Sam Ray reflects upon his journey with music, his band’s latest album and his Maryland roots.
It’s been six years since an official Teen Suicide album. Their hiatus was due to problems with the band name, health issues, addiction and other factors. However, the indie rock pop/lo-fi project has since returned with their album “honeybee table at the butterfly feast,” released in August 2022.
Now with an established lineup, Teen Suicide is set to play the first show of their tour at DC9 on June 22 — close to the band’s place of origin, Baltimore. The current lineup has Sam Ray on guitar and vocals, Kitty Ray on synth omnichord and vocals, Grant Peyton on guitar, Nathan Munizzi on the drums and Sean LaBree on bass.
The band’s founder, Ray, sat down with District Fray to discuss his Maryland roots and Teen Suicide’s history and current trajectory.
District Fray: Did growing up in Maryland have any influence on you as a musician?
Sam Ray: I grew up in between Baltimore and D.C. The most impactful part to me and the drummer [Eric “Skiz” Livingston] would be the nature. You could literally just walk out of your house and go into the woods, and it’d be like the Blair Witch lived there. There’s something about watching the woods turn into land and weird developments and pseudo-city stuff [when you travel]. My earliest memories are the transition from city to nature, and then watching nature be taken away to turn back into the city.
Teen Suicide has come really far since its creation in 2009. I’m sure at the time, you didn’t imagine the band would be where it’s at right now.
Never were we like, “We’re going to make a million dollars and people are going to love it because we’re so good.” We just stopped burning CDs and started putting our stuff online because it was easier. Everything that has snowballed since has been sort of accidental, which is really cool — but it’s also something to reconcile with. If you’re an artist who, right out the gate, has the mindset of wanting to be famous and wanting to be a rockstar, then you’re going to have a different approach to it. So, I never knew how to handle or expect this.
Teen Suicide spent six years in relative silence. You recently released an album and are now about to go on tour. How are you feeling with all this going on at once?
Personally, I can’t be more excited. First, there was Covid, which shut down everyone’s plans and delayed everything. I also had really bad lung problems that were a mystery for a long time and finally got figured out. I feel like where we are as a band right now is very delayed, in a good way. We never had any interest in trying to grow a bigger audience or trying to tour bigger. We were just making music and if you liked it, you liked it. Right now, it feels like we are at the same point a lot of bands we know and are friends with hit when they were young and a couple albums in. Not necessarily in terms of fame. They have this huge moment where they grow fully into themselves and get to do what they were always capable of. It’s not that I don’t feel like I’ve grown as an artist, but I’ve kind of shot myself in the foot one way or another, usually on purpose.
In the past, you’ve expressed discontent towards the name Teen Suicide. After six years, why did you decide to come back to it?
I always kind of liked the name. Honestly, I think it’s fine. There were a lot of people we were working with at the time that were afraid it wouldn’t be fine. I remember we played a show at the House of Blues, which is part of Disneyland in California. Disney wouldn’t let us be Teen Suicide on the marquee, so they made us choose a different name. We chose to be the Hot Sloppy Joe Boys, which I really liked. Our name ended up scaring a bunch of people who worked with us. They thought we wouldn’t be able to go on TV and do a bunch of stuff. So, we went under a couple of different names, and then all the same people were asking why we aren’t Teen Suicide anymore. Also, I don’t think our name is trying to be negative in the way it’s read. I’ve heard from so many people over time saying our music has helped them when they were in a dark place. So, if our music translates that way and that’s what people get from it, that’s great.
Is there going to be more Teen Suicide music in the future?
Absolutely. That’s a big reason why we’re touring. When we got the opportunity to tour, we wanted to do it partly because it’s fun, but also to make the point that we are active, which we haven’t been in a long time. It’s hard to tell people that; you have to do something to show it. We have so many new songs, and we’ll be playing a couple of them. We have [new] people in the band now, and I can’t wait to record things with them. We have a lot going on; the tour is just the first step.
What is some music you’ve been listening to a lot recently?
I guess the artist I listen to more than almost any other is Mo Troper, who we are playing with on the West Coast. I’ve been listening to Mo’s music for a while, and he makes the best and most awesome power pop imaginable. It’s incredible, but it’s also different. It’s very unique. His older music is a lot more traditional power pop, guitar, singing, sound production, pop music, and his new music is more experimental. There’s no one I can recommend more.
You can get tickets to Teen Suicide’s DC9 show here. Stay up to date with Teen Suicide by following them on Instagram @realteensuicide and listen to their music on Spotify and Apple Music. Follow Sam Ray on Instagram @rickyeatacidx.
Want first access to select shows and performances around the city? Join the District Fray community to access free and discounted tickets. Become a member and support local journalism today.