If you haven’t heard of Twin Peaks – where have you been for the past decade – the group hails from Chicago, where the five members came together in 2010. Consisting of guitarists Cadien Lake James and Clay Frankel, bassist Jack Dolan, multi-instrumentalist Colin Croom, and drummer Connor Brodner, the five-member indie rock band released their fourth album titled Lookout Low at the tail end of 2019.
Demonstrating a clear shift from previous releases such as Sweet ’17 Singles and Down In Heaven, the album’s new groove suggests the group of long-time friends operate a space where collaboration, novel ideas, and a little bit of risk are not only encouraged but also, are viewed with an essential attitude of bringing everything to the table.
Ahead of Twin Peaks’ first live performance in Ireland next week, we chatted to Cadien about the band’s new album, their experience recording with legendary Ethan James in rural Wales, and what they’re most excited to see and do with a few hours in the Irish capital.
The Knockturnal: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today! I assume you’re based in the U.S. right now as you’re preparing to head off on your European tour?
Cadien Lake James: Yep, we’re in Chicago at rehearsal right now.
The Knockturnal: Nice, that’s awesome! So, you’re going to be playing Whelan’s in Dublin towards the end of the month. Am I right in saying this will be Twin Peaks’ first Irish show?
CLJ: Yeah, man, and we’re really excited! Four out of the five of us have quite a bit of Irish in our ethnicity. Clay, our guitarist, has been once before but none of the rest of us have been before and we’re super psyched.
The Knockturnal: Is there anything you guys are really excited to see or do while you’re in Ireland?
CLJ: You know, at the end of the day, we’re going to have one night there. We’re going to see the venue and play the show – so I’m trying to not even get my hopes up too much – but I’m really excited to taste Guinness in Ireland because I’ve heard it’s much better and I like Guinness a lot. And also, if I could find my way to a pub after our show that has like guys fiddling and shit, that would be pretty rad.
The Knockturnal: Oh yeah, there’s plenty of that kind of thing here in Dublin!
CLJ: Yeah, I’m with it, I’m trying to see some of that. If I get to a pub with some fiddling and some Guinness, I’ll be happy.
The Knockturnal: If you go anywhere in Temple Bar, you’ll definitely find it.
CLJ: Right, thanks for the recommendation!
The Knockturnal: So, I guess I’ll be the first to say welcome to Ireland! Now, you’re heading out on tour following the release of your latest record, Lookout Low. It really is an amazing album so well done to you guys and congratulations, I absolutely love it!
CLJ: Thank you very much!
The Knockturnal: So, the album shows a somewhat distinct shift in sound from your previous records. You know, it’s somewhat more soulful with some hints of gospel. Could you speak a little bit about this shift? Did you all go into creating this record with this new direction in mind or is it something that emerged more organically while you were collaborating?
CLJ: It was certainly the latter. We’ve never really been able to go into a record saying “this is what we all want to do” because at the end of the day, we have four songwriters and it’s just like, we tend toward a lot of same things but we come from really different places with our songwriting. So, we just demoed out twenty-seven songs last summer and then, we kind of saw this record that was Lookout Low within those songs. And then I think the next element that brought out – you say gospel – but this more soulful thing is just that we did it live and I think that that really comes across when all the instruments are in the same room. You know, the arrangements breathe a little more, the guitars aren’t stepping on the vocals’ spot, everything gets a little more space. And then also, this is the first record where we’ve had these two gals who are really good friends of ours – Macie Stewart and Sima Cunningham who formed the band OHHME in Chicago – and they sang on a couple of our songs before just here and there but they’re on seven of the ten songs on the new record. I think that really brought out that vibe, you know, having two really talented female singers kind of gives it this gospely thing.
The Knockturnal: Definitely, it’s a really distinct sound. As you mentioned, you actually started with twenty-seven demos and you whittled it down to the final ten tracks on the album. So, I’m wondering if there are any songs on the final album that significantly changed from the demo or almost surprised you to end up on the final album?
CLJ: Definitely. “Dance Through It” was not at all like how it turned out, the demo had this folky guitar kind of vibe, I don’t know. It just took a total left turn when our keyboardist Colin suggested this bassline and it kind of swung the groove. We took the guitar out of it and just totally rethought it and it was at the very last minute that that happened so that one was a kind of cool curveball. “Casey’s Groove” was another that ended up being a song so driven by the drums, this kind of really rollicking drum part, and that came after the initial demo. So, yeah, I mean things one hundred per cent evolve when the band’s all playing them. I think especially my songs and our bassist Jack’s songs were pretty open to letting someone else’s idea permeate a song and letting it become something new. A fun part of being in a band with four songwriters is that you might come with something but it turns into something totally different and that’s part of the collaboration.
The Knockturnal: It definitely sounds like an interesting and dynamic creative process. Do you have a favourite track?
CLJ: I haven’t been listening to the record in months. I’m almost over it, I’m working on new stuff, but I really like the title track, I really like “Laid in Gold,” it’s all pretty cool. “Oh Mama” is my favorite to play live.
The Knockturnal: Yeah, that’s a good one. You recorded this album with Ethan Johns in Wales. How was that? Wales and Monnow Valley Studio is a beautiful place and space, so I’m wondering if creating and recording in this place influenced the creative process? You spoke a little bit about recording it live, which is significant.
CLJ: Yeah, that was a big thing that came from Ethan’s approach as we weren’t planning on doing that necessarily, but I think we were up for the challenge once we heard that’s how he worked. Recording in Wales, you know, since we weren’t doing a lot of writing out there, I wouldn’t say it influenced the songs a ton but you know, we like to do destination studios whether it’s just a friend’s house in the middle of nowhere where we’re setting stuff up or a legitimate studio like [Minnow Valley Studio]. Just kind of being out in the middle of nowhere, you know, Jack didn’t leave the house. We were staying at the house that the studio was in and he didn’t leave there for three weeks, it was just very insular. I think that’s very conducive for us to be on top of our shit and do a good job. If we were recording in Dublin and I would be out having Guinness and too much fiddling, I wouldn’t get shit done the next day.
The Knockturnal: Absolutely fair! If you could use one word to describe your new album Lookout Low, what would it be?
The Knockturnal: If you woke up tomorrow and decided to completely switch musical genres, what genre would you choose?
The Knockturnal: Finally, Twin Peaks are notoriously good live so ahead of your Euro/U.K. tour, what do you want your fans – new and old – to take away from your shows?
CLJ: I just want people to have a good time, you know, we live in a world that can be pretty intense and make you feel apathetic and wear you down day to day. So, if you can come to a show of ours and feel a little energy and youth and community or feel together with people and enjoy this visceral, live thing together and you go to sleep feeling good that night, that’s awesome. We just want to make people feel happy for a night and to engage with people and make them feel a part of this thing that’s happening because that’s how we feel. It’s a give and take with the audience.
The Knockturnal: Definitely, I really respect that, especially in today’s world as you said.
CLJ: Yeah, I’d also like to say f*** Donald Trump, if you could put that in.
The Knockturnal: I’ll see if my editor will let me slip that in but no promises! Either way, thank you so much for talking with me.
CLJ: Of course, thanks for covering the band! Looking forward to seeing you in Dublin.
The Knockturnal: Definitely. I’m very excited to see you guys in Whelan’s as many amazing artists have passed through that stage, so I’m sure you guys will do great. Thanks so much for your time!
CLJ: Take care!
Coming Soon! Want to know more about Twin Peaks first performance in Dublin? You can read our review of the event here.
Twin Peaks’ latest album Lookout Low is available to stream on Spotify.
Featured Images: Cooper Fox