Music Gods, be praised. There is just something immensely satisfying to witness when great people make great music. Two weekends ago I had a chance to follow up with some musicians who have been on my radar for some time called Teen Commandments. This crew is made up of talented musicians Brett Moses, Nick LaGrasta, Van Hughes, Owen Holmes and Hampus Öhman-Frölund. What makes them unique is that their sound is one of a kind with an intense power following simple optimistic thrills. As fate would have it, we were able to meet at Rough Trade in Brooklyn to chat and enjoy some stellar tunes.
Rough Trade is officially my favorite venue this year. With its band stage and record store combination, it is sublime for any music devotee. I took my time arriving while also enjoying the mildly cool weather. Compared to the Jonas excitement from the weeks before, this was strangely comfortable. Upon entering the space I met immediately with Brett who happily welcomed me in. Passing the already growing crowd, we walked upstairs to the greenroom to meet up with fellow partners in musical crime Nick and Van. Sliding into the middle of the guys on the black leather couch we got right into our conversation.
To start, I was curious to learn more about their progression in the musical space within their unusual genre. “Well, the process has evolved since it was just Nick and I,” shared Brett, “we brought in electronic [music] first.” Van jumped in a declared, “but dance is our driving factor.” Their music is honestly a sweet spot in the middle of dance, rock and some kind of funk zest. The key to their musical stage presence is their passion for presentational music art. Van elaborated, “We are always looking for that high performance quality, we like to be energetic. We don’t like seeing a show where people are standing with their with arms crossed and not having fun. The goal is to share the experience.” Case in point, their show that night was to be their largest live band event to date and full of excitement, more on that later folks.
Part of what keeps the Teen Commandments on top of their musical game is the simple fact that they remain music fanatics. “We are die hard music fans. We love to stay up late at night drinking and listening to tunes whenever we can. We are constantly consuming and filtering everything.” states Brett. Even Van went on to explain their exploration, “While we explore deep 70s disco, we try to keep it modern and evaluate everything without having immediate bias.” Brett jumped in once more to add, “In the lyrical world, we are trying to pair it all together. All of the songs are written from a specific side of my personality. I am sometimes at war with myself, being absolutely open out in the work but still [dealing with] extreme vulnerability.” From music sessions to deep depths of feeling, Teen Commandments are men who use their craft well. The band and I chatted some more with laughter and fun banter. Eventually we heard and felt the vibrations of Salt Cathedral, the first band of the night, who had loudly taken the stage. “Shall we go watch?” asked Van.
Lingering on the balcony backstage I said good luck to the gang and made my way down to the ground floor to partake in the action. Along with Salt Cathedral, Teen Commandments were also sharing the stage with the one-man powerhouse of dance, Brothertiger. Both were excellent additions to the night to pump up fans for the Teen Commandments who finished it off.
Once Brett and team wandered on stage to prepare for their set, the front man was confidently draped in a full blue silk jumpsuit. He was warming up for his musical boxing match it seemed. All about the floor and in the balcony was a congregation of a young crowd eagerly waiting for their final masterpiece while sipping away at their drinks. I was impressed with the extensive amount of equipment that the band had to set up. They had synths, a drum set, bongos, guitars, etc. The musical arsenal went on and on. When I thought I saw everything, they would bring out another instrument. How much could they have? Each member of the rocking crew looked extremely eager to begin. Teen Commandments had grins plastered on their faces.
They eventually collected together and wandered off stage. A few minutes later the lights dimmed and the show was set to instigate. As with Brothertiger’s performance, Teen Commandments kept a funky and design oriented projection for every song. All of the band members had wild linear red and white face paint on, which gave them a tribe aesthetic. All wore white or pale colors and Brett made sure to keep it weird with a wickedly, cool, white baseball cap with white fringe hanging from the front. Naturally, they started off with some classic hard thumping to get the groove going. With their grid-like graphics behind, the band was fully on their way. Brett constantly had a hand reached out to use, as he made sure to preach to his musical audience. The entire duration of the show I asked myself, ‘what space adventure are we all on?’ Everyone at Rough Trade looked extremely happy bouncing around. Listeners could catch glances from the band looking out with sheer joy on their faces. The audience responded in kind with cheers all around. Teen Commandments unleashed a suite of floating future pop that just worked wonderfully. After every song, it felt like the crowd continued to thicken fast.
Man, Brett and Van loved to dance up there. Once they got frantic in their music it immediately transferred easily to the crowd. Probably one of the most humorous moments of the night was during their song American Special. To pair with the excellent tune, Mr. Trump appeared as a GIF onscreen. Cheers for the music and boos for the Trump flooded the space. All of the bongo action by the lovely percussionist Rosie Slater and the intense cowbell from Brett electrocuted the audience. People could not help but jump and bob their heads. It was that addictive. The rhythm and the beat were simply divine. Listeners had to bite their lips and drift off into danceable bliss.
As the night went on they brought a guest out, an actress named Ren, who recently made her Broadway debut in the new Spring Awakening! As Brett applied make up to her face, people in the crowd were curious as to her role. As the next song began, their questions were answered as she began to use American Sign Language for two songs! People threw up their ‘applause’ hands and loved it. That combined with the disco flavor and their performance mentality just made everything that much sweeter. What a damn exquisite spectacle.
I cannot say enough great things about Teen Commandments. Their place in the musical atmosphere is simply a magnificent addition. With their passion, enthusiasm and performance innovation, they are only set for even more greatness. Go listen to their music and better yet, join in on the fun and see them rocking their stuff. It will be time well spent.
Photo Credit – Cameron Quinn