Teaheads resurrect retro-pop in a modern way

Updated: Feb 11, 2019

The once indie-folk band Teaheads have spent the last few years in the studio reorienting their sound and unearthing their love for pop music. "You," an eight-track record made its debut into the world today, paying homage to the greats like Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles, while blending elements heard on the present top 40.

"I’m under the belief that nobody, not Shakespeare, James Joyce, Ariana Grande or Bob Dylan have ever done anything 100 percent original because you learn how to do what you like to do by listening to what you like to listen to," explained vocalist Tyler Rigdon. "Nobody has listened to the amount of Phil Spector I have conjoined with the amount of Britney Spears that I have. I’ve taken those proportions in my way so everything I do comes out like nobody else would do it.”

After regrouping and reassessing Teaheads, Rigdon and Travis Hall recorded the record at Rooftop Recording in their hometown of Flint, Michigan. According to Rigdon, they "had all the time in the world," producing and creating "You" because they stayed off the radar for the past three years.

“Every time I make a record personally, whether it’s mine or somebody else’s-- but especially mine-- it’s so important that it’s better than the last. I was really proud of the record I did before this one, but Travis wasn’t really involved in that. We didn’t write any of those songs together; it was a completely different dynamic. So, it was also settling into that.”

In retrospect, putting out a record in 2019 that sounds like it was recorded in the 70s and released at the same time as classics like "Rumors," "Hotel California" and "The Stranger" was a bold move.

“You try your damnedest to never rip anybody off. I like things that come straight from my own creation, but I also accept I wouldn’t have thought of it this way if I wasn’t obsessed with Fleetwood Mac. Travis is the same way. He’s a scholar in all things modern pop, and I’m a scholar in all things retro-pop.”

Without trying too hard, "You" is an effortless and progressive collection the pop industry shouldn't overlook. It shows the genre doesn't need to be over-produced DIY dream electro-pop or contain bass drops at every chorus.

The first track, "Why Don't You Go," has all the elements of what makes a pop song great. Opening with a synth and ridiculously relatable lyrics, the arrangement flourishes into a danceable beat, a catchy chorus and in a true Teaheads fashion, a bridge featuring a piano riff and a crazy saxophone solo, nostalgic of the 70s.

Why don't you go somewhere else to party? Why don't you go somewhere else? You swear you'll find it with just anybody Why don't you go somewhere else to party?

“‘Why Don’t You Go’ is the most me production I’ve ever done. There’s like 67 instrument tracks on that song. You can’t tell because it’s a guitar layered behind a piano layered behind a synth, and they all sound like one instrument. That’s something I’m really proud of. It took a really, really fucking long time to be able to put headphones on and get to that second verse and just listen to all the 12 things that are happening at the same time-- that’s what gets my rocks off.”

A lot of their favorite records are short ones, and it definitely influenced their track listing. After listening to it in full, they were hesitant about it timing out to be 27 minutes. Hall proposed making a reprise to one of their favorite songs, "Lottie." The original is a smooth four-minute number, that resonates an airy jazz atmosphere. The production of the reprise included a change in lyrics, melody, upright bass, added trumpet and a killer drum machine additive, giving a whole other layer of dimension to the album.

"You" was written by experiencing a similar situation, but Rigdon said their new home and experiences in NYC will be a big part of what's to come from Teaheads.

“This was the first album where I totally became myself as a producer. I produced the first two TeaHead records but even to this day-- it’s just weird because you look back five years and it’s like, if I just knew then what I know now, but I was a teenager when I did those records. I was 17 when I did the first one, and I was 19 when I did the second one. I’m still really proud of those records, and I don’t think anyone could have done those records the way I did, but I didn’t quite know what I was doing when I told him to lay down that organ part or something. With this one, every time I listen to it-- I don’t want to say I impress myself, but I’m very comfortable with where it sits in my mind."

This record may shut a door on a chapter of Rigdon and Halls' lives, but it's also going to be opening many more.

"I think to myself, you’re in your 20s. This is where things start to come together. The Beatles released ‘Revolver’ when they were 23; Brian Wilson wrote ‘Pet Sounds’ when he was 23, and I’m nowhere near those guys. But, at least it feels comfortable like okay this is an adult record. It’s not baby steps anymore. This is an adult record, and it sounds and feels like it.”

Keep up with Teaheads here.