tunesday – a chat with scarlett mckahey of teen jesus and the jean teasers
The punk outfit’s guitarist talks sexism, creativity and new music.
Anna Ryan, Scarlett McKahey, Jaida Stephenson and Neve van Boxsel (aka Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers) have been mates since they were just wee ones, but it wasn’t until the highschoolers watched School of Rock during a sleepover that they decided to start a band. Since then, the group has played festivals, dropped a few earworms and worked on its debut EP, Pretty Good For A Girl Band. Ahead of the release of the record on May 13, we had a yarn with the band’s rad guitarist, Scarlett.
What’s the story behind your band name? My dad’s friend thought of it when they were talking about the dumbest band names you can think of, and somehow it lived in my brain until we needed a name! It’s been both a blessing and a curse.
How long have you been working on your EP? In a sense we’ve been working towards it since we started the band; it’s definitely the thing we’ve worked the hardest on. We started writing all the songs in mid-2020, around the time that lockdown started. As hard as COVID was, it gave us heaps of time to write, which was great!
How’d the band get together? We’ve all been best friends since we were kids. In year 9 we had a sleepover at Neve’s house and watched lots of teen rom-coms, but then decided to watch School of Rock, and it made starting a band look so easy. We decided which instruments we wanted to learn and then raided Neve’s dad’s music gear. Now here we are!
What’s your favourite track off Pretty Good For A Girl Band? It’s so hard to pick a favourite because we truly love all the songs like they’re our children, but there’s a special place in my heart for “Bull Dragon”. I love that we all sing in it and it makes me so emotional to hear my three best friends belting out a banger. It's definitely one of the most fun songs to play live, too, so we can’t wait for everyone to hear it!
Speaking of girl bands… what are some of your favourites? All girl and non-male bands deserve so much more credit, especially in Australia, so this might be a bit of a list (make sure you check them all out). We’ve met some absolute angels in our travels including The Buoys, VOIID, Teenage Joans, Boycott, Suzi, Sesame Girl, and so many more that we haven’t even met! (Looking at you, WIIGZ.)
How have your experiences of sexism helped shape the EP? We can’t play any show without somebody coming up and saying, “You’re pretty good for a girl band,” or, “Wow, I love that you’re all girls,” which is exhausting when all we are is a band. The fact that none of us are men is the least interesting thing about us, yet it seems to be the only thing people take away from our shows. Sexism is present in everything we do, so the EP title is our way of reclaiming it. We talk heaps more about this in our song “Girl Sports” (which is on the EP) and lyrically made up from things men have said and done to us.
When do you feel most creative? In an Airbnb, Cruiser in hand, pyjamas on, the four of us together having a wholesome, happy time. Or, in the studio! We love recording our songs properly – it’s so satisfying.
Has anyone in the band got a secret talent or hobby? Anna is an amazing dancer and shoots hoops like nobody’s business, Jaida is an amazing seamstress, I’m a tattoo artist and Neve can burp the alphabet better than anyone in the world.
Which venue are you most excited to play during your upcoming tour? We’re so excited to do this tour – it’s the biggest headline tour we’ve ever done, so we’re quaking in our boots! The most exciting show is Wollongong, though. Three of us live there now and we haven’t played a show in the ‘Gong in years. We’re playing at Uni Bar on August 25.