The process following a breakup is different for everyone, but usually involves some terrible combo of anger, grief, and self-loathing. Crooked Teeth and Talker combined their superhuman pop writing abilities to bring us “Light Me Up“, a track that takes you on a carnival love boat ride through hell of that emotional journey. Written with Four Year Strong’s Alan Day and mixed by Courtney Ballard, this song was destined to be a hit… and a hit it shall be. There are a whole handful of moments that get stuck in my head on rotation, like one of those 6 CD changers in 90s vehicles. Tyson & Celeste’s voices were made to be heard together. With the track on every Spotify playlist imaginable and inching toward the #1 spot on KROQ, it seems like the world agrees.
I thought I was going to have the honour of chatting with Tyson about this single, but then when the Zoom call picked up… I found both Tyson and Celeste waving back at me. Literally the best surprise I could have imagined. Scroll down to check out our interview about authenticity, embracing modernity, and the magic of making music with people who are as excited as you are. And of course, listen to “Light Me Up” while you read.
Congrats on the release of “Light Me Up”, what a fun track! It’s been on the radio, it’s been on every single playlist in the history of Spotify, how’s it been from your perspective?
talker: It’s been fun! It’s so crazy that it’s out because I feel like it was a very… not a long process, but a long journey.
Crooked Teeth: Let’s not downplay it, it was long. It took a while. We were talking to Alan who I wrote it with originally, who I took it to before I even showed it to Celeste. And that process didn’t even start until May or June of last year. So yeah, it’s been a long time and to have it out feels really rewarding.
I love seeing how the process goes from inception to release. Sometimes things happen so quick and other times it’s more drawn out, like this.
Crooked Teeth: It’s been really cool. Maybe I shouldn’t say this out loud, but I listen to it a lot.
talker: Oh, I do too!
Crooked Teeth: I think that that’s a testament. If I listen to my own music often and would want it to be playing loud in my car so the person next to me could potentially be annoyed by it, then it’s probably good.
talker: You gotta make the music that you want to listen to.
Especially when… well, not now, but eventually you’ll be performing it every night on tour. If you hate your own music, that would get old really fast.
Crooked Teeth: You just throw it away after a year… it’s just gone. But no, this is a fun one.
My next question was going to be about what was it like working with Celeste, but now I can ask you both how it was working together!
talker: It was fun! Tyson sent me like where he was at with the song in June, I think, and we obviously ended up working on the song. I recorded my vocals, sent it over to him, all this stuff… but it was kind of crazy ’cause we didn’t meet in person until the day of the video shoot due to COVID. We tried to do as much remotely as possible. I thought it was a fun process because we got to know each other purely through the process of making art.
Crooked Teeth: Yeah, I agree. I always feel like I’m taking a risk and I feel really vulnerable when I reach out to anyone that I listen to and actually admire as an artist. I’m like, “Hey, I got this thing, do you want to share? Do you like this? Do you like my current art enough to do this?” It means a lot, both with Alan and Celeste, for them to take a chance and be like, “yeah, that sounds fun” and not have an ego about it or anything. In the midst of COVID too, we don’t have these opportunities to really foster community like we do with live music, you know? I’d like to believe at some point in 2020, had things been different, we probably would have met at a show we were planning together or through mutual friends. I think it’s extra special in spite of everything that we can meet by actually creating something.
It reminds me of back in the early heyday of tumblr, when you’d make a friend, never meet them in person, but then be like, “here’s all my deepest, darkest secrets and everything about me, and I feel comfortable telling you this because we’ve never seen each other face to face.” You get to start with that emotional connection, sharing your vulnerable thoughts in a song, but without having to worry about seeing them in person.
Crooked Teeth: That’s what I really wanted. I wanted this song to be a personified, audible tumblr meeting, you know? So I’m glad we achieved that, you nailed it right on the head.
talker: That’s the mood board.
You make a Pinterest, it’s just tumblr soft grunge.
Crooked Teeth: Just tumblr lyric graphics.
The fake quotes from Matty Healy about boys and cold coffee and other things he didn’t say. These “Light Me Up” lyrics would have been everywhere all over posts of girls with sparklers on the 4th of July.
talker: Or like a dramatic faded photo of a hand holding a cigarette.
Crooked Teeth: What’s funny is that that actually exists.
Well, now you’ve also expanded this universe into really unique merch, which I think adds something interesting, branching out into unique pathways like resin art.
Crooked Teeth: I think that’s something… obviously people were doing Etsy stuff before the pandemic. But my stepmom started a cake pop thing this year, like hundreds of cake pops, because it was a trend on Etsy. I’m not calling resin art “just a trend” or anything, but I think there’s been a heightened awareness of cool DIY stuff like that being born out of the pandemic. I should talk to the artist and see if this was a new creative venture born this year, it’s pretty cool.
Yeah, I have a whole box of pandemic projects that I got into. I’m a sucker for all of it. Everything I saw on TikTok, I was like, “… I could do that.”
talker: I think that’s, you know… I hesitate to say “the good thing coming out of the pandemic,” ’cause let’s keep it in perspective here. But I do feel like it gave people an opportunity to tap more into those creative hobbies for fun again, without it having to be something that turns into a side hustle. You can just do it for fun.
Crooked Teeth: But also pay me. Here’s my Venmo and my Cash App and my PayPal.
What would you say is the best way that fans can support you as artists during this limbo time between when it was really bad and waiting for things to come back?
talker: From my perspective, just listening and sharing and telling friends. Not to speak for both of us, but I would say that we’re both just trying to keep the train moving and try to keep growing our listener base, and pick up where we left off, you know?
Crooked Teeth: Anytime someone takes an extra step to do something, it’s really cool. Especially for me, with my mental health and how I approach music and creativity and how, whether I like it or not, it’s all correlated because this is my identity and my output. Any support means a lot. Merch obviously helps too. I hate capitalism and perpetuating this idea of “buy this, buy that,” but we’re also just DIY. It’s not like “the man” is getting any money off of us.
Especially since this song has come out, there have been a lot of people saying really nice things and that goes a long way. It’s really reaffirming, and just means that people listen. Honestly, that’s the coolest thing. I just want more people to listen if it’s free. Or if it’s on a monthly plan for you to listen to an endless amount of music, by all means please listen to ours too. It all is appreciated and noticed.
I’m sure all those playlist adds are helping get the word out and have more people listening, which is awesome.
talker: Yeah, definitely. And I think we show people love who give us that support, you know, to pay it back and share that.
Crooked Teeth: We were just texting about it the other day. We were like, “man, if we’re ever famous, we’re going to be nice to everybody.” It’s really appreciated.
With the way things are going right now — like we were saying with silver linings this year — you do have a lot of time to be creative if you’re in the right head space for it. Have you found that you’ve been writing and creating a decent amount this year or has it been more difficult?
Crooked Teeth: I started writing a whole collection of songs in November, so I’ve recorded four or five new Crooked Teeth songs aside from this one. But I’ve also been writing with a lot of people as well, which has been really cool. Doing this with Celeste and the whole process of that was a good springboard for me to understand how to operate in that environment. I know Celeste has new songs too.
talker: I wrote and recorded a record. I got the masters back today.
Oh my god!!
talker: I know, I know. Literally today. It’s funny though, because I feel like I haven’t really been that creative this year. It’s been kind of hard, but I have enough stuff now to tide me over. And with this song coming out, it’s like… even though in 2021, I maybe haven’t written as much as I did in 2020, this has presented a new way to get creative. We’re creating a bunch of content doing live sessions, doing silly videos that we’ll be posting and sharing throughout the next few weeks. That’s going to be a fun way to tap into some creativity that’s maybe not as much pressure as feeling like I have to write an amazing song right now. I’m just going to be stupid on camera.
Crooked Teeth: I think also with us doing this song together, I went through a period… I’d always known that Crooked Teeth was going to be a moniker of sorts. And with this project being nurtured in the pop punk emo scene when it started in late 2016, I got so used to feeling like being in a band. It’s really cool because it feels like we’re kind of in a band in the coolest way that I’ve probably felt with another creative. It feels like it’s a chapter I get to do with another creative member who is equally invested in the delivery of everything. That’s been really encouraging, and it’s been encouraging me moving into the next collaborations that are coming out and understanding how to navigate and lean into that. That’s been really special.
I find that it’s definitely not guaranteed that when bands release a song together, that both artists will promote equally or feel the same way about it doing well. I don’t know if it’s just from the rise of features and the featured artist thinking, “I got paid to be on this song, it doesn’t really affect my career one way or the other how it does.” It’s kind of cool to see both of you on the same level, both being like “this song is so exciting to me.”
talker: I think that we both are very similar, which obviously we discovered in working together. The same way that Tyson — while Crooked Teeth is a moniker — he’s driving the ship… that’s what I’m doing with talker. And I think we both are super creative and fun, but also very Type A and “this is how we’re getting this done, here’s our plan and how we’re going to make this happen.” Coming together for that has been pretty productive.
Crooked Teeth: I’d say so. We got a song done and we got to this interview, so I would say it worked pretty well.
Also, I think it’s cool that you’ve both adapted to being so online and able to communicate with people in the face of not being able to connect in other ways. Both from connecting with each other online and creating the song, and also sharing it in a way that means you’re able to reach new career goals, like getting played on KROQ. You’ve started reaching these new heights without even being able to tour and do the normal things. How has it been for you, making that shift to being an artist online and having that as your sole way to connect?
Crooked Teeth: You know, it’s interesting. We just got off a call about some cool stuff we’re going to try and do for TikTok. And, you know, I’m not 19 or 18 or 17. I’m 28 years old. I have no problem saying that either. I grow into my craft, but with that comes adaptation. I’m not going to be a dumb dinosaur, dead in my tracks, like “I’m not going to use this, I’m going to go rogue.” No, you lean into it because it’s what’s best for getting your art out there. If our song’s on TikTok and catches somebody and makes them want to play drums or guitar or sing, then that’s why I’m here. Whatever vehicle that takes to get it to people, I’m going to do my best to lean into it. Sometimes it’s taxing on mental health for me, because I am a very “heart on my sleeve” person. Even in being real and honest, you have to give a little bit of a performance. That can be a little challenging for me, but I’m trying to adapt. I think it’s for the better at the end of the day, you know?
talker: I feel the same way. Sometimes, unless you have a huge following or something that goes viral, you’re like, “ah, I’m irrelevant online.” But in reality, a lot of people don’t really push the stuff they release, which is kind of surprising. That’s its own conversation. We should all be pushing our work as hard as we can. I think if you’re doing everything you can, even if it feels like you’re not reaching millions and millions of followers, you’re reaching your followers. You’re still spreading the word.
Crooked Teeth: That’s been a big thing for me too. In the latter half of 2020 into where we are now, I’ve noticed being more present and just being real has benefitted me quite a bit. A year ago, if you went on my Instagram, I would have been swooning at a comment or two or three. Now it’s like… I’m by no means some viral sensation, I’m not stating that. But I have noticed that in leaning into it and being honest and doing my best to put my best foot forward and being myself, that’s become somewhat of an identity. My identity is real and I think people are starting to notice it and the ones that dig that are subscribing. I appreciate that, and it means a lot that people are listening.
I feel like a lot of places put so much stock into your follower count now. Instead of seeing if the music’s good, they’re just worried about if you have a huge following yet online. I don’t have a ton of followers, but when I think about that number of people being in one room, all listening to me… it seems massive. It’s a warped perception we have now because of how many people do go viral, I guess.
talker: It’s funny because I feel like going viral is kind of a thing of the past. I think you get your one-offs on TikTok and stuff for sure. I think that being viral is not necessarily a thing to aim for anymore. If it happens, that’s awesome and you should try to capitalize on it, but it’s like… just build the thing.
Crooked Teeth: We were just talking about it, ’cause I’ve been tripping out over the music video, but YouTube is something I’ve been wanting to lean into for a while. It’s been really interesting to see the song kind of go off there. I think that anything that’s organic and real, it’ll have its day to shine. TikTok has really changed things, like gatekeeping is being mitigated now because people can go in and become something immediately. Just a funny thing, a bit that they thought of while they were in the shower or whatever.
And it’s crazy because it seems like the ones that are more manufactured actually don’t do as well as more natural, spur of the moment videos. I watched a girl last week say, “I was in my bathroom and I realized there was wind blowing my hair and I couldn’t figure out why, and then I realized my bathroom mirror came off and there’s a whole apartment behind it through a hole in the wall.” And then this week I went downstairs to eat lunch and she was on Ellen and they gave her $15,000.
Crooked Teeth: All Time Low is about to play on Ellen and their song is blowing up. They’re 17 years into their career and having their most successful songs. Nothing is really all that predictable.
It’s been a weird year, but you both have done some really cool things and reached this point with the single out. What’s the one thing that’s happened during quarantine, music related or not, that you’re proud you accomplished? In this really weird year, you can go forward and say “even though this was a really fucked up year, I did this.”
talker: Writing, recording, and finishing this record is definitely the thing for me. It’s like a slightly… not a different direction, but an evolution of my music and of the direction that I want to take things. I think it’s my best music and I’m really excited about it, so I feel really good about having done that. And I started learning Spanish.
Crooked Teeth: Honestly, same. I think that when we started this song, I was in the weirdest place. When tour ended, it was literally five days before the lockdown. I had stuff planned out for the rest of the year that I was really excited about. And uh, I had to go sleep on my dad’s couch. I have step-siblings and they all have a room in the house, but I was knowingly going to be on tour for a really long time, so I didn’t predict needing a concrete home. That was really rough on my mental health, all of that. And it was in my hometown, which is not an ideal place to be as a creative. I was in a rough place before this song started and this is the first thing I started working on. It snowballed into so many other cool opportunities and getting myself into creating and how much I love it and how important it is for my mental health. It’s really cathartic. It also forced me to get back in therapy because I knew that if I wasn’t going to give up on this dream, I had to be equipped mentally to really put my best foot forward again. This song really was a catalyst for that.
And I know that seems weird, the subject matter has nothing to do with that. But it allowed for some serious growth for me through the rest of 2020. Still growing, you know, still working on things, but I wrote more music and have done more since May of last year than I’ve done the whole time Crooked Teeth has been happening, aside from touring. We can’t always gauge our growth on touring alone. Just because I go out and do a support tour, that doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily growing our audience. That’s just what might happen if people latch on to the music. This is really what’s important, creating the music and giving it the most time and energy we can. That’s one thing that 2020 allowed for, sitting down and not taking that process for granted.
From my perspective, it’s been so hard to hear that… I feel like everybody I’ve interviewed lately is in the same boat. Everyone’s saying, “the world shut down and I had so much planned.” Everybody was hitting their stride and was ready to go to the next level, and then it all got cancelled. As much as it sucks, at least we’re all kind of in it together?
talker: Well, that’s my thought with it. It sucks, obviously, but everybody’s continuing to work on things the best they can. We’re all in the same boat. And everybody’s going to be able to pick up where they left off. Once things eventually open up, once touring is a thing again… as long as you want to do it still, you’ll be able to. You just have to find that spot and get in there, you know?
Crooked Teeth: I think the thing about being an artist too is that we’re all comparing ourselves to each other all the time, whether we like it or not. It is an industry at the end of the day, you know? Especially one where we’re used to it being centred around live music, and being a one or two or three of four on a package and getting an opportunity like that. My hope — and I think it will ring true — is that when it comes back, people are going to be so grateful for what they have and hopefully be willing to collaborate and look out for each other and not be gnashing at the teeth to compete against someone else. Let’s all just remember what we love about it and find ways to help each other. I think that’s going to be hopefully the bigger takeaway for artists and people in our scene, just to be good to each other.
I’m living for that feeling of the first show back when the lights go down, I feel like my brain is just going to black out.
talker: My roommate and I, we crack up, we’re like, “we’re going to have a fuckin’ bender when this is over.” We’re just going to go and let loose. I feel like that’ll get old after a week, but the idea of it and having the freedom to do it is pretty fun. I think it’ll be a renaissance of people appreciating art and culture and being together.