At the age of 21, the four musicians in Twin Peaks have already been interviewed by publications ranging from the highbrow McSweeney's to their hometown Chicago Tribune. Their combination of power pop and garage rock has, over the course of two albums and an EP, earned comparisons to The Replacements and The Stones.
Twin Peaks have also played for close to a thousand people at SXSW. And, in what has become a rite of passage for Chicago acts like The Smith Westerns and The Coctails, they appeared on Chic-A-Go-Go, a public-access children's dance show that's hosted by a rat puppet.
"I never really watched the show live on television, but I always watched a lot of the videos on YouTube, because they had some of my favorite bands," says guitarist Clay Frankel — one of Twin Peaks' three singer-songwriters — who lip-synched and strummed a broom during the band's TV debut. "It's really old-school. You've got the recording, so there's no way you're going to fuck up the song."
Not that Twin Peaks would. In the five years since they started out on Chicago's North Side — Frankel's bandmates Cadien Lake James, Jack Dolan and Connor Brodner all worked part-time in the same hot dog stand — Twin Peaks have become incredibly tight onstage and off. Yet through it all, they still possess a hyperkinetic energy, post-adolescent swagger and sheer musicality that make them one of the best live acts out there.
Indy: I'm sure you all get tired of the Replacements comparisons, but in a live setting, I could totally see a similarity to their Let It Be-era shows. Not so much on the nights they were so wasted they couldn't stand up long enough to finish a Kiss cover, but more on the nights they had it together and were really going for it. That's not really a question, but maybe you can answer it anyway.
Clay Frankel: Well, you know, we have our off nights, but it's usually more due to technical malfunctions. And sure, we've had nights where some of us have been too wasted to play. We had one night in New Orleans where Cadien was fucking black-out drunk, and he eventually fell and broke his ankle. And there might have even been a fucking Kiss cover in there, too. [Laughs.]
But yeah, usually we just go all out. We try to get people to stop looking at their goddamn phones while we're playing. So you've gotta give them something to look at.
A local musician here, Rence Liam, told me he played the same house show as you a few years ago in Missoula, Montana.
No way, at The Lab?
Is that what it's called?
Yeah, that was 2012, right when we graduated from high school. I remember we showed up way too early, like two in the afternoon, and it was just kind of like a crusty headquarters. And all these people were surviving because there was a Domino's across the street and they knew the times when they threw out all the leftover pizzas. [Laughs.] So they brought over all these leftover pizzas and we were just drinking beer until we hit the stage at like three in the morning. Yeah, it was a good time.
It occurred to me while listening to the song "Strange World" [off the band's new album, Wild Onion] that you could easily imagine a string accompaniment working with it. As you develop as songwriters, do you find yourself moving away from standard three-chord rock arrangements?
Yeah, even our first record had a lot of like Mellotron under a lot of the guitar leads. We put a lot of things in there that don't turn up live, especially as we move on. But we also want to hold on to the raw sound, which I think is important.
I've also noticed that songs like "Telephone" will start in one place and then end up somewhere completely different, rather than taking the standard verse-chorus-verse approach. Is that something you intentionally set out to do?
I think it just develops naturally. But yeah, that's like the whole mentality of a lot of our music. A lot of music today is very repetitive and just uninteresting. And I think there's nothing wrong with repetition, as long as you keep something in there that, I don't know, makes people listen longer. And that's kind of how our album is. I mean, it's all over the place, so you don't really feel safe as you're listening to it.