Words by Tommy Johnson
Suppose I tell you that you were a musician grinding within the heart of the music community in your town. Along the way, you meet up with someone that shares a similar vision and drive as you do. A friendly conversation turns into teaming to jam out, which then pivots to honing on tracks to play at a show. If all goes well, the future begins to look a little clearer than that initial meetup.
What I just mentioned above is your typical progression for musicians in most cities. With Twen’s lineup, Jane Fitzsimmons and Ian Jones quickly discovered that the connection they had couldn’t be squander. So with the cassette recording of their first performance as their base, Twen took off and begun a two-year straight tour. The five-song EP titled Twen Live was unabashedly astonishing, giving focus on the craftsmanship of Jones’ whirling guitar riffs and Fitzsimmons showcasing vocals that were psychedelic influenced.
After thrusting themselves to the limits over the past two years, Twen is about to release what could be one of the best albums this year. Via Frenchkiss, Twen’s debut Awestruck is the byproduct of two individuals recapping their stint on the road. Recorded in various locations, the duo exhibit a level of maturity and progression within their sound. “Baptism” soars through the heavy fuzz and distortion, while “Damsel” is a classic indie rock track. “Horseblood” is a slow burner that finishes the album like a dream.
OffShelf: How long were you two working together before the first show occurred?
Ian Jones: We met when we were 19 playing in college bands in Boston, around 2012. But it wasn’t until four years after that we decided to start this project.
OS: Tell me a little more about the show where you recorded your live cassette. What was the energy like in the room?
IJ: It was just a practice show at our friend’s popular house/basement venue that threw shows all the time. They put us on the bill, just because we wanted to get our feet wet. We were first, and it was an audience of maybe 15 or 20.
OS: Why did you two make a move to Nashville from Boston?
IJ: We were poking out into the dark, just needing a fresh start. We felt we had our time in Boston, and so let’s move to where we can make music, where it’s cheaper rent and its warmer. Hence, Nashville.
OS: During the two straight years being on the road, was there ever a point when you felt that it was becoming too much? I could imagine that you had to reach a breaking point.
IJ: It was really hard to pay rent. When we were home in between tours, we’d have to try to stockpile money, knowing that we’d be leaving again in 2 or 3 weeks. Definitely got stuck in a scarcity mindset because we were scraping by, but we were also having fun being in this new band that felt really fresh and adventurous. It’s always felt like we were doing it for a reason, so that was enough to carry us through.
OS: How long did Awestruck take to be written and recorded?
IJ: It took two years on and off to be pieced together; definitely a longer process than it needed to be. Because it was our first time through the recording process in a new town, as a new band, a lot of the record felt like it was happening to us, rather than something we planned out and executed. There was never a blueprint of what songs and how each would be recorded. It was recording whatever songs we had, and we stopped when we had 10. A year after we finished, we went back and redid a lot of it to freshen it up and make it relevant again. Especially because during that time, we had personal changes and had been through a lot of growth.
So the record is surely a timepiece of where we were for those first two years. We’re no longer in that same place, considering the record was finished, and we signed to Frenchkiss a year ago. So much personal growth has happened for us since then.
OS: When recording Awestruck, was there a sense of urgency to finish it, or did you allow yourselves to take your time? I assume that you wanted to get some fresh material out to the masses.
IJ: It’s hard to remember really – it feels like a past incarnation, and I can’t recall what actually went down. I remember it being a frustrating process, pretty much the whole time. Never knowing if it was done yet, or if we got it right. It just happened the way it did and that’s where the chips fell. The next record will have far more intention behind it.
OS: One of the main takeaways that I have with Twen is that sonically the music is gigantic and heavy. When forming the band, what did you want the listener to experience?
IJ: We do not think about the listener experience when we write music or play together. We honestly couldn’t care less. That sounds like a recipe for disaster.
OS: You two have now converted a van and primarily live in it, essentially giving up having a cemented home. I honestly can admit that I’m pretty jealous of this discovery.
IJ: We’ll see how it goes!
OS: What have you learned about yourselves that you have been working with others for a while?
IJ: Trust your gut. Get things right the first time. Choose your coworkers wisely. Don’t be afraid to say no.