Interview: Mr Twin Sister: “There was no question of whether we’d continue”

Accident, emergency, zero money - nothing’s stopped this Brooklyn outfit from releasing a triumph of a new record.

“Physically, it had a huge impact. Some of us were in bed, in casts, for weeks and weeks - in and out of surgeries.”

For a young band driving from town to town in a tour van, finding themselves on the road more often than they’re off of it, a traffic accident is nothing short of a nightmare scenario. For Mr Twin Sister, though, it’s something that became reality around eighteen months ago, when a car accident in Tallahassee, Florida wrecked their tour van and left all five members of the band in hospital.

It marked the nadir of a frankly wretched 2013 for the band, which also saw them split from Domino after being left creatively frustrated by their last album, ‘In Heaven’, as well as seeing singer Andrea Estella diagnosed with MS.

It can sometimes seem pretty distasteful to try to take the angle that personal difficulties can sow the seeds of creative brilliance, so it’s probably better to accredit the sheer quality of the band’s sophomore LP, ‘Mr Twin Sister’, to nothing other than their own talents and their sharp appetite for experimentation.

It’s a shimmering, glacially-paced effort that belies its lack of label funding with its sonic flawlessness and gorgeously crisp instrumentation; as with their first record, there’s a clear attempt to build the songs around light-and-shade atmospherics and intelligent, striking lyricism. It’s an album that casts off the considerable baggage that had come to be associated with the chillwave - slapped on the band early on - and instead rewards the newly-rechristened band for having the wherewithal to try to use synths and electronics for something other than minimalist ‘indie R&B’ or eighties throwbacks. The fact that they still found room for dancefloor-ready moments speaks to the nuance with which the record’s been constructed. Guitarist Eric Cardona can lay claim to plenty of the credit; he took the time to discuss the van crash, the band’s change of name and the slow evolution of their sound.

How much of an impact did the van accident have on the band? Was there ever a question of whether you’d continue?
I’ll never be more grateful than when I saw that everyone was alive immediately afterwards and able to say out loud ‘Oh this bone is definitely broken’, etc…. I was like “shit, that was terrible, but actually we’re fine - we got real, real lucky.” In my mind, though, there was never a question about whether or not we’d continue - that was always a yes. It definitely slowed us down for four or five months though.

Why did you part ways with Domino?
We had a great relationship with them and still do, they still come to our shows and show us love and support. They’re a great group of people, very genuine music lovers. I think Dev said it best recently, that our time on Domino was unfairly tainted by the record we made with them, ‘In Heaven’. We were a little frustrated and confused by that album. So when the time came to talk about the next record, their suggestions of hiring a producer mixed with our sort of vague frustration just led to us parting ways.

How has life changed for the band since leaving Domino? Has it been a positive move?
No cool advance. Lots of jobs being worked right now. Personally, I feel closer and more invested in these songs and newer ones, but I can’t say whether or not leaving Domino has anything to do with that.

Has self-releasing meant that you went about recording differently? Was there any home recording on this album?
We definitely tried a more standard approach to making an album with ‘In Heaven’, which was mostly done in the studio. For this album, I think it’s almost half and half. I don’t know if self-releasing made us record differently, I think the record that we made in 2011 made us record differently.

“Personally, I feel closer and more invested in these songs.”

— Eric Cardona, Mr. Twin Sister

Are the lyrical themes on the album in any way reflective of the name change?
Most of the lyrics were written before the name change, so no. But that’s only our end. Any listeners’ ties of lyrical themes between songs or band names are just as real, if not more so.

This seems like a more intricate record than you’ve made before - little complexities in the songs like the synths and the sax, for instance. What made you want to pursue that?
We found these songs to be pretty stuffable I guess, and just whittled it down to what we believed were essential. The saxophone has been really fun, I used to play as a kid and started playing maybe two years ago again. So it just crept into some songs.

What have you got lined up for the live shows? Is there going to be a strong visual element to them?
We’re focusing mostly on trying to sound good and to work on newer songs live. Come hear!

Mr Twin Sister is available now via Infinite Best.


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