MIDWEST OF EVERYTHING - May, 2020 - I ROLLED OUT OF CEDAR FALLS and gambled my way through Waterloo industry until I broke free, out into the soft Iowa hills south of Dunkerton. I was propelled by gas station coffee and small powdered donuts, and I overshot the driveway and had to turn around.
I met Joel Sires of the Iowa-based band Twins outside his country home and we walked around trees and small outbuildings that looked like mini-barns - and a newly constructed chicken coop (*chickens coming soon) - and we talked for more than an hour on one Monday afternoon in May of 2020.
Joel is a super cool dude.
We connected on lots of familiar thoughts and stories and musical interests. He is a genuinely nice guy and it was a great hang.
Homer the dog was also on hand. Homer is a rescue dog that patrols the Sires land like a well-trained mercenary. Homer is friendly. Homer is cute. Homer is cool AF. Be like Homer.
Twins has been around since 2011. In that time they have released 3 albums with their 4th venture coming out on June 5th of this year titled Dream On. The new album is a bit of a departure from previous releases as it focuses a bit more on the space between notes and sounds a little less rock and a bit more “folksy”. The move is a direct reflection of the way Joel has changed over the last few years since their 2016 release Square America.
Joel feels like he is at an age where the usual stage antics and etc’s just don’t make sense. He’s not 25 anymore.
He talked about that, “I had gotten to a point a few years ago where I was sort of in a weird spot with our live sets. I had sort of exhausted the act of hamming it up like I was 25 years old in my first band. I knew it was wearing thin... and I wasn’t sure what the next move was until I saw Brother Trucker and specifically Andy Fleming, their front man and songwriter, with new eyes. Beyond being one of the best songwriters and lyricists working, he and the band are also an ego-less well-oiled rock and roll machine. When you go to a Brother Trucker show they might as well set up and play behind mirrors that face the crowd - because they make their audience the star. They are very much a workmen band who have perfected the craft of playing the rooms they do... and to me that is a serious art form. I have never heard anyone in that band say a bad thing about a fellow artist. They only lift the folks around them up. And that’s something I aim at after living in their world.”
The new Twins album reflects that growth. It still has a few familiar sounding songs to people that loved Square America or older records. Passenger and So Far Gone sort of both have that familiar Twins rock feel. But, they are still a bit different. A bit more matured and mellowed out.
Square America reminds me a lot of The Replacements - and that’s a pretty cool thing to be reminded of.
Check this one out: Teenage Grenade
The new record, Dream On, seems to run parallel with the mustache Joel is currently sporting. Its a mustache that Joel fashions in honor of the late and very great John Prine. The influence of singer songwriters like Prine and others comes through on the new album in a great way.
Joel explained, “The lyrics are first and foremost to me as a listener. Specifically, the ability of those writers, like John Prine and the Drive By Truckers, to put into words what is happening in my world. ... I think their work informs my process in the way it causes me to hold myself to a higher standard. I try not to let any line go by without really looking at it critically and trying to find a hole or a spot I can improve it.”
I must admit, I love Joel’s voice. On Square America it blends so well with the over-driven amps, it makes me want to burn my guitars and swallow a live scorpion.
It’s a great rock-n-roll voice.
But, what I have found while listening to Dream On is that Joel’s voice also mellows out extremely well. Buffalo Snow is a perfect example of that. He has a believable voice. Does that make sense?
Buffalo Snow is a perfectly sung song in my opinion.
*”sung song” is a fun word combo there.
The new album was largely recorded and mixed at Chandler LTD in Shell Rock, IA by Seth Luloff, who also co-produced it with Joel. **See: Holy White Hands - for some of Seth’s music.
Also, I brought in a friend from New Hampshire, Jesse Nickerson, to write up the review for We Got Corn. It’s good to have outside eyes and ears. See below.
I asked Joel what he wanted people to take away from this album. Or if he expected them to take away anything.
He replied, “I most certainly hope people take away something from this album! That’s very important to me. What that is depends entirely on the listener I think, but I hope they are entertained, maybe have a couple laughs, feel inspired and find something they can relate to in the words. I put a lot of my honest personal self into the words, wherever it made sense to do so and I tried to shine some light on the people and things I’m thankful for. Hopefully it’ll remind folks in whatever tiny way to be thankful for their time and loved ones.”
Dream On officially comes out on June 5th of this year (2020), but you can pre-order it now here:
WHAT ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?
Releasing an album in the middle of a pandemic was something Joel and the band definitely thought long and hard about. They almost waited, so they could do some live shows to promote it, but then thought to just get it out and worry about playing live later on.
Eventually they will be out playing this record and hustling the vinyl near you, go see them.
Until then, buy the album – it will keep you cozy in your isolation.
We ended our time together standing in the driveway, listening to the cars fly by on the highway as their older dog barked at me from a side window.
Joel sat on the tailgate of his truck and I leaned up against my car and we talked about the similarities between our two creative ventures – art and music. The roads we travel - they dissect and cross and breed like an alien species - ultimately weaving some sort of strange fabric that we both seem to rely on as a way to hold our shit together – for better or worse - in at least some small way.
Many thanks and love to Joel for the great hang and best of luck out to Twins on their new album. Its a great album. I really hope you all buy it.
Love you all. Be well.
My astrological sign is BEER.
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Twins - Dream On
by Jesse Nickerson. New Hampshire USA.
From the outset of the album, Twins waste no time in giving a taste of what's in store on their newest LP, "Dream On". The first track, "Laws of Love", is a strong, rustic rock tune with a lot to grab on to. Throughout this song, and across the rest of the album, you'll hear many familiar, comfortable sounds that are mainstays in alt-country or Americana. Gritty electric guitars, traditional acoustic instruments, and thumping straight beats are all executed well here, but Twins have an interesting way of putting their own, modernized, unique hue on things. This is by no means a cookie-cutter band who are doing little else but accidentally emulating their influences. Instrumentally, these songs are very rich and interesting, yet everything has its proper place. Music and vocals are well executed, done very loosely and naturally. Nothing is overwrought or desperate. It's easy to put trust and belief behind what is presented here.
"Buffalo Snow" is a standout, for sure. While it is by all accounts a ballad, there's still a driving force behind it that solidifies its urgency. The subtle, purposeful lyrics have a beautiful sentiment, housed within a well-presented time and place. Not only is there a clear image of a story told, but also of the world where it occurs.
The more energetic songs are reminiscent at times of a slightly more chilled out mid-2000's Lucero, or perhaps a Patterson Hood when he's in one of his more optimistic moods.
While roots rock and Americana don't seem to garner the amount of attention they once did, "Dream On" is an album that not only reminds us of why that genre was so effective, but it also proves that there's still plenty of opportunity for newer bands to pick up the ball, and cover some new ground with it. This is the type of release that could touch on something cozy and familiar within a lot of music fans, from several different generations and backgrounds.