Video Premiere: Teen Idle – “In the Morning”
Written by Greg Wilson on February 5, 2021
We were first introduced to Teen Idle in May of 2020. The song “In the Morning“, and the project of 22-year-old woman of color Sara Abdelbarry had all the elements that made us take notice: strong chorus, propulsive groove, classic 90’s guitar stylings. The tune itself closes strong: layering guitar atop guitar, supporting and amplifying Abdelbarry’s chorus to the finish. It’s been a rotation staple ever since. As the early teaser and lead track on her Insomniac Dreams EP, it helped plant a flag, and point the way forward. If there’s a vaguely “haunted” aspect to the songs, it’s the product of hard-won experience, that seems to have made her stronger, wiser, more fully focused.
Of course, the calendar has turned, and a new year brings the promise of new music and continued growth. As Abdelbarry works on new material for Green Witch Recordings, she’s taken time out to produce a video for that impressive single that caught everyone’s attention. While directed and edited by Sara, the video was filmed with an able assist from her sister, Summer: handheld, sometimes shaky, to bring immediacy to the presentation. We’re thrilled to offer the premiere of the video for “In the Morning” from Teen Idle, and we asked Sara some questions about the project’s origins and future, below.
Sara: Well I never technically lived in the Middle East, but my family is Egyptian so the culture is a huge part of my identity. My sisters and I grew up in the U.S. so throughout my life I feel like I’ve tried to balance both identities. When it comes to influencing my music, my parents used to play exclusively Arabic music when I was an infant. So even though you might not hear a direct Arabic influence on my music, I’ve noticed lately that it’s definitely there, especially in the way I write lyrics and the cinematic tendency of my music.
DKFM: What drew you to this languid, expressive dream pop sound? Help us understand what brought you to this format that you’ve mastered, and what influences you’ve been able to draw from for inspiration?
Sara: The songs were born out of bottled up emotions and feelings, so I feel like they exude expressiveness by nature. I wrote the EP when I was in my senior year of college and feeling pretty lovelorn. And that’s really nice of you to say I mastered the format! But I don’t think the sound was intentional at all. I just happened to be listening to a lot of shoegaze like Slowdive and Cocteau Twins at the time, and also some slowcore like Low and Mojave 3, and then I became obsessed with those atmospheric sounds. So I think the songs took on a similar texture and mood as what I was listening to. But I also tried to experiment a little on the record and make things my own brand.
DKFM: Teen Idle is a solo project, with a cast of contributors who have helped flesh out and execute your sonic vision. Talk a little bit about the process of creating, and bringing in like minds who understand what you’re trying to accomplish?
Sara: I was lucky to be introduced to Max and Danny from the NJ band Sonic Blume by Jon Leidersdorff, who owns the studio where most of it was recorded — they ended up playing drums, keys and synth on the EP and Max helped produce with Jon. Having that collaborative experience was awesome and it happened to be my first time in a studio. But since then, I’ve recorded and produced everything at home by myself which is a different experience but also fulfilling. Recording at home was born more out of necessity than anything, especially since I can’t afford studio time at the moment, but I’ve learned to really like the home-crafted sound. I play all the instruments except drums, because I’m no Janet Weiss and I also can’t seem to get a good drum sound in my basement. Songwriting for me is a solitary process and I’d like it to stay that way at least for Teen Idle, but in the future I’m excited to work with co-producers again. It just makes things way more enjoyable. I’m working on an LP that I decided to produce by myself, and while it’s been fun and all, and the songs are shaping up to be something I’m proud of, I can’t wait to work with people again!!!!!
DKFM: It’s not the easiest time for artists trying to create and distribute music. But you’ve gotten the attention of Green Witch Recordings/Sunday Records, who are happy to champion what you’re building, and spread the good word. Tell us about the collaboration with the label, and the state of independent music in the 2020s.
Sara: Marc from Green Witch happened to reach out to me after seeing one of my songs on a Facebook group, or at least that’s how I think he found me. But it was definitely a pleasant surprise when he emailed me and said the label would like to collab with me. We just hit it off really well and you can tell the team at the label is super passionate about their artists. They’ve helped me a lot promotion-wise and distributed my EP and a compilation I made on cassette. Marc has been able to answer all of my music and career-related questions, even if I ask a lot, so I’m glad we linked up. Sunday Records reached out to me to distribute my EP on CD, and I’m really glad they did — they’ve been equally as gracious. I think they distributed the CDs to a bunch of different countries, so that’s definitely a great way to spread the word. Sunday also featured me on a couple vinyl compilations so I’m indebted to them for getting to hear my song “When Yr Gone” on vinyl for the first time.
DKFM: Tell us a little bit about the song and video. What inspired the track, and how did the video come together?
Sara: “In the Morning” is a song I wrote after I moved out of NYC after graduating college and back in with my parents in NJ. I guess I was bummed out about the situation and had a lot of things going on emotionally at the time. So the song is emotional but also deals with suburban ennui. It’s funny, I’m trying to remember when we actually filmed the video and it’s a blur in my mind — although I’m pretty sure it was the summer before COVID hit. I knew I wanted to include some Jersey Shore imagery in the video, and initially I just was going to bike around my town or street with a GoPro. But I was inspired by some ’90s music videos that were filmed on a camcorder, so I decided to grab one of the old ones we had at home and then knew exactly what to do. I just asked my sister to film me walking and playing guitar in front of our house, and then I took some B-roll footage of the trees, the boardwalk, the street, etc. and edited that in. It was also interesting to edit a music video, which I’d never done before.
DKFM: Post-COVID plans? Given that you have a varied supporting cast, any expectations of tour forthcoming, or still solely focused on building a quality songbook?
Sara: I definitely am excited about playing shows at some point, but I need to get a band together first which is no small feat. I’m more focused on writing and recording, but once I meet potential band members, I’d love to play some shows. After COVID, that is. I don’t believe in doing socially distanced concerts or trying to play in person shows in the COVID era, because I feel like it prolongs how long it will take to get back to real concerts and is just a big headache all around.