Sam Ray may have said "this is a very prom-themed song" ten times during his intimate set following the New York premiere of independent film Therapy Dogs at Public Records last night (3/8). The night was, in fact, prom themed, apropos of the high school setting of the movie. Therapy Dogs is not romantic, though. Its humor lies in a playful grittiness and a heavy dose of cringe--writer/director Ethan Eng and co-writer Justin Morrice do not hesitate to admit the pent-up energy and angst that fueled the project.

Therapy Dogs is hard to categorize; it was filmed guerrilla-style at Justin and Ethan's high school in the suburbs of Toronto under the guise of a yearbook video, but it features high-octane stunts, tense drama, action sequences, archival footage, and an overall sense of recklessness in spirit. They tell the story of senior year in vignettes, flashing sans-serif headings over brightly-colored backgrounds with messages like "BAD IDEAS ARE BETTER WITH FRIENDS" or "FUCK U JAYDEN" to mark the chapters. Some are just for fun, in their warped way (masked guys beating up their friend Kyle until he joins their street gang, or audio of Ethan going to a strip club to ask for a prom date over pornographic video game footage). Other vignettes carry the movie's heart-wrenching narrative of the pain and plainness of coming of age. We follow another friend, Kevin, through a series of chapters, from a night in the city on LSD, to his performance in the school play, to jazz band, to his ambitions of going to Los Angeles, which will likely be unmet. The film repeatedly sits in its darkest, most uncomfortable moments for just long enough to make you feel like you want to leave, then pulls back and throws out some dark humor as if to say "It's not that deep." What's more, Therapy Dogs has a knack for making poignant statements out of things unspoken. "Teenagers are much better at doing than saying," Ethan later explained.

The film is functionally scored by Teen Suicide, the project of Sam Ray. It also features music by Show Me The Body, Morgan Powers, and Sam's other band Ricky Eat Acid. Ethan reached out to Sam on Twitter to use the songs, later saying, "He's so good at granular, lo-fi sounds." Teen Suicide and Therapy Dogs share an intense sense of nostalgia and a distinct not-happy, not-sad quality. Sam agreed heartily.

Following the screening, Sam took the stage in the small room for a rare solo performance. His solo vocal and electric guitar lent a bedroom punk quality to the set. He played some songs used in the movie, including "haunt me x 3," as well as rarities like "VIP" and "possession (quiet)." Also featured were a handful of covers, including Skeeter Davis's "The End Of The World," The Bee Gees' "I Started A Joke," and, at the behest of the audience and Sam's wife Kitty, Roy Orbison's "Crying." Sam lightly bantered with the crowd and with Kitty while tuning or gracefully riffing between songs, adding to the casualness of the night. In lockstep with Therapy Dogs, Sam's performance was unceremonious but remarkably touching. Check out the full setlist, plus the trailer for Therapy Dogs, below.

Therapy Dogs has more NYC screenings coming up, on March 9-11 at Alamo Drafthouse Lower Manhattan and March 15-19 at Roxy Cinema. The movie is available digitally on March 17, and on Blu-Ray on June 30.

Teen Suicide's bumblebee table at the butterfly feast came out in 2022, and he told us some of his favorite music of the year.

Setlist: Sam Ray at Public Records, 3/8/2023
“we found two dead swans and filled their bodies with flowers”
“skate witches”
“I will always be in love with you (final)”
“The End Of The World” (Skeeter Davis cover)
“possession (quiet)”
“I Started A Joke” (Bee Gees cover)
“It’s Just A Pop Song”
“haunt me x 3”
“Crying” (Roy Orbison cover)

Teen Suicide

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