Amidst the crowded Chicago rock scene, Twin Peaks has harnessed the city’s boisterous and in-your-face attitude. They are loud. They are rowdy. They are damn good. The band has been playing together since their high school days, releasing their debut album, Sunken, shortly after graduation in 2013, followed by two full-length albums, Wild Onion and Down in Heaven. Midway through 2017, the band started a concept called Sweet ‘17 Singles Series, resulting in a string of singles being released each month. A little over a year later, the band is already teasing their next record.
Twin Peaks’ enthusiasm during live shows is toxic, creeping into the veins of anyone within arm’s reach. That energy was especially buzzing during their Goose Island's 312 Day concert, which unsurprisingly sold out in less than ten minutes. “We’re opening the set with the first two songs from our first record”, guitarist Cadien Lake James tells to me prior to the show. “We haven't played ‘Baby Blue’ in like four years or something.”
The remainder of their set was spent belting out crowd-favorites, and as an added hometown surprise, sprinkling in four new songs off their forthcoming record. Prior to the show, I joined multi-instrumentalist Colin Croom, bassist Jack Dolan, and the guitarists Lake James and Clay Frankel to crack open a few cans of Natural Villain—the second run of a garage-style lager brewed by Goose Island with the members of Twin Peaks.
At Pitchfork festival a few years back, you all collaborated with Goose Island and created Natural Villain. That beer was just nationally released. How did that come to fruition?
Jack: It’s something Pitchfork does every year. They make a beer with artists playing the festival. When we did it, we wanted to make a Mexican-style lager, something you can drink in the summer.
Cadien: A lot of the collaborations were IPAs or heavier beers because craft beer is a big thing here.
Jack: Yeah, but that’s the stuff that you're really not trying to drink at a music festival.
How much of the brewing process did you have a hand in?
Jack: They navigated us through it and told us the science behind everything—why stuff tastes this way and all that.
Cadien: We really narrowed it down to the Mexican-style lager. From there, we tried Tecate, Pacifico, and Modelo and just got the whole run of the mill. Then we talked about what we liked, and they narrowed it down to what it was that we were digging. We tried it and we thought it was fucking awesome. We had no idea, at that point, it would make a return and get distributed or anything.
How did the return of the beer happen? That's the first time that an artist’s beer from Goose Island and Pitchfork festival has been brought back. It's usually only a one-time thing.
Cadien: This is the first time they've done it. I remember seeing our Goose Island guy at Pitchfork last year and I was teasing, ‘We should bring back the beer.’ He said, ‘I’m actually working on it.’ I was kidding, but that's how I found out they were actually trying to bring it back. I think people really enjoyed it at the festival, and Goose Island realized it was the lightest beer they have.
Colin: They've never done a lager before. It’s bottom fermentation as opposed to all their other beers, which is top fermentation. It seemed most natural for us to pick something that you can drink a lot of without feeling weighed down.
Is it a limited run?
Cadien: I’m sure if it doesn't sell well, they'll pull it, but they're presenting it as a year-round beer. It’s part of their roster now.
They used to have these guys out there that carried these coolers, and you can just buy beers on the way to a bar for a euro.”
You guys have toured all over the world at this point. Where’s a really special place you've had a beer?
Clay: I just had my first Guinness in Ireland.
Where at in Ireland?
Clay: The first one I had was in Dublin. Then, I had a whole bunch of them in Galway.
Colin: I'm always a fan of good, local domestic beer. I dig on Rainiers out in the Pacific Northwest.
Jack: Spain has some really good beers.
Cadien: I really love drinking in Madrid.
Jack: They used to have these guys out there that carried these coolers, and you can just buy beers on the way to a bar for a euro. Recently though, they’ve been cracking down on them.
Cadien: We’d be hanging out at the bar and they'd be outside the bar when your smoking cigarettes. You can just buy a beer while you're smoking.
Colin: Then you’d go back inside and buy another beer. Drinking culture is pretty great there.
Cadien: I like drinking in Brussels too. Delirium is from Brussels and we went down to their bar and it was one of the few heavier beers that I quite enjoy.
Jack: We were just in Australia for a month and we had Coopers, which was really good. They left the sediment in it, and every glass had a decent amount.
Like a hazy New England IPA or something?
Jack: It was more chunky.
Colin: It has the balance of a heavier pilsner, like a Helles lager almost. It was a super cloudy pale ale. It was good. It was fucking expensive to drink in Australia though. I don't know how they do it. A pint of the shittiest beer you can get is $10, and they upcharge all hard liquor too. If you wanted a margarita or some shit, it’s like $30. Basically, we would just drink the rider beer, and whatever was leftover, we would take that with us and make it last.
Can you talk about the direction that you guys are going with the new album? The early stuff was really fierce, while the newer singles have a more mellow sound.
Cadien: We just got done recording it in Wales. I think it’s a continuation. There's some of it that's really off the hinge. I think our musicianship is leagues beyond what we've done in the past. We spent a lot of our time doing our own records and stacking parts one thing at a time. Most of this record is playing in a room together and I think that comes across. It’s helpful for me to see why maybe people like us as a live band so much, I didn't really get that before.
Colin: It was a different work ethic than what we were prone to. Generally, the writing and recording would come in tandem in sort of a way. We would play a song that's maybe 60% done and we would go in there and figure out a lead guitar line. It would be very on the spot.
Cadien: We were much more prepared this time. We spent the time learning the songs together. I find it hard to describe to our music, but I think it’s better. I'll say that for sure I think the music, songwriting and sound are all better.
With just wrapping up the Sweet ‘17 Singles at the end of 2017, it was a pleasant surprise to find out another new album is already on the way. How do you keep motivating yourselves to constantly create and put out quality music within the limits of a rigorous touring schedule?
Colin: I mean, personally, we have four songwriters in the band, we don't really have an excuse not to in a way, you know.
Cadien: It’s like keeping a journal or snapshot of where we are as friends, and where we all are in our life. It's nice to continually document that, to have something that I can look back at through the years and see where I was then. I think we all truly write songs as an outlet, regardless if we think we're going to use it with the band. There’s just always material.
You all have grown together from kids to adults as both friends and bandmates. How has that dynamic shaped the way you create together?
Jack: Playing together for so long, we have a pretty good idea of where everyone's going. If we’re working on something, generally, there's a certain vibe, and we pick up on that from experience.
Colin: There’s a lot of natural intuition for sure.
Cadien: When we were at the studio, the day we finally finished everything we were doing out there, we coincidentally had also just gotten an email of a 30-minute radio performance from 2011. Colin wasn’t even playing with us yet. We listened to it at the kitchen table, before we went to listen to our last mix, and it was just so insane to hear how much of a difference eight years has made. We used to not be very good at playing our instruments, but the songs were still there.
Jack: The foundation was there.
Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things has a band called Calpurnia. Cadien and Colin, you worked on Calpurnia's debut EP. Can you tell me about that?
Cadien: I produced it. Some person I knew told me that Finn was a fan of our band, and so I asked for his number. I texted him, “Hey, its Cadien. You like our band, I like your acting.” Immediately, we started texting about guitars and gear nerd stuff. Within a year, I was working on the record with them. It fell into place. I had never tried it before, but I had actually been doing this the entire career of the band. They were really just trying to discover themselves, and I thought, maybe I can help. It was really natural and so much fun. Now, we’ve done another single with them, which just came out the other day that I'm really proud of. Their guitarist, Ayla, is so talented. They're all talented, but she's an insane musician.
Jack: She’s like a prodigy. She’s crazy.
There’s a rumor that there is a secret side project with Post Animal?
Cadien: I can’t tell you the name or anything, but you can say there’s a pretty mystical ‘Six Minute Songs’ project in the works from myself and the Post Animal guys. It took us two years to finish one song, and if we can finish two, maybe we can get something out.
Anything special planned for tonight’s hometown show?
Jack: We’re playing a couple of new ones. That's pretty special I think. It's nice for the first people to hear it be a very intimate crew of people.