INTERVIEW: Twin XL on new music, “Messy” and playing the long game
It’s a rare thing to see someone’s career unfold in front of you but Twin XL’s Cameron Walker-Wright is an exception to that. From seeing him play as his local project Weatherstar easily ten years ago to go on to The Ready Set to where we’re at now with him and John and Stephen Gomez quickly breaking their way into radio and the alt rock scene with Twin XL, it’s been a wild ride. A band that was a long time coming considering the trios history together. John and Stephen spent years in The Summer Set and with Walker having a band with their former bandmate Jess Bowen and Jordan of The Ready Set with Nekocat, it’s no surprise that Twin XL has been crushing it. Since my chat with the band in March, they’ve seen their single “Good” hit radio, announced a tour with Fitz and The Tantrums in 2020, and have released tons of new music. Including “Messy”, the first single released after their debut EP, “How to Talk to Strangers”, an ambitious seven song EP. With the video for Messy dropping yesterday, it’s clear they aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
In my sit down with Walker last week while back in Boston as main support to The Maine on the Mirror Tour that just came to a close, he caught me up on the music they’re making right now, how they’ve developed as a band and much more!
When we last chatted about seven months ago, right at the beginning of the band. But you just put out the song, “Messy”, you have the tour announced for next year. Things are going really well for you right now, but when we last spoke, it was only like your ninth show you had ever played.
Cameron Walker-Wright: Oh yeah, that tour was do early on for us in the band existing. We kind of had an idea of what we wanted to do, what we wanted to be. But even for myself, this is the first band that I’ve been in doing the frontman role since 2010 or 2011. So I had to re-learn how to do that the way I wanted to, but I think now however many shows in we are, we’re a little bit more comfortable with our identity. We know exactly what we want to do and what we want to be.
Maybe how has that been? Nobody else in the band has been a frontman, how has it been moving back into that position?
Well, I’m sure we talked about it last time a little bit. I’ve always sang still in bands and have been happy playing guitar and singing backups. And I think with this band, it was just a matter of we wrote these songs for fun. Then it just accidentally turned into this real band. I think at one point, it was going to be songs for other people or the songs we had written together would go to different artists. Or we would just out them out as a studio project for fun and that would be it. But once we decided to go on tour to support it, it was like okay well I don’t have a choice. I just have to try my best to do this role to the best of my availability. I put pressure on myself every day to try and get better at it and I’m still doing that. That’s the short answer.
And then you released “Messy”, you played “Nuts” tonight joking about how it is about John O ‘ Callaghan. Maybe that real. Maybe you did write a song about John.
Oh that song is 110% about John O’Callaghan. He’s just so handsome, it’s undeniable. We had to write a song about him.
Then maybe how has the writing been going. You released “How to Talk To Strangers”, a seven song EP.
Seven tracks on the EP, it was a long EP. Which kind of felt album-ish I guess, just because of the way we presented it. There’s probably like ten to fifteen songs we’ve written since the EP, that are all in different stages. The new song we played tonight, “Melt”, obviously that song is done. We have a version of that that we could put out any time. “Messy”, which was just the first one we finished, so therefore it was the first one we started playing live. And then therefore, people started connecting with it live at shows. There were a couple videos on YouTube that people found and they were trying to decipher the lyrics. So it was a cool thing where I think that the people who are into our music for or have been getting into our music for the short time that we’ve been a band kind of chose it as the next song we should put out. But we definitely want to release an album next year. Definitely after the Fitz tour but we have a handful of songs that are really close to being done. And I think the plan right now is to just keep playing songs out and feel like, okay cool these are the fifteen songs that we’re going to have on the album. Then most of that stuff will probably be included on the album as well.
For the album, do you think it’s going to be some of the songs people heard in that EP or is it all going to be fresh?
At one point, we talked about having like “Good” on it. Maybe? But I think the farther we get away from it, it may change. Because it’s hard to say. Right now it’s still pretty fresh but now we’ve put out “Messy”. The farther away we get from “How to Talk to Strangers” and the more we make new music, it’s like well if we don’t need to fill space, I would love to put out like a twenty song album of all new shit. That’s where our heads are at. We’re just like, let’s make the longest record ever of just all new shit. Obviously we’re still pretty far away from making an album or planning for it. So it could be anything.
Then speaking of that, I know this moved really fast for you guys.
We’re very calculated in what we do, but everything until the release of “Messy” has been very reactionary. We had no idea that “Good” was going to go to radio. How do you plan for that? Now that we kind of know what the plans are for everything way in advance, it’s much easier for us to roll stuff out the right way. Make the right decisions I guess.
Maybe how has that radio exposure been? Obviously The Ready Set had some radio exposure, but The Summer Set never really made it to radio, The Maine never really did. But they’ve still had these careers. Going into this, you didn’t know “Good” was going to break. You’ve worked so hard as musicians for so many years. Was that important to you?
It’s so weird because it’s obviously something that would be a cool thing if it happened. But I don’t think, at this point we’re not doing many things differently, besides like having to go to radio stations and play the song for them. Or fly out to play shows that we wouldn’t be able to play. But everything else we’re doing us the same exact thing that John and Stephen would have done with The Summer Set. It’s something we’re very thankful for and appreciative of, but I don’t think that it necessarily dictates what we’re going to do as a band.
But I mean you guys all did that. I remember interviewing even Mike Naran back in his Sparks the Rescue days, obviously he’s with Panic at the Disco now. You guys all put in that time, it’s nice, but you guys have all worked so hard.
Obviously he’s a great friend of mine too. We both grew up in Connecticut, I mean you know that. I think?
Oh yeah, I’ve been doing it for ten years. I definitely interviewed you at like a day show like at the Middle East like way back in the day.
Yeah so it’s cool. We’re all living in LA now, we all hang out whenever we’re home. Everyone’s doing different stuff. Jordan (of The Ready Set) is doing this crazy publishing deal right now. He’s going to be like the biggest producer in the world. Mike’s playing in Panic at the Disco. It’s cool to see everyone’s doing their thing and everyone’s really excelling in the stuff they’re the best at. So it’s really cool to kind of watch everyone have their moments.
You all played the long game.
Yeah! I was talking to someone the other day, Andrew Goldstein, and he was like “Dude that’s awesome about Twin XL.” He was like, “I think the secret is you can’t ever stop”. As long as you just keep doing what you do, at the very least, they’re like alright this guy’s relentless. But it’s also you do it long enough, you get better and better, then you get better at what you do. So hopefully that is the reason.
I mean, didn’t his old band The Friday Night Boys, break up in 2011 or 2012, then he’s producing now.
Yeah and now he has this project, Friend, and it’s some of my favorite music ever. I think he’s such a great songwriter.
Well, then obviously, things are rocking. I think you announced that you signed to Red Music about a week after our last interview. But you’re doing the tour with Fitz and The Tantrums, we’re coming up on 2020. You talked about how you guys have been writing so much music. Maybe focuses or goals for the next year considering we’re already in November?
We’re going to go and promote “Messy” properly and the Fitz tour will tie into it. I know we’re going to do some other shows and stuff for that. Then pretty much, December and January, before we go on that tour with Fitz, is just writing and trying to get as close to a version of an album done. Because one thing we’ve definitely talked about is we don’t want to wait too long before we put an album out. Especially because we write so much. Right now we could even put an album out. We just want to write like sixty songs, pick the best of this. We don’t want to be like, “These are the ones”, until we really know that. So it’s trying to get closer to conceptualizing the album before Fitz and then when we get back from Fitz, be like cool this is what it’s going to be and make it perfect.