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Teenage Bottlerocket stay rad in the aftermath of tragedy 

click to enlarge Not so grown up, Teenage Bottlerocket remember their roots. - JAMY CABRE
  • Jamy Cabre
  • Not so grown up, Teenage Bottlerocket remember their roots.
‘I can’t figure out how to be a little kid again,” sings Ray Carlisle on his band’s new album.

That’s not to suggest Teenage Bottlerocket’s musical offerings have matured that much in the nearly two decades since they first put Laramie, Wyoming, on the pop-punk map. The group’s ninth album, Stay Rad!, which was released last week on the Fat Wreck Chords label, is still packed with two-minute anthems that are as intentionally adolescent as ever, tracks like “Creature From the Black Metal Lagoon, “Wild Hair (Across My Ass),” and “I’ll Kill You Tomorrow.”

But this is also the band’s first album of original music since the 2015 death of Ray’s twin brother and bandmate Brandon, whose loss is reflected on the previously quoted track “Little Kid.” The song pairs unusually poignant lyrics (“It’s been going on way too long without you / I can’t talk to anyone”) with the catchy skate-punk simplicity that inevitably invites comparisons to The Ramones, The Clash and Green Day.

“That song sort of wrote itself,” says the singer. “One thing that hit me emotionally was that it reminds me of Another Way, our first record, which I thought was cool. So maybe, in a strange way, the song did make me feel like a little kid again.”

Unlike most of his longtime friends, Carlisle never moved away from Laramie, the college town where he and his brother grew up. He sometimes wonders why, especially now that longtime bassist Miguel Chen will be moving to Dallas in May.
“The only member of Teenage Bottlerocket left in Wyoming, that’s going to be me, which is weird to think about. But Laramie really is like an in-and-out town, people come here for four years, they graduate, and they’re gone. We probably stayed here longer than we really should have. But it’s pretty cheap, and one of the coolest things about living up here is that there’s this ski area nearby — me and my kid can be on the chairlift in 35 minutes. We go snowboarding there 25 times a year. We went just yesterday.”

While the band will be geographically spread out, they’ll continue to reconvene on the road and in the studio. Laramie is a little more than an hour’s drive from Fort Collins’ Blasting Room, the legendary punk rock studio that was founded by members of All and has birthed seminal recordings by Less Than Jake, Propagandhi, NOFX and Rise Against. It’s there that Teenage Bottlerocket have recorded most of their nine albums, including the 2017 all-covers collection, Stealing the Covers, that served as a stopgap release while the musicians slowly came to terms with their bandmate’s death.

“I think that we’ve grown as a band and we have fought through tragedy,” says Carlisle. “And I think that anybody that’s a fan of Teenage Bottlerocket can hear that on this album. We recorded a lot of these songs with Brandon in our thoughts — he was always sort of a driving force behind the production of these records — so we were all sort of secretly thinking, ‘Would Brandon be cool with this?’ And, at the end of the day, I know Brandon would really love this record.”

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