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Digging Deeper: An Interview With The Pro-Teens

For this instalment of Digging Deeper, we're transported to the thriving talent pool of Melbourne, and enigmatic soul group The Pro-Teens.
We're no strangers to The Pro-Teens crew since receiving their 7" 'Full Recovery/Cold Vein' back in 2019. Here we have the chance to speak to songwriter Hudson on their latest album 'I Flip My Life Every Time I Fly', released 2nd October on the College of Knowledge imprint. 

Hi, Hudson. Great to hear your latest LP 'I Flip My Life Every Time I Fly' on vinyl. How did you record the album?
We recorded 'I Flip My Life Every Time I Fly' at the actual College of Knowledge, which is the home of 3/4's of Surprise Chef. It's a beautiful huge 2 story brick mansion with tremendous monstera's and jasmine. Some say there's an underground basement where ritualistic summoning's take place. I don't know what to believe any more. I brought in all the songs written on sheet music for the band, the only way I like to write this kind of music. I knew I wanted to record the album there because the mixing desk is separate from the main tracking areas, which allowed the engineer to achieve a more focused sound production. A feature that a studio that I usually record at with Karate Boogaloo didn't have at the time. Also the energy at the house is gorgeous and their cat The Fabulous Baby Huey is a big big bonus. 

 What have you released so far under the Pro-Teens name?

The Pro-Teens have released 3 albums. 'Tumultuous Times', 'Tactile Living' and 'Thanks Team'. The first 2 were released in 2017, and the 3rd one was released in 2018. They were all self funded. We recorded the first album in my old house in the inner city Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. The Pink Palace aka Many Naps aka 208 Naps Zzzz. The rhythm section in a hodge bodge recording space in one room and the horns facing an upturned double bed in the another room. A gorgeous 2 story brick house painted in a dull but romantic pink. The house was my Aunty Fiona's. RIP. The other 2 were recorded out a co shared studio space built by members of The Pro-Teens and other Melbourne funky ensembles. There's also an unrelased 45 with a vocalist and a collection of other recordings that will be released as an EP called 'Extra Curricular Activites'. Plenty of things in the professional vault. 

Where can we find previous releases?
The previous 3 albums are all available to listen to on Bandcamp. The second and third albums are available on vinyl but only a handful are left. Get in quick! They can be ordered through The Pro-Teens Bandcamp website. Soon they'll be uploaded to other streaming platforms.

You seem to have a fairly mysterious air floating around the group, is this intentional?
I originally wanted the group to be totally anonymous, but it's hard to keep these things under wraps. I wanted people to have that moment of confusion and mystery when they pulled up a Pro-Teens record in a record store. Seeing names like Dr Zunio Darpeesh or Mark E. Rainer and thinking who the hell are these highly professional teenagers??

How would you describe your musical taste?
I would say my taste is pretty 50/50 influenced by rap and cinematic funk/soul. Everything else comes from that. Like, I feel like I developed an appreciation for The Pointer Sisters, SOS band and Steely Dan through listening to DOOM etc. And I discovered artists like Richard Evans, Arthur Verocai and Dorothy Ashby through other producers beats/sample based stuff too. There's a very clear cross section between rap music and the kind of things they like to sample. I feel like the music I want to make will hopefully sit right in between those camps.

Are you record collectors? If so, where’s best to dig in Melbourne?
The best place to dig is definitely Northside Records in Collingwood. You'll find a super eclectic mix of stuff all at bargain prices. And you get to nerd out with the staff who happen to be some of Melbourne's best DJ's. Big ups Chris and the gang.  

I’ve heard you’ve never played live together. Of course this isn’t likely to change in our current circumstances, but can we expect any live gigs in future, or are you secretly three teens in a trench coat? 
There's been talks of gigs along the way, but I'd much prefer to direct that energy into recording new music. There's definitely a few three tiered teens and some trench like attire involved with the music making process. Both literally and metaphorically.

What led you to the world of College of Knowledge Records? 
I've know Jethro and Stuckey for many years. Jethro and I played some very average improvised music at University. I heard that they wanted to start making their own wonky soul music and put it out on their own label, which I had also been doing with The Pro-Teens and my own solo project Brenda on my own label (Many Naps). They have been Karate Boogaloo's biggest fans for years. I guess we all just gravitated towards one another with a shared love for funk/soul music with a lil extra freak factor.

Who is Snooch Dog?
Snooch Dodd is a fictitious character that me and my ex-girlfriend came up with one time when we were partaking in some extracurricular activities (drugs). I gifted the moniker to one of the founding teenagers (who plays most of the Yamaha organ on the first three albums) and it felt like one day Snooch should have their own solo record. Snooch has always been heavily influenced by rap music, so this record [IFMLETIF] became more of a beats mixtape a la DOOM's special Herbs and Spices volumes 1-10. Snooch Dodd is all about fun, friends and inclusivity.

Your record covers are very unique, seemingly hand drawn, and a very different route to the photoshop-perfect artwork we’ve come to know. How did this begin, and who’s the artist behind your artwork?
I make the artwork as well write the music and play drums. For some reason drawing the artwork with Textas (felt tipped ink connecter pens) on white paper was the only way that made sense to me. I already had the Textas which made it easier. I didn't have a laptop that I could run visual art making programs on, so I decided to draw it all instead. Inspired by the kind of child friendly artwork that my mum makes. Love you mum. 

Sounds like there’s some Japanese instrumentation / inspiration on the latest album… can you tell us a little about your musical inspiration as a group?
The Koto sounding instrument is a dulcimer that one of The Teens handmade. Some of the main influences for this album was El Michel's Affair's Enter the 37th Chamber and Return to the 37th Chamber. Also, the Will Sessions instrumentals for Elzhi's 'Elmatic' record were a huge inspiration for some of the feels on this album. I wanted to have an eclectic mix of sounds on this album to make it feel like more of a journey. I wanted this record to dip in between sounding like a band playing songs and programmed/sampled beats.
Which current labels and artists do you most admire?
At the moment I draw the most inspiration from Surprise Chef and their momentum. I feel very blessed to be involved in their journey making crooked naughty music. And of course I truly admire how hard working and supportive College of Knowledge are towards The Pro-Teens, Karate Boogaloo and all the whacky things we are all cooking up. 

Whats next for The Pro-Teens? 
We've recording 3/5's of the next full-length record 'Best Schoolies Ever'. 'Schoolies' is something that you'd do after finishing high school. Upon completing year 12 some students with a well-endowed bank account would travel to places like Bali, and partake in cheap beer and delicious foods. Whilst the more 'shoestring' minded graduates would go to a beach town in Victora such as Lorne or Ocean Grove to do a lot of drugs and let loose. I wanted to write an album centred around that experience. The record naturally has strings and a harpist as well as some other whacky instruments to help conjure the feeling of what it's like to go on 'schoolies'. 
Why do you think Melbourne’s music scene is so hot right now?
Hard to say specifically, but I think it has something to do with the fact that all the musicians I know in Naarm (the Wurundjeri word for inner Melbourne. The Wurundjeri People of The Kulin Nation are the traditional custodians of the land that we live on) all make music very authentically and just work really hard at honing their aesthetic. There's not really one style or singular genre, everyone jumps between lots of differing styles.

Many thanks to Hudson from The Pro-Teens for taking the time. Listen to the new album and order the LP 'I Flip My Life Every Time I Fly' here.

The Pro-Teens · I Flip My Life Every Time I Fly