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Verse Chorus Verse: TEETH

The Wireless logo The Wireless 3/05/2017

The stories behind the beautiful noise.

 
TEETH is Lukasz Buda (guitars, vocals, The Phoenix Foundation), Tom Callwood (bass, vocals, The Phoenix Foundation), David Long (guitars, Mutton Birds) and drummer Anthony Donaldson. © Provided by Radio New Zealand Limited TEETH is Lukasz Buda (guitars, vocals, The Phoenix Foundation), Tom Callwood (bass, vocals, The Phoenix Foundation), David Long (guitars, Mutton Birds) and drummer Anthony Donaldson. Lukasz Buda (guitars, vocals, The Phoenix Foundation), Tom Callwood (bass, vocals, The Phoenix Foundation), David Long (guitars, Mutton Birds) and drummer Anthony Donaldson are TEETH.

Photo: Supplied

Verse Chorus Verse sees local artists break down the stories behind their music. For the latest in the series, we asked Lukasz Buda from TEETH tell us the stories behind the songs on the band's just-released self-titled album.

Something Has Gone Wrong In My Brain

This came together so easily.  Basically from the second I stumbled upon the guitar harmony fanfare the rest of it fell into place.  It was the first TEETH track, it's kinda like the Theme from TEETH.  It is a reaction to the complicated chord and arrangement heavy music I have made in the past. 

The lyrics … well I have written a whole lot of over personal stuff in the past and I get so sick of hearing it, especially years later, "YUCK" I tend to think when I hear my old songs.  I didn't want to do that with Teeth (inevitably there's still a little bit of that in there). 

So anyway, I was sitting there in front of my laptop with a mic in my hand and just listening to the track over and over thinking about y'know life and the universe and all that jazz and at the time I was going through heavy anxiety and existential angst and basically having an early-life-mid-life crisis and I thought "How do I feel?" and the way I felt was "Something Has Gone Wrong In My Brain."

White Light

I really like the way Ant pauses the drum beat in the opening riff.  It feels great playing this live because it's so small and wimpy, at first anyway.  I bit off more than I could chew when I started wailing (expressing myself through a guitar solo) in this take so I just started making more and more noise and going up and up, seems to work. 

I haven't managed to replicate this live yet … I will continue to apply myself, and one day it could happen. 

Lyrically it's another song dealing with a fragile state of mind I guess.  In this case, I think it's about aggressively daydreaming as a form of escaping from dark thoughts.  Maybe it's about feeling detached from reality also.  

Gangrene

This is in the special TEETH open guitar tuning.  It's very fun to play electric guitar with an open tuning, very chimy.  I wasn't sure that this would fit into the TEETH thing when I first brought it to the band, but it's ended up as one of the band faves. 

Ant kept saying "It's quite emotional.  It's a blues."  I dunno if it's The blues or A blues but it's got a nice simmering emotion.  It's a simple arrangement kept interesting by Ant's very alive drum take, he seems to play every single bar a little bit differently.  Not to mention the outrageously great reverb on the vocals.  "I think it needs a really special reverb Lee" I said to Lee and he was like "I think I've got something." and he did have something. 

This song is about witnessing my partner Sarah go through terrible nerve pain problems.  It's a heavy thing for a person to be in constant agonising debilitating pain for months.  Fuck. That. Shit.

Succubus

Truth:  I didn't realise "Succubus" was a gendered word.  I thought it was just any kind of parasitic demon that sucked the energy from you.  Whoopsie.  Best to double check the words you use BEFORE you get an IRSC code … anyhoo this is about being stuck in a conversation with a particularly draining person, be it at a party or wherever really.  It's very fun to play live and our mantra is that it has to be played so fast that we struggle to play it … except for Tom of course, he doesn't struggle, because he is always on time.

Busy Lady

Years ago the title Busy Lady was put forth as an option for some Phoenix album (I think it was Pegasus).  It has been bandied about at every album naming stage since then.  I needed a name for the demo and that name was in my head.  The lyrics came from that so this song was the result of a random lame joke name from 13 years ago, "The Universe Is A Mysterious Thing".

I love Dave's guitar playing on this song, first his one note fuzz ummm simpleton-funk through the verses and then his slow motion three note (maybe four) guitar solo.  There is also a Polish language spoken word section.  It's a weird song.

Glass Ceiling

Probably the poppiest number on the record.  The demo was actually keyboard based and very, very krauty.  But I couldn't face the idea of setting up any sort of keyboard for TEETH, burnt by years of having to lug the Phoenix Foundation's Pink Floyd-sized set up around.  So we keep it pretty much two guitars bass and drums.  However having said that, there is a little keyboard line in the chorus, it was contentious. Can you spot it? 

Looking Good, Feeling Great

Lyrically it's another one where I was struggling for ages and when I busted out some throwaway ridiculousness … maybe it was inspired by seeing some ad of a fit looking person … I thought it seemed like there was a simple wry wit and some truth to it and went with it.  This track is the very opposite to "Succubus" in that we have to try to play it as slow as possible without it falling over.  Another great David Long guitar solo here.  FUN FACT: The demo for this was called 'Delilah'!? 

Chant Cycle

Another flagship TEETH number in a way.  It can get a bit confusing if you accidentally lose your place in the cycle.  It has an easy trippiness to it, maybe it's because of that shouldn't-be-confusing circular pattern.  

I tried so many different angles for the lyrics on this.  Lots of pompous big themes and in the end the thing that seemed to work the best was just about how great it is to be at home by yourself. "No one here to see me not pick up the phone", etc. 

I recorded most of the vocals for this album at my house either while my kids were at school or once they'd gone to sleep - my partner was in Malaysia for an artist residency and I was solo dadding for a month.  Some of the lines in this song were recorded at about 8.15am on a school morning.  Basically we were heading into the Surgery to mix that day and I was unhappy with a couple of the lyrics so I gave a few panicked instructions to my sons like "Lunch boxes in bags!" etc closed the door to my room, recorded the vocals, took them to school then went to the Surgery to mix some psychedelic guitar noise music.  Would I like a medal?  Yes. Yes I would.

Teeth 

Pretty satisfying to play.  Pretty silly. Simple loud unison guitar melody over distorted bass riff.  Funny "progressive" bridge and outro.   Unlikely and beautiful coda courtesy of David Long and Tom Callwood.  Dave has so many interesting string instruments in his studio and this outro is like an expose.  I think it's a really nice calm way to end the album, and there is now talk of the next TEETH album being droney-noise acoustic …  One of the nice things about TEETH is that all the simple, stupid ideas seem to fly.  It's like, "How about this riff it goes duh duh duh duh" and everyone just goes "OK!".

*TEETH's debut album is out now. And if you want to see the band live, catch them in Wellington on May 6 at San Fran with So Laid Back Country China and at the Carter Observatory on May 21 with Earth Tongue, or in Auckland on June 4 at Borderline Festival, which is on at Whammy! Bar.  

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