Richmond synth-noise/horror-punk group Teenage Cenobite are taking their “grimy, goofy” sound straight to the top.
“Grimy, goofy, and kind of horror-based.”
That’s how Hank Allen describes their Richmond-based band, Teenage Cenobite. Beginning less than a year ago as a solo project, Teenage Cenobite has evolved from an outlet for Allen to make “weird” electronic music to a full-on punk band that already has three tours under its belt.
The band’s first album, Rules to Break, puts all the horrifically goofy grime on full display. Opening track “Smiling Troublemaker” sets the tone for much of the album with its lo-fi drumbeat and incessantly danceable synth hooks. The song wouldn’t be complete, of course, without devolving into a harsh, swirling noise.
Another standout track, “Bronze,” feels like it was made to shake the room at a dance party, all while maintaining the album’s lo-fi aesthetic. “Ghost the World,” the final and perhaps best song on the album, brings all the noise and catchy riffs to a climax. And with lyrics like “I’m gonna ghost the world till it treats me right,” the song feels relatable and cathartic.
Teenage Cenobite started with Allen’s desire to take part in Richmond’s active DIY music scene. “I’ve always been into weird music and DIY and stuff like that,” Allen said. “Getting out of high school and going to shows definitely made me even more interested in being in a band.”
Allen has been in bands with friends before, but usually would play with noise pedals, or do vocals. “That would be with a regular rock band or a jazz band, so the sounds never really meshed. So [Teenage Cenobite] is me saying ‘I want to do this type of music.’”
A fan of the 1987 horror film Hellraiser, Allen named the band after the Cenobite creatures the movie depicts. “I like the idea of a Cenobite going through puberty, with all the weird sexual experiences you get with that, combined with being a crazy BDSM alien,” Allen said.
In the early days of Teenage Cenobite, Allen was the sole member of the project, and would perform at shows karaoke-style. Now a four-piece band, the project consists of Allen on vocals and effects, Will Fennessey on bass, Ethan Rozario on keys, and Noah Weingand on drums.
Writing has become a collaborative effort between Allen and Fennessey. This, along with transition between a solo project and a full band, has led to some changes in Teenage Cenobite’s sound. “We sit down and I load up Ableton, and we just work off each other, adding different parts,” Allen said.
Allen lives at Crystal Palace, a house show venue in Richmond notorious for booking some of the loudest, wildest shows you can imagine happening in a living space. It’s not uncommon for multiple shows to happen in the span of a week at Crystal Palace. “[Living at Crystal Palace] has definitely put me onto a lot of different things. I always liked punk music, but living in a house show venue has gotten me more privy to stuff like that,” Allen said. “That might be having an influence on the way that things are sounding.”
“We’re still trying to figure out what this band is turning out to be,” Allen said. The band is still young, but with more music currently being written and another tour in the works, the future is looking grimy in the best way possible for Teenage Cenobite.
Photos via Teenage Cenobite/Facebook