Imperial Teen youthful as ever

October 13, 2016 10:57 AM

Bottom of the Hill celebrated their 25th anniversary on Oct. 8 by having indie band Imperial Teen headline for their first Bay Area gig in three years.
Imperial Teen got its start in San Francisco in 1994. The set was a special one for them, since 2016 marked their 23-year-anniversary as a band.
The night drew a full club of excited fans who all seemed to know each other. Over 150 people had paid by early evening. Additionally, 33 people were already inside and on a guest list that usually only held ten names.
The energy was good, and people seemed cheerful. When the second opening band ended their set, it wasn’t long before the room filled up with people eager to see the headliners.
The band started, and so did the dancing. People seemed to know the songs, and many people in the audience sang along to all of the lyrics.
This happened throughout the band’s 85-minute set that included two encores, each of which consisted of two songs.


At the first show in years for popular 90’s band Imperial Teen, Jone Stebbins sings and plays bass for a crowd of nearly 200 at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill. Prior to joining Imperial Teen, Stebbins and Imperial Teen bandmate Lynn Perko were in an all-girl band called The Wrecks, which gained fame and a fanbase before the pair had even graduated high school.

The crowd stayed enthusiastic throughout, and the band helped by speaking with different audience members, telling jokes, being cheerful, and seeming very “at home” playing in the city that gave them their start.
At the beginning of one song, singer and bassist Jone Stebbins asked everyone to clap along at a fast tempo that was challenging and fun.
It made people feel like they were helping the band to make the music, and they were.
Before going offstage for the encores, the group asked the audience to help them with the “pant-alongs” which go with the chorus of the song Yoo Hoo. You can listen to the song—along with the panting—online at
The eager crowd joined in, and everyone was panting along and having fun. The panting was even in key.
Everyone at the club said they had a fun night and thought the band did great.
Isabel Kelley from the band Bella was present.
“[I was] surprised they sounded so damn tight,” she said, “just like they did in the 90’s.”


Imperial Teen got started in 1992 when Lynn Perko and Roddy Bottum decided to start a band.
The band was made whole when local musicians Will Schwartz and Jone Stebbins joined; the band has stayed together since then.


The band’s most recent album, Feel the Sound, came out in 2012.

At the time, Perko was the drummer of the punk band The Dicks, and Sister Double Happiness a grunge rock band from the 90’s. Perko also played in The Wrecks with Stebbins in 1982.
Bottum is now best known because he’s the keyboard player in the Platinum selling alternative metal band Faith No More.
Bottum and Schwartz are also both gay males who’ve never been shy about speaking about their sexuality. Many of Imperial Teen’s songs have lyrics, sung by Bottum and Schwartz, about wearing lipstick and other typically feminine acts, some serious, and some silly.
That’s only one of the examples of what makes this band unique and why they are remembered and loved by many people in the Bay Area.
Being open about your homosexuality in the music scene is courageous, and was even more so back in the 1990’s.
Perko and Stebbins are also trailblazers. They were barely in high school when their all-girl band, The Wrecks, released their first single on the famous Maximum Rock n Roll compilation of North California bands that included two bands from Reno, which is where Stebbins and Perko lived then.
Many people know the band from the song “Yoo Hoo,” which was featured in the 1999 movie Jawbreaker starring Rose McGowan. She was also in the music video for that song, which was featured on 120 Minutes. Another of the group’s songs, “You’re One,” which is about Kurt Cobain, was also featured on that show.
Many of their songs are available to listen to for free on YouTube.

At the Oct. 8 Imperial Teen show, Lynn Perko (pictured) and Roddy Bottum (next image) took turns singing and playing guitar and bass. Perko spent most of the set playing drums, but traded spots with Bottum for a song.


Stebbins best describes Imperial Teen’s sound as “melodic poppy punk with lots of boy girl vocal harmonies, a punk pop Mamas and the Papas [a 60’s psychedelic folk rock band].”
The group lived up to those high standards at the gig on Saturday with beautiful harmonies sung back and forth and all together between the four members.
They all played their instruments the entire gig.
No one band member stuck to singing: they sometimes switched instruments, and sometimes either Schwartz or Bottum played keyboards instead of guitar.
Since their start, Imperial Teen has released five records so far. Many people know them from their first two records that were done when they all lived here.
They used to play often in San Francisco and the East Bay, but due to different individual circumstances, the band hasn’t been able to play locally as often in the last 10 years, and not at all for the last three years.
People that live here were aching to see them, not just fans, but many of their friends as well.


Bottum’s shirt sported a drawing by gay icon Tom of Finland. Bottum is openly gay, as is Will Schwartz, another band member.

Currently, Stebbins is the only member that lives in the Bay Area. Stebbins lives in Alameda in a house that she recently purchased and Perko told me that “Jone loves the island life.”
Perko is married with three young children and lives in Denver. Bottum is living in NYC while Schwartz lives in L.A.
Perko says she “misses the beauty of the Bay Area” and “misses walking around the different neighborhoods of San Francisco.”
She also noted how much she missed the notable features of the city, from its hills, water, and cable cars, to the fishing boats sitting at the wharf.
“I lived in S.F. for twenty years,” she said. “I love this city.”


Imperial Teen has been on the independent label Merge and all say they’ve been very happy with how the label is working for them.
The band hopes to get back and play the Bay Area soon.
They weren’t able to get an Oakland gig in the time period they needed this time.
Perko loves being a mother but says it makes touring an impossibility for now. Schwartz also has a dance pop project called hey willpower, purposely spelled in all lowercase.
The band’s able to play festivals and larger shows where they’re able to get the money needed to pull them all from separate corners of the United States.
Finally, the band’s currently working on new songs that they hope to record soon. Their new record will hopefully be out by the end of 2017.

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