Teether: “I Feel Like I’ve Lived A Million Lifetimes”

teether in body suit in front of mirror

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Teether’s raps have always been a beacon of comfort amongst chaos.

The Melbourne MC’s music traverses rocky terrain with off-kilter drum patterns or harsh gusts of synths. His presence is like a winch, supporting us on this climb alongside him. He ensures that if we fall, it doesn’t lead to our demise. Even when the droning baritone of his voice sounds exhausted, he continues to climb, trying to make sense of the scattered scenery of life that surrounds him.

Teether’s been releasing music for the better part of a decade, but he’s never sounded at peace in this pursuit — until now. On his latest album, It Must Be Strange to Not Have Lived, Teether embodies a sense of calm within a world of pandemonium. 

“I feel like we can’t control anything, and while there may be an order to things in this life, it all feels random,” he tells Junkee. “So in the meantime, let’s just do shit.”

The Garage Of Growth

It Must Be Strange to Not Have Lived is underground in its experimentation, but blockbuster in its dense instrumentation. The project combines crunchy guitar riffs, siren-like synths, and flourishes of lo-fi soul samples, which all fit together seamlessly. The genre blends here feel like a combination of Teether’s extensive catalogue, which spans solo releases, collaborative projects with Kuya Neil, contributions as a part of groups like TOO BIRDS, and so much more. However, he describes the zone he taps into as something different from anything else he’s ever done. “It feels separate from past projects because I didn’t think about it while I was making it,” he says. “Music is sometimes like a dad tinkering away in the garage, just working away because that’s what they do. It felt good tinkering away here, but I didn’t see it coming together as a project until the end.”

Teether finds sanctuary in the symbolic garage of music creation. It’s a place that’s separate from his day job, a world away from the stresses of life. With every project, he delves deeper into his toolbox, finding both old reliables like his guitar and newer companions like his sampler. In the past, this process has been about the finished project, showing off the performance of the vehicle. Now, it’s all about the tinker, tuning things to his taste, and creating for the love of creating. “When I was younger, it felt like a priority to show how well I can rap, but I don’t care about that anymore,” he says. “There’s no formula you need to stick to other than the one you create yourself, and if it feels right, it probably is right. I’ve felt so free since I stopped trying to flex.”

As Teether tinkers, he is reflective, pondering the oddities and issues of the world. Over the years, he’s become comfortable with the unknowns of life. Music has become a place where he can celebrate his days, achievements, and willingness to get up and live. This shines throughout highlights on It Must Be Strange To Not Have Lived like ‘Chrysalis’, where he spits the line, “Been a good man, I’ve been making good choices”. It’s simple on the surface, but commemorating accomplishments has been a hard thing for Teether to do in the past. “There’s a part of me that thinks of lines sometimes like they’re cringe before I go ‘fuck it’ because it’s real,” he explains. “Making good choices can be like Dragon Ball, where in every saga the bad guys are stronger than the good guys. The good guys have to scrape by to win, but it prepares them for the next time.”

Getting Older Together

A lot of Teether’s realisations about life and art have come to him over the past two years, during which he’s “lived a million lifetimes”. It’s a period that Teether says has really aged him. He’s seen Melbourne transform and experienced a change in its spirit, and he feels as if he doesn’t have his finger on the pulse anymore. This meant he needed to slow down a little, because how can you stop to smell the roses in your journey if you’re travelling too fast? “Over the last few years, I’ve been doing too much, and when you’re doing too many things, you often miss out on a lot,” he says.

By slowing down, Teether has garnered an appreciation of the idea of ageing, looking at it for the maturity it brings. It has brought him wisdom, looking at the non-linear paths of the future, and continuing to become more comfortable in not knowing what’s going to happen next. It’s made him more amenable to living in the moment, because there’s no better time to celebrate your accomplishments or pick up the guitar again than the present. It’s helped him tap into the good energy of those around him, who often experience similar feelings. “As you get older, you can find communities where people give a shit, want the best for each other, and can express themselves,” he says. “I think with this, it makes you realise that the older you get, the crazier the art becomes.”

The Grassroots Gargantuan

One of the communities Teether is a part of is that of CONTENT.NET.AU, a collective that approaches the labour of music with an unrelenting love. Their roster encompasses acts like Sydney rap alien Sevy, moshpit marauder BAYANG (Tha Bushranger), and many more. They celebrate their output with physical mementoes in the form of DVDs and merchandise. They are unabashed when it comes to highlighting their beautiful eccentricities with projects like the CONTENT.NET.AU Dating Simulator. One of the most important reasons why this all works, according to Teether, is friendship. “Music industry people look at us weird, and I don’t know their intentions, but I think they can’t read us because we don’t care about business,” he says. “We’re all friends, and the music is happening because we all have fun hanging out together.”

CONTENT.NET.AU’s unabashed approach to expression is a major part of a massive grassroots movement in Australian music. They challenge the creative norms of the scene alongside collectives like stealthyn00b, which features the scatterbrained internet rap of Sidney Phillips and lil ket. They highlight the beauty of fiery bars and ear-catching melodies alongside Melbourne collective Picked Last, home to the elite-tier talent of acts like MAMMOTH and Agung Mango. All these acts paint a picture of an Australian scene that represents what Australia is: a place rich with diverse cultures, individuals, and experiences with music. “This place we live in is completely random,” Teether says, “and that’s why within this music community you hear so many beautiful perspectives, with very little overlap.”

It Must Be Strange to Not Have Lived is the world’s introduction to Teether as a seasoned veteran. It’s the product of almost a decade of dedication to his craft but represents an entirely new chapter of his journey. The competitive creativity of his younger self echoes in the album’s forward-thinking artistry, but its current form is free of the need to prove itself and focused on having fun. Teether still serves as a winch in the chaos, but he is no longer exhausted. He’s willing to take breaks to appreciate the rocky terrain of life, and he explores every nook and crevice it provides. He accepts the unknowns of this world, and trudges into the future with one goal in mind: To keep on keepin’ on. “I want to keep getting better with the music, I don’t expect it to necessarily flourish, but whatever happens I’m happy,” he says. “I just want to keep being comfortable, and keep making songs.”

Teether’s new album It Must Be Strange To Not Have Lived is out now.

Henry Owens is a Melbourne-based writer dedicated to good bars and gargantuan breakdowns. You can find him trawling on Twitter and Instagram.

Image: Jordan Munns