Interviewed by Jeanne Vomit-Terror
(Originally published in Heavy Bombardment #1)
When I was but a teen Vomit-Terror, I patrolled summer dusks on a bejeweled BMX with an oily crew called The Ilk, looking for laws to bend. On such a night, we descended upon the youth center on the edge of town. It was a prefab aluminum barn, casting its shadow over a disused miniature golf course, ganglia of yellowing weeds stopping forever the windmill and obscuring the lime green synthetic turf, and at its center the monument of a corroding riverboat, whose extravagance died long before it was beached in this sinkhole. My Ilk were drawn within, past the out-of-order Ms. Pac-Man and the out-of-order hologram sticker dispenser, into the odorous haze of imposter cologne and deep fryer grease, by the music of the band. The “flyer” for the show had been Sharpied on a bathroom stall in a distinctly masculine script. These were The Teenagers Responsible.
Judging from the paltry remaining audience, they’d been playing awhile. A few more jaundiced youth emptied into the courtyard mid-song to neck or whatever, impervious to the pre-sexual rites being committed onstage. The guitar screeched like a slipped timing belt, the bass dry-heaved, the drums thudded stupidly like baseball bats connecting with Herbies on a rural route. The singer, Scott Employment History, had all the charisma of a video store clerk, which, in fact, the factory-embroidered insignia on his shirt announced he was.
Unable to resist the callow vulnerability of these hopeless cases, and defying my tacit orders otherwise, my Ilk swarmed the stage, unplugged the amps and bustled them out the door, hoisting high their prizes (which, because we were on bikes, would be chucked into the creek some twenty yards away). Not just undeterred, but somehow oblivious, the band continued to play, without the crucial advantage of electricity, the pitiful clicks of plectrum on string somewhat audible over Scott Stovetop’s dismal kit work. Brian Boyardee alone noticed the silence, although, zombie-like, it took even him some time. He put his ear up to the guitar, still strumming it dumbly, not even sure where the sound should be coming from. Decisively, he dropped it to the ground, picked up a mop, situated its bucket in place of his amp, even fiddling with the handle a bit like a potentiometer, and began to thrash away, satisfied with his new ax, whipping grey water all around the room.
I was awestruck. These were beautiful boys. There was something brave about their impotence. They channeled the OTC buzz, the sight of your dad naked on the toilet, the feeling of being pulled over by a cop you went to high school with. Their perfect lives were a pointless horror. These were… are the undiagnosed.
Fifteen years later, I check in with the boys to see why they bother to go on living, let alone reunite to play a fucking show.
Jeanne Vomit-Terror: Where have you been all this time?
Scott Employment History: Brian has been working on his GED.
JVT: For fifteen years?
SEH: No, just for ten.
Brian Boyardee: No, for like twelve.
SEH: Mel was in jail for three of those years.
Mel Hormel: Prison.
JVT: What were you in prison for?
JVT: You couldn’t continue without Mel or without Brian?
JVT: Why not?
SEH: If there were just eighty-seven keys on a piano instead of eighty-nine, it wouldn’t be a piano.
JVT: So how did the band start?
MH: Scott and I were at Hardees. Scott goes, “Mel, you need a job?” I was like, “Yeah.” Well, Scott was working for his dad cleaning septic tanks. I thought, “All right.” Well, we did this one job, and it was at Brian’s house.
JVT: Wait… which Scott?
MH: [Freezes, visibly perplexed]
JVT: Sorry, go on.
MH: I thought, “All right.” Well, we did this one job, and it was at Brian’s house. We didn’t know Brian from school, because he was home schooled. Well, we heard him playing guitar, and I went in there and said, “Man, that sounds pretty good. Can you show me how to do that?” And he goes, “Get the fuck out of here, you smell like shit.”
JVT: Brian showed you how to play guitar?
MH: Yeah, like later that day we were sitting around and he was showing us how to play some songs. We were getting ripped with his mom’s boyfriend and Scott’s dad came in and was like, “What the hell are y’all doin’?”
BB: I showed everyone how to play “Come as You Are,” and then we turned it into one of our songs, “Pig Pong.” We figured out that when you sing different words over songs, they sound like different songs. We’d sit around playing songs from this book I had. When we started out, it was just four guitars.
Scott Stovetop: [who has been wearing a pot on his head since we began the interview] Five guitars, Scott’s mom’s boyfriend Doug was playing guitar, too.
SEH: Yeah, but that wasn’t the Teenagers. It’s like the thing I said about the piano.
JVT: How did you pick that name?
SS: We didn’t pick it.
SEH: We didn’t have a name when we played our first show at the teen center. After the show, we pushed this car into a creek, because, like… whatever. Then the newspaper said, “police are looking for ‘the teenagers responsible.’” And we were like, “Oh shit.”
JVT: Where do you guys work now?
SEH: Movie Warehouse.
BB: Noodles and Co.
JVT: Tell me about the songwriting process.
JVT: What about your song “Soda Pop?” How did that come about?
SEH: What do you mean?
JVT: The lyrics. Where did the lyrics come from?
SEH: Oh, that was just like from my mom telling me to go to the store. I said to my sister, “What kind of soda pop do you drink?” And she was like, “What kind of soda pop do you think I drink?” I pretty much just say that over some music.
JVT: What can we expect from you guys live?
SS: [shrugs] I don’t know.
MH: Well, I was gonna take like twelve Dramamine. I read this thing on the Internet where it’s supposed to fuck you up.
JVT: Brian, are you going to play your mop?
BB: I don’t think so, people said they couldn’t hear it at the last show.
JVT: Any parting thoughts?