Nashville based indie rock band Twen, comprised of Jane Fitzsimmons (vocals) and Ian Jones (guitar) as the core members of the band, released their debut album Awestruck on September 20th via Frenchkiss Records. Though unabashedly indie rock, Twen’s songs genre-bend from shoe-gaze-sized walls of sound to Beatle-esque call-and-response harmonies. Fitzsimmons and Jones met and founded Twen in the Boston DIY punk scene, playing basement and house shows and small bars. Their only recording up until this point was a 2017 live EP that was recorded during their debut show in a Boston basement. Since those days, they have been perfecting their live show through nonstop touring over the past two years, cultivating an ever-growing fanbase despite only having a live EP of material. The EP, called Twen Live, documents how far the two have come and how their sound has evolved over the past two years. They released their debut single “Waste” in March of this year, which earned praise from the likes of NPR, Stereogum, Paste, Brooklyn Vegan, Uproxx and Under The Radar. They made the move recently from Boston to Nashville, promptly releasing their next single “Holy Mountain”. Twen set out on a U.S. run with White Reaper earlier this year and recently returned from a European tour with Tacocat. They will be setting out soon on another US tour that will include a hometown release show in Nashville on September 27th (you can purchase tickets HERE). You can follow Twen and stay up-to-date on all upcoming music, artist and tour news, as well as stream and purchase their new album, via the following links:
You will be releasing your debut album on September 20th. I know your 1st EP was just a live recording of songs from your first ever show in Boston. How does it feel to release a proper album, so to speak? I know you have mentioned that had it been a conscious decision, you probably would not have released a live album as your first EP.
Jane– No. It was definitely not a conscious decision, like most of our decisions. I feel like most of our decisions have not been conscious up to this point.
Ian- They just sort of happen!
Jane– Yeah, it’s whatever is in front of us, I guess. Having the actual release of this album has been quite…it’s gone through so many phases and such a long period of time. I don’t think it’s anything that we expected and probably not anything we’d like to repeat (laughs)! We’ve obviously learned so much and are now the people we are today because of that. I don’t even know what I have to say about it.
What would you say were the inspirations behind the song on the album? How do you feel it reflects your growth as artists? How do you feel the sound differs from when you first started out?
Jane– Well, these were the songs that we were playing when we first started out. A couple of songs have been put on the back burner to re-work, but they’re almost all the songs that we wrote at the beginning when we first started writing.
Ian– Like, there’s ten songs on the record and they’re basically the first ten songs that we wrote. The way that it happened was that we were writing the songs and then we moved to Nashville and immediately just started recording. It wasn’t intentional. It just kind of happened and we just kind of fell into it. That ended up being the record. The reason that it has taken so long is because we started recording this like two years ago and it just took forever before we actually finished it. We have all of these new songs that we be on the next record that we’re really jazzed about, and these are all of the older songs. But they are new to everyone else. We’re kind of a year ahead of our audience, I guess, which I guess is a good thing!
Did you re-work the songs in any way when you were recording them?
Jane– Oh yeah! The first round was…
Ian– We had two iterations of the record and one was for the first year, and then a year after we recorded it we went back and re-wrote three or four of the songs. We re-did guitar parts and Jane re-worked her vocal melodies and lyrics.
Jane– We totally changed parts of maybe three of the songs. For a while it was existing because it felt like we weren’t really ready.
Ian– We were such a new band.
Jane– We just got scooped up by someone that was like “I wanna record you”. And we were like “Well, what’s the downside?”. There’s obviously pros and cons to everything and I don’t regret that decision but it definitely wouldn’t be the way that we would have wanted to do it. But I’m super happy for that because it always brings out things you didn’t expect. We had this version of this album that we weren’t really into for like a year and it was getting shopped around. It was so strange to have something that kind of sounded like us but was a shell of what it could be. It was kind of a bummer. It took a lot of that kind of pain and feeling of not being happy with it in order to change it with other people.
Ian– We had to re-take ownership over it and re-write some parts and get into the record again.
Jane– There was a very big period of time where were like “Woah! We’re taking into our control again”.
Ian– We had kind of given it up to other people to produce and mix but then were like “put the fucking brakes on! We’re taking this back. We don’t like what you did and we’re going to re-do it!”. That’s what you’re hearing now. Really what you are listening to on the record with these ten songs is a time stamp of us across two years…the first two years of us being a band. The first song on the record is one of the first songs we wrote and then the last song on the record is the most recent song that we wrote. You are literally listening to a ten song time stamp of two years.
You recently signed with Frenchkiss Records. How has that experience been so far. You have always operated the band in a very DIY way, so do you feel that being with a label has changed the DIY aspect of the band?
Ian– I think so. I think they’ve actually freed us up in a lot of ways. They’ve just become a bank, you know?
Jane– A bank that believes in you!
Ian– It’s like “Can I take out a $50,000 loan?” and it’s like “Oh sure!” (laughs)!
Jane– We’re getting ready, and it’s all that’s on our minds, for our upcoming Europe tour with Tacocat. That would not have been possible without Frenchkiss Records. They’re fronting the cost of us being able to go over there. It feels like we are touring for the first time.
Ian– When we had to do everything ourselves, we didn’t have any music out and our only interaction with the world was through playing live shows that were often in basements and house shows and small bars. Now, with Frenchkiss, there’s a radio team in the US and Europe and all of this other weight behind the operation. That feels really good.
Jane– It’s just other people getting excited about it and telling people.
Ian– They let us do exactly what we want to do.
Jane– We bought the album and were mixing and mastering the album before we had the signing of the contract with Frenchkiss. They were like “Cool”.
Ian– We had already done the album and they just wanted to put it out.
Jane– That’s kind of how it’s been with every little piece of art or thing that we want to do afterwards. We’re like “We wanna do this” and they’re like “Ok”.
Ian– I think they trust our vision to do the right thing and to have an aesthetic taste that is accute and right. If they came in and wanted us to do something that wasn’t right we’d just tell them no.
Will this be your first tour in Europe?
Are you especially looking forward to anything?
Ian– The people! And I want to see the sheep in the English countryside.
Jane– We’ve talked about The Netherlands. I did a little bit of a stint in Amsterdam when I was in school. I did graphic design. They’re the most well-designed country ever, so I’ve wanted to go back there.
Jane- I read that Tacocat played in the basement venue you used to run in Boston. How does it feel to be touring with them after all of these years after they played at your venue?
Jane– It’s surreal and my brain has shut down actually. It just hasn’t been able to think about it. Maybe when we’re in London, on our first day.
Ian– They played in that basement long before we ever thought about this band. We were just 19, so since then we’ve formed a band and we’re going on tour with them, so it’s very weird!
Jane– I think we were in separate bands, and then those bands broke up and then we started this band. A lot has happened since then! It’s wild to think about.
Ian– Our friends that we were in school with, it’s a mindfuck for them to. They’ve been watching this band grow, too, over the past two years. They’re like “Woah. You guys are really doing it!”.
What can you tell me about your latest single “Baptism”? I read that it signals the fresh start that you want to make as a band. You recently reconfigured the line up to just the two of you as the key members. What led you to decide to make that fresh start as a band?
Jane– Pain and confusion (laughs)!
Ian– I think when we first started the band we were a…I mean, it still is a four-piece but we are just like the face of it. We’re the one’s writing the music and whatnot. I think, over the past two years, we learned how to operate and not operate a band. I think when people have a band, a lot of the impulse is towards saying “We’re four equal members. It’s a democracy and everyone gets a vote”. We’ve realized over the past two years that is a sure fire way to have a band explode. We decided that we’re the creative directors here and the ones calling the shots. I mean, it was always that way but we weren’t calling it that. It’s just important for bands to define their roles and to be honest with each other. I think there was a lot of lying to ourselves and our interactions and then that makes you and other people resentful. Leaders have to lead and followers have to follow. And I don’t say that in a negative way. That’s just how any team, company and band works. Everyone has to know what the score is. I think in these bands that are democracies, people end up getting resentful, you know?
Jane– It’s like “Oh, you’re doing this and I’m doing that”. It’s almost like a bad relationship. Well, it is exactly like a bad relationship and even more painful than any break up I’ve known. You start tallying up stuff, trying to make it equal. But each member brings their own thing and you can’t really quantify it. If you try to do that, you’ll just get hurt.
Ian– “Baptism” was one of the first songs we wrote, too. It was all written on one chord until the outro and that was a conscious decision to have it be like an Indian composition, because Indian music is all on one chord. So we wrote the song and it’s all on an A chord and for Jane and I it just sounded like a spiritual quest kind of tune. When Jane started singing, it just felt like that sort of spiritual beginning, the new quest, the restart button.
Jane– The push and pull of wanting something but you’re not even sure what it is, but then you step back it’s this grand thing and something that’s outside of yourself. You open your eyes to it.
Ian– It’s just a mantra of cosmic rebirth.
I read that you make all of your own merch. What can you tell me Jane about your background and interest in crafting? How do you go about deciding what kind of merch you want to make or the designs you want to have on your merch?
Jane/Ian– We’re actually doing that today!
Jane– I actually have my coveralls on right now. I went to school for graphic design and that all came about super reluctantly because I was doing science before that. I was just making stuff for bands, for my friends. That’s how my whole journey into making art began, was me making visuals for music, which I love…the sensory crossover there. I think with the merch, it all comes out of necessity, but then you have this meaningful, tactile thing as well. We just wanted to try out merch at the beginning and just learned screen printing. I did a couple of things for Ian’s other band, Skinny Pigeons. I made some patches for them. I loved the power of it, that I was so in control and you don’t have to answer to anyone and can do whatever you want. We only thrift clothes and are trying to be more sustainable with that. We do that naturally and with selling things. We didn’t want to just buy a big box of t-shirts from Gildan or something that was made in China.
Ian– We don’t want 1,000 Fruit Of The Loom white t-shirts.
Jane– You can’t preach if you don’t practice. You can’t be telling people that you care about the earth if what you’re selling or making is having a huge imprint. We try to have as little imprint as possible. That’s the only thing we would ever come up against the label with is packaging. Little things like shrink wrap.
Ian– They want us to print up plastic CDs, for people who are still using CDs. It’ll just sit in a landfill or trash bin for the next 100 years. I don’t want that blood on my hands.
Jane– No! My name’s on that!
Ian– All of our merch is 100% recycled. We go out and buy it from places like Goodwill.
Jane– We choose things we think are fly that we would want to wear.
Ian– Everything is one of a kind. And then Jane, with every tour or every other tour, designs a new design.
Jane– There’s a new one for Europe. A new design.
Ian– There will be designs for the front and the back. Each one is personalized. Each tour’s merch is personalized. It takes a lot of work and time.
Jane– It feels like some other connection we can have with people. If they do come to a show, it’s something that they can cherish as well and it can mean something to them.
Ian– There are people who will buy each new t-shirt that we do. A lot of people have two or three t-shirts from us. I also think it makes it special for them. I would hope that people get the same feeling from wearing one of our shirts that they would get if our song is stuck in their head. We want to be inside their hearts and their heads.
You performed for the first time this year at SXSW. What were some highlights for you of that experience.
Jane– It was super fun being there. We saw a lot of our friends and met up with a lot of bands and caught a lot of people from all over the country. It was cool seeing people all in one place and just like walking on the street, not even knowing that someone was there. It was at the end of a six week long tour of the US and I don’t recommend that to any upcoming bands, of putting SXSW at the end of a long tour. It was not the best idea. We really wanted to do it, though, so we were just like “Ok. Whatever. Let’s just do it and we’ll figure it all out when we get there”. That experience is always colored for me because I lost my voice at the end of it, which had never happened to me before, so I feel a little emotionally scarred from that. It ended with like four shows in one day, so it was “Oh. Can’t do that again!”. But it was cool. It was cool to see people from all over. SXSW has changed a lot. We went there a couple of years ago, just to attend. It’s tough. I don’t believe in a lot of music festivals these days, but I don’t go to a lot. I know there’s some cool ones out there, but I think the big ones obviously have some baggage that they’ve accumulated over the years. It’s tough to feel all dewey-eyed about it.
What can you tell me about your process for making music video? You have made quite a few and they are all really fun videos. Jane, I read that you directed the video for “Holy Mountain”, how did you enjoy directing and is that something you’d like to do more of going forward?
Jane– Oh, yeah! My goal would be to direct a movie. That would be the coolest thing in the world. I devour movies, whether they’re good or bad. I have good taste and bad taste in movies. It was super fun to have a visual…I don’t know, isn’t it said that film is the highest of art forms? Not to rank things, but it just includes everything so you could have your music, audio, visuals and human experience and things within that, as well. It was super fun to use both of us as these kind of props within our own soundscape that already exists and putting on a different meaning. That really helped a lot with us centering the video on us two. Centering on the band and us being the leaders of the band, that was sort of an affirmation with making the video. It was a way to infuse these songs that have existed for two and a half to three years with a new meaning of how we feel about ourselves now. It affirmed something and we tried to make it true with doing it rather than the other way around.
You have built up a sizable grassroots following since starting out. What has been the most rewarding part for you in cultivating those relationships with your fans, on that grassroots level?
Jane– The merch has been a great connection because we send things out a lot, even when we’re not on tour. And you now the people are are buying it and we’re writing notes to them and things.
Ian– I feel like all of our fans from all of those early tours, where we were just playing to a handful of people each night, that we just made so many friends all over the country. The fulfilling part is when we knew all of our fans. Now it’s to the point where obviously we can’t know everyone. But all of those early adopters, if you will, we love them and cherish them in our hearts. In those days it was just…the line was very blurry between fan and friend because we played to very intimate audiences.
Jane– We would just be in basement playing with maybe two other bands and just hanging out the whole night. It was like a party.
Ian– And now when we see those people in a crowd of other people that we don’t know, you can kind 0f see the growth of the band and that’s a cool feeling. I think that’s pretty fulfilling.
What’s next for the band? What do you have coming up after tour? Do you have any specific goals for the band going forward?
Ian– Yeah. When we get back from Europe we’ll do a North America tour split up into three legs. That takes us through Christmas.
Jane– Yeah, we’ll just be touring until then. We have about a month in between where we’ll be working on a lot of band stuff and writing more.
Ian– Yeah, we’ll be writing new music. We have to start thinking about the second record. Really, I’m excited to finally have…it’s weird. We’re going to Europe and our record isn’t even out yet. I’m most excited for when we get back and the record comes out that week and we start touring for the record. I’m most excited to see whether people that show up to the shows will have been listening to the record. That will be our first time experiencing that. We’re ready for it because for three years we’ve been touring without any recorded music. I feel like now we might actually make an imprint because people will know the songs and they might be a little more jazzed to hear us play it live.
With the new music, are you trying out new sounds? Will it sound different from this album?
Ian– Yeah. We’re never going to repeat ourselves. It will be a different record for sure!
Jane– I think we try to do that with every single song.
Ian– Yeah, we never try to write the same song twice. Every riff has to have a different flavor. Every drum beat has to be a little different.
Jane– We’re trying to just be excited for us, sort of in a selfish way. It’s not about you guys (laughs). We have to do it every day, so we want to make something exciting and new that feels almost out of our comfort zone. It’s exciting stuff.
Ian– This record’s kind of heavy in the rock sound. It’s kind of bashy. I think the next record will be a bit danceable. It might be more danceable rock. Even that means a million different things!
Jane– A heavier groove!
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me today!
Ian/Jane– Thanks so much!