The Class of 2011: An Interview with Twin Sister

Twin Sister

Long Island’s Twin Sister have been gaining momentum.  Last year, their EP Color Your Life finished 13th in Gorilla vs. Bear’s best of 2010 list, and the band finished 3rd in the “Best Hope for 2011” category of Pitchfork’s Readers’ Poll.  2011 has arrived and, following a well-received set at the Pitchfork Music Festival, they are ready to release their debut LP In Heaven September 27th on Domino Records.  Drummer Bryan Ujueata was kind enough to take some time to answer some of our questions about the band’s past, present, and future.

Frontier Psychiatrist: A couple of things stand out whenever I read anything about you guys.  The first is that you are uniformly referred to as a “Long Island” band.  If you google “bands from Long Island,” all you find are Blue Oyster Cult, Twisted Sister, and Taking Back Sunday.  Which is to say: in the image-conscious indie world, it’s pretty ballsy to identify yourself as Long Islanders.  Is this a conscious, courageous decision, a secret that leaked out, or just a plain fact?

Bryan Ujueata: It’s just plain fact.  The reason the confusion exists is because a majority of us have lived in Brooklyn at different points in time.  Also, listing ourselves as a “Brooklyn band” was convenient early on in our career so we would get contacted about playing more NYC shows, which were the better ones.

FP: The second thing I notice is that I can’t get through a sentence without reading that you are an “indie-pop quintet.”  Yet if listeners grab Color Your Life expecting something like Cults or Tennis, they’re in for a surprise.  The songs on that EP are much more structurally complex than typical “indie pop,” they’re more danceable, and they’re just plain longer.  Do you feel that you’re an “indie pop” group, and if not, how would you classify yourself.  Or would you classify yourself at all?

BU: I guess no classification is nice but impossible to expect.  Indie pop is okay, because we make pop music and have only been signed to independent record labels.  Genre has hardly ever been titled by musicians.  I’m sure Television hated being called punks. Krautrock was an infamously stupid genre title also, coined by press.  People can call us what they want, were just doing our thing.

FP: At least no one’s calling you “chillwave.”  Your first full-length In Heaven comes out on September 27th.  How much time did you spend working on the record?  And where did you record?

BU: We spent 4 months on it in the winter of 2011.  Most tracking was done at a studio called Miner Street with the help of Brian McTear and Jon Low.  Rehearsal and some tracking was done from home in Watermill, NY during the same time.

FP: Other than the debut single “Bad Street” and the title track, do any of the songs on your website appear on the album?

BU: Not as they appear on the record.  There’s demo’s and live performances of “Daniel,” “Space Babe,” “Kimmi in a Rice Field,” “Luna’s Theme,” “Saturday Sunday” and “Eastern Green” from 2009 and 2010.  A lot of the material on the record has been floating around for a little bit.

FP: The video for “Bad Street” seems to depict the band members having a lot of fun at the birthday party of a Latino family.  Can you let us in on the inspiration for this video?

BU: Andrea [Estella, the band’s lead vocalist] wanted to re-create the sort of parties that her parents brought her to as a little girl. She’s Latina. We sort of smushed together some traditions from different holidays into one party, just to make sure it would be lively, but it was mostly a birthday for a 2-year-old girl, a family friend.

FP: The cover art on the new record is really remarkable.  Is there any story behind that portrait?

BU: Jonny Negron did all the artwork for the record.  We’ve know him for a long time and a couple of us have lived with him in the past.  He’s been doing really well lately; we’re so proud of him.  It’s certainly well-deserved, he’s been working hard at it for a very long time.  There were some concepts thrown around before he began working but we ended up cropping into a larger drawing that involved Andrea’s portrait.

Twin Sister - In Heaven

FP: You’ve performed with some of our favorites this summer (Wild Nothing, John Maus), and will be performing with some of our favorites later this year (Wild Beasts, Explosions in the Sky).  Is there anyone you have particularly enjoyed/are looking forward to performing with?

BU: They’re all great.  Every band we tour with is a great opportunity to see how others acts make music work for themselves.

FP: Last year Andrea performed Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” with The Morning Benders.  I don’t have a question here; I just want to show the video because it’s awesome.

BU: Awesome!

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FP: You’ve been getting an increasing amount of press recently, and you played Pitchfork this summer.  Do you feel like you’re getting to the point where you can be a band full-time?  Or are you already there?

BU: We were there but now some of us had to get real jobs again because we had time off.  “Time off” at this point of career means no money.

FP: The following sentence appeared courtesy of Bryan in an interview you did with Pitchfork: “I want to score Godard’s last film [everybody laughs].”  But seriously.  Are you interested in working on films in the future?  (Disclosure: we employ a Long Island filmmaker who may need scoring assistance in the future).

BU: We all love movies.  I’m sure if the right project came along and we had the time we would hop into the project.  Especially that Godard movie.

Très Indie Pop

FP: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us!

Twin Sister’s debut LP In Heaven is due out September 27th via Domino Records.  They will be touring the US and Europe throughout the fall, including a show at New York’s Mercury Lounge on September 29th.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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