INTERVIEW: Jagwar Twin on their foundations, opening for Avril Lavigne and the creative process
The past ten years have been a wild ride. I’ve seen bands have years of success to then break up and resurface in projects that make them so happy. I’ve seen guys, ahem Mike Naran, go from playing local shows to now be in Panic At the Disco. And for today’s interview, I saw Roy English have a steadily touring band, Eye Alaska, who rapidly developed a cult like following to now open up for Avril Lavigne as Jagwar Twin. Being several years since Avril had toured, and being only the second tour for Jagwar Twin, the pressure was on but Jagwar Twin flourished in the opening position.
Only minutes after Jagwar Twin left the stage, I sat down backstage with Roy English where he chatted about everything from the origins of the name to the full creative process and what it’s been like to open for Avril.
You had plans to do a headlining tour but obviously, when something like this comes up, you have to do it. You’re coming to the end of these dates. How has this tour been? Obviously a great crowd for you to be playing to.
Yeah we were going to do some headlining runs. But this came up, it was a really, really cool opportunity. So we did it, but even tonight, we made this group chat for people in Boston who wanted to come to those headline shows. I felt bad, because tickets are more expensive too for this. They’ve gotten more expensive through scalpers. Now they’re like $150 and I was like, man that sucks for money to ever be a barrier of entry. So I put a bunch of people on the guestlist so they could at least see us since we kind of bailed. But tour has been amazing. Avril’s fans have been so warm. She’s very intuitive and just has so much good advice for any artist kind of in the beginning. This was our second tour ever. So, it’s been really cool.
That’s really great. Obviously she knows how to treat fans, she’s been doing this for so long but it’s been a long time since she’s been on the road. But for you to take that extra step I’m sure is appreciated. But then considering it’s only the second tour, when did Jagwar Twin really start? I know you’ve done projects in the past. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been interviewing bands for a long time and I interviewed you for Eye Alaska years and years ago.
No way. Oh my God, that’s amazing.
It was like the Saosin tour.
That was the Pac tour right?
Yeah! So obviously you’ve been doing music for a long time too. So when did this band kind of come to fruition? When did you really start figuring out this solo project?
Well, it started, I was just making music as I do, solo music. Got into the mix of things. I feel like there’s been an energetic shift in the world where the world has gotten so crazy right now. But I think with that, people tend to focus on the negative things or the dark things. Of course, there’s those, but anytime there is that, there’s also another side that we can bring out. And that’s our job as a human race to bring that out.
As we were making this album, we kind of found this sound and direction, while thinking about that feeling. A feeling that as one mind, we’re very intuitive people. We always felt this thing and it wasn’t really until a couple months into making the album. We were up in Lake Arrowhead, up in the mountains, we had a little cabin. This is bigger than just a solo project and I felt that. I couldn’t just say this is Roy English. Because to me, I don’t feel that I’m even writing what’s coming through me and there’s so many amazing people involved. That will always be involved. It’s a very collaborative process.
And the name Jagwar Twin. Then it was like okay this is a bigger thing, what is it? And I’m really into mythology, all different cultures. Even when I was a kid, even before I wanted to be a musician, I wanted to be an mythologist. Make like models of these things. I was so into it. Then thirty years later, studying it for a long time. Then Jagwar in my mythology is this creature who kind of looks first into itself really deeply, but that self realization allows it to look and see into others. Good, bad, ugly, everything. And the same with yourself. And then learning to harness that energy and bring the best out of people. Go into those sometimes kind of dark places with no fear and it felt like such a shift and transition. And I was like alright, let’s just go with it. No fear, there’s only love, and the twin is just the nature of everything we’ve been talking about. The dark and the light. When there’s one, there’s always the other. And I’m a Gemini so I get that twin stuff.
That’s amazing. So it’s something where you started it solo and it became something else. You didn’t want to put Roy English on it.
In the early stages, it was going to be Roy English. And as soon as we got into it, I was like this doesn’t feel right.
Then I know, obviously between Jagwar Twin and Eye Alaska, you hadn’t been really touring. So maybe how has it been to come back to playing live sets? You still see that rock element but obviously a lot of R&B influence. When it came to planning these live sets, how do you approach them? How did you prepare?
It is really cool touring again, so much. And for me, the touring is a payoff. We did travel a lot making the album. We went to Haiti, we went to Ireland, we went to Italy. But you’re still in a studio mostly. And you’re also in a vacuum. The goal is to not just make music for one type of person or just musicians. If you’re doing that, there’s different paths, but what I start to see and love is seeing the songs live. And the audience response. And maybe they take it, and feel a whole different way, but the key to it for me is in the studio. If everyone in the room feels like this is the best thing we can be doing, we get the chills and we have to always follow that gut and that intuition. Because if you just think, well I’m going to write this hit song and I don’t know if I like it but someone else told me to do it. Like the record label or something wrote it, or I’m not sure about it, people have, especially now, a built in bullshit meter.
And it’s the same thing where an artist can sing a song they didn’t write, but if they believe it, then everybody else will. So every step along the way, we’ve been checking ourselves, like do we believe this? Is it authentic to me as a person? To the ethos of this ecosystem that we’ve started with Jagwar Twin. So seeing it live just amplifies that. And it’s inspiring for me, because then I’m going back to the bus, getting tons of ideas all the time. I have a little studio set up in the back.
Then the album, you released it in 2019, but it was previously released in 2018. “Loser” has been doing so well. You talked about how you have a studio in the back of the bus, I’m sure you’ve been constantly writing, constantly working on new material, but are you currently working on new music, maybe something you’ve tried recently?
Yeah, I’m always writing. I can’t say too much but I’m so excited about the stuff that’s coming. We just recently signed to the label we’re on, so it’s been really cool working with them. They’ve been great. Starting to get a cool little push. Always creating though. But if I don’t create, I don’t feel right.
Then you have a few more dates on this run but you did the tour with Lovelytheband, you’re doing this one, you’ve been pretty nonstop. Maybe focuses or goals, coming up on 2020?
I’m definitely going to spend a little time in nature. And then create a lot of music. Then touring again in the new year. Definitely a lot more touring.
That’s awesome, it must feel nice to be back at it full force.
It feels really great. I love that you know Eye Alaska. That’s so sweet.
It’s cool to see it coming full circle. I interviewed the guys in Twin XL recently too, who are the Gomez brothers from The Summer Set with Cameron Walker. It’s kind of great to see everyone finally achieve this success. Not a lot of those bands are still here, I mean The Maine has maintained but it’s cool to see you all starting these new projects, these journeys. It’s been really great to see.
It’s cool because when you just do it because you love it, you can’t not do it. Some people think, oh, when you’re successful then you’re happy. It doesn’t make a difference, it really doesn’t. No matter how much money, flying on private jets, literally your happiness doesn’t change. So doing something just because you love doing it, you’re just always happy, there’s so much joy.