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RIP EXCLUSIVE: A Conversation With John Carteret Ahead Of Telltale's Self-Titled Album Release

Kayla Moreno May 17, 2024

Rock subgenres have always had a knack for earnest lyricism, catchy melodies, and songs you remember forever. The current generation of artists within those genres captivate audiences by taking elements of the "greats" to create something that feels authentic to them. Telltale is a rock band from Richmond, Virginia that encapsulates all of these traits. Their newest effort, a self-titled LP, is a culmination of everything the band has stood for since their formation.

I sat down with frontman John Carteret to talk about the album, but discovered something much more impactful instead. John and I are peers; sometimes, floating around the rock space can be isolating, even with the sound of roaring crowds guiding your evening routines. However, it turns out that most of us 20-somethings are all feeling the same way, and trying to get by while honoring our creativity.

You never know who you may connect with, especially through music. It is probably the most powerful language on Earth. This conversation with John reasserted what I already knew: persevering with creativity despite personal anxiety is the only way to go.

So the record is self-titled, which is awesome. I got to hear it in advance and it is truly fantastic. What was your overall vision with the record? It's a little different making a full-length album, versus EPs and singles.

John: We've always made EPs in the past. We haven't had a large enough body of work to dedicate to its own album. This time, we took a lot of things that we've done before and dialed them in a bit closer to what we all wanted as a unit, realizing how things that we all liked as individuals fit together. I handle all the post-production, like programming synths and violins, pianos – all of the extra details. But Bryce is very guitar-driven; he loves super rocky, riffy type (bleep). Being able to find a place where all of that comes together is what made the record more cohesive. It felt really nice, and true to the band as a whole. It was a good experience for all of us.

And that definitely shows, since the record incorporates elements that are – and I don't really want to say "old fashioned" – but more traditional? You have a lot of really cool transitions, things that were quintessential to records I listened to growing up.

John: Yes, I'm glad that shows through because that's exactly what we were going for. We wanted it to be one of those records where yes, you can listen to it on shuffle, but for a first play-through, you should try it front to back because that means a lot to me and the band. It tells a story, that's how we set it up, and that's how we wanted it to be digested.

Similarly, you guys touch on some tough topics, like mental health, quite a bit in your work. I noticed that in the record, but it was a bit different from your previous EPs. What was your angle this time, versus in the past?

John: In the past, I definitely talked about (mental health) in very broad strokes. I, personally, was dealing with it constantly; I wasn't seeing a therapist regularly, I wasn't medicated, etc. I'm doing those things now in my daily life to keep myself on a good track. Before, though, everything was very blurry, all the time. It was much easier to write about things in a very general context. Now, I'd like to say that I'm doing much better with my own mental health, which is something I'm very proud of. It was easier to hit specific points and instances where this scenario brought me back to a low or really dark place. There's definitely more specificity this time.

I think that honestly resonates. As a whole, we're looking for more intimate culture in general, especially with music; media is about immediate consumption these days, but it's created an inverse effect where things are sometimes less superficial and more vulnerable. People like to see a bit of a peek behind the wizard's curtain. Being candid like that is a cool way to integrate that energy within your art.

John: Definitely! It was difficult at some points of the writing process because in the past I didn't write with a lot of ambiguity. I'm usually very direct and to the point with my writing style, but this time it was more about specific instances or situations. I felt the need to incorporate some ambiguity to maintain my own autonomy.

It's very vulnerable to pour your heart into something that you know other people are going to consume. [Gets distracted] OMG. We're drinking the same beverage!

Both hold up Cherry Coke to the camera.

John: Yo, let's go! We all just stopped at Best Buy for a little snack and drink trip. Bryce got us the hookup with the discount, love it.

Nice! Okay, back to business; the album cover is really awesome. I'm an English major, so I have to ask – is that a literary reference?

John: Yeah, it all is. The band's name, and everything else, all connects back to those Poe references. We debated doing the record more geared towards that angle, but it didn't feel like what we were trying to go for as a band. We decided to make all those decisions visually instead.

That's a cool way to do it. It's still a way to stay authentic to your band, while still honoring the gothic roots you're going for. The songs don't need to be new-wave hits to get the point across.

John: Totally. We had this standalone image of the Raven that we wanted to use. The whole concept of being a bird in flight stood out to me; they travel, they move about, and it's all about the journey.

I'm a huge fan of stuff like that. I think we have very similar reference points, with bands that we grew up listening to. For example, Fall Out Boy did a vampire music video for "A Little Less 16 Candles, A Little More Touch Me," and that song is by no means a gothic anthem.

John: Oh yeah, they're really great at doing detached visuals – like the one with the deer antlers.

"Sugar, We're Going Down!"

John: Yes! I love standalone visuals that can exist cohesively and separately.

Similarly, what does the record mean to you as an artist, outside of the audience's perspective?

John: I don't typically like to say this in interviews; but, since the record is closer to coming out, I feel more confident saying it. I'm feeling super confident about where the band's at, but I think this record is a last shot for me. I'll always do music to some capacity. We all sat down as a band and decided that we needed to write something very special, unlike anything we've ever done before. If we don't, we're gonna fade off into this oversaturated music world. For me, beyond anything else, it's very difficult for me and the guys to take all the best parts of ourselves and put them together, on display for the whole world, just hoping they enjoy it. We've always done that, but it felt more immediate this time.

Trust me, especially as a woman both performing music and behind the scenes, I get it. There's always a looming expiration date, even if it's a faux one, hanging over your head. We're both young people in the broad sense of the term, but in the context of the industry – it often feels like "now or never," for sure.

John: Totally; I have this distinct memory that lives with me, from when I was 22. I was talking to this guy who said, "by the time you're 27, you're washed." Obviously, that isn't true by any measure, but it stuck with me, and I'm 27 now.

We're the exact same age! I was just saying this to a kid who was asking if adults actually knew what they're doing. I said, "no." (with laughter)

John: (also laughing) Absolutely not!

I said that we're all just kids doing cosplay. Nobody knows what they're doing. But to round things out, do you see this world expanding after the album drops, despite these feelings of finality?

John: Oh, for sure! I would love to build on some sort of deluxe format after the release.

Hopefully, John and the rest of Telltale can continue making more LPs. The sounds that they're creating, paired with earnest lyricism, are important tools that guide an entire genre.

Don't let anybody tell you that you're "too old" to pursue your creative and artistic passions. They are always projecting their insecurities onto you.

The record, Telltale, is a product of personal development and growth within technical skills. These things can only be achieved with years of work!  

Stream the new self-titled LP here, and keep up with Telltale here.