SUMMER TWINS: I FEEL LIKE IT WAS FATE
Summer Twins are not twins, but they are a pair of sisters who make vintage-sounding girl rock, and their ascent along the x-axis of fame could soon be more inspiring to a lot of young people than Al Gore’s hockey stick. Backed by Burger Records, their dad, and the big-fish confidence that comes from growing up in Riverside’s small pond, these gals are ready to tackle the tough road ahead, even if they do have a thing for balloons, party dresses and cuteness. They play this Friday at Desert Daze with Bleached, Audacity and more. This interview took place at the Brite Spot because Masa overwhelmed the recorder. This interview by D.M. Collins.
You’re big in Japan.
C: We had a cover band in Japan. This girl—she’s my age, a 21-year-old woman— sent me an email asking me for the lyrics to our first EP. So I sent her the lyrics, and about a month later she sent us a video of her all-girl band covering two of our songs. That was crazy! It was such an amazing feeling—I was kind of shocked.
Three years in the making, and you already have a cover band! What was your impetus to start Summer Twins?
J: Well, we had been in another band before called the Scandells, and that was kind of ending. It was more pop.
C: It was an all-girl band, very influenced by the Ramones and Buzzcocks. She kind of learned to play drums by copying the Buzzcocks! That was our first band—how we learned to write songs and play gigs.
Were you influenced by the Donnas?
C: We were into the Donnas a lot! They were kind of like the only girl band around at the time that was kind of doing it. We also always liked the Beatles and the Kinks and 60s stuff. Kind of a weird mixture—we were 13, 14, that kind of age where you’re trying to decide what you like, and who you are.
And when you figured it out, you formed Summer Twins.
C: After that band split up, we decided we didn’t want to do that kind of thing, the ‘all-girl power pop.’
But you guys haven’t totally lost your girl-power cred, right? You played Grrrl Fest in Orange County.
J: That was actually kind of a bad show. We weren’t a good fit.
C: Horrible! People really want to put us in the category of Riot Grrrl because we’re girls and we play music. But I don’t feel like we fit. We’re all for girl-power and girls playing music but, you know, we’re a little more laid-back, more into 60s girl groups. We like to just have good When you were younger, did you try to get in touch with your influences?
C: We definitely have given our music to artists we like. That’s kind of been our thing for a couple years. I’ve done some crazy things to get our music into the hands of bands we like. Once I was really into Jenny Lewis, and I tied our demo to a stuffed bunny rabbit and I threw it on stage! And that worked! She grabbed the bunny rabbit, and she was really happy! And we snuck backstage at Coachella last year and talked with the Black Keys.
Are you saying it’s okay for some fan-band to sneak backstage at your show and give you a demo?
C: Maybe if they put it in a birthday cake. Or a basket with a kitten!
Who else is in the band now? Who’s on the new album?
C: There’s Marcio Rivera, who plays guitar, and Danny Delgado plays bass for us.
J: For now it’s pretty permanent. We’ve been through a few bass players and a few guitarists. But we’ve been with them for about two years.
The album sounds so classic. It’s a completely analog recording?
C: Yeah. We recorded at Unisex Studios in Los Angeles with Don Bolles and John Dust.
How was it working with Don Bolles?
C: It was pretty awesome! At first we didn’t know it was Don’s studio. We talked to John, and met him through a mutual friend, and he was like, ‘Yeah, I have a studio.’ We booked the studio, and the day we got there to record we found out that Don was part of the studio and who he was.
What was a creative choice he made that we’ll recognize on the record?
J: We simplified a lot of my drum parts! We took out a bunch of fills and stripped it down. It kind of made it tedious at the time, and I was kind of stressing out about it, but it sounds better simplified.
C: We applied that not just to the drums, but to every instrument, relearning the songs. We originally booked a week in the studio, and we ended up being there for a month. Our dad was really the one who pushed us to go into a real studio—we were just going to go into a friend’s basement or whatever, kind of lo-fi, and he pushed us to try and find some producers who would make it better. We were really lucky to find Don—I feel like it was fate! It was such a good match.
What’s the duet about?
C: That song is called ‘I Could Never Break Your Heart.’ The song is not really a love song, it’s more about meeting someone and being excited about them, but kind of leaving it at that for fear of being let down by them. You know, if you get to know each other, there’s a chance that it won’t work out. It’s kind of pessimistic, but I guess that’s where I was in my love life at the time. Nothing ever worked out. ‘What’s the point?’ It’s kind of better to leave it on that good note, where they stay how they are in your head as this dreamboat. Whereas if you get to know them, they might turn out to be a disappointment. My boyfriend [Cameron Thorne from Naive Thieves] actually sings with me.
Some of these songs sound more grown up than what I’ve heard before. It’s like the womanly approach of Nancy Sinatra versus the teen sound of Shadow Morton.
C: Yeah, definitely. I feel like this album was a little more developed and a little more mature than our first release.
Is that just life bearing down on you? Things are getting harder?
C: I think so. Our first EP came out when I was … 18? I’m 21 now. So I think it’s just part of us growing up.
You’ve been hitting the booze, now that it’s legal.
Both: Yeah, ha ha ha!
The album is on Burger Records. How did that come about?
C: We had always wanted to be on Burger—and we had always wanted to be in L.A. RECORD! We had been following you guys, and them, and that was like our dream. No one knew who we were! I kept telling myself, ‘We’ll be in L.A. RECORD one day!’
I’m blushing! What were some bands on Burger that you thought were cool?
C: Well, first of all Thee Makeout Party. We played shows with Audacity when we were younger. They would give us free tapes and we’d listen to the tapes in the van on the way to the show. Conspiracy of Owls, Feeding People! We knew we wanted to be on there, so we went and dropped off our EP and said, ‘Hey, here is our stuff. We’re playing at Detroit Bar, come see us play.’ And after they saw us play, they were really into it. From there we released the cassette, and then the album.
Burger gives off such a positive vibe. It almost makes me surprised at how productive they are.
C: Me too! It’s because they love music so much. They want everyone to know about it. There’re no limits for them. They don’t see limits. It’s like reaching for the sky, and encouraging us to do that too. Being from Riverside, we didn’t know anyone really. We didn’t have any connections out in L.A., so we had to work really hard and play a ton of shows until people started taking notice. Burger was one of the first to really listen and say, ‘Hey, you guys are good.’ They gave us a little push, and we’ve just been playing a ton of shows in the last two years. They helped us build a platform to help put our music out there.
Would you want to collaborate with some of the bands?
C: I think it would be fun to sing backups. Do our girl-group back-up harmonies on someone else’s music. When we toured with King Tuff last year, I brought it up that we should write a song together. I still think that would be cool.
On a Witch album?
C: Ha ha, yeah!
Do any of your own songs have death or destruction in them?
C: No. The darkest point it probably reaches is heartbreak. And nightmares.
Could that change? Maybe on your fourth album cover you’ll be covered in blood?
J: I don’t think so. I think maybe we could get a little bit less cutesy.
C: Who knows? We have lots of tours and albums in front of us. Maybe if something crazy happens during that time that scars us.
Have you ever done a show where you were the most balls-out rocking band, and everyone else was softer?
J: I can’t think of anything in particular … but we DO like to rock out!
C: I think a lot of people assume when they see us, if they haven’t seen us live before, just based on our appearance …
J: Yeah, I’m like tiny—‘Oh, she can’t play drums.’
C: I think in particular, when Justine starts playing, people are almost a little shocked at first. She’s a great drummer.
I feel like you guys are very aware not just about the music, but about your brand, for lack of a better word. So if people have a misconception about how you might sound based on your image, isn’t that your fault?
C: I think it could be. We’re into cutesy stuff, and some of our music is … cute? I think people are surprised at the rock side of it, that we can really rock out.
L.A. RECORD, BLUNDERTOWN AND BURGER RECORDS PRESENT SUMMER TWINS WITH BLEACHED, AUDACITY, DEATH HYMN #9, PANGEA, LOVELY BAD THINGS, BLUE JUNGLE AND MORE ON FRI., APR. 13, AT DESERT DAZE AT DILLON’S ROADHOUSE, 64647 DILLON RD., N. PALM SPRINGS. 3 PM / FREE! BUT $5 SUGGESTED DONATION / ALL AGES TIL 10 PM / 21+ AFTER. MORE INFO HERE! SUMMER TWINS’ SELF-TITLED ALBUM IS OUT NOW ON BURGER RECORDS. VISIT SUMMER TWINS AT SUMMERTWINSMUSIC.COM.