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

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

picture-18547-1390524318Kyle McGovern // October 15, 2013

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.”