Twin Peaks: They are your dudes
by Halee Hastad
photo by by Daniel Topete
Picture this: five sweaty and unshowered dudes in unwashed clothing. They are in a van travelling up and down and all around the United States, Europe too. They have been friends since before puberty. They might be drunk and they are probably high.
This is Twin Peaks, the band.
Their reputation both presently and over the last half-decade has been that of the laid-back, late-60s rockstar dreamers. And not without reason.
But don’t be fooled by the beer-stained tie-dye, dear reader, this is a sophisticated bunch.
Chicago-born, the Twin Peaks quintet is Cadien Lake James (vocals, guitar), Clay Frankel (vocals, guitar), Jack Dolan (vocals, bass), Colin Croom (keys, vocals, guitar) and Connor Brodner (drums).
I spoke with Jack in mid-March while he was back in Chicago, “just chilling” in his apartment. He shared with me sentiments on being a young band that are both intimate and revealing of the music industry from the perspective of millennials living a rock and roll dream from many decades before themselves.
My sense was this – it takes a certain amount of faith, and beer, to keep this type of dream alive. In an era when success may be judged no longer by live performance or quality of album, but by the number of Instagram followers or YouTube hits, it can be easy to get swallowed up in the heedless and unwavering minutia of aesthetic, not talent.
But these guys are holding it down and keeping it real. Partly because they have been together for the majority of the group’s existence, growing up with each other on the road, and forming a very much genuine identity as a band.
Peaks formed in 2009, fostered by shows in local basements and garages of the mid-west. Cadien’s older brother had played in the now late band Smith Westerns, which was a primary influence on the music and lifestyle of Peaks in their beginning stages, Jack said.
Being from Chicago sets them apart from many of the West Coast 60s and 70s rock-n-roll-inspired bands. There isn’t an ocean beach to run to. The weather isn’t warm and pleasant all year round. These guys aren’t necessarily tanned. No, Chicago has a darker nerve. The scene there is, not unlike Bellingham, one of the underground DIY persuasion.
“It’s grungy,” Jack said. “It’s not giving a f#ck.”
And their music is reflective of this.
Take a moment to watch any one of Twin Peaks’ music videos and you’ll see all of this “not giving a fuck” flaunted. They roll joints with parking tickets, crush beers by the swimming pool, stagger in the nude around graveyards. You get it.
I asked Jack if Peaks live up to their bad boy reputation.
“I think most definitely,” he said.
Albeit all of this no harm intended audacity, the evolution of their three albums begs refined maturity.
The first, Sunken, a mini-LP released in 2013, was produced simply to have something to pass out to people while touring, Jack said. It was raw, colorful, somewhat nervous. And it caught on. The sound was likened to that of the Strokes, with slurred vocals and undulating riffs.
Wild Onion follows as an album that is twice as long as the 20-minute Sunken, and offers more diversity in the way of the band’s sound.
“We still had no experience with making a cohesive album,” Jack said. “So it was sort of all over the place, we didn’t want to cut anything.”
The angst of Sunken transfers, but the nervousness seems to wade. Wild Onion shows development in both technique and style. It is indicative of the growth and experience the members had undergone over the course of touring and being away from home. The sound is something like the early sounds of The Growlers with an overarching air of Tom Petty. They scream, they moan. They croon and they bring some groove. The melodies of Wild Onion are reminiscent of The Beatles meeting Ty Segall at a dive bar with white linen tablecloths, if you know what I mean.
Peaks’ latest album, Down in Heaven, is something of a combination of the years of shows, touring, and practice that have come before them. It is not that they leave any part of themselves behind, but moreso they bring together all they have created, reflect on how it has had an impact on their experience thus far, and create something much more developed.
“The album is growing up in a band,” Jack said. “It is learning how to be a human without living a regular, or mainstream, or whatever, life.”
In part, this may be a result of the environment which they produced the album – rural, quiet, contemplative, Down in Heaven was recorded at a home/studio in northern Massachusetts. Also to be considered is the amount of “bad boy” partying that took place before the album. It seems the dawn of a new day has come for this band – less beer bongs, less sleeping on the floor.
“We aren’t partying all of the time like we used to… we are getting more serious,” Jack said. “It’s not sustainable to go on these big tours and be exhausted from the night before all of the time.”
And in almost the same breath he laughs and says they are looking forward to their upcoming American tour because they can smoke weed in the van all day, without the apprehension they experienced during their tour last summer/fall in Europe.
It’s this sentiment that seems to, in some ways, sum up the spirit of the band – they are not so wild and naive to mess around with European law because it wouldn’t be worth compromising the potential of a European tour, but at the same time they are going to smoke weed in the van when they can, because they can.
Twin Peaks are growing up, and they are doing it well. They know their audience because they have been the audience. They may still be drunk or high, but they are not belligerent. They are the type of band that makes you forget about your lame day job and remember what it feels like to shake your head and not give a f#ck for a few hours. They are DIY, they are style and grace. They are naughty, and they are a force to be reckoned with.
Twin Peaks plays in Bellingham at the Shakedown on Saturday, April 8 with White Mystery and Fauna Shade. For more about the band, check out twinpeaksdudes.com.