TEENAGE USA FIVE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY PARTY with Thanatopop, The Two-Minute Miracles, the Weekend and others, at Healey's (178 Bathurst), Friday and Saturday (November 8 and 9). $8/night. www.teenageusarecordings.com. Rating: NNNNN
they launched brazen belter Peaches before the electroclash explosion. They achieved the near miracle of an Eric's Trip reunion. And they've held down Toronto's guitar-driven indie rock fort in the face of DJ culture and U.S. bubblegum pop tarts.It's amazing to think Teenage USA's only been around for five years.
The story of the ironically named label (they're neither teenagers nor American) has slipped into legend since Phil Klygo and Mark DiPietro teamed up back in 1997.
Klygo, an underground zinester/music scenester, was promoting cult bands like Pecola and Smallmouth with limited resources when he met former EMI A&R dude DiPietro. The two realized that two heads, and wallets, worked better than one, and a pint-sized revolution was hatched.
"We fashioned ourselves after the labels we admired in the States, like Drag City, Sub Pop and Matador," explains Klygo, trying to stave off a hangover with vegan grub at Tequila Bookworm.
"Through the 90s, those were the labels putting out the records I was listening to. Those rosters are eclectic -- not waaay out there, but still a lot of different sounds. If you saw the Drag City logo, you just knew you had to pick it up -- nine times out of 10, it would be a great record.
"We wanted to create a label that wasn't genre-specific, which is hard to market," says Klygo. "We've chosen to work with artists we honestly believe in. The diversity is there."
Damn straight. The Jolly Roger-logoed label's impressive 30-album discography ranges from the fizz pop of playground punks the Weekend to Robin Black's glamstravaganza and the Mean Red Spiders' library of expansive space-rock records.
Throw in a comedy disc by local stand-up Gord Disley and, yes, the infamous self-titled debut by the Berlin-based Peaches, and the label's role in championing this country's finest seems pretty clear.
What's also impressive is how well the boys have managed to negotiate the tricky politics between indie cred and industry success.
After weathering a much-publicized takeover by "major indie" umbrella Song Corp. in the summer of 2000 and the music group's subsequent bankruptcy last year, Teenage USA's more or less back where it started -- albeit with wider recognition.
Klygo and DiPietro run their label like a super-efficient business, while remaining true to their anti-establishment principles.
"I never had any aspirations of being a label dude," says Klygo. "I'm very much a DIY guy."
Both deal with the requisite disgruntled musicians who take issue with the decisions they've made as programmers of the last two Canadian Music Weeks.
According to Mean Red Spider Greg Chambers, nursing his own hangover at the table, that hostility is inevitable.
"I'm a big one for hating," he says. "I hate CMW and I hate NXNE. As a band on the outside, it becomes a popularity contest. Half the time you're not gonna be happy playing, regardless of what slot you're in. I think that's where a lot of the trashing comes from. Everyone wants to play the Horseshoe Saturday night at 11:30, and if they don't they feel slighted."
If you can't please all the people all the time, you have to take gratification where you can find it.
Take Peaches, for example. Does Klygo feel vindicated by her current notoriety? He shrugs.
"The label doesn't have to be and shouldn't be the story," he says. "The artist is the story. From day one, Peaches knew exactly what she wanted. She didn't want to deal with the business end of things. And I saw her go from our label to Kitty-Yo to XL.
"There's a certain vindication, yeah, but what's frustrating is all those people who are now all over her. I feel like saying, "Yeah, why didn't you fuckin' listen when I gave you the record?,' 'cause we could've kept her on our label?"email@example.com