Album Premiere: Chumped, ‘Teenage Retirement’

Laura Leebove

By Laura Leebove

Managing Editor
on 11.13.14 in News

Brooklyn pop-punk band Chumped were a few days away from the start of their first month-long tour when they stopped by Wondering Sound’s office last month. The quartet — three childhood friends from Colorado and a New Jersey native they met after moving to New York — joked about sharing sleeping bags and eventually admitted that they’d hardly started packing. Though they were enthusiastic then, when the tour is over they’ll return home to a blank slate: Three band members quit their full-time jobs to go on this trip, and none are exactly sure what’s next.

Chumped’s debut LP, Teenage Retirement, explores all of these themes. Its razor-sharp songs celebrate youth while also expressing anxiety about what comes after. Frontwoman Anika Pyle’s lyrics are rife with uncertainty: In “Songs About Boats” she sings, “It’s hard to say what kind of mess we’ll get ourselves into next year” over low, chugging guitars. And in one of the album’s more majestic moments, “Penny,” she sings, “It’s been a long, long while since any place felt like home” with her bandmates echoing the line after her.

Chumped wear their influences on their sleeves: You can hear Weezer in the crunchy riffs and “oh-woo-ooo-ooooo-oo”s in “Hot 97 Summer Jam” and “Anywhere But Here,” and Saves the Day‘s yearning emotional core comes through in choruses like “Name That Thing”‘s “And we drank and we talked shit and I was happy/ Tried so desperately to hold on to the feeling/ of being young/ being sure/ being lucky/ ‘Cause I get down/ and it’s so easy/ to feel nothing.”

But while Chumped share plenty of their forbears’ angst, they don’t dwell on it: “They say that life’s too short to keep on living in nostalgia,” Pyle sings in “Something About Geography,” a clear-eyed reminder to just keep pushing through to adulthood.

Teenage Retirement is out November 18 via Anchorless Records. Read our interview and listen to the album in full below.

How did you start playing together in New York?

Anika Pyle (vocals, guitar): [Guitarist] Drew [Johnson] and I were playing music together because we missed playing music, and we wanted to start a band. And [bassist] Doug [McKeever] and I worked together at the Fort Greene farmers market. We hit it off and I was like, “Wanna be in this band?”

Doug McKeever (bass): We had a lot of really cool living-room band practices.

Drew Johnson (guitar): We were in Doug’s apartment. We brought over our acoustic guitars and Doug just had a small little amp with the bass. It was really fun.

Where were you working at the market?

Pyle: I sold bread for a bakery called Hot Bread Kitchen.

McKeever: I was selling pickles for Rick’s Picks. I don’t work there anymore [laughs]. My last day was on Friday ’cause we’re about to leave for a month.

Have all of you quit your day jobs?

Pyle: Three of us definitely quit our big-girl jobs.

Dan Frelly (drums): I’m doing the barista thing. Every professional barista means they have something else going on. I’m able to just come back and start making coffee again.

Johnson: Dan was hustling like five jobs this summer — anywhere between three and seven part-time jobs at one time.

Frelly: And now I only have two.

What else were you doing?

Johnson: I was doing the ultimate sellout thing. I worked for a big wine company and was selling really fancy wine to people. It was cool — we had pickles, bread, groceries and wine covered. We were able to make a pretty elaborate band meal.

Pyle: And now we eat peanut butter [laughs].

Johnson: This tour came at a really good time in our lives, ’cause I think we were all ready to move on to different things. Not that this band is subsidizing us leaving our jobs, but it was an opportunity to move on to these other things that we’ve wanted to try to do and use it as an excuse to go away, and when we come back we’ll figure it out from there.

This is your first big tour — what are you doing to prepare?

Johnson: So much preparation!

Pyle: So much sleeping and watching Broad City. I don’t think any of us have packed yet. We’re pretty underprepared.

Have you gotten any advice from friends who have done this before?

Johnson: Yeah, our friend Lauren, she plays in Benny the Jet Rodriguez and Upset, she has gone on many tours and she’s hooking us up with her list of things to take, all the little things you don’t think of. There’s a throat spray called Singer that they sell at Whole Foods and it’s literally designed for people who are [singing every day]. It works great.

McKeever: Dan and I have been talking a lot about what snacks we should bring.

Pyle: Yeah, snacks are crucial.

Johnson: [Doug and Dan] just realized they need sleeping bags so I think we’re gonna be sleeping bag shopping soon.

McKeever: We should get a two-person one.

Pyle: We should all get matching onesies.

Johnson: It’s been crazy. We bought a van a few weeks ago. That’s something that’s been on our radar for so long but it’s very real that we needed it. Everything has come into place very easily so far.

So, your album is called Teenage Retirement — what music were you listening to as teenagers?

Pyle: Sooo many teenage feelings. I listened to a lot of punk when I was a teenager. I would say Saves the Day, Alkaline Trio, a lot of Weezer…the Starting Line was my favorite band when I was 15, don’t want to admit that really, but… [laughs] I listened to a lot of pop music when I was a kid, too.

Johnson: I don’t know if anyone remembers the mid 2000s, but that was a rough time for a lot of music. I was listening to everything from the Lawrence Arms to the Blood Brothers, From First to Last and that kind of shit.

Pyle: Lots of Strike Anywhere, lots of Leftover Crack.

McKeever: As a New Jersey resident, I was required to listen to Thursday and Glassjaw, almost exclusively.

Frelly: I didn’t really listen to a lot of new music. I liked a lot of like old punk bands, hardcore, stuff like that.

What are you listening to now?

Johnson: It’s funny, I’ve been going back in time, trying to understand the things that influenced bands I listened to. “I like this band and they listened to the Replacements. Who did the Replacements listen to? Big Star. Who did Big Star listen to?” I’ve been trying to understand the roots of music a bit more.

Pyle: I think it’s hard to pin it down, because when I was small I had this finite amount of media I could listen to. If I had purchased the CD or if I had downloaded this 30-second clip from Interpunk, I could listen to that. Now I can’t even tell you what I’m listening to because it’s a thousand different things every day.

Who’s on the album cover?

Johnson: That’s our friend Cody.

Where was the photo taken?

Johnson: It’s funny how this album cover came about. We contacted our friend David Williams, who’s a really awesome photographer. And Cody, who’s on the cover, is a really good graphic designer and artist. We gave them some ideas and the concepts on the album. We were living at my aunt’s house over the summer, because we had just moved out of an apartment, and David was like, “Hey, doesn’t your aunt have a pool? Can you take a picture of it?” So I snapped a shot of it and he’s like, “Holy shit that’s perfect,” and I had no idea what he was thinking. We were playing a show in Philadelphia and that’s when they went over to my aunt’s house — no one was at the house and these kids just let themselves into the gate. It’s in Howard Beach, Queens, and it’s technically in the city but it’s suburbia, there are a lot of neighbors constantly watching the other neighbors’ houses and stuff like that. And they just let themselves in and did this photo shoot and the tarp on the pool was on and it had rained the day before and there was this excess water —

I didn’t even realize he was on top of the tarp!

Johnson: Exactly.

Pyle: They were like, “Can we get in it?” And I was like, “Yeah, if you take a heavy dose of antibiotics.”

Johnson: But yeah, it’s him floating around on top of the rainwater on top of the pool. And they showed us that and it was perfect.

Pyle: In retrospect, I think that the album artwork means a lot more — I’m glad they did it there. The aunt we were living with passed away in April, so it was sort of this ode to her. She was someone who embodied being forever young, so it’s kinda nice that that pool can live on.

Johnson: If there’s one person who could understand what this band was, more than just being a dumb band, really understand what it means to be enjoying time with your best friends, going out and creating something, just doing it ’cause that’s what you need to do, it was definitely her. That pool’s been in our family for 35 years — my dad and my aunt grew up in that house and that pool has so many memories surrounding it. So when my family saw that that was the album cover they were like, “This is awesome.” It’s a pretty great homage and it’s serendipitous because that wasn’t the intention of David or Cody at all, but it really does have a special meaning to us.

What have your families’ reactions been to quitting your jobs to go on tour?

Pyle: My parents don’t really care what I do, which is a blessing and a curse, but mostly a blessing. I’ve wanted to make art and sing or do whatever since I was a little kid so they’re really supportive and as long as I’m happy they do not care at all.

Johnson: My parents were polar opposites. When we broke the news that I was quitting my job and going on tour, we went to this nice little German restaurant and I made sure to buy my family a big round of beers. I was trying to sedate them a little bit before I announced it, but my mom was like, “Hey, so, what’s going on with the job?” She brought that question right into it so I was like, “Well, funny you should ask, today I put in my three-week notice.” And her jaw kinda dropped in that moment, but after talking about it I think she understood I have to try it. I have to give it a shot. This is something that’s coming about right now and I’m just gonna go out and see what happens. My family has been incredibly supportive since then and it’s been really awesome.

McKeever: My mom and dad are psyched — he sends me links to things that people say about us [laughs]. In order, I get it from my dad, a Google alert and then from [our publicist] Talia [everyone laughing].

Frelly: My dad shows people our band who just wouldn’t care at all [laughs]. He’s like, “I showed this guy I worked with,” and I was like, “Cool, he doesn’t care.”

Upcoming shows:

12/12 Philadelphia, PA at Boot and Saddle with A Wilhelm Scream, The Holy Mess
12/13 Brooklyn, NY at Suburbia with Cayetana, Jeff Rosenstock, Adult Dude and comedy by Chris Gethard
12/14 Long Island, NY at TBA with Sad and French, Remnants