Psychic Teens: Philadelphia Goth-Punks Brood and Snicker Into the Abyss

"We're not, like, three Robert Smiths walking in."

Psychic Teens Interview
Psychic Teens Photo by John Berry
Kyle McGovern WRITTEN BY
Kyle McGovern

Who: Psychic Teens dole out bleak washes of post-punk punishment, cobbling together their sound from bits of Bauhaus, curtains of shoegaze, and an undercurrent of Lynchian discomfort. The trio — composed of singer-guitarist Larry Ragone, bassist Joe Decarolis, and drummer Dave Cherasaro — formed in 2010 and quickly established their festering rhythm. "We came from a lot of similar bands in our area," Ragone says. "We'd known each other for a long time and tried a new configuration; we kind of gelled together very quickly." After unleashing their debut album, TEEN, in 2011, the foursome recorded a split release of cover songs with Hulk Smash, issued a digital EP of Misfits covers, and burned off a masterful sophomore full-length, the arthouse-horror document COME, which earned an Album of the Week distinction from SPIN just before its August 13 release via SRA Records.

Don't Believe the Type: Ragone may be at the forefront, strapped to a six-string and droning into the microphone, but Psychic Teens feed off an equal partnership among its band members. "People look at a guitarist-singer and it's like, 'He's a songwriter and this is his backing band,' and for us that's completely not the case — the sum of all parts is what you hear," Ragone insists. "In starting this, I never thought of me singing and playing at the same time, but as I got more attuned to what we were doing, I felt more confident. As far as writing goes, the bass and the drums are the true framework for these songs, and I think that's true of a lot of bands like Joy Division and New Order at the beginning. A lot of the older punk bands aren't really too guitar heavy as far someone coming in and writing riffs."

Jammin' at Club Silencio: The threesome draw on a variety of influences, not just the Factory Records catalogue circa 1982. They're all devout sci-fi and horror fans — Ragone sports a tattoo that references David Lynch's 2001 creep-piece Mulholland Drive — and count books, art films, and comics among their inspirations. Don't accuse them of being pretentious, though: When asked about his writing process, Ragone remains modest. "Lyrically, I don't put too much thought in each word I use," he says. "I try to make it somewhat cohesive, where the songs are self-contained narratives... [but] I'm not doing poetry. There is nothing scribbled in my journal."

Three Imaginative Boys: Despite their proclivity for most things gothic, the men of Psychic Teens aren't all doom and gloom. For every song on COME that spins a tale about vampires ("LUST"), there's one that delivers a fourth-wall-breaching wink ("H#TE"). "There's also a little bit of comedy in what we do," Ragone says. "We don't take ourselves too seriously. A lot of times, being 'gothy' is thrown around because of what we sound like and the lyrical content and maybe the way I sing. But we're really goofy people. We're not, like, three Robert Smiths walking in. We just look like three regular dudes. A little bit of it is tongue-in-cheeky. Don't put too much stock in the lyrics. I'm not really that much of a tormented soul."

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