Don’t bother asking Twin Peaks about the deeper meaning of their band name. They simply thought it sounded cool, which explains why their second album Wild Onion (out August 5th on The Grand Jury) isn’t as spooky or surreal as David Lynch’s short-lived TV show. It’s more like a modern day Nuggets, with Ty Segall, Black Lips and Thee Oh Sees curating instead of Lenny Kaye. Not literally, of course. But the spirit of those garage demigods is alive and well alongside subtle nods to everything from the Pixies and Tame Impala to the godfathers of guitar-guided pop music, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.
If combining the influence of so many classic artists seems like a lofty goal for a group of 20 year olds, just remember that Twin Peaks’ core quartet—frontman Cadien Lake James, guitarist Clay Frankel, bassist Jack Dolan and drummer Connor Brodner—has roots that reach back to elementary school. And while their friendships were forged long ago, James also learned the ins and outs of the local Chicago scene with his last project: Teenage Dream, a minimal-yet-mean duo with his older brother Hal.
“We played our first show when I was a freshman,” says Cadien, “and of the three people who came out, one was Alex White of White Mystery. She loved it. Alex has taught me a lot about being business smart and taking things slow, about being grateful and expressing thanks where due, and about being a gracious musician. The generosity of all the bands in the scene out here is pretty amazing.”
The only problem? Hal was asked to join the Smith Westerns, and since Cadien didn’t want to go the solo route, he found the perfect outlet in Twin Peaks. Having quickly cut their debut LP, 2013’s Sunken, so they could sell it on tour, the band was excited to spend more time developing Wild Onion, a record that reveals a level of maturity beyond all the amp-singeing solos, ragtag rhythms and dizzying voices of three distinct singer-songwriters. Unlike acts who let their egos get in the way, Cadien, Clay and Jack share the spotlight and play to one another’s strengths as Connor keeps things moving with a steady beat.
So while it’s hard to tell who’s screaming what sometimes, the album’s overall vibe couldn’t be more cohesive, whether it’s expressed through sun-kissed psych (“Mirror of Time,” “Strange World”), crowd-riling choruses (“Making Breakfast,” “Good Lovin’”) or hooks that take just seconds to sink in (“Flavor,” “I Found a New Way,” “Strawberry Smoothie”). Step back for a minute and you’ll also notice that everyone’s facing the cold, hard realities of life head-on, whether it’s relationships, the death of a family member, or getting used to the fact that three-fourths of the band (Cadien, Jack and Connor) left a school they loved (Evergreen State College) to pursue the crushed barriers, rushed stages and tireless recording sessions of Twin Peaks fulltime.
“The album deals with a lot of insecurities that arise when you’re growing up,” explains Cadien, “It’s about adopting them and being vulnerable to let out the tunes. It ain’t ideal, but it’s sublime.” Or as Jack adds when asked about a song he wrote (the rise above anthem “Fade Away”), “It’s about looking at life and smashing it in the face until you break your hand. I hope you play this during your most epic of battles on this world.”