The standard operating procedure for most bands is to spend a fair amount of time amassing a sizable local following, then grind out a few more years spreading that same gospel to a wider regional and (hopefully) national audience.
Cincinnati's Tweens have taken a slightly more expeditious and completely unexpected path since the group¹s formation last spring.
In the year they¹ve been together, the trio — guitarist/vocalist Bridget Battle, bassist/vocalist Peyton Copes and drummer Jerri Queen — has written enough songs for an imminent full length album, opened for The Breeders, played a quasi-showcase set in New York that generated considerable label buzz and become something of an internet sensation after posting just a couple of demos and a "live" EP.
"We recorded that in one take at our practice space," Battle says with a laugh at the band's house in Northside. "Then we did another vocal track and another backing track. We needed something to tour on."
"We recorded it for a personal reference and we got home and it was like, 'This sounds pretty cool,' " Copes says. "So we just played with it a little bit and made it something."
"After it was all mixed we added crowd sounds," Queen adds.
The accidental Live at Mohawk release came together quickly, which seems to be the only speed Tweens knows how to drive. The band began as a diversionary outgrowth of Vacation, Copes and Queen's other band (which will release a new album next month and tour in September, but is now slightly more sporadic after bassist Evan Wolff¹s move to Columbus). Battle steered them in a decidedly girl group/Doo Wop/Garage Punk direction.
"She had an acoustic guitar, which I didn't know she even owned," Queen says. "She was in her room playing chords and singing a Jenny Lewis song and I was like, 'I didn't know you sang or played guitar.' "
It wasn’t her first instrument.
"I had started playing an oscillator in this noise band called Public Housing and that was sort of like creating something," Battle says. "I'd always wanted to play in a band. They were practicing one day and I brought this Dixie Cups song and we gave it a go. I really get into girl groups and '70s-to-'90s girl Punk bands. Even if it's shitty, I can still do it. Especially if it's shitty."
The unique aspect of Tweens' presentation is that the band doesn't wear its influences like a uniform of cool. They run all of the things they love through their personal creative filters which produces a truly unique sound.
Here's the Tweens' track, "Be Mean":
"The covers we started with were like '90s budget Rock bands and Doo Wop bands and girl groups of the '60s," Copes. says "The combination created this '90s Punk with heavy Doo Wop influence."
That formula has been part of Punk since the start, Battle notes. "The Ramones' songs were just the Shangri-Las' songs sped up.”
Tweens made their official live debut at Northside club The Comet last May, which was witnessed by little more than the kitchen and bar staff. But the trio's raw and urgent presentation seemed destined to attract a big audience. It wasn't long before the band was doing a weekly residency at the venerable Northside bar.
"I feel like Tweens grew up at The Comet," Copes says. "Some of our favorite people in town work there. It's like playing at home."
After The Comet residency, Tweens wheeled through several months of buzzy local shows that grew their home audience exponentially. The band's initial sets were comprised of cool and obscure cover songs, but they decided they should probably record some original material. Earlier this year, the trio booked a handful of East Coast gigs that ended up serving as de facto showcases and got them on various labels' radars with an almost alarming swiftness.
One of Tweens' big breaks came back in March when they were tagged as the opening act for The Breeders when the Dayton-spawned “AltRock” legends played Newport, Ky.’s Southgate House Revival as a one-off tune-up for its world tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their seminal album, Last Splash.
The success of that show inspired The Breeders to invite Tweens to open for them on dates in Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York City, all of which take place this week.
"(Breeders frontwoman) Kim Deal asked Jim Blase at (Northside record store) Shake It who he thought should open their show and he said, 'Tweens,' which was great," Copes says. "After our show with them, we met Kim and she said, 'We should do some dates in May.' And it was, like, 'Everybody says that,' (but) the next day their booking agent hit us up and it was, 'Holy shit.' "
"We're really excited. We haven't played any shows this huge," Battle adds. "They're all sold out and they're big venues. We're stoked."
Tweens' 2013 recording of "Rattle&Rollin' ":
As Tweens consider their label options, the trio is thinking seriously about what they'll be taking into the studio this summer to hopefully begin work on a debut full-length. At the moment, they've got a comfortable number of originals and a few well-chosen covers to work with (including a blazing take on "I'm Gonna Steal Your Boyfriend," a song from Cincinnati mid-'60s girl group The Teardrops), but they're anxious to write a few more new tunes to add to the mix.
"We'll probably see where we are and try to record in June or July," Copes says. "We've got some touring coming up with both (Vacation and Tweens) and there's a window of time that would be great to focus on recording."
In the meantime, Tweens are trying to maintain their perspective and focus on more immediate goals. While it may be slightly early to make room in the trophy case for their Lifetime Achievement Award, there's little doubt that the trio has nearly hit for the band lifetime cycle in the space of a single calendar. Perhaps a bit of mantle clearing wouldn't be out of the question.
Keep tabs on TWEENS’ latest movements and hear some more recordings at facebook.com/tweencity