Host intro: This is 91.1 WNXP. I’m Jason Wilkins. I’m here to try and describe our Nashville Artist of the Month. You see, there’s indie, there’s DIY, and then there’s Twen, a band who may demand a new acronym: DEY, do everything yourself. That’s really where the band are right now. No manager, agent, label, producer, any of the usual pieces.
That wasn’t always the case. Just a few years ago, after moving to Nashville, Jane Fitzsimmons and Ian Jones quickly built a buzz and were picked up by the influential indie rock record label Frenchkiss. Their 2019 debut Awestruck hit all those psych pop and shoegaze marks beautifully and musically without really hitting a big commercial target.
That let down and the lockdown did not stop them. Twen regrouped and rebuilt their touring van. They turned it into a full-time home/studio where they began making One Stop Shop. The new album, it expands the Brit-rock-influenced sound they started on Awestruck, but now with a much sharper lyrical focus and some huge hooks.
Twen recently visited WNXP and we began our conversation by asking Jane and Ian why their debut didn’t reach as many ears as we thought it should have.
Jane Fitzsimmons: So much to unpack there. I would flip the script on that. I do think it didn’t get enough attention, but for the wrong reasons that I think we made it too soon. So when we came to Nashville, we started playing shows and we just got picked up by a producer saying, “You should record an album.” And we probably shouldn’t have done it that soon, because we would have probably written better songs and grown a little bit. We were already touring, so I think we made it too early. So we felt hyped up, but for no reason, in my mind. I don’t think the album was good enough to be hyped up, but I think this one is really, really good.
Jason Moon Wilkins: I will say I think the record is really great. I hear you, and that and you have shown this movement in a different direction on this record. And specifically, Jane, I wanted to ask you vocally, I hear stuff in in “Brooklyn Bridge” and in “Fortune 500” that you didn’t hear on the first record. I wonder if that’s part of it, too, is as a vocalist, you finding your voice in a different way on this album.
JF: I mean, at the time we started the band and we started writing, I just was doing it at any way I could, and I didn’t really realize I wasn’t going all the way with it in my head. I thought I sounded like what you hear on “Brooklyn Bridge” and “Fortune 500.” But that is not what was happening. I was doing very Cocteau Twins-style stuff and that was really fun and that let me just move forward. And then through that process, I learned what I can do, which is on this record.
JMW: You make a good point too about it seems like between 2019 and now, you’ve you found this confidence to know to trust your instincts. And if your instinct is keep going, keep refining, do it.
JF: Yeah. Even if an older man and the music industry says, “This is great.”
JMW: There’s a big life change for you all between Awestruck and One Stop Shop in that you’d already outfitted the van right. But you officially, during the pandemic, moved into. It’s become your full time space. I’m wondering with that decision, did Nashville’s housing affordability issues come into that at all?
JF: Well, we actually moved out of our house in 2018. So two years before the pandemic, because it was so expensive and because we Airbnbed our house when we were going on tour, and we got kicked out because we weren’t supposed to do that. But that’s the only way that it made DIY touring affordable. So we had been kind of bumbling around, housesitting at random studios for two years before the pandemic. I had bought the van purposely for building it out, but I knew it would take a long time. So I’m glad I bought it when I did, because I kind of got it before the real big spike in auto prices. So I hate to say it, but the pandemic worked out great for us, because when it happened, we had the time to be in one place and to build it out and to learn all the skills needed to do so, which took about 12 months. That, I think, is what led to this whole album and everything moving forward to realize you can just make what you want if you put the time into it.
JMW: Well, I was wondering about that, too. Did the focus on fully embracing that lifestyle inform what you’re writing, how you’re writing, and what went into this record?
JF: 100%. One couldn’t have happened without the other, I don’t think. Just the confidence. We learned how to make an electrical system. We have plumbing, we have propane. Like, I did all those things. Then for some reason, having the confidence in the physical world that surrounds us everywhere and all the buildings that we’re in all the time to know how that works, I can write a song. I can market a song. That’s easy peasy. You just have to keep at it. You just have to show up every day. That’s all it is. So there isn’t all these big scientific laws of nature that I have to figure out to write a song. I just have to listen to what’s going on in here.
JMW: Listening all the way through One Stop Shop, not only the title, but that song, is it a manifesto? Is it the sort of statement song of the record?
Ian Jones: I think of it as the overture, in that if that song hadn’t have been first, you might not listen to the rest of the record in the way that you do.
JF: Yeah, the phrase came really naturally. That’s how most of lyrics come. They’re just random phrases that I build out to make sense to me. And “Feeling like a bloodshot curse from a reigning institution” is what came out. And those felt really true in many different contexts for me.
IJ: Give me another Nashville artist who’d write those lyrics. Come on. “Bloodshot curse of a reigning institution,” come on!
JF: It feels very big. It feels very small. I don’t know. I can view many different segments of my life and feel those in my phone and the actual government and the news cycle in the music industry. And then in our own little world of One Stop Shop, of doing everything ourselves. It all came from that.
IJ: And it ain’t about like doing this whole DIY thing. It’s like a soundbite.
JF: If we had loads of money, we’d let someone help us.
IJ: If the labels were interested, if anyone in this music business was interested, we might be interested. But in the absence of it, we have to do it ourselves.
JMW: We should flip this to the front of the interview. So they catch that, you know, the interested parties send.
JF: Send checks to Twen Enterprises.
JMW They may not have a 1-800 number or a PO box, but they do have a website, twenband.com, where you can find them and give them a deal, maybe. You can also check out all of their Nashville Artist of the Month features, including a live session at wnxp.org.