“A Garage Rock Record That’s Definitely Not a Garage Rock Record”: Twisted Teens Explore Masculinity, Spirituality, & Sexuality on Their Energetic Debut Release

twisted teens - twisted teens
twisted teens - twisted teens
New Orleans-based punk band Twisted Teens shirk genre conventions on their chaotic, energetic, and wildly creative new record, diving into surprising thematic territory and securing them as one of the most original bands in the contemporary DIY punk scene.
by guest writer Dana Yewbank
Stream: ‘twisted teens’ – twisted teens

Newly formed New Orleans-based punk band Twisted Teens released their debut self-titled album on Bandcamp this past April.

It’s an eros-fueled adrenaline rush full of esoteric references and genre-defying twists, and listening to it feels like bursting out of cold soil on a warm spring day. Fans of Raw Power-era Stooges, Eastern mysticism, or the punk-to-country pipeline should tuck in. (Yes, it’s as chaotic as it sounds.)

Fronted and masterminded by prolific DIY musician and songwriter Cas P. Ian (the same person behind well-known folk-punk band Blackbird Raum), Twisted Teens’ lineup includes acoustic and electric guitar, pedal steel, drums, bass, and keys. For this record, Cas P. Ian (credited elsewhere as CPN, Caspian, and C-SPAN) collaborated with pedal steel player RJ Santos. The two appear together in a tintype photo on the album cover. Drummer Magnus Nymo (Blackbird Raum, FORK, Lyngfarer, Regn) and keyboardist Cameron Snyder feature on one track each — “something I haven’t told ya” (co-written by Nymo) and “rando,” respectively.

twisted teens - twisted teens
‘Twisted Teens’ by Twisted Teens

From a foundation of old-school rock ‘n’ roll, the 11-song collection pinballs between punk subgenres — proto-punk, post-punk, surf punk — while also incorporating elements of country, folk, electronic music, and even pop. But fans of saccharine pop or traditional country are unlikely to find anything too comforting on this record. As Cas P. Ian puts it, “I wanted to make something that felt like a garage rock record but […] is definitely not a garage rock record.”

When asked about influences, Cas P. Ian cites artists like Link Wray and Roky Erickson, both of whom made indelible marks on the first two decades of rock history. These artists, as Cas P. Ian notes, brought “raw sexual energy,” one of the “primal currents of punk,” to their music. More obvious reference points for the Twisted Teens sound, like West Coast post-punk bands Wipers or Agent Orange, feel less relevant to the songwriter due to their inherently “asexual mood.”

Alongside its intensity and sexuality, this record incorporates elements of spirituality and mythology in a way that may surprise some listeners. Laden with medieval archetypes and tarotic imagery, the album erodes assumptions about what a punk record should be about. For Twisted Teens, punk and rock ‘n’ roll serve as a mere jumping-off point into territory more often visited by mystics, tantrists, and god-curious poets. As the album plays, the sun and moon seem to orbit in fast motion, trailing one another around the tracks. Day passes into night, where we journey for a time before being ferried back into the daylight.

After opening with a tongue-in-cheek reference to original sin, the album spends a virile 32 minutes exploring the confluence of Jungian shadow work, the mental health-industrial complex, and sex. In Cas P. Ian’s own words, the album “is about f***ing,” and this potent energy is clear and felt, both through its lyricism and atmosphere. But the album isn’t graphic or pointlessly crude in its dealings with the erotic. As Cas P. Ian points out, the album is also about “the masculine (though not necessarily male) experience of feelings and relationships.”

“In our culture we have only been presented with perverse, false masculinity,” he explains, “and so people respond by either embracing the false vision or rejecting masculinity entirely.” The album’s driving opener, “twisted teen,” introduces this exploration of masculinity against a backdrop of fuzzed-out guitar, oversaturated vocals, and the bright melody of the pedal steel.

“when we were younger they used to push us around,
can you imagine that?
and then you get older
you push yourself around and you don’t hit back”

As the album progresses, we encounter catchy country-inspired tracks like “Marionette” and “tic tac toe” and hit-worthy pop tracks like “something I haven’t told ya” and “when the wire get cut.” Where a lot of DIY punk is infamous for feeling niche and inaccessible to the masses, Twisted Teens weaves a surprising pop quality into nearly every song—catchy melodies, bright guitar tones, and clever turns of phrase abound. One of the smartest and most playful lines on the album shows up in the chorus of “tic tac toe.”

“tic tac toe, put ‘em all in a row
I might be your X but I can give you an O
then I might just give you ‘bout three in a row”

Some of the album’s darker tracks include “waiting for the whip” and “cool former friend.” The former embraces country-rock drama while the latter leans more heavily on post-punk aesthetics. All the while, Cas P. Ian’s booming vocals and Santos’s well-timed steel riffs tie the tracks together. Regardless of genre, every song on the album highlights the band’s creativity and command of the craft, as they stretch beyond convention and deepen into something unique and a little unhinged.

The heart of the album, “the valley spirit never dies” arrives midway through like the moon at the peak of night. The 12-second intro, comprised of synthesizers, programmed drums, and spoken-word vocals, quickly unfurls into yet another fast-paced and explosive track that encapsulates the album’s spiritual core.

“come on valley spirit
open up your gate
open up your portal
where the holy waters wait
the valley spirit never dies
she never goes away
her usefulness inconstant
hiding from the day”

When asked about “the valley spirit,” Cas P. Ian shares that the image comes from the Ursula K. LeGuin translation of the Tao Te Ching, a Chinese spiritual text dating back to the 4th century BC. In Cas P. Ian’s words, “The valley spirit is the great cosmic p***y.” He goes on to highlight the connections between darkness, moonlight, and feminine sexual expression. The balance of hot and cold, light and dark, Yin and Yang, are not accidental for Cas P. Ian and his Twisted Teens. The album strikes an intentional balance, highlighting this duality to make a point about the human experience. “The most powerful masculine figure is one who understands lunar consciousness,” Cas P. Ian notes, “just as the most powerful feminine one is the one who expresses solar energy.”

In other projects — Blackbird Raum, CPNPC, Scissorbills, among others — Cas P. Ian explores topics like capitalism and the destruction of the natural world through a more predictable folk-punk songwriting style. With this record, the mad wizard accomplishes something new. The energy here fills distilled, clarified, crystallized. The creator carves away at his hunk of stone, moving closer and closer to the core of his work: some synthesis of raw power, post-post-punk clarity, and mystical specificity.

With its fury and unpolished production style, this record is a living thing, hot-blooded and covered in slime.

Songs end suddenly and unexpectedly. Short-lived synth interludes emerge seemingly at random. There’s a complete lack of breathing room between each song (none of which are longer than three-and-a-half minutes). But despite its many fits and starts, the album manages sonic coherence. Wielding bold, gritty vocals, restrained percussion, and unconventional (for a punk band) instrumentation, Twisted Teens casts a focused, vital spell on their listeners. Whether or not the magic is intentional, the effect is undeniable — this album will possess you.

•• ••

Dana Yewbank is a freelance writer, editor, musician, podcaster, and artist from the Snoqualmie region of the Northwest. Through various mediums, Dana explores music, magic, gender, sexuality, and the process of surviving capitalism as a soft-bellied human. Find Dana on Instagram @dana.yewbank.

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