The two years since the release of Teengirl Fantasy’s house-minded, hypnagogic, sample-heavy debut, 7AM, have been nothing short of a whirlwind for the duo of Logan Takahashi and Nick Weiss. In that span, they’ve toured the world, graduated with accelerated degrees from the prestigious Oberlin University music conservatory, and put most of their effort towards avoiding the sophomore slump with their second album—one of the year’s most highly anticipated records—Tracer.
Not to slight the looser, celebratory nature of 7AM, but the two years spent honing their craft and absorbing a sharper sense of purpose has lent Teengirl Fantasy a noted maturity and added a depth to the linear grooves and melodies that dominate Tracer. The duo will be the first to tell you that despite the different tags they’ve been given since their inception—from “dream beat” to “deep house”—Tracer was conceived completely blind to expectations or tied to any specific scene. Teengirl Fantasy tend to operate in the shadowy nooks and crannies of the new electronic gold rush, taking into consideration mood and texture even as they compose dancefloor epiphanies. Tracer is evolved and meticulous, with tracks like the piano-led “End” even hinting at the most oblong corners of ambience and new age. Another huge leap that comes with Tracer is the addition of some choice vocalists. Lauren Halo, Panda Bear, and Daft Punk collaborator Romanthony all add a heavy dose of pop to “EFX,” “Pyjama,” and “Do It,” respectively. But the real advancement is the cohesiveness that is apparent from beginning to end. Tracer is not just a series of singles and segues, but an album with grand arcs, peaks and valleys. As I found out in a conversation via Skype with Takahashi and Weiss just before the start of their first tour for the record, Tracer is really the first opportunity the duo has had to make such a unified statement, and the album truly shines with this enhanced synchronicity.
I know the two of you met at Oberlin. You were both in the music program, but what specifically did you two study there?
Logan Takahashi: We both just graduated in May. We both took lots of stuff in the music and technology department. I was in the conservatory...
Nick Weiss: And I majored in film.
Do you think that the formality that comes with a degree adds a different perspective to your music?
LT: It was interesting studying music in an academic setting rather than just doing the band thing. We actually got some credit in school for touring, but we never really submitted a Teengirl Fantasy track as a class assignment. But yeah, it really has added another perspective.
Do you think that you would follow a similar path if you were self-taught?
NW: Well, if we didn’t both go to Oberlin, we would have probably never met and never formed the band. We met on the first or second day of school. We both were obviously into music and would probably end up doing something musical, but this project would have never happened if we didn’t meet.
Tracer was made with zero samples. Was that a criteria for the two of you before starting the record?
LT: We never consciously made limits for ourselves, and when we first started writing for this record, we were just using our hardware in an organic approach. We were very psyched to just use our gear to write the songs.
NW: We wrote everything in one space in one period of time, whereas the last one was written all over the place. We recorded 7AM in New Jersey, in Logan’s parents’ basement. His neighbor was giving away a huge batch of records from an ’80s radio station in Miami, and we started picking from that two months into making the album. For this one, we had our instruments set up and we could just jam on them. So there was more of a focus on playing our instruments as opposed to digging for samples and using other sources.
I feel like Tracer is much more meticulous, linear, and evolved. How did the two of you approach composing for this record?
LT: All the songs came out of jamming in a live situation. You’re right, though, the songs are more meticulous and more developed than in the past. I think that’s directly a result of us playing together and feeding off of each other’s ideas.
In that evolution, it sounds like a more cohesive record from start to finish. Was there a particular thread or even a narrative that you felt should run though all of the tracks?
NW: If there is a thread in there, it was not a conscious one. It isn’t a concept album, and we didn’t have one story we were trying to tell. But the way that we wrote, in one space and time, just graduating school... in that two years we’ve gained so many life experiences from school and touring that I think this album really reflects on that time.
LT: As we were saying about the last album, it was so splintered in terms of us being in different countries and periods and doing different projects in school with our music. This album was the first time we focused on one single thing from start to finish.
NW: I also think this time around we were more self-critical of the songs and how we were composing them.
Did the idea of having vocalists come first and the songs written with that intention or did that decision come later?
LT: All of the instrumental tracks for the songs with vocals were written before the vocalists got to hear them. Generally, the collaborations were pretty organic because we already had a relationship with those people, so it was natural to ask them to be on the album.
There’s been a revival of rave and massive electronic festivals lately. Have Teengirl Fantasy been adopted by that movement in any way? Have you been offered any lucrative or ludicrous offers to produce or remix?
NW: I definitely don’t think we would shy away from a crazy offer like that, but no one’s asking us to produce for Rhianna right now. We both are into a lot of mainstream music and a lot of this revival of dance is bad, but a lot of this is good. I think this is a natural cycle of pop music. I don’t think anyone in mainstream considers us a part of that world or ever would. We are pretty open people when it comes to our musical tastes, though.
Where do you think you’ll go from here? Have you put any thought into that?
NW: That’s a good question. We have no idea. This record took a lot out of us. We’ve been so busy touring and doing promotion to even think about the future. I definitely feel that we’re ready to start writing again, but there’s just too much going on right now.
LT: Tracer has been finished for so long though, new ideas are definitely there.
NW: I know that whatever is next, we want to be able to do whatever we want to do without feeling the pressure of what people think we should logically do next. I’m going to try hard not to read too many reviews of this album and focus on doing exactly what I want to do, not worrying about what the response is to what we’ve already accomplished.