Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Profile: Christian! Teenage Runaways (by Defensive Listening)

Originating in The Church Of Latter Day Saints, the philosophy known as "Choose the Right" utilizes the Mormon concept of free will to explain the importance of earthly actions and the ways in which one's choices on Earth will affect their ultimate destiny. I'm not going to pass judgment on the concept in its religious context, but I do have something to say about how it might be applied to the often tedious exercise of forming a band. New bands almost always seem to "Choose the Right" when they start off, hoping that their safe choices in substance and aesthetic will affect their ultimate destiny in a positive way. You know the setup: Find some like-minded and similarly dressed dudes. List the "right" influences on your Myspace page. Use the "right" equipment. Assign each player to a position as if everyone was trying out for a sports team. Take few risks. Stay up to date with "trends." Play by the rules. This recognizable approach is taken by a wide variety of start up bands regardless of genre or place of origin, and the near religious rigidity of the process might be part of what makes many of the local shows I attend so completely predictable.

Fortunately, there is a new group from Denton that has momentarily saved me from the been there/ done that structures of local rock bands. They are doing all the "wrong" things so to speak, and I'm really thankful for it. They are Christian! Teenage Runaways.

The all female band's three members, Sashenka Lopez, Julie Mckendrick and Leanne Macomber have known each other for some time. Mckendrick and Macomber have played together since the late Nineties, and Lopez and Mckendrick started a Riot Grrl cover band last year with MacComber joining later. The band started writing and playing original songs and the concept for Christian! Teenage Runaways was born shortly after. I would name off the respective instrumental duties in the group, but the first time I saw them live they were trading off instruments back and forth in a flurry of onstage rotation that prevented me from figuring out who was supposed to be playing what role in the group. Turns out, no one plays a single defined role.

The times I've seen Christian! Teenage Runaways perform since that first night have been some of the most rewarding live experiences I've had in what has personally been a record breaking year for local show attendance. The band seems to be consistently and organically reinventing itself mid-performance, and when you see them, you almost get the feeling you're watching three really different bands that all happen to be great.

There are traces of the group's Riot Grrl Cover band beginnings in their sound, but that doesn't begin to cover the sonic territory that they've started to map out since. Spiky little guitar lines crawl in and around the nuanced and melodic bass playing which, especially in the higher register, is reminiscent of Galaxie 500's Naomi Yang or even the originator of the style, Peter Hook. There are louder more chaotic moments too, where barre chords come crashing through with all the subtlety of a nail bomb, and a brief instrument switch might immediately lead into a song that finds the band playing a keyboard beat laced with the gooey sweetness of a 60's girl group's collective coo.

Girl groups are counted as a definite influence on the band's music, and names like the Shangri-Las, Ronettes, and Supremes come to mind as particularly prominent. One big advantage of a revolving group of lead singers, drummers, bass players and guitarists is a constantly evolving spontaneity, and CTR is able to effectively utilize their ever rotating line up to produce unexpected surprises. I've seen the group dismantle the drum set for a song while Lopez stands on stage, plaintively singing her guts out while steadily keeping a snare beat. Sashenka has an exceptionally strong voice with a recognizable syllabic curl that carries with it the history of everyone from Lora Logic to the androgynous shrieking of the men and women of No-Wave, late 80's group UT, early Nineties Olympia and contemporaries such as Finally Punk, Mika Miko, and Animental. Basically, the influences come from all over the place.

To understand the band's bravery is to see Sashenka proudly proclaim that a turn on drums is the only the second time she has ever played drums, and then to suddenly hear the melodic finesse of Julie's bass notes locking in with a deceptively simple beat that wins over an entire uninitiated audience. Julie seems to be the anchor of the group, tackling the bulk of drumming duties and exuding the most confidence on the various instruments. Macomber usually sings the softer numbers with a detached yet haunting vulnerability, making it all the more entertaining when you hear her having a screaming contest with Lopez like she does at the end of the song "Isle 9". And when I say "scream," I mean actual banshee-like wailing where the ends of your mouth curl as opposed to the much more rehearsed kind that you'd expect from more "ambitious" local rockers.

Being an entertaining live band is a stated goal of CTR, and they are just as adventurous with their visual presentation as they are with their setup. There is definitely some humor involved in the decision to wear a bee hive wig in front of an audience, and when it's actually donned at the beginning of a song as if it were as important to the performance as a capo or a special tuning, it becomes even funnier. There has been some debate on this site concerning bands dressing up and their motives for doing so, and in this case I'm told that CTR is motivated by a mix of Glam-Rock influences, a desire to play with visual identity and the possibility of liberating themselves from shyness. When I think of other local bands that have unique approaches to onstage attire, I think of The Undoing Of David Wright and Eat Avery's Bones, and with company like that, the debate is all but settled for me. Some of our readers seem to assume that if a band spends time on having some sort of costume onstage, they must be skimping on their musical output. But I would counter that if a band is meticulous enough to worry about their live image in such detail, then they've probably put as much or more into their music. CTR is a band that pays attention to details, all the way down to the humorous little exclamation mark after the word "Christian!" This, in my book, is a good thing.

And speaking of their memorable band name, it was explained to me that it is a substitutional parody on the "Choose the Right" abbreviation or "CTR", which has been plastered on everything from Latter Day Saints neck ties to toe rings and socks. CTR take the joke further by pretending to be "Christian Teenage Runaway Whores...transients and what not.". This is a send up of the whole concept of choosing the right, and I want to express my gratitude to CTR for bucking local convention and making so many "wrong" choices in just the right ways.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear sir or madame, what "wrong" choices did they make? i am curious. tell me specifically. i will then, in turn, make said wrong choices and then be kewl on the internet and in life( how exactly?). from what i can surmise your writing is indefensible. what exactly are you talking about?

indeed, i suggest editing some of this, for the sake of your readership.

however, the band itself shows promise but they are contrary to your words, wordless.

4:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow. music has become all about !exclamation! points, funny names and wearing costumes and this makes for a better musical experience? no thanks.

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you poop and try to cover the aroma with strawberry scented air freshener is it a more interesting smell?

8:14 AM  
Blogger Defensive Listening said...

2:51 AM-

The post right below yours proves my points better than I can. You're my readership and I'm not concerned about your sake. Most of them are big boys and girls and they can handle it. You seem to be a wordsmith, though. Send me some samples and I'll give them to the head editor. Let's see if we can make some things happen for you.

9:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christian! Teenage Runaways are playing @ HOUSE OF TINNITUS this thurs. the 16ht!!!!!! along with Chief Death Rage and the ASSDROIDS form Denver.... awesome show

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh those Denton bands and their wacky antics.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"AssDroids" ? huh? Wow.. sounds like a cant miss show. jesus people..

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is that anything like jellybody, where you have to eat eighteen carrots????????????????

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's time to get ready for the storm.............SRV

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh please. Spare me this shit.

If taking few risks and having bravery is getting on stage and not knowing how to use the instruments you're about to "entertain" people with, then yeah they're brave. Stick to theater, CTR. Or maybe just stick with one instrument until you can figure out how to manage it.


1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DL, you're SO RIGHT ON with this article. If we all forgot how to play our instruments the D/FW/d scene would be so much better off.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree completely with the above comment. Only, I'm serious.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Defensive Listening said...

Who said anything about not being able to play? One of the members has formal music school training. Another one has had vocal training. And the other one has more band experience than those two combined. Most rock bands I know in this area haven't had formal training of any kind. I didn't mention their schooling in the post because I didn't think it was relevant. But you guys are all virtuosos all of a sudden? So everyone in the band knows how to play an instrument but they are choosing to play instruments that aren't necessarily their principle. And it still works. Most people can't even hold my interest on one instrument. If you can do it on more than one, that somehow implies that a band is less talented?

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DL smells like period blood.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Defensive Listening said...

I appreciate that.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i saw them play at metrognome collective w/ health last week, they do indeed rule.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Zine-O-Phonic said...

good write up, I'll check them out sometime, though their myspace songs are at an intolerable production quality(bootleg). Sounds like this is more of a band worth seeing live though.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HEY 11:08 THE 2ND,

3:59 PM  
Anonymous le chauffeur said...

I am not surprised that many of the posters here do not like CTR. They are genuine, lovely, wonderful, beautiful, bemusing artists that produce violently lush expressions. It is good. Most people do not like good things. Most people like shit. Let the masses and the vile posters languish in their petty vulgarity. I will be with my friends in CTR enjoying the moment and their company.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not surprised that many of the posters here do not like CTR. They are genuine, lovely, wonderful, beautiful, bemusing artists that produce violently lush expressions. It is good. Most people do not like good things. Most people like shit. Let the masses and the vile posters languish in their petty vulgarity. I will be with my friends in CTR enjoying the moment and their company.


4:14 PM  
Blogger creatorlars said...

I can't wait to see these girls -- from what I can tell, they remind me a lot of the earliest Undoing days.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous le chauffeur said...


It would be lovley if you could see them this thursday with me... also i have some thoughts on the oobe...

and to the anon that hates me. that is not surprising either. it is the nature of our times. just look at the world. you fit in perfectly.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing that bothers me about this article is not that it is touting a band that I once found to be irritating at best. Maybe I was in a bad mood that night. Maybe I was too tired. I would likely give C!TR another chance if they happened to be playing a show I wanted to attend.

The problem is that Defensive Listening once again stated it's opinion in such a way that if you disagree its because you are stupid and just don't understand, or are too cool to like things that aren't quite normal. This just isn't the case. I was an uninitated member of the audience who was not, in fact, won over by the band.

Defensive Listening: your article did nothing to push me towards thinking about the band differently or make me want to listen to them any more than I did the first time I saw them. Your article instead screamed at me THIS IS WHAT IS NEW AND WHAT IS EXCITING AND IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT THEN YOU'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

This is such a common thread throughout most of your articles that I can nearly always tell if it is you writing it before I finish the first paragraph.

You may fancy yourself an arbiter of cool, but no one, not even those who would follow your every suggestion, like being yelled at and talked down to. Its sad, I believe what you have to say is valid and an important take on our local scene here. I just wish you would take more care in how you say it.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous mc said...

good job DL

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with 3:50. This site has jumped the shark. No one wants to be talked down to and belittled from their local music critic. wsjr=jumped the shark.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude... jumped the shark jumped the shark. You and my mom should go hang out some time. You share a common vernacular.

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude, we hung out last night and made out to happy days reruns.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous smarter than you said...

Also, you seem to be under the impression that:

A. DL and SR give a fuck what you think of their blog.
B. You have some ownership or right to be satisfied.
C. You are being forced to read.

And you said jump the shark, which again... I mean, why are you here? Read it, consider it, form your own opinion. Nobody is sticking a gun to your head. Though...

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, you made a joke about my mom after I mentioned her! VERY sharp.

Let's start a comedy team. Here, I'll "set you up"...

Um, say, friend... Why don't you take my sister out to the hardware store tonight? I hear she need some screws!

Okay... It's your turn! Dig deep!

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God, this is going to be REALLY good...

7:32 PM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

Although I disagree with what 350 said, I think that kind of criticism is healthy and rational for the most part. I would respond by saying that I think DL was expressing his boredom with a lot of the mainstream local bands rather than trying to tell readers that they are dumb or yell at them. I think boredom with the local norm is one of the fundamental attitudes held by the authors and readers of this blog, so I don't really see why the article is a problem. But I thank you for expressing your opinion in a civil way.

JUMP THE SHARK DUDE: Funny, there seems to be one particular person that keeps using that phrase, and I still don't really know what it means outside of context clues. You can think whatever you want, and you can say way worse things about us on here without any consequences, but I am officially banning the phrase "jump the shark." Its stupid!

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why did y'all shoot junior?

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stoned Ranger: thanks for the response. i feel in some small way bad for a post i made earlier in the day, and after some level-headed thinking about it, made a post that more accurately described my thoughts.

I still feel i am in the right pointing out my frustration to Defensive Listening. even if s/he was trying to express boredom with the local music scene, and wanted to point out something that not many people have heard about and should, this wasn't a very eloquent way of doing so. the opinions are set up so that arguments against them are immediately discounted as "not getting it" or being uncool. i'm not the only one who felt that way, just read the comments. clearly i wasn't the only one who didn't understand what DL was trying to communicate.

you guys have a lot of devoted readers.
you guys have developed a lot of sway in how things are discussed in our music scene.
in general you all seem to really have it together.
for that i am really thankful for this blog.
i'm only trying to help keep the train on the tracks.

and away from sharks.


8:02 PM  
Blogger Defensive Listening said...

I read what I wrote and I see a blog post about how pleased I was with a brand new band. There are some light hearted digs at the local music scene in the first paragraph and I appreciate the fact that you take a cartoon character with a fake name seriously enough to feel that you're being talked down to. Though I stand by all of my statements I think they are sometimes perceived to be much more condescending than I intend. Lighten up. Also, I would never accuse anyone of being "uncool" for not sharing my opinions. Thanks for the civil discussion but I want to add that I don't think this D.A.R.T rail needs any help clinging to the tracks.

10:02 PM  
Blogger xtian runaway #3 said...

I just like having fun!! --thanks for the awesome article DL --Leanne and Sasha are the bestest people i have ever played with!!!! We are all sooo busy with other things going on in our lives (school,jobs,baby--etc--) that its nice to finally get a chance to play out with an audience --
Granted our equipment sucks but we do what we can --i wish more people did that --also i am an orphan so i dont get brand new guitar, drums --music thingys for birthdays or xmas-- so fuck you portacat!

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's up with all the talk of Sharks man? This here is Jets territory, Jack!

11:01 AM  
Anonymous burden bros #1 said...

Denton sucks! Art Fags!

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what's the address of house of tinnitus?

12:18 PM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

I forget... its on Lakey st. in Denton. Their myspace:


12:21 PM  
Blogger Leany Bean said...

CTR! is just honest fun and expression. asininity is just not applicable to this well articulated piece or the musicians. why does everyone have to be a fucking cock all the time.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous m samantha m said...

xtian runaway #3, miss mckendrick - you rock! so glad that you are playing again!!!!! canna wait to see you!
have work and important day of last learning before final in early class, so canna make it tomorrow. will be on the lookout for you

(how's that for exclaimpts, unhappy ones???)

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

old. fat, lesbian moms... Yeah, sounds fun... In Portland... In 1991... With a gun to put in my mouth.

Wish I "understood" art.

6:17 PM  
Blogger tystamp said...

way to go julie. got it go'n on.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

kiss my portacat. now now now.

12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you wish i would kiss your portacat

12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

omg! I can't believe you are talking about stupid portacat again. get over it!

12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

all you do is think about yourself. you are totally vain. hummmmm. i think that sometimes you must dream about porta cat. oh yea and C!TR ... you are sooooo good toshi.

1:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

people get defensive but it is just a band, just a write-up, just portacat... hi ho!

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah i got your kurt reference... gina!

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

grab that gun... you are mean... you must like C!TR.

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the portacat is sophias highest consort.. beware the porta-archon's wrath

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