Imperial Teen, performing at Folsom Street Fair in 2007. Photo by Neil Motteram.
|Also known as||Star 69|
|Origin||San Francisco, California|
|Genres||Indie pop, alternative rock|
|Associated acts||The Wrecks|
Imperial Teen is a San Francisco-based indie pop group made up of Roddy Bottum (Faith No More) primarily on guitar/vocals, Will Schwartz (also of hey willpower) primarily on guitar/vocals, Lynn Truell (née Perko formerly of Sister Double Happiness, the Dicks, and the Wrecks) primarily on drums and backing vocals, and Jone Stebbins (previously of The Wrecks) primarily on bass and backing vocals. Imperial Teen became known for their boy/girl harmonies and for all four members switching off on instruments during shows.
Imperial Teen first gained notice with their debut album, Seasick, in 1996, which was produced by Steve McDonald (Redd Kross). Spin Magazine went on to list it as the 4th best album of the year, and in the top 50 albums of all time. Of the "queer alt-rockers Imperial Teen", one New York Times reviewer wrote that "though every song on the album is good, the best are the ones about homosexuality ("Butch"), Kurt Cobain ("You're One"), and complete nonsense ("Imperial Teen")". "You're One" was the album's breakout single, receiving heavy radio play on alternative stations; a promotional video was also produced for the song. Prior to the debut album's release the band was called Star 69, but was forced to change the name after a band from New York threatened to sue.
Their second album, What Is Not to Love, was released in 1998, and expanded the three-minute pop of Seasick with songs of over six minutes in length. A Rolling Stone review of the album said that "Imperial Teen still have this turf all to themselves, and they blast through the bubblegum riffs of "Birthday Girl", "Year of the Tan" and "Lipstick"." Its single "Yoo Hoo" appeared on the soundtrack to Jawbreaker, starring Rose McGowan; McGowan also appeared alongside the band in the video for the song, which was included on the Jawbreaker DVD. To add authenticity to a parody scene in Not Another Teen Movie, "Yoo Hoo" is heard briefly during Jaime Pressly's slow-motion entrance. "Yoo Hoo" was also heard at the beginnings of the Numb3rs season 4 episode "Black Swan" and the Daria season 3 episode "Daria Dance Party."
The band toured throughout these years, and their success led to opening several dates in 1998 for Hole, fronted by Courtney Love, a friend and (briefly) former Faith No More bandmate of Roddy Bottum. Imperial Teen was also slated to be the opening act for one leg of the 1999 Marilyn Manson/Hole tour, but the tour ended after only a few March dates when Hole dropped out and Manson had to postpone dates due to an ankle injury. Imperial Teen ended up headlining a club tour instead.
A 1999 article in The Advocate said of the band, "With lyrical allusions to wearing lipstick and male pronouns used to address love objects, Imperial Teen serves up a gay sensibility that ordinarily surfaces only from straight bands like Pulp or Pizzicato Five." Bottum (who came out as gay in 1993) noted, "I think there's a resistance from gay artists to go that route just because it's so predictable. But it is annoying to see bands play it as safe as they do these days. That's why something that visually screams as loud as Marilyn Manson is such a breath of fresh air."
Issues with support levels and label restructuring at Universal Records prompted Imperial Teen to switch to Merge Records for the 2002 release of their third album, On, which was produced by Steve McDonald (again) and Anna Waronker (of that dog.) The lead track, "Ivanka" (which was originally released on the "Sweet and Touching" 7") received radio play. Imperial Teen toured with The Breeders in 2002 in support of the album. On July 31, 2002, the band played a gig at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey, that was recorded for posterity and released three months later as the CD Live at Maxwell's.
Imperial Teen returned on the live scene with two shows at the South by Southwest music festival in March 2007. The band released their first album in five years, The Hair the TV the Baby and the Band, in late August 2007 on Merge Records. It was later selected as the 38th best record of 2007 by Rolling Stone magazine.
Their fifth studio album, Feel the Sound, was released on January 31, 2012.
Jone Stebbins said in a 2017 interview that the band was preparing material for a sixth studio album, although the process is slowed down by their living far apart from each other.
- Seasick — 1996
- What Is Not to Love — 1998
- On — 2002
- The Hair the TV the Baby & the Band — 2007
- Feel the Sound — 2012
- Live at Maxwell's — 2002
Singles and EPs
- Imperial Teen — (Vinyl 45 EP) 1996 — (Imperial Teen, Waterboy, Shayla)
- You're One — (Vinyl 45 EP) 1996 — (Waterboy, Pretty, You're One)
- Butch — 1996 — Various CD Singles, Promos, and 45's. Shayla may be a b-side on one of them
- Sweet and Touching — (Vinyl 45 EP) (date unknown) — (Ivanka, Sweet and Touching)
Songs on compilations
- Jawbreaker Movie Soundtrack — 1999 — ('Yoo Hoo', originally on "What is Not to Love")
- Ten Years Of Noise Pop 1993 - 2002 — 2002 — ('The Beginning', originally on "What is Not to Love")
- Merge Records Presents Survive And Advance, Volume 1 — 2002 — ('Sugar', originally on "On")
- Wig In A Box: Songs From & Inspired By Hedwig And The Angry Inch — 2003 — ('Freaks')
- Old Enough To Know Better — 2004 — ('Ivanka', originally from "On")
- "Joy of singles: Imperial Teen's Will Schwartz goes pop with his bubbly side project, hey willpower" - The Advocate 13 September 2005 retrieved from FindArticles.com
- " CRITIC'S CHOICE/Pop CD's;Realities Of Living, Bad and Not" - The New York Times 14 May 1996
- "Faith No More - Behind "Evidence" Pt 2 And ALSO..." YouTube. 2008-06-10. Retrieved 2012-02-23.
- Album reviews - Imperial Teen - Rolling Stone Posted at RollingStone.com 9 February 1999
- Roddy Bottum article - The Advocate 16 February 1999
- Wikipedia: Exclusive: Imperial Teen Reveal New Album Details
- Robert Christgau, David Fricke, Christian Hoard, Rob Sheffield (December 17, 2007). "The Top 50 Albums of 2007" Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-12-20
- "Interview: Jone of Imperial Teen". After the Show. March 2, 2017. Retrieved November 8, 2018.