The video for Twin Peaks' "Butterfly," off of 2016's "Down In Heaven."

Born Singing ‘Superfly’: Talking with Twin Peaks’ Clay Frankel

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Chicago-based Twin Peaks effortlessly combine the visceral playfulness of The Rolling Stones circa Tattoo You and the wind-up punk rock sensibilities of Atlanta, GA’s Black Lips — crafting a sound both sonically satisfying and lyrically punchy.

June 3, Twin Peaks will perform at the Nelsonville Music Festival — and just a few weeks before that performance, WOUB’s Emily Votaw was given a phone number for Cadien Lake James, one of the band’s two guitarist/vocalists, for an interview to preview their Southeast Ohio appearance. After a initial call didn’t connect, she left a voicemail and was working on an email to reschedule the interview appointment with the band’s kindly press people when her phone lit up.

She answered, and the result was a winding, often goofy, and, truly, informative, conversation with Clay Frankel, also a vocalist and guitarist for the outfit. They talked about the band’s most recent release — the live double LP Urbs in Horto, as well as the virtues of Neil Young, Deerhunter, and, of course, The Grateful Dead.

Twin Peaks. (Daniel Topete)
Twin Peaks. (Daniel Topete)

WOUB: Thank you so much for your time, and for figuring out a way to fit me in!

Clay Frankel: Sure thing, it’s what we do. The guy you were supposed to talk to, Cadien, he’s asleep.

WOUB: No problem. Could you tell me a little bit about the live double LP, Urbs in Horto, that you guys just put out?

CF: Yeah. We put out Urbs in Horto after touring for quite a while. When we came back, we did three nights in Chicago and we had some friends at Treehouse Studios record those shows. The first night had a weird warble in it, so the first night was kind of trashed. We just took 20 songs from the second and third night, really. It’s very different from a studio album — it’s raw, there are a lot of mistakes, a lot of screaming.

WOUB: Are you guys on the road right now?

CF: We’re on our way to *puts on Southern twang* Mobile, Alabama to play a show.

WOUB: Nice. If my research is correct, you guys have known each other for a long time.

CF: I’ve known everyone since I was 15 or 16 years old.

WOUB: How do you tour so intensively and not get irritated with each other?

CF: Well, we bring other friends along. Back in the day, it would just the be the four of us just driving along, and that can be kind of stressful. Now we have a couple of good guys who travel with us; and we get to choose who we tour with, so we always pick bands that we know we’re going to get along with. You know, sometimes things just go alright.

WOUB: For sure! What did the band first bond over when you were getting to know each other?

CF: I went to high school with Connor, and we listened to a lot of similar music. We both liked the band Girls, which had just put out their first record back then — and we both liked Black Lips and Deerhunter. We also had similar sense of humor. We became friends before we ever played music together.

WOUB: Could you tell me about that sense of humor? I feel like it comes out in the music that you guys make. Seems like you’re a loveable bunch. It really comes out in the music videos.

(Daniel Topete)
(Daniel Topete)

CF: Sh*t, I don’t know. We’re just goofy. We don’t take that sh*t too seriously. It just comes out how we do it. We tend to make them on the cheaper side of things. Not a lot of production or anything like that.

WOUB: Makes sense! A lot of times people draw parallels between your music and The Replacements, The Rolling Stones, vintage acts — and I was wondering if you guys feel like you’re genuinely pulling inspiration from older music?

CF: I’d say that we are influended by older music; we even do a Rolling Stones cover on the live record. It’s obvious just through our music and how we talk to people. I feel like we kind of fall somewhere between Black Lips and The Rolling Stones. On the punker side of things, but still with the rock ‘n’ roll vibe of The Stones.

WOUB: I can see it. Have you always been a musician?

CF: Yeah, I was born singing.

WOUB: Really? What were you singing?

CF: I was born singing “Superfly” by Curtis Mayfield. It was pretty tight. All the doctors were impressed.

WOUB: Well, are you guys working on new material?

CF: Yeah, we just finished recording six songs before we left when went home for a little bit. We all write a ton of stuff, I have a ton of stuff written, it’s just a matter of finding time to record since we tour so much. But yeah, there’s going to be some new, hot stuff on the way.

WOUB: Can you give me any sneak peeks?

CF: Yeah, I have this one tune where I change genders, like I sing like point of girl and then I got a girl to sing it with me and it’s very sexy. Then we have some rockers and some loose, bluesy, swamp rockers and chicken stompers. We have our first Twin Peaks recording that only has one person on it, and that’s Cadien’s song, just straight tape singing and playing an acoustic guitar and stomping, and it’s like an old blues recording. It’s all cool but it’s pretty all over the place.

WOUB: I’m sure! Cadien has been quoted as saying that you guys are trying to never make two records that sound the same. Is there could you speak to that? Is that something you guys put a concerted effort into?

CF: It’s more of a habit that we’ve acknowledged and embraced, it’s not an intention to make everything so different but it’s just how we do it, that’s how the record. We enjoy we cohesive records, but the songs gotta be different and keep your attention. We have four songwriters in the group who write a good amount all the time, so it’s just easy to lay down what you like. If you like the song, don’t try and fit it into any type of sound. If you put your name on it, that’s your song, you don’t have to worry about it fitting any pattern of work.

WOUB: Well, I know that you guys are on the road a lot, is there anything you’ve been listening to a bunch recently?

CF: yeah I’ve been listening to a lot of Kraftwerk and a lot of Neil Young.

WOUB: Nice! What Neil Young?

CF: Harvest Moon, that record is great. We listen to a ton of Neil Young and a lot of the Grateful Dead — thanks to our spiritual guide and van driver. He’s a big dead head and he is tutoring us in the ways.

WOUB: Great, well thank you for your time. Is there anything you’d like to say about coming here to the Nelsonville Music Festival in June?

CF: Just have some cold beer ready for me.

The cover of Twin Peaks most recent album "Down In Heaven."
The cover of Twin Peaks most recent album “Down In Heaven.”