much partying. Their signature tune, “Homecoming,” tells the story of an international romance gone wrong with an unforgettable chorus: “I fucked my American cunt,” says a blasé Delafon, followed by a sweet-voiced American girl, who counters “I loved my English romance.”
The guys have adapted to being onstage quickly–they’ve been touring like mad and aren’t stopping anytime soon. On stage, a mustachioed Delafon embodies the sweeter side of the sleazy Frenchman stereotype with his quirky dance moves, charming audiences in their young 20s and, when venues allow, real live teens. “I think they have less boundaries about behaving socially and they want just to have fun and jump around,” says Delafon of their fondness for playing to the under-21s.
While their signature sound is more rooted in rock ‘n’ roll thrash, The Teenagers–who have been remixed by fellow Kitsuné-ites Passions, Guns ‘N’ Bombs, and Tepr–are proud supporters of the homegrown electro scene. “It really gives a new credibility to the French music,” Delafon says. Their association with the Gallic dance revolution may have helped their popularity, but they’ve got their own niche: soundtracking pimple-faced make-out sessions the world over.