Twin Peaks | 7th Street Entry | Thursday, September 25 The Midwest, and Chicago in particular, has been cranking out a slew of precocious young talent around the intersection of garage, power pop and punk in the past few years. The City of Broad Shoulders gave birth to groups like The Orwells and Twin Peaks, who all share a good-natured, class-clown camaraderie and a knack for releasing fully-realized albums before any of their members have reached the legal drinking age. Twin Peaks just dropped their new LP, Wild Onion, last month, and the record's bound to keep your summer good times rolling long after Minnesota goes all tundra on us. We caught up with guitarist Clay Frankel to talk about debilitating tour injuries and their ties to the Midwest.
Gimme Noise: First of all, how's Cadien's leg healing up? I've never seen anybody rock a wheelchair quite like he did at Pitchfork this year. How'd that happen anyway? Clay Frankel: It's going slowly but surely, he broke it right around the time of SXSW and now he's out of the cast. First he was just walking around, and then he got put in a cast, and then he's out of a cast now and he's in one of those boots. So he's healing! I mean, he can walk now.
He broke it on tour in New Orleans, and the rest of us acted as doctors and said that it wasn't broken, we told him it was sprained [laughs]. So for the entirety of SXSW he was just walking around like nothing was wrong, and just hanging out and playing shows and stuff like that. By the time we left SXSW and we were heading to Arizona he was like "Alright, it's not feeling much better," so he did the smart thing and went to a doctor and they told him it was fractured.
That's rough. Did he break it onstage?
Well, yeah, we were playing with the Orwells in New Orleans, and we're good friends and stuff, so he was messing around onstage while they were playing and he tried to get Mario, their singer, in a wrestling movie [laughs]. Like, he put him on his shoulders and then he just fell and had to crawl off stage. He was like, half naked at the time too.
You guys have a really strong connection to Chicago that seems to have fueled a lot of your songwriting and identity as a band. With all the touring and time on the road that you guys are spending these days, do you still feel as connected to your home base as you once did? Yeah, we still get to spend a good amount of time here. Just recently we were here for a full month, which is something that hadn't happened in a while. But I still feel the connection to it, it's not like I've grown closer to any other cities stronger than Chicago, because other cities on tour you only spend a couple of days there. Whereas it's always good to come back to Chicago and see all your friends and go to the places you like to go to. Then go to some great shows that they always are having in Chicago.
Your band is living proof that with the right community and outlets, a group can take off, and I think it's awesome that you've given props to your friends in Chicago in interviews since then. Have you found your circle of allied bands getting wider lately, or do you still roll with the same hometown homies?
Yeah, of course, we've met a ton of people. I'll go to parties and I'll meet people that have heard of Twin Peaks and then they're like, "Oh, I'm in this other band," and then I'll check them out, and usually they'll be pretty damn good. Also, just meeting bands around the country. We did a tour that was almost a month long, and we didn't even stay in any hotels, just because from touring so much we had known so many people in different cities that we just got to stay with friends all over the country. That's a crazy thing to think about, that I could just leave and go on a road trip and pretty much stay for free. That's pretty cool!
In a way, that's a lot like that old school DIY indie circuit thing, where you made a network of friends around the country, and leaned on that to support your tours.
It's strange how natural it happened. I mean, the first tour was a mess but ever since then it's seemed to happen very naturally. Now we just have a really good group of people who are willing to help us out.
This album shows just how well you and Cadien work together as guitar players, there's just a ton of awesome harmony parts and leads that wrap around each other. Do you guys think about that interplay a lot or is it pretty instinctual?
It's more kind of instinct, but we don't think of it think of each other in the sense that one guy is a rhythm guitarist and the other guy is the lead, which is usually how bands think of songs. We just think of them as two guitars, and there's no real reason that anyone has to play the rhythm, which I just call the boring part, and the lead part, which is the fun part to play. We both just come up with things that we enjoy playing that sound interesting and then just kind of bounce 'em off each other.[page]
Wild Onion just came out last month. How did the songs for that album come together, compared to the ones you wrote for Sunken?
Well, Me, Jack and Cadien all write songs, and we're all kinda loners when we do it, so we all just write 'em on our own. We don't always complete 'em, but we pretty much come to band practice with a song and then we all just work on it and do it that way. Whereas with Sunken we were just playing a set for a while and a lot of 'em were just Cadien's songs, and we just banged 'em out in a week on Garageband. This time we actually got to do live stuff in the studio, which was great, we got to lay down multiple instruments at one time, which gives it that raw, 60's vibe sort of thing.
You guys basically doubled the amount of songs from your last record. Were you trying to make a statement with that at all? No, we just had so many that we all thought were good. Well, we had even more, but we didn't record all of 'em, but when we reached what it is now, Wild Onion, we were like "Well...I don't know what I would cut," so we just left it that way. We were listening to Exile on Main Street a lot and we were like "Wow, look at the balls on these guys, they fuckin' made like, an hour long record but it's so cool! Nobody does that anymore!" But ours is still pretty short [laughs]. It's got 16 songs but it still all fits on one LP. There's some short ones on there.
It's got kind of the vibe of a double-album though, with a couple of tracks with repeating themes and a bit of an arc to the track-listing. Did you guys think about sequencing a lot? Yeah, we really gave the sequencing a lot of thought, we actually all sat down in Cadien's room and tried a bunch of different ways that you could listen to the record. So we all agreed upon what we have, which I like, because it almost seems like two different records between Side A and Side B. I'm sure that some people are Side B people, like, that's the side they put on first, and I'm sure some people are Side A folks.
That's the cool thing about vinyl though, that you have that kind of relationship with the sequence. You and I both grew up in the CD generation and that's definitely a different experience.
Yeah man, I mean, vinyl is definitely the best way to listen to music, but with some records...like, I have some Bob Dylan records and sometimes he just has the shittiest songs like, right in between two great songs. So you either get up and you switch it, or you have to listen to the damn thing [laughs].
Who'd you work with in the Studio this time around? Where did you go to record it?
We recorded it at a place called Observatory Studios. We just knew it as this DIY spot, it's up on Lincoln, and it's one of the most legit DIY spots. It's got a bar, and we've seen a ton of great shows there. You go up on the roof and you can smoke and see the whole skyline up there, and it's very beautiful, but they also have a recording studio. We found out about it from the folks who lived there, and so we checked it out and it seemed very cozy.
What's your connection with Minneapolis like? You guys play up here a fair amount since we're so close to home. Have any friends in bands up here?
Oh yeah, we've played up in old 'Minne before! You know Teenage Moods? On our first tour ever we played at their house. We were still in high school, so the whole tour we just played in people's basements and things. We played in their house and they brought out a huge amount of people, and so it was a huge show and we were having a great time. I remember after we played, Gordon [Singer and Guitarist for TM] and this girl came up to us, and they were like "How old are you guys?" And we're like "We're 18" or whatever. So they were like "We really like your band, what are you guys doing?" and we're all like "Oh, we're going to college" and they're like "Aww no man! Fuck that! Don't go to school, what the hell are you going to school for? You ain't gotta do that man, just keep rocking!" I mean, we had already put down the down-payment so we went...for one semester, and then we dropped out!
You're about to play the 21st Birthday of Radio K when you come to Minneapolis, which is a pretty cool considering you guys all turn 21 this year.
Oh yeah! I'm turning 21 on January 20th, five days before Jack's birthday. Shit, that's gonna be pretty cool.
You guys are bringing your friends in NeHi along with on this leg of the tour, how did you link up with those dudes?
Aww yeah, I love those guys man, I've got their record right here. They're just Chicago guys, I met them because they used to practice at this place that I used to live at called Animal Kingdom. It was basically this DIY place, they'd have all these great bands, best bands in Chicago would play this small basement, it was great. I was living in there for a while, and one of the guys was dating one of my roommates, so I got to know them and they're all really cool guys so we became buddies. They just released their first record on a label called Manic Static, so we hit them up because we were looking for cool bands that we wanted to take on tour. Now that we have that power, now that we can actually offer things to other people, we want to make it good. They're all working dudes, but they made it happen!