Twin Peaks Is Proving That Rock and Roll Isn't Dead

The video for “Making Breakfast” — Twin Peaks’ infectious, sarcastic mid-tempo Ween-meets-Pavement love song — is one of the most uplifting things the Internet has been blessed with in recent memory. Just try not smiling as young Clay Frankel sings lines like “I’m the one who loves you / don’t let it get you down” as he’s shown intermittently having eggs cracked over his head and dancing sheepishly while making eggs and coffee on a grill in an alley.

Similar to what Red Fang is doing for metal, Twin Peaks — which started in 2009 when the Chicago quintet was in the thick of high school — is bringing unpretentious joy back to straight-up American rock ‘n’ roll. Via energetic live performances and whimsical, creative videos — like the one for “I Found a New Way,” which features the band playing baseball Sandlot-style against preppy opponents — Twin Peaks is proving Gene Simmons’ infamous “Rock is finally dead” statement wrong.

In a brief recent Westword interview, co-frontman Cadien Lake James responded to Stereogum’s assertion last year that Twin Peaks is “carrying the torch” of rock ‘n’ roll by saying, “I don’t know about all that, but Gene Simmons is wrong for sure.”

As for what current act he thinks deserves the title of torch-bearer, Lake emphatically nominated Fat White Family. But, while the F.W.F. is bringing punky explosiveness and even G.G. Allin-style bodily discharge back to pure rock ‘n’ roll, Twin Peaks, especially on its 2013 debut Sunken, is throwing back to an era when even the Stones seemed innocent.

Mixing pretty underlying Pet Sounds vibes and gritty Crypt Records-esque garage-punk production, Sunken—drenched in reverb from the opening notes of “Baby Blue”—begged the question of whether Twin Peaks’ fuzzy studio sound is influenced more by the lo-fi style of haunting oldies or more modern shoegaze.

“Both totally have their place,” says James. “For me it depends on the song and the approach I want to take. Generally I appreciate old-school ambiance a bit more, but there's nothing like the My Bloody Valentine-esque vibes when you’re using synths or whatever.”
Wild Onion — a more polished follow-up released on Grand Jury last fall that features the aforementioned “Making Breakfast” and “I Found a New Way”—finds the self-proclaimed “all-right dudes” of Twin Peaks more intentionally going for both honed-in Abbey Road engineering and early-'70s Rolling Stones bombast.

James, for his part, says the group was focusing on “just being able to break the rules in clever ways. We just wanted to do some live stuff with a lot of energy, yelps and hollers, that kind of Stonesy stuff. But it doesn't really sound like Exile [On Main Street] in the end.”

And it’s true: Wild Onion drips with Twin Peaks’ obvious youth and levity, which effectively make the band’s brand of rock, no matter how raucous, a more accessible, comforting version of neo-garage than James’ heroes, such as Thee Oh Sees, the Black Lips and Jay Reatard.

According to James, those artists (and garage rock in general) “shepherded me while I was forming my taste, playing music to have fun with it, [doing] something universal that you could play even if you have minimal experience playing.”

One of Twin Peaks’ first gigs was in a garage, and James & Co. even sometimes practice in drummer Connor Brodner’s garage, so it’s not just these guys the term “garage” doesn’t just indicate a genre.

As for playing all over the United States and Europe, becoming adults while also becoming famous, James says the way-back bond between the young members of Twin Peaks has a positive effect on the band’s burgeoning career.

“Some people refer to us as famous, [and] we definitely get recognized,” James says. “But it doesn't feel crazy to me yet. We're still just some dudes. I'm a very open and honest person anyways, so it doesn't phase me really — maybe a tad weird but not really. I think as far as our history with each other, we've all been homies so long and wanted to do this together that we find ways to keep everyone else going based off what they need.”

Twin Peaks plays the Hi-Dive on Thursday night with Plum and Ned Garthe Explosion.
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Pittsburgh native Adam Perry is a cyclist, drummer and University of Pittsburgh and Naropa University alum. He lives in Boulder and has written for Westword since 2008.
Contact: Adam Perry