- February 2015-
HAVE A BEER WITH TWINSMITH
Omaha, Nebraska’s Twinsmith will release their sophomore album Alligator Years on May 5, 2015 via Saddle Creek – their first full-length for the label. The album follows the charming, surfy haze of the band’s 2013 eponymous album and "Honestly" single (reminiscent of Blue Album-era Weezer), with the band pushing themselves musically while moving toward a more dynamic pop sound.
We caught up with the band before their March show at The Empty Bottle, where we chatted about their upcoming gigs at SXSW, Taco Bell and the recording process of their forthcoming album Alligator Years.
The Show: Twinsmith, Panoramic and True, Power Haunts // March 3, 2015 // The Empty Bottle
Drinks of Choice: Jordan Smith; vocals, guitar (Jameson on the rocks), Matt Regner; guitar, keyboards (Fernet shot), Bill Sharp; bass (mint julep), Oliver J. Morgan; drums (Rumple Minz/Rumplemintz shot)
Miranda from A Beer with the Band:You guys are from Omaha. What’s your favorite thing about the city in general and also about the music scene there?
Bill Sharp from Twinsmith: My favorite thing about Omaha is the zoo.
Matt Regner from Twinsmith: It’s kind of a cliché, but the sense of community there. It’s a very small big town. You take it for granted living there sometimes. It’s a tight-knit community with circles that overlap in general and in the music scene. The hip hop guys and the rock guys and the metal guys and the DJs — it all intertwines. There is a real sense of community within the music scene which makes being a musician in Omaha the best thing. The recent history of great bands coming through there and being from there, you don’t really get that from similarly sized markets throughout the Midwest.
Oliver from Twinsmith: I have been raving to people recently that property is cheap, jobs are plentiful and schools are good … and everything Matt said.
Jordan from Twinsmith: My favorite thing about Omaha, but actually all of Nebraska, is that they legalized gay marriage today!
Bill: We weren’t the last state to do it!
[Cheers from everyone]
Miranda:Being on the road so much, and having traveled to so many different places, is there another city that feels like home?
Bill: I think we all have a different second homes and for different reasons. I really like L.A. I have a lot of friends there, and the last time we were there I met a bunch of new people and got to do things I’ve never done. The weather is always super nice. But I also really love Cleveland because it’s kind of a garbage can. I have a lot of family in Ohio so I’ve always loved it.
Jordan: If you’re in any city long enough, it will start to feel like home. I guess I really like Minneapolis in the summer time — when it’s nice — so basically two months of the year. Any familiar face is good.
Oliver: I love L.A., New York, Chicago and Austin for all the obvious reasons, but somewhere that feels like home would be Pittsburgh. It was a big pleasant surprise. Dubuque, Iowa, is another one. Best kept secret.
Miranda: On a similar note, what’s your favorite city to eat in?
Matt: New Orleans, but we’ve never played there before. I’ve just been there; they have the best food.
Bill: I think Chicago has my favorite food.
Matt: Chicago is good because it’s really a melting pot.
Bill: Yeah, there’s awesome pizza, awesome taco places. You can find every kind of food and all of it is done really well.
Matt: …And you can walk to so many places, too. You don’t even need a recommendation. If it’s a restaurant in Chicago, it’s usually good food. Big Star is a favorite spot of mine.
Oliver: Austin is a top spot for me. Really good BBQ down there.
Matt: But hey, you can’t forget Omaha. Omaha has great food. Might be my favorite actually. I think we have the most restaurants per capita in the country. And we are top 10 in bars, so we like to eat and drink a lot.
Bill: I think Omaha is like number two in binge drinking. Behind…?
Oliver: Tempe, right? No?
Miranda: Don’t worry: this isn’t a test, guys.
Matt: Right, you will have to fact check this all.
[For the record: Omaha isn’t top 10 in restaurant-dense cities, but it does rank number three in bar-dense cities]
Miranda: You mentioned Austin being a favorite city, and I saw you guys are going to be down there in just a few weeks for SXSW. Is it your first time down there?
Bill: As the band it’s our second time down there. Oliver has been down there a bunch though.
Oliver: Yeah, I’ve been down there four or five times previously, but it’s a lot different now than it ever was. It’s so much bigger.
Bill: Now, there’s so much being run by big corporations [at SXSW] — which is cool in some ways, I guess.
Miranda:I think it’s a good mix. You can go out and see all the big official showcases or you can hit more of the small stuff.
Bill: Yeah, totally. One of the shows that we’re playing this year is in the courtyard of an apartment building. Some guy just sent us a message asking us to play.
Miranda: Yeah, that’s one of the best parts. Bands go down there and play all kinds of stuff. Shows pop up everywhere.
Matt: It still has that grassroots feel to it. But then you walk by the Doritos tent, which is totally great because you can walk in and get unlimited Doritos.
Miranda: Is there a must-bring on the road — something you can’t leave for tour without?
Matt: Baby wipes
Miranda:Practical is the way to go.
Bill: I always bring crossword puzzles.
Miranda: Yeah, speaking of which: what does passing time in the van look like for you guys?
Jordan: We talk a lot and we do comedy hour. Not like not us doing comedy …
Miranda: You mean you don’t all practice your stand-up routines?
Bill: Yeah we are an improv group…. [Oliver knocks over a whole table and three full beers] …we are really into slapstick.
Jordan: See, we are practicing right now!
Matt: There goes the beer part of a beer with the band…
Oliver: To get back to the question though, Moccasins are a popular tour item.
Bill: Yeah, Jordan and I are really into slippers recently.
Jordan: Yeah, we call them “house shoes.” They’re for the van. We should call them van shoes, but I guess the van is really our house.
Miranda:Who in the band smells the most?
[Everyone points to Jordan]
Jordan: Probably me…
Bill: There was this one night we were driving from Bloomington and we were pulling an all-nighter. Something in the van smelled so bad, and I was convinced it was my feet. I threw my socks out the window and wiped my feet down with baby wipes.
Matt: No, he wiped his feet down with hands sanitizer!
Bill: Yeah I felt so terrible. I was like, “I’m so sorry guys.” And then I turned around and it was totally this guy.
[Points to Jordan]
Jordan: And I was in the back in a sleeping bag thinking, Yeah, it really does smell terrible. What’s going on? I was blaming everyone and telling them they stunk really badly.
Matt: It was a “who dealt it” type of thing. It was like nothing else. It was devastating. But I guess we all smell.
Jordan: You don’t know how bad the van smells until someone else comes in the van, or we get into someone else’s car and think, Woah, this smells like a million dollars.
Miranda: So along with the wipes, it sounds like you need to add Febreze to the must-bring list.
Matt: Yes! But ever since we implemented the “No Taco Bell in The Van” rule, things have improved.
Jordan: So this one time we went to Taco Bell and… [Laughs]
Miranda: Of course. With every tour rule, there’s the story that’s the reason for the rule.
Jordan: Yeah. It was getting late, and we got a bunch of burritos. They gave us all the burritos and one of us ordered two and realized we only got one. But it wasn’t a big deal — we figured they must have messed up our order. This was in November. So a whole winter goes by…and in spring, Ollie sends us a group text with a picture of a thawed out bean burrito. It was probably still good to eat because it’d been frozen and Taco Bell never goes bad. And that’s when we decided: never again; no Taco Bell allowed.
Miranda: Any other tour rules?
Matt: No not really. We are the Outback Steakhouse of bands — no rules, just right!
Miranda:Well, I guess we should talk about your music a bit. You guys recently released a single and will be putting out a full-length called Alligator Years on May 5. Where did you record that and what was the recording process like?
Matt: Interestingly, we recorded most of it in Des Moines, Iowa, at a place called The Sonic Factory by Drake University. I guess that goes back to Luke Pettipoole and Brandon Darner. They’re in a band called The Envy Corps. We’ve always loved the band and we built a relationship with them over the years. They heard we were looking to record a full-length album and offered to engineer and produce it and help us out. So of course we said, “Hell yeah,” because he did all their albums and always did a great job. We did most of the work in Des Moines, but also did a little work at ARC Studios in Omaha, which is a bigger studio and a higher budget then what we were looking at for the whole project. So we ended up living in Des Moines while we tracked all the parts, and we did all the mixing here in Omaha. Spending a couple of weeks in Iowa was nice because we don’t really know anyone there. There were no home town distractions; we were there for one purpose. We just lived in the studio. The process was full-blown and all-encompassing, so it was pretty nice. We got a ton done in those two weeks.
Miranda:Was there anything about the recording process or final product that surprised you?
Jordan: I think all of the songs came out differently than we expected. Having producers this time around definitely got the album where we wanted it to be. You can tell someone what you want, but if they aren’t part of the project, it won’t turn out the way that everyone has in mind. Every song was a process of getting together, listening to the song a bunch and going from there. We didn’t stop until everyone was happy with it.
Oliver: We all had a really good idea of what we wanted it to sound like, and it helped that we were able to demo it all out first. That way, the producers could hear what we were going for and come up with their own ideas going into recording. We didn’t really discuss it with them beforehand either; It all just kind of came together and turned into something — at least speaking for myself — that exceeded my expectations.
Jordan: Absolutely! It was a year-long process, and we are happy with it. It’s a different-sounding record then our first, and I think that’s really the goal.
[Sound guy for the show interrupts to ask about lighting preferences]
Bill: How many fog machines do you have?
Matt: Have as much fun as legally possible.
Oliver: I don’t care if you do illegal things.
Miranda:Speaking of: what is the least rock-‘n’-roll thing you guys have done in the past year — either as a band or individually?
Bill: My taxes. Or … we were just home for two days and I think I posted four pictures of myself with my cat. That’s not really rock-‘n’-roll.
Oliver: I changed some diapers.
Matt: Yeah, Ollie just had a baby this last year. Cute as hell.
Miranda: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Matt: I’ve gotten a lot of good advice, but also a lot of bad advice. Music is a weird direction to follow: To want to be on the road and to make very little money, never knowing what you’re going to get. There’s not a lot of certainty in it. But we all have great support — Oliver with his wife. And my parents have been great. All of our parents have been supportive.
Jordan: Basically the advice Matt is referring to is: Do what you want to do.
Matt: Yeah, do what you want to do, but work your ass off at it.
Bill: This isn’t really direct advice, but I’ve learned a lot from Oliver. It’s really important to make connections and maintain those connections. I value the hell out of that. Oliver is great at it.
Oliver: My favorite thing that anyone has ever told me in all my years of playing music is something one of my older mentors said to me, which was: “If you’re having problems with your band members, reach out with a loving arm instead of a pointed finger.” That really stuck with me.
Matt: I’m going to start tearing up over here. But actually we spend a lot of time together. If you think about it, we’re together almost 23-hours-a-day when we’re on tour — either in the same room or van. That proximity can cause a lot of problems, which is why we use Oliver’s philosophy: be direct and respect each other.
Bill: But another good piece of advice…It’s about travel and Gene Simmons gave it to me. He said, “You gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City.”