Q&A: Will Schwartz Of Imperial Teen On Being Into Unrest, Sharing A Band With A Dude From Faith No More And How Living In Brooklyn Ruined His Songwriting

Marina Chavez
Since the mid-Nineties, Imperial Teen has crafted an infectious, hard-to-shake boy-meets-girl candy-pop jangle. Formed by Faith No More keys-master Roddy Bottum and NYU grad/pop maven Will Schwartz with ex-punk rockers Lynn Truell and Jone Stebbins, they quickly scored a major-label deal during the post-Nirvana "next big thing" splurge. Alas, Imperial Teen was a casualty of the record conglomerate slash 'n burn—but the quartet eventually found itself on the ascendant Merge imprint.

Now Merge vets, Imperial Teen have churned out pulsating, hand-clapping pop perfection over the last decade. Sound of the City caught up with guitarist/vocalist Will Schwartz on the phone from a Cali garage in his Prius to talk Faith No More, living in Greenpoint and Teenbeat Records.

Hey Will. It's Brad from the Voice here.

[Connection breaking] I'm in a parking garage, actually.

What are you doing in a parking garage?

I don't know. It seems to be where I end up doing interviews. I don't the luxury of like popping a couple of Vicodin and changing all day to do an interview; I have to multi-task.

Are you in your car now?

[Laughing] Yeah. I am.

You're settled into a parking space?

It's parked, yeah.

I wouldn't want you driving around, doing an interview, while looking for a space.

Oh, yeah. The air conditioning is on, too. I hope that's okay.

Yeah, I don't hear a thing.

It's for my health.

You're in Cali, right?

I have a Prius so the motor doesn't run when you put it on, ya know? Hopefully, I won't get carbon monoxide poisoning. [laughing]

At least if you do get it, you're doing it in an environmentally conscious way.

Yeah, yeah. Just to let you know I'm really thirsty and all I have here is some warm rice milk. I can't guarantee I'll be really on my toes.

Do you want to take a swig of your rice milk before we start?

Yeah. It's nice to drink, actually.

Is that the official drink of Imperial Teen?

We're into all kinds of stuff.

You guys seem really fun.

Yeah, we're fun. We're not a drag. [laughing].

The four of you are sort of scattered, right?

Roddy and I live close to each other, Lynne is in Denver and Jone is in San Francisco.

That's not that bad.

Yeah, it's not that bad. Right now, what we are doing is a show a month or a weekend of shows a month, like flying in and flying out. It's been fun. That's kinda how we did the record, too. We just would do a lot of fly in. I was living in New York at the time actually, in Brooklyn, and I came in [to L.A.] about five times the year before last and Lynn and Jone would fly in to L.A. and we would just do a bunch of songwriting and [then] go back to where we lived. And then leave it, ya know? Leave it on the tape. [Laughing]

When were you living here in Brooklyn?

I was there 2008 and 2009. I was in Greenpoint. I lived off of Franklin and Meserole.

Do you prefer living in California over Brooklyn?

Right now I do. I just found that being in New York was just so overstimulating. I would just go out every night. For some reason, I made so many friends the summer that I moved there and I just really ended up having such a strong community of people, which is really rare I feel like for an adult [laughing]. But when I came back to L.A., people were like "You? Whatever."

Yeah, who needs all those friends you made here.

Friends are so distracting. I ended up not getting anything done so I had to be like "Later, dudes." I gotta go where I can't make any friends. [laughing]

Maybe that's the reason why there wasn't a new Imperial Teen record up for a few years? It's Brooklyn's fault.

Yeah. I could not make music in New York. It was late nights, late mornings. I couldn't get anything done.

So we can blame your time in New York for Feel the Sound just coming out now and the last record The Hair the TV the Baby and the Band coming out way back in 2005.

Absolutely. Sorry, Brooklyn.

Location Info


Knitting Factory Brooklyn

361 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Category: Music

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