Teen Suicide, a Maryland-based punk act that began as singer-songwriter Sam Ray and drummer Eric Livingston in 2009, never thought anyone would listen to the songs about Twitter and inside jokes they released for free online, let alone have fans tell them how meaningful that music has been to them.
But last month, Boston’s Run For Cover Records — home to acts like Modern Baseball and Cloakroom — announced it had signed Teen Suicide, and planned to remaster and reissue the group’s debut album (“I Will Be My Own Hell Because There’s a Devil Inside My Body”) and a collection of “scattered” EPs.
Teen Suicide, who plays Metro Gallery on Wednesday, has experienced many lineup changes, but the only constant today is 23-year-old songwriter, guitarist and singer Sam Ray. The Ellicott City native — who also releases solo ambient music as Ricky Eat Acid — said the chance to release Teen Suicide’s music on a greater scale has been exciting, and revisiting those songs has been “tough but necessary.”
“It’s actually been kind of nice this time around because when I wrote a lot of the songs they were written not 100 percent seriously, not 100 percent jokingly, but [there was] a lot more humor in them than originally got picked up on,” Ray said on the phone Monday while traveling from Indiana to Pittsburgh.
By November 2012, Ray thought the project was finished. But last year, on a whim and after a couple of years of inactivity, Teen Suicide played a secret set at Charm City Art Space during friend Coma Cinema’s show. The end of the hiatus went surprisingly well, and launched Teen Suicide on a short reunion tour. Now, the group is selling out most of its small-scale shows with the buzzing Philadelphia quartet, Alex G. (The eponymous act is led by college student Alex Giannascoli, who The Fader called “The Internet’s Secret Best Songwriter.”)
Fans have long called for repressings of Teen Suicide records. (A copy of “I Will Be My Own Hell” is currently for sale for $139.99 on discogs.com.) Without Run For Cover, it was not financially feasible, but label boss Jeff Casazza was a long-time fan. After discussing possibilities with Ray — along with completing extensive paperwork and tracking down the various people who had appeared on Teen Suicide tracks for approval — Casazza and Ray agreed on a deal.
“They have incredible resources and are down to do whatever,” Ray said. “I’m pretty amazed that it’s over with and that this whole thing’s in motion.”
Signing with a label with resources like Run For Cover’s means the albums – Ray said the plan is to reissue “I Will Be My Own Hell” with bonus tracks, and EPs “Waste Yrself” and “DC Snuff Film” on each side of a 12-inch record – will stay in print for the foreseeable future and won’t be constrained by a limited run. They should be released before the end of this summer, Ray said.
Livingston no longer plays with Teen Suicide, whose current lineup includes bassist Alec Simke, from Laurel, Lusby’s John Toohey on guitar/vocals and drummer Dexter Loos (who also plays in Alex G) from New Jersey. Often cited as a Baltimore-based musician, Ray more so identifies as a drifter.
“I just don’t really care or want to live anywhere specifically,” he said. “If I get rich I’m going to buy four houses and fly between them in a helicopter.”
Any remaster of music deemed “lo-fi,” self-released music’s current dirty word, is bound to draw criticism from ardent defenders of its original low-production value, but Ray said the only resistance he anticipates is from people who don’t understand remastering. It won’t change anything about the original recording or mixing of the songs, he said, but it tweaks factors such as frequencies and volume consistency, a process the records never went through originally. Naysayers just underscore the band’s motto (“We don’t care about anything”), Ray said.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is just, you have to do whatever the [expletive] you want to do,” he said. “If it’s actually what you want to do and not for any angle or gimmick or any kind of crossover success, ultimately people will like it. And anyone who doesn’t, it’s like, who cares?"