Interview: Cameron Walker-Wright of Twin XL on Lonely, their new tunes and their ever changing creative process
The quarantine albums have been free-flowing lately proving that art can be created even if it’s not created in a studio or the songs are crafted as bands can perform the songs live. Even last night at The Grammy’s, the Album of the Year went to Taylor Swift for Folklore, an album she made in quarantine. One band that has been steadily releasing new tunes for our ears, and had it be constant bangers are LA’s Twin XL. A band of songwriters, both for their acts and many others, released their debut extended EP, “How to Talk To Strangers” a few years back, and have been hitting us with new tracks steadily these last few months. The latest being Slow Heart, which came out last Friday. I spoke with vocalist Cam Walker-Wright recently to check in with the band to see how they’ve been staying creative and in particular the collaborative effort that is Lonely! A track I think all of us can relate to right now, as are a lot of these quarantine tunes. Get hip!
It’s been a minute since we last spoke, but your first EP, “How to Talk to Strangers”, I know came together really quickly. You weren’t exactly sure what it was going to be, but being in the pandemic and writing together, maybe the biggest difference in writing these next songs together, or how did you kind of go about the writing for these new songs? Besides Melt, I know Melt is something you were playing on tour before the closures.
Cameron Walker-Wright: Melt and Problematic were pre-pandemic but yeah, I think that the writing process has changed a lot considering that we can’t all be in the same room. It’s been a lot of trial and error. Almost every song we’ve put together has come together in a different way versus before when we were able to create a song and that would be the song of the day. And now it’s kind of everyone making their own little parts. I guess it’s a similar process but it’s all separate. I’ll have like a chord idea and I’ll email that to John (John Gomez, guitarist) and he’ll be like, ‘this is cool’, and add a little keyboard or something and then he’ll send it to Stephen (Stephen Gomez, bassist). It’s a lot of just sending individual pieces of songs, shooting songs back and forth. Almost like Frankensteining’ it until it feels right and it takes a little bit longer but I think it’s positively affected our sound lowkey because everyone is sort of taking risks. Everyone’s more comfortable taking risks on their own. Instead of being together all the time, You’re like well I don’t know if he’s going to like that line. So it’s just been kind of doing your own thing and then putting it all together. It’s been improving as a progression of our sound and I think it’s rad.
And I feel like you guys have been taking it pretty seriously. In talking to other people who have been also working on albums in the pandemic. How has that process been? You talked about just now, kind of Frankensteining’ these songs together, but is it something where it’s been virtual meetings or you have spent some time together. How has that process been?
CW: So yeah, it’s been a lot of being on Zoom. I think the first kind of couple weeks, we were on tour, and the plan was when we get back from tour, we were going to rent a cabin up in Big Bear to write. So obviously when the pandemic started, the plan was thrown out. So we ended up sitting on Zoom and I think we did do some great work that way but it was very much kind of trying to figure it out. Like I think at first, it was just trying to work over Zoom maybe until we could be together. Like creating ideas, playing around with ideas. However the many-second delay, you can’t really write that way. So that was kind of a learning process and then we did actually, once the numbers were fairly low, we all got tested and whatnot, and did end up going out to Big Bear for four or five days. We did some work up there together and it was naturally good timing, good to be in a room together again.
But outside of the band being able to collaborate more frequently with people who are in the UK, that’s more possible now. So that’s a little bit of light during all this terrible stuff. People are more open to doing remote sessions on Zoom meetings. I hope that kind of carries over.
Then speaking of collabs, I know just from speaking to you before, and knowing Colin Dieden(of Little Hurt) has been doing this for a long time, Mike Naran with Panic!, and his solo project coming out, Jordan Witzengruter (Onlychild, formerly known as The Ready Set) has been producing. But with Lonely, and collaborating with Colin of Little Hurt and Dylan with Rad Horror, how did that come about? I know you guys have been friends for quite a while but how did that kind of come about? You’ve toured together, at least with Colin with his past venture.
CW: Yeah, I’ve known Dylan (Dylan Jackson Scott of Rad Horror) forever, since I was like 21 or something. He played in bands in New York (Young Rising Sons being one), we played shows together and stuff. But that song, I made that song, like my vocals, the chorus, and I sent it. And this was during like prime full lockdown. So we had been in our houses for like the last three months. I think there were like three or four weeks when we were scared to go outside.
I think we all had that fear yeah.
CW: And that’s kind of what the song is about and what the chorus is about. I had that chorus and I sent it over to Jordan Witzengruter, he also worked on it. He kind of did some production stuff to it, gave it the hook. And then I just added. I tried to write some things for it, a couple of verses. Wasn’t feeling anything special but I thought the hook was special. So flash forward something crazy like six months, and I was always listening back to it. I sent it over to Dylan and Colin, being like, ‘Do you guys want to finish this idea?’ And then whatever that would be, that will be the song, so we did. And what it ended up being was this cool thing where everyone was kind of telling their life story of their own loneliness and it kind of all revolves around that theme that I made originally. And I just thought it was a cool thing to do because especially being that people can’t play shows right now and it’s hard to get together. Any way to like promote keeping some sort of community alive, I think people need that. We kind of did a thing where at a show, you pay the price, you get in for the opening band you’ve never heard of before. I think that’s a special thing. I hope that more Rad Horror fans will become Twin XL fans. Or Little Hurt fans will become Rad Horror fans. I think that was kind of the goal. Just pulling everyone together on something that felt relatable for me and other people.
For sure! Then similar to the first EP, you’ve been slowly releasing these songs, similar to what you did with the first album. You’re going to be releasing a radio single on March 12th, Slow Heart. How close do you think you are to having the new album fully announced or out? Is it still a while away for you guys or do you think that’s something that will come in the next few months?
CW: Like a full album?
Yeah like the next album or like an EP.
CW: Yeah, I think we’ve talked about it a little bit. We’re still trying to figure out what that looks like for us. For us and the way we feel about it is, to put out an album, whether it’s a collection of a bunch of singles and a couple of new tracks as an album. I think it’s something we want to do but I think part of the magic in doing that is being able to go play it. You have this package, this collection here, being able to do a show and being able to play it straight through. We would want to do a release and stuff. So I think we’re just kind of playing that by ear and we’re just going to continue to release our best songs as we have them. But I think ultimately, the plan is to eventually take the best of the best, whatever people are feeling the most, whatever we’re feeling the most. Put some of those onto an album and then write an additional four or five songs for the album. Make it a pretty long one. So it’s something we’re hoping to do but it’s hard to say when. What makes sense the most for us right now is to just put the best songs out as we write them. Almost in real-time.
That’s great to hear that you’re still actively writing some new songs too. Just keeping up the creative process.
CW: Yeah I mean we’re always writing. We’ve never really not writing except for “How to Talk to Strangers”. That was written over a period because we were always just kind of writing and all of a sudden it just happened to be a thing. We’re always writing and stuff, but sometimes we’ll like, drive our team crazy because we’ll have a campaign planned for a song and I’ll be like, ‘No, we have this new one’. And they’re like, ‘Cool, then we’ll just put it out a month later’. So we just really play it by ear.
I like it! Then from what I’ve seen, most bands like you have been very responsible and very safe in these times. As this year gets a little brighter, we’re almost a year into this crazy thing, maybe some hopes or focuses for you guys even if it doesn’t mean live shows, even if it doesn’t mean touring for at least the next months. Maybe for you as an artist yourself for working with other people, for Twin XL?
CW: Yeah, I mean for me, it’s just always trying to write better stuff and work with new people. And sometimes that transforms into a Twin XL idea. But unless it’s with an artist specifically, I always try to keep everything open. Let other people decide what the best thing for the song is. So I think for us as a band, we’ve been talking a little bit more about trying to do some sort of Livestream show. A little full band show and kind of going back to the album thing, I think that now that there are a few songs out that no one’s heard live before then you could just go and watch videos on Youtube. Now that there’s some stuff out there that we haven’t played live, I think it would be something special for our fans. Something interactive that feels like a show, have the interaction with people during it. So that’s one of the goals that we’re pursuing. But it’s something that we’re excited about so hopefully that happens. So yeah, Those are kind of the goals.
And I feel early on, when we didn’t know if it was going to be a few weeks or months, I feel like you guys made a serious effort to be interactive with fans. I remember you having that week of scheduled programming. But you’ve been making an effort, and in that week having different things you would do each day so I’m sure that’s appreciated.
CW: I think we’ll do more of that. I’m always so back and forth with going live. For a couple of reasons. I don’t know how long people are going to be into just watching me play music in my living room. Another thing is like playing your songs live three times a week, so I think those things sort of get old fast. You have to find creative ways to keep it interesting, and also the streaming quality on those things isn’t fantastic. I think if we were going to do more of that, it would be smart to move to Twitch or do it properly. We’ll see, hopefully, I’d like to do more of that. So we’ll see, I’d like to explore that. Maybe I’ll play like MarioKart with fans on Twitch.