Friday, April 12, 2013

Interview with Riverside, Calif. band Summer Twins

photo by Joy Newell
My interview originally appeared in the April-May issue of Riverside Magazine.

Bright balloons and streamers often adorn Summer Twins' artwork and videos - a perfect symbol for its buoyant music.

On the Riverside band's delightful eponymous debut album, Chelsea Brown (vocals/guitar) and her sister Justine (vocals/drums) bridge the stylistic gap between power pop and garage rock.

"We listen to everything from '50s rock 'n' roll to '60s psychedelic and surf music, '70s punk to country rock. All of that seeps into the songs in different ways," Chelsea says.

The siblings (born 18 months apart) started Summer Twins in 2008 after being in a previous band at Poly High School, and they cut their teeth on early punk.

"We used to play Ramones covers before we started writing our own material," admits Chelsea.

Then it was onto more modern bands like The Donnas and Sahara Hotnights.

After the release of 2010's "Good Things" EP, Summer Twins - augmented by guitarist Alan Olney and bassist Michael Rey Villavicencio onstage - were surprised to have spawned a tribute act overseas.

A Japanese fan asked Chelsea for lyrics via email. Later, a video of an Asian girl group performing Summer Twins songs arrived.

Signed to IRMA Records in Tokyo, where the latest album came out with a slightly different track listing in 2011, it emerged here in January 2012 through Fullerton-based indie label/brick-and-mortar store Burger Records.

Recorded in old school analog for a warmer sound, Summer Twins worked on the album in Los Angeles with co-producer Don Bolles of the seminal '70s hardcore band The Germs.

"That actually happened by chance," Chelsea says. "We knew we wanted to use an [actual] studio and push ourselves."

After deciding on a location, they later found out Bolles worked there.

Among the standout tracks: the lush Phil Spector-esque "Got Somebody to Dream About," an ominous "Teardrops on My Pillow" (which could easily be a Raveonettes outtake), the giddy handclap-driven pop of "I Will Love You" and dreamy duet "I Could Never Break Your Heart," inspired by one of Chelsea's favorite oldies, "Somethin' Stupid" by Nancy and Frank Sinatra.

Justine believes "a lot of different age groups can listen to it. Each song appeals to a different audience, and there's a variety of styles. That's what I like about it."

Lately, Summer Twins' music has received college radio airplay on KXLU (88.9-FM) at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and KSPC (88.7-FM), the student-run station at The Claremont Colleges.

Summer Twins also served as the opening act on two high-profile tours in 2012. First was Peter Case and Paul Collins of '70s power pop band The Nerves, whose cross-country jaunt saw the gals traveling to many states for the first time. Then came one with gold-selling, '90s alt-rocker Matthew Sweet.

"It was great exposure," Chelsea says. "Now when we have to make big decisions and need advice, it's good that we have these friends to talk to."

Despite an album cover image depicting the pair wearing roller skates and an album release party held at Roller City 2001 on Magnolia Avenue, they don't claim to be enthusiasts.

"We've maybe skated five times in our lives," Justine says.

"But every time we do, we enjoy it." Chelsea adds, "We wanted to do something carefree."

What's next: After playing South by Southwest in March, a new EP release is planned for spring, and a clothing line in conjunction with IRMA (the Browns work at family owned vintage attire store Dee-Lux in Costa Mesa) is in the works for later this year.

In Riverside: May 8 at Back to the Grind, 3575 University Ave.
On the Web:,

No comments: