Stranger Sings DJ Maggie Leone sat down with Cameron Walker and Stephen Gomez, 2/3 of the band Twin XL, after their show at The Royale Thursday night. Twin XL just finished a tour with The Mowgli’s and Jukebox the Ghost. Check out their new release “How To Talk To Strangers.”
Maggie Leone: So I’ve obviously found out about Twin XL because I was a fan of the Summer Set so…
Cameron Walker: Right… It’s good for me.
ML: So where did the name of the band come from?
Stephen Gomez: John brought it to us.
CW: John had the idea. He wanted to… He liked the way the word “twin” looked and sounded and then he was driving his car and he saw something and said “XL” on the back of a truck or something and then he kind of said it to himself.
SG: Probably a couple hundred times ’cause he’s neurotic.
CW: “Twin XL,” “Twin XL,” “Twin XL.” Over and over again. He was probably doing this for like 45 minutes and then he you know, texted it to us. He said “Twin XL,” we said, “Alright, cool.”
SG: Yeah, he apparently like heard a podcast or something about like Boeing airplane company and apparently the 747 got its name and the way it got its name wasn’t because it was like the 747th like model of it. Like apparently it just sounded good.
SG: So he was like, “Oh, I just want a name that sounds good.”
CW: Yeah. I mean, it’s the same thing with like Blink-182. There’s not a lot of meaning to that. And you could make a meaning to it or we could make up a meaning to Twin XL, but there isn’t one and we just thought it sounded pretty cool… And now we’re Twin XL.
SG: We just own it.
ML: How did you craft your sound?
CW: We started writing songs together without the intention of starting a band and it kind of just happened naturally. I think it’s sort of like a combination of all the stuff we were listening to all the time and all the stuff that we’ve listened to in the past and written in the past and we just arrived at this thing. There was definitely like a lot of thought as far as what we wanted to sound like, but we kind of became our own version of our influences. I don’t know.
SG: Yeah, it was, I think we’ve all been into like indie rock and indie pop and indie music for… I mean, since I was like 15. Like I’ve been like the biggest Bright Eyes fan, Death Cab for Cutie, and f*****g MGMT, Foster the People, like anything in that indie rock world where it’s like they’re pop songs, but they’re presented in, I think an interesting way, I really just think the sounds and textures and rhythms are just, I don’t know, reminiscent of the classic almost, you know.
CW: Yeah, we didn’t try to mimic anything in particular.
SG: It just kinda came. It was really natural. It just happened. I don’t even know… It was just, yeah very easy.
ML: What or who inspired you? You kind of touched on that…
CW: Yeah a little bit and I think we’re still inspired by the stuff we grew up listening to as well, but I think that the cool thing about this band is, we’re listening to a lot of like new music. Like there’s a band that I’m really into called Hunny that kind of has changed the way that I’ve looked at like melodies and music. And then John will come into the studio and be like, “You gotta listen to this band. They’re so cool.” And then I’m like, “Okay,” and then I’ll go home and listen to it like, ah this is actually pretty cool. Like there’s a band called Sir Sly that was very influential in our first couple songs that we wrote, once we had decided we’re going to be a band.
SG: They’re very cool. I think there’s, yeah, there’s like some new indie rock music that we’re into. I think also like just from a personal place, like the older influences come out unintentionally.
CW: The Cure.
SG: I love The Cure. I love how morose The Cure is and sad, but happy-sad. You know what I mean?
CW: I like the happy-sad. We like happy-sad. We like really bright sounds and then you have these like dark undertones, sonically and lyrically.
SG: Yeah, that and my parents listened to, I mean they listened to The Beatles more than anything, but they listened to a lot of like disco and funk, which sounds weird, but there’s a lot of like very rhythmic music that I think my brother and I just kind of unintentionally internalized as kids. And so I think as a result of like that unintentional grooming for like that rhythmic sensibility, it actually has come out in this band’s music. It’s very. It’s very rhythmic and like it’s very groove oriented.
CW: Stephen actually programs all the drums too, which is a cool thing where like, I think if you look at a Pro Tools grid, it would be easy to like have everything super like “Kick, snare. Kick, snare. Kick, snare,” like a lot of the music you hear on the radio and stuff, but I think with us like if you were to try to put a in Twin XL song on the grid, it doesn’t quite line up and it’s a little f****d up and stuff. And he’ll like slide stuff around where like stuff is… You know, the snare is late or like whatever and or slide everything back and I think that takes what could be this robotic, overproduced sound and it kind of gives it a living, breathing life that Stephen is very good at creating, which is, which is the cool part of our sound.
ML: Yeah. I love your sound.
CW: Thank you. We’re very excited about it.
SG: Thank you.
ML: Can you walk me through the music videos? I love those.
CW: So John, who’s not here right now because he is at merch…
SG: He is the brains behind them all.
CW: He is a, he’s sort of like the visionary behind the videos from day one and so, well, this is a hard thing to start with without John here. But “Good” I remember him explaining to me what the “Good” video would be and this is like when we first decided we were probably going to be a band, so he was like, “Do like Wes Anderson films?” I was like, “Yeah, I mean I love Wes Anderson films.” So he was like, “Okay imagine this like Wes Anderson film and it’s like this guy with a mustache,” and I think like we draw a lot of influence from movies that we really love. Wes Anderson’s a big one.
SG: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is another big one for that.
CW: Yeah, yeah, yeah, Fear and Loathing and for the “Good” video it was very inspired by that and we actually were thinking about wearing like the beanies from like Life Aquatic or whatever, which we didn’t end up doing, which is probably a good thing…
SG: It was also hot…
CW: Yeah, and then the “Sunglasses” video…
SG: That was inspired by A Clockwork Orange.
CW: A Clockwork Orange and there is a show called Maniac that came out like last year and I think I watched it around the same time as John and I texted him and I was like, “Dude.” Well, he actually explained the “Sunglasses” video to me and I was like, “Okay, cool.” Like I didn’t really get.
SG: The one-shot video, which I’ve never done before.
CW: Which is crazy.
SG: It was cool. We honestly did it very quickly. It only took about an hour.
CW: We did it in like four passes and they picked a good one. Yeah, but so John explained his idea to me and I was like and I saw the and I started watching Maniac and I was like, “Dude, you gotta watch the show Maniac. It’s exactly like the thing that you explained to me” and he was like, “Yeah…right. Like I literally told you that a week ago. I was like, ‘You gotta watch Maniac.’” And then “Friends” I think, “Friends,” I think as a video concept took on sort of the life of its own in some sense. There was some Donnie Darko influence, in terms of like that’s where the bear comes in. Like with like the rabbit/bunny costume in Donnie Darko, like there was some conversations about that, but I think we brought in an additional… Well, we have Jade Ehlers, who’s doing all of our videos. So him and John are going back and forth and all this stuff and then. “Friends” took on this weird new life because we brought in a choreographer, which we have never done before and so we all…On top of each other ever weird s**t that Jade and John are talking about, we’re dancing. We have to learn to dance, which none of us are good dancers.
CW: Like if I have a guitar like I could play and do my thing, but without take, take the guitar away in the microphone away, and I’m like, “What the f**k” like, I don’t go to dance clubs or whatever. So “Friends” I think, you know, came from a film concept and evolved into its own thing, which was a cool progression visually. What were you saying?
SG: It was more a comment on like dancing. Like I think even like when I do dance, I’m like playing an instrument. Like yeah, but I actually never go anywhere either like snapping to the beat so like drumming or I’m like air guitaring or like I don’t know man, I don’t know.
CW: Me and Stephen the worst dancers in the band.
SG: John’s actually pretty good though. Like he had to tone it back. Like they told him to dance worse.
CW: They had to tell John to dance worse.
SG: Yeah, because he was like killing it, outshining us.
CW: He was outshining us and we can’t have that.
SG: He likes musical theater. I just snap. And you know what’s crazy, John and I’s parents are f*****g amazing dancers. And like we didn’t…well, John got it. He got it, he got it. I didn’t. F**k.
CW: John got the dancing and the energy…
SG: I’ve got none.
CW: John has this endless pit of energy where he wakes up at 7 a.m. and he doesn’t really stop until someone says, “you should probably go to sleep” and then he goes to sleep.
ML: So you and John are brothers. How did you all meet?
CW: We met a very long time ago playing in different bands and we played a show together. And then this was like 2008 and we kind of were like, “Okay, cool,” and then I think over the years from 2008 until 2018 or 2017 or whatever it is, we just kept seeing each other. I was playing in another band and we would play a show with The Summer Set or I would be another band and we would go to a Summer Set show or the Summer Set would be at my show or we’d be at a party or whatever. I just think we kept seeing each other. Kept seeing each other until eventually we all three of us ended up living in LA and we started talking about like, “Hey, like we, you know see each other all the time maybe cool if we.” We all write music, we knew that about each other and it’d be cool if we get into the studio and write some tunes and we did and there wasn’t really the idea of starting a band, but I think after three songs, we all collectively were like, “This is a really cool thing and we’d like to be in this band together and it just happened. Yeah. It was like it was like one day we were in a band together and the next day we were.
ML: And then did you and John always know you wanted to make music together?
SG: Honestly, like it was, it was somewhat forced on us by our mom. I remember like I was gonna start…
CW: “You boys should start a band!”
SG: Well, like actually, like meaner than that… I was going to like play like cover songs that I learned on my base with Jess, our drummer from The Summer Set, and Kennedy, the guitar player from The Maine.
ML: Oh, that is so cool.
SG: Yeah, I mean I’ve known Kennedy since I was like seven years old. I’ve known Jess since I was like 11 or 12. And we all started kind of playing our instruments at the same time. So we were all in middle school or like, “You know, let’s like try to play these Blink-182 covers together.” And obviously I couldn’t drive, so my mom had to drive me to Jess’ house. And I was like, “Yeah, like me and Kennedy and Jess are gonna like start a band,” and she’s like, “Well, you should take your brother.” And I’m like, “I don’t wanna f*****g take him, he’s f*****g like 11 years old. Like, he looks like a f*****g infant.” Like, “Mom, no, he’s not gonna be in my band.” She was like, “He’s going with you.” I’m like…
CW: And now he’s driven… You know what the irony in that is Stephen, is that he takes us everywhere, ’cause he drives everywhere. He drives us around the country.
SG: Yeah, he’s got so much energy. But no, I mean so I thank my mom for, honestly making like, like making me take you know, John along to that first rehearsal when I was 13 years old, he was 11 years old. And since then, just…I mean, we’re brothers so obviously, we’re obviously very close, but we’ve kind of just always made music together out of, I don’t think not only like being comfortable with each other but like…Just because like, I’m just like, “Who else would I make music with?” Like I’ve been doing it with this dude since I was f*****g 13 years old. Like I don’t know any other way, you know? Like it’d just be weird to not make music with him.
CW: You guys are a package deal.
SG: We’re a package deal.
CW: The greatest deal anyone could ever accidentally happen on to. You guys are amazing.
SG: Stop… You sound like Donald Trump.
CW: You know what?
SG: [Donald Trump voice] It’s the greatest deal in the history of deals. It’s the greatest.
CW: Yeah and it’s the absolute greatest. We’re building a wall. It’s going to be the greatest.
SG: [Donald Trump voice] It’s going to be the greatest wall in the history of walls. Even the Great Wall of China couldn’t… F**k… He’s such a d**k. But no, I think, yeah like John’s like better at like, we have our natural inclinations and what he’s great at, I lack in, I’m not as good at and what I’m good at, he’s not as good at, so like together we kind of make like one really like –
SG: Good person. I don’t even know about super, but like stuff like a good musician. And like I feel like separately we’re kind of like not even a person, we’re like half a person.
CW: Yeah, two peas in a pod.
SG: Yeah. I need him and he needs me. Even though sometimes I hate him. No I don’t. I love him. He’s my little brother. You know how it is.
ML: What’s been the best, most surprising thing since the Genesis of Twin XL so far?
SG: I think the shows on this tour have been the highlight of the band for me, seeing it come to life live and seeing people react to it. That’s like what I’ve always wanted is to connect with people in real life like in a concert experience like just to see people like generally react to it, you know? You don’t have to like give the band anything, that’s playing for you. You can just stand there and listen and just be like, “eh, whatever,” but when you see like a genuine response to it, no one’s making them do that, right? That’s the most rewarding.
CW: Yeah, I think being able to like play these songs live and have people actually be excited, to see them is awesome. You know, being on the road in general again is awesome, which we haven’t done in a long time.
ML: What’s your dream line-up and dream collaboration?
SG: Like a bill I’d want to be on?
CW: Dream line-up like…?
ML: I guess that one could go either way. Dream line-up that you would want to be on or that you would want to see. That could go either way. Dream collaboration is for Twin XL.
SG: I’m trying to think of a good one to collab with. I would really, really, REALLY love to collab with who I’d love to work with Jack Antonoff. Bleachers, you know. I would truly love to write and work with him. It would probably honestly sound like a Bleachers song. Which I’m cool with. Nah, I think we could work together.
CW: Yeah, I think we can.
SG: And I would love… I would love Bleachers to be on that line-up. I’d love The 1975 to be on that line-up.
CW: Yeah, like Matt Healy, Paul McCartney, Pharrell Williams and like…
SG: Is this the line-up?
CW: Yeah, this is the band. Who’s a good drummer that’s not Travis Barker?
SG: Oh, you’re talking about, you’re talking about band line-up not –
CW: I don’t know. I don’t know, I’m just trying to, I’m trying to like create a line-up of people.
ML: I meant tour line-up, but I like where your head is.
CW: Oh, I thought you meant like a band…
ML: Matty Healy and Paul McCartney in one band?
CW: All right. Yeah. So The Beatles –
SG: [British accent] That’s a little bit British, a bit too British.
CW: The Beatles or Paul McCartney, The 1975, Bleachers, and…
SG: I don’t know. I like fun. Bleachers and The 1975. I also really f**k with K. Flay, like a lot.
CW: K. Flay is dope.
SG: I love Foster the People. I don’t know. It would be like a huge Festival; it’d be like Coachella. Bright Eyes… Bright Eyes gets back together, Death Cab for Cutie.
CW: How does Bright Eyes break up?
SG: Kings of Leon… Dude, Conor [Oberst] just didn’t wanna do it anymore I guess, whatever. His new project Better Oblivion Community Center is amazing.
CW: It’s not that Bright Eyes broke up, it’s that my soul broke up? Kings of Leon is dope.
SG: I could go on forever… Radiohead.
CW: Radiohead… The Cure.
SG: The Cure! The Smiths.
SG: The Smiths! The Clash if Joe Strummer was still involved. This is like the best festival. F*****g old Kanye, like only the first three Kanye records. Big Sean. Drake.
ML: Good luck trying to tell Kanye that he can only play his first three albums.
SG: No, literally, I don’t give a f**k…
CW: Not even like not, not even Kanye playing his old records, just Kanye from that from time period and then if we’re going there, then let’s do Enema of the State era Blink-182 –
SG: Let’s do Take Off Your Pants and Jacket era.
CW: Take Off Your Pants and Jacket era, you’re right. They sounded better.
SG: Yeah, all the way up to that.
CW: Let’s do that. I mean, the list goes on and on something and we’d love to play… I mean there’s a lot of artists that are active right now that we’d love to play with, as well. I Don’t Know How But They Found Me’s new stuff they’re putting out is really great.
ML: Finally, what is your go-to karaoke song?
SG: Jack and Diane by John Cougar Mellencamp.
CW: Stephen’s a Karaoke Legend.
SG: I f*****g love karaoke. Is there anywhere to do karaoke around here? Maybe I’ll go and do that right now.