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LIVE: Teen Mortgage – Louisiana, Bristol, 15/06/2024

Having given the world Bad Brains, Fugazi, Minor Threat, and Dave Grohl’s first band, Scream, there is no more fertile punk rock city in the United States than Washington DC. Now, we have another band following in this fine tradition, and rather bizarrely, it’s all thanks to Craigslist.

Newly arrived in DC from the UK, guitarist/vocalist James Guile put an advert on the site to find a drummer to join him in a band. Ed Barakausas answered, and Teen Mortgage were born. Releasing their first EP, Life/Death, in 2019, the pair gradually built a strong following behind a series of incendiary releases on King Pizza Records, all of which were released as a self-titled compilation album earlier this year.

Thematically, they do what all the best punk bands do – address the issues of the day in a blunt, direct and witty manner. For Teen Mortgage, this includes wealth disparity (“Pigs with power in their ivory tower, mothers shop for four at the dollar store”), media manipulation (“Five corporations own the media outlets, throw out your cable box and your TV set”), and refreshingly, climate change (“Never gonna talk about going green, doesn’t really fit into the money machine’“). The latter, with the exception of Kid Kapichi’s brilliant ‘Cops and Robbers’, has been surprisingly neglected by the genre, but the jittery ‘Away’ captures the urgency of the discussion perfectly.

Musically, Teen Mortgage would best be described as garage punk with a hard edge. Influenced by surf punk and desert rock, but also incorporating bluesy guitar riffs and bludgeoning hardcore, there is a depth to their sound that really makes them stand out from the crowd.

Some influential folks are starting to take notice, exemplified by the pair having spent the last week touring the UK with The Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer. Tonight, though, is a sold-out headline show at Bristol’s iconic Louisiana, and this somehow feels like a more natural environment for this band.

Main support tonight comes from another band that has played in front of a much larger audience over the last couple of days. Bristol trio iDestroy have really been starting to make waves recently, and this led to an invite from the good folks at Download Festival, where they played in front of a very impressive crowd indeed on Friday lunchtime, and seemed to go down very well.

Tonight, we see plenty to explain the attention they have been getting, with a fun and energetic set. They play intelligent pop-punk with great riffs, and bassist Nicola Wilton-Baker has certainly mastered the art of playing while spinning in a circle. This author felt dizzy just watching her. Impressive. Would definitely go to see a headline set from these.


Teen Mortgage certainly seem very at home in the Louisiana music room, to the extent that Guile appears to forget that there is an artist’s entrance to the stage, instead wandering through the audience to get there as the piped introduction plays.

It’s quickly very apparent just how skilled these two are as musicians. During ‘Ghost Girl’, one of the band’s slower tracks (which is really not slow at all), Barakausas fills in the time by spinning his drumsticks between beats, again and again and again, as though his drumming assignment is just too easy without it. He hits those drums hard too, my God he does.

Guile, meanwhile, is very reminiscent of JOHN‘s Johnny Healey as a guitarist, able to play at breakneck speed live without losing any of the nuance that makes the recorded versions of their songs so good. The guitar sound is fabulous too, particularly on tracks like ‘No’ and ‘Valley’, which sound even more downtuned live than on the recorded version, and are even better for it.

A moshpit opens up during the first song, and stays in place throughout the whole set. This, plus the prevalence of Teen Mortgage merch in the crowd, tells you one thing very clearly – people who like this band, really like this band.

Surprisingly, Guile, a scouser who has plenty to say for himself in interviews, is somewhat reserved in his interactions with the crowd, shielding his eyes with his cap and limiting between-song chatter to brief song introductions. This is kinda a good thing, though, as it keeps the energy and intensity of the set going.

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The end result is incredible. In 45 breathless minutes, they charge through almost the entirety of their King Pizza compilation, plus one explosive new track which is the equal of any of it.

It’s difficult to say when we might see new recorded material from them – these guys like to tour a lot, and will embark on two separate North American tours with Death From Above 1979 later this year when they are done with their current European run.

What is clear, though, is that they are a rising and important voice in the punk rock world. At current rate of progress, it would be no surprise if they are one day spoken of in the same tones as their illustrious DC predecessors.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.