Photography: Daniel Topete
Twin Peaks are DIY dandies. Since their inception in 2013, the boys have released three albums, each differing in style and approach. They’re resilient. Paying for their own studio time in bleak Chicago winters, mixing on GarageBand, recording in basements – it’s been a steep mountain or two to climb. Yet year-by-year, they do it yet again. A new album, a new sound. With each new release, Twin Peaks self-destruct, forming a new avalanche of Avalon. If you’ve seen the band live, you’ll know what exactly we mean.
Down in Heaven is the band’s latest release. With a fifth member on board (Colin Croom on keys and guitar), they’re sounding bigger than ever. Walk to the One You Love tackles setting your loved ones free, over a Bang a Gong hook. Wanted You is a Stones-esque blues tune, stitched together by fraying heart strings. It’s the wailing of a failing relationship: “I wanted you – but you didn’t want me. Good Lord, heaven knows I’m bad with love,” the boys sneer in unison.
The track listing is a group effort too. With four songwriters and five vocalists in the mix, you’d expect Down in Heaven to stop and start like no one’s business – yet it glides seamlessly. Twin Peaks have come a long way since their 2013 dawning. Though, as we still get to grips with the hips of their latest, Clay explains plans of album number four.
Editor, Woody Cecilia, caught up with Clay Frankel to discuss house shows, Trump and tips on playing drunk.
Cool Brother: Charlie Wyatt from Thee MVPs has a question… Why don’t you like doing interviews?
Clay Frankel: [Laughs] I guess, for the most part, they become kind of repetitive. They can be the same questions over and over sometimes – and I just like to do the music, you know? I don’t like to talk so much – but I’m happy to talk to you! [Laughs].
CB: Nice recovery. Next up: how quickly can you drink a two-dollar glass of miller high life?
CF: Two seconds.
CB: I don’t believe you!
CF: I’ll prove it to you one day.
CB: Can you explain how Chicago’s music scene is different from the rest?
CF: It certainly was [more DIY] when we started playing. It’s kind of how we got the whole thing going. It was the only [way] we knew for a while. There were a lot of house shows that we’d play, growing up, and that was the best time. They were free for the most part, and our friends could come and drink.
"I guess for the most part, about 80% of the time they’re stoned, but that’s just how they function. I don’t know why people think we’re stoned all the time."
CB: How do you think the DIY spirit came about originally?
CF: I think most of the venues in Chicago are 21+, because they just wanna make money off alcohol sales, and then tickets are fifteen bucks, and that can be expensive! So it’s partly that… Why show up at a venue where you hardly get paid, and all your friends have to throw down all this money, when (if you’ve got space in a basement somewhere) you can bring your own beer and anyone can come, whatever age they are? It’s a better atmosphere, you can have more fun, it’s more like a party.
CB: House shows are becoming a rare breed though…
CF: Yeah, they are, you know. It’s hard, living in a city… You have neighbours on either side of you always complaining, so the police shut it down. I used to live at one! It was a pretty popular place, but then the police shut that down too, so [Chicago’s] not as flush as it used to be.
CB: Is this the end, or will house shows bounce back?
CF: Well, there’ll always be people who want to play music and there’ll always be people who want to host shows at their houses or apartments – it just goes through spells, you know, so it’ll just carry on!
CB: Supposedly you’re good at playing drunk. Have you got any tips?
CF: [Laughs] I’m good at playing drunk, ‘cus that’s how we started. At the house shows, you would be drunk – you would have to be drunk! But yeah, you know, practice makes perfect.
"Trump winning the election wasn’t a shock, really. I had a bad feeling about it all along. We’ve travelled really extensively in the states – and it’s a big, god damn country. Maybe Trump will inspire some new punk stuff…"
CB: So just get drunk all the time is what you’re saying?
CF: Yeah [laughs] – just I wouldn’t mix a ton of alcohol before you go on. Like, sometimes I’ll do wine night, and just drink red wine – and that’s fun, it’s just a slower kind of drunk. But, usually, stick with beer and maybe a few shots of something, and don’t go all over the place.
CB: The recording process between Wild Onion and Down in Heaven seems quite different. What sort of space and surroundings do you think are needed for the perfect recording?
CB: Yeah, it was a lot more fun. Wild Onion, we did in Chicago in a studio. We recorded it all ourselves, we had to pay for studio time and we were supposed to show up at 9am everyday – we were on a schedule. But for Down in Heaven, there was absolutely no schedule. That was pretty great! It was a lot more fun to do it that way. It was recorded in this beautiful house and there was a lot more experimentation, because it didn’t feel like there was any pressure.
CB: I think that’s so much nicer as well, because now you’ll have fond memories attached to the songs.
CF: Yeah, totally! Like, even if we hadn’t made a record, I genuinely had a really good time out there, and all I can really remember from the Wild Onion stuff was freezing my ass off, walking to the studio, and everything happening in this one room. It was one of the coldest winters Chicago ever had. It became so monotonous.
CB: I know you guys are pals with Chance the Rapper. Any chance of a collaboration down the line?
CF: I would only do it if he wanted me to rap on one of his songs – I don’t want him rapping on my shit, do you know what I mean?
CB: Can you rap?
CF: No, I don’t think so [Laughs].
"We’re gonna go on tour in December, so come January, we’re gonna pull the next album together."
CB: You have four lyricists amongst the six of you. You must be coming up with new tunes constantly!
CF: Yeah, that’s the case! But we tour for a long time, so we write our own songs in our heads, and once we get a break from touring, that’s when we all come together and we’re like, “Well, this is what I’ve got…”.
CB: Does being deemed as a stoner/slacker band rub you up the wrong way at all? After all, your work ethic is clearly pretty enormous.
CF: Yeah, it does – I don’t even smoke weed, I stopped smoking like a year ago! People come up to me at shows, trying to make me smoke weed with them. When I tell them I don’t smoke, they get furious, and they think I’m lying to them. I don’t know why people think we’re stoned all the time – I guess for the most part, about 80% of the time, they’re stoned. But… That’s just how they function.
CB: What pizza’s the best, New York pizza or Chicago deep dish?
CF: Chicago pizza!
CB: Worth making a trip to Chicago for just a slice, ya reckon?
CF: It would be worth the $8000 ticket, for sure. Definitely! [Laughs]
CB: Were you surprised by Trump’s victory?
CF: It wasn’t a shock, really… I kind of had a bad feeling about it all along. Like, we’ve travelled really extensively in the states, and I understand most people from Chicago are like, “How could this happen? How is this possible?” But I don’t know, it’s a big, god damn country. There are only a few spots that have views like Chicago, and I just kept that in mind. I’m not totally baffled.
CB: On a more positive note, do you think the presence of Trump will change the current music climate?
CF: Erm, hmmm… Yeah, maybe there’ll be some new punk stuff, I don’t know. Maybe it’ll influence some good lyrics.
CB: What does 2017 hold for you guys?
CF: I hope to put out a new record that’s even better than the last one. It usually takes no more than a month to make a record – all the music and stuff, and then it takes like six months to get it release-ready. It takes like forever to get those things final pressed and mixed and mastered and whatever, but the recording usually takes no more than a month. We’re gonna go on tour in December, so come January, we’re gonna pull [the track listing] all together.
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