Finding Our Identity and the Power of Rocking Out: A Conversation With Teens in Trouble’s Lizzie Killian

Teens in Trouble's Lizzie Killian © Sasss World
Teens in Trouble's Lizzie Killian © Sasss World
Coinciding with the release of her debut album ‘What’s Mine’, North Carolina’s Teens in Trouble (AKA Lizzie Killian) chats about following your ambitions, the concept of time, and the magic of sharing playlists.
Stream: ‘What’s Mine’ – Teens in Trouble

The debut album by Teens in Trouble, the project of musician Lizzie Killian, is an explosion of angsty guitars, crashing drums and relatable lyrics released with playful desperation.

It gives us the impression of being alone in our bedrooms, staring helplessly at the walls while wondering what exactly it is that we’re doing with our lives. Whether a developing teenager or a full grown adult, these feelings of doubt and personal frustration remain with us, often bubbling away with a need to be unleashed.

What's Mine - Teens in Trouble
What’s Mine – Teens in Trouble

Released March 29, 2024 via Asian Man Records, the ten-track What’s Mine consists of pop punk energy and the process of regaining ownership of ourselves.

I am taking back control, I’m sobering up to social norms,” read some of the lyrics in “Autopilot,” in-between fast-paced riffs. “I’ve sat around for far too long, I’m hoping things would come my way, but now I know that they won’t grow their own two legs,” goes the realization in “Make It Happen” before a sonically emotive chorus where the words, “It’s up to me to make it happen” are repeated.

So let’s see where this goes
Nobody knows how they should be
I won’t act so tough
I just gotta look out for me
And I know better than to ask the world of you
And don’t say I didn’t warn you
You don’t wanna mess with me
– “You Don’t Want To Mess With Me,” Teens in Trouble

Teens in Trouble's Lizzie Killian © Sasss World
Teens in Trouble’s Lizzie Killian © Sasss World

“I like to play the songs live and have a good time on stage so when I was writing these songs and recording them in the studio I really made it a point to physically feel out the songs,” Lizzie Killian tells Atwood Magazine. “If I didn’t feel like it made me want to move then we had to rework it.”

This desire to move and rock out can be felt throughout What’s Mine, for example in “Awkward Girl” and “Playlist,” the latter being a catchy celebration of the magic of playlists and forming intimacy with someone through the songs they listen to. Released as a single in January, it’s accompanied by a video whereby Killian and other artists present their personal record collections.

Will you play me the song that makes you wanna dance?
The one that leads us to our truth
The song that you feel deep within your bones
That makes me fall in love with you
If this is how to be close to you
I wanna know what you’re listening to
If this is how to be close to you
I wanna know what you’re listening to
– “Playlist,” Teens in Trouble

My favorite playlist story is that there was a guy who had a crush on my cousin in the early 2000s and he gave her a mixtape. She gave it to me instead and it had all these emo bands on it. That was the first time I discovered The Get Up Kids and Jimmy Eat World.

This relatability and fun connection that can come through sharing music is also at the core of What’s Mine.

Having released a self-titled debut EP in 2022, the Teens in Trouble project has been on a journey over the past couple of years – and it’s still evolving. The songs are therefore an expression of persistent thoughts and an experimentation with voice. “Brave,” for example, was written with the intention of overcoming the painful memories of a challenging relationship. There are others that ponder over the concept of time and the recurring sentiment of not making the most of life. Killian evokes this in the song “What Am I Doing?” and its internal questioning: “I’m just trying to get by, try to make the best years of time, but I get lazy, I get tired, the sun’s gone down and I still haven’t done the things I said I would, so why bother?

As a result, What’s Mine is like breaking away from the four walls of your bedroom, the bedroom also being your personal space and inner thoughts, and taking an energized, attitude-driven plunge into whatever direction your instinct is telling you to follow. The easygoing nature of this is present in the visuals too, the singles and album cover art by Celine Ka Wing Lau being bold and light-hearted illustrations like those spontaneously produced in art journal while sprawled out on the bed.

“Naming the album What’s Mine and putting my everything into it does feel like a mix of so many different things,” Killian shares. “The art is silly in a way, but it shows different elements that are in the album and how not to take life too seriously.”

Atwood Magazine chatted with Lizzie Killian before the release of her debut album to discover more about Teens in Trouble, the evolution of the project, and the reassurance of battling teenage-like emotions at an age when society tells you to be an adult.

— —

:: stream/purchase What’s Mine here ::
:: connect with Teens in Trouble here ::
Teens in Trouble's Lizzie Killian © Sasss World
Teens in Trouble’s Lizzie Killian © Sasss World


What's Mine - Teens in Trouble

Atwood Magazine: Could you start by introducing yourself and the project Teens in Trouble? What’s the importance of making music for you?

Teens in Trouble: Teens in Trouble is a solo project that I started in 2015. I started it as a way to explore my songwriting style because, before that, I had been in other bands and it was always more collaborative. I started it in between jobs so when I got another full time job in 2016 I released a single and then nothing happened. When the pandemic started in 2020 work slowed down for me so I started reconnecting with music and picked up Teens in Trouble again. It’s more of a band now but I’m still the primary songwriter. I’ve been recording with the same folks that I recorded the self-titled EP with in 2022 and we also recorded a split EP with Desert Mambas last year. 

When you decided to form the band, did you have members in mind beforehand or did you search for them?

Teens in Trouble: It’s still my project but the band that I record with are mostly just recording with me. We’re spread all over. I’m based in North Carolina and a lot of them are on the West Coast. In December we did do a West Coast tour together which was fun. When I’m playing shows on the East Coast, I’ve just been having a rotating cast of touring musicians.

In regard to the importance of making music for you, the reason I asked is because Teens in Trouble and the album What’s Mine feels clearly based around the emotions of teenage angst and releasing all the pain while alone in your bedroom. Was this something you had in mind before starting the project?

Teens in Trouble: I think what it comes down to overall in my songwriting in general is it’s not just about exploring my songwriting style but also just whatever my authentic voice is. This is the first project I’ve had where I’ve had to sing. It’s not like previous punk bands I’ve been in, where I’ve just been yelling and not had to worry about my voice. It’s been an interesting challenge. With this album, I’m writing about songs that come from my own experiences, but mostly my experiences with time.

I feel like I obsess about time a lot, like making good use of it but also wasting it. These are emotional songs and I think there’s a lot of power to using your voice to express emotions. I think the thing that’s been the most important and cathartic with this project, and music in general, is just being able to use my voice. I grew up in a household where there wasn’t a lot of communication so my outlet has always been writing. In songs like “You Don’t Want To Mess With Me” and “It’s Up To Me,” I’m challenging my own voice in a way, realizing that I can do things that I didn’t realize I could do.

It’s cool that you’re discovering yourself and your style of music with this debut album.

Teens in Trouble: It’s definitely scary because I’m putting all this stuff out there and it’s like having the world watch you while you’re figuring it out in real time.  

You mention obsessing over time. Is this something that’s always been in the case, like when you were a teenager as well, or more in recent years?

Teens in Trouble: Maybe it’s a more in recent years thing, especially as I’m getting older. When I was growing up as a teenager, time was also a significant thing for me in terms of it feeling like there wasn’t enough of it. There was a point where I was in bands in high school, but I also had to grow up really quick and get a job. I felt like I was exhausted all the time and had to make a lot of sacrifices because of what society tells us to do. I think my approach now with Teens in Trouble is that I no longer want to put music on the back-burner. Now I’m older and know how precious time is, I can put more focus into my music. If a cool opportunity comes, I’ll take it and figure out how to do it eventually.

I love that approach. Can I ask around how old you are?

Teens in Trouble: I’m 37.

Ok, that’s reassuring because I’m nearly 30 and still feel like I haven’t really accomplished anything and still experience the same emotions as a teenager. It’s always inspiring when there are artists who start projects and enter the scene who are a little older.

Teens in Trouble: What’s interesting too is that I’ve always been so career focused. I think there was a point in 2017, two years after “Santa Monica” came out, where I thought that maybe that’s it. I felt that I didn’t have any more music left in me and there was no inspiration. I think the pandemic changed everything. Now I just have to set boundaries and know what’s important to me. I think when I started developing a writing process during the pandemic, it seemed less impossible.

I wonder if there are too many songs on this album about time, though. There’s “Autopilot,” about coasting on your default setting and going with the motions, then there are songs like “It’s Up To Me” where you’re just sitting around doing nothing. However, I think about albums that are all just love songs. If you can have a whole album dedicated to love, you can have one all about time.

Teens in Trouble © Melanie Chin
Teens in Trouble’s Lizzie Killian © Melanie Chin

The concept of the song “Playlist” is great. It’s true that there is something very magical and personal about getting to know someone through the music that they listen to.

Teens in Trouble: Yes, that is one love song on the album!

That’s true. Do you have much experience with this through other people? Have you been given mixtapes in the past?

Teens in Trouble: Yeah, that’s kind of my primary way of getting new music. There are recommendations from platform algorithms but im always interested in what my friends are listening to. If they recommend something to me, I’m more likely to check it out. It also feels very personal. Like when I put a playlist together for someone, it feels like some kind of storytelling. That was also kind of my approach with the album, like how can I tell a story with it.

Teens in Trouble's Lizzie Killian © Sasss World
Teens in Trouble’s Lizzie Killian © Sasss World

What’s the best or weirdest mixtape or playlist you’ve received from someone?

Teens in Trouble: My favorite playlist story is that there was a guy who had a crush on my cousin in the early 2000s and he gave her a mixtape. She gave it to me instead and it had all these emo bands on it. That was the first time I discovered The Get Up Kids and Jimmy Eat World. They were on this mixtape that a guy made for my cousin. I was like wow, this is amazing.

In your press release it states that your music is made for rocking out and crying to. Are there any bands or artists that have been perfect for you in these situations, maybe when you were a teenager but also today?

Teens in Trouble: I guess when I was a teenager, The Get Up Kids were one of those kinds of bands. The same with Weezer. That was my biggest influence when I was in high school. I remember when I was 16, my friend let me borrow his Pinkerton CD and I was like woah. My favorite song on that album is “The Good Life,” because it’s emotional but ends on this big rocking note.

You Don’t Want To Mess With Me” features Stefan Babcock from PUP on guitar and vocals, which is super fun. Why did you choose this particular song for the collaboration?

Teens in Trouble: It’s like a love song because it’s about meeting someone and it’s a new relationship where you’re still guarded like don’t mess with me, don’t break my heart. It definitely had to have some element of toughness to it. I hadn’t thought about Stefan at the time but I’d be listening to PUP and wanted these big vocals. I was thinking of the way Stefan sings and I wanted it to sound like that. Then I was like, why don’t I just ask him? He’s friends with the lead guitarist on the record, Mike Huguenor, so that’s how I was initially introduced to him. He was down to record some vocals and do guitar for it so I thought that really brought the song to life.

Are there any songs on the album that are particularly special for you due to the story behind them?

Teens in Trouble: Yeah, they’re all songs written about my own experiences so they all have some personal element but my most vulnerable one is the song called “Brave.” I was in an abusive relationship in the past and it’s always been a thing that’s hard to talk about, even in therapy. I wrote a song about it and that felt like a good release and closure on that part of my life. What better way to let something go than through music?

Teens in Trouble's Lizzie Killian © Sasss World
Teens in Trouble’s Lizzie Killian © Sasss World

That’s such a powerful thing about music, that it can be used as this outlet for expression but then also connect others in the same position. With the rocking out, do you have plans for this album in a live environment?

Teens in Trouble: We definitely want to tour more this year. I think we only really started touring last year so there’s still a lot of places that we want to play. That’s the goal for this year. We’ve already started playing some of these songs live and they translate well in this environment due to how we’ve approached the writing. When I wrote the EP, it was my first time back in the studio after like 7 years and I was finding my footing again. I’m proud of that EP but it feels kind of safe. Playing these new songs live, there’s a big difference in energy.

To finish, what do you hope that the listeners can take away from What’s Mine? What do you hope they feel?

Teens in Trouble: I think I want people to feel some kind of connection and relatability and maybe selfishly for myself to feel less alone. A lot of the themes in the songs are things I know other people have experienced. On the note of rocking out too, I hope people have fun with it and enjoying rocking out.

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:: stream/purchase What’s Mine here ::
:: connect with Teens in Trouble here ::

— — — —

What's Mine - Teens in Trouble

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? © Sasss World
art © Celine Ka Wing Lau

What’s Mine

an album by Teens in Trouble

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