A “not-quite 80s, but not quite-modern” synth duo for a new psychedelic age: Get to know Michigan’s Twïnn in our exclusive interview!
• by guest writer Lilly Eason •
Stream: ‘Long Night Moon’ – Twïnn
The phrase “accidental, diplomatic mosaics from space” rests as the header on the Bandcamp page of the Michigan band, Twïnn. Though the genesis of this phrase comes from a random-word-generator, singer/songwriter/synth-master Gjon Gjevalini believes the motley five-words to be the perfect way to describe the group, in the relationship between its two core members as well as the accidentally-psychedelic nature of their sound.
“Depending on how we approach the song,” he revealed, “one person may have a bit more control over the material than the other depending on the genesis of the tune, so the diplomacy is there 100%.” His counterpart, the other member of the band, Sean Healey, nodded in agreement. “And then on the other side, it’s just kind of cosmic. Back in the day, we used to be a little bit more, I dunno maybe loopy dudes,” Gjon chuckled. “So even though it was a random word generator, I figured it was about as good as it gets.”
Twïnn’s diplomacy is clear and evident, before even understanding the creative dynamic between Gjon and Sean (who’s rhyming names are serendipitously congruent with their relationship). Sean, who attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, started playing music in a “semi-serious manner,” as Sean put it, at seventeen, playing mostly guitar and drums. At university, he studied synthesis and synthesizers, primarily, having spent some time obsessed with IDM, the predecessor of EDM, defined as “intelligent dance music” or “braindance” as Sean affectionately dubbed it.
Gjon began as a bassist around the age of thirteen and learned quickly that the fastest route to excellence was playing around those who would force you to improve. “I just lied to everybody, I’d say I’d played for years when really it’d been about six months…I do not subscribe to ‘fake it till you make it’ but in that particular instance, in creative stuff, being around brilliant people, I just kept my mouth shut the whole time whilst dying inside.”
The two joined together when Gjon was in need of a drummer for a one-off gig in Michigan and, as Gjon joked, when the other players left, Sean stuck around. “One of the most important things in being successful is just showing up, and this guy [Sean] just keeps on showing up!” From there, the two found that they complimented each other perfectly, yinging and yanging their way through two EP’s thus far, titled Lovebird and Long Night Moon, as well as a recently released single, “Waves.”
Kickin around the foam from the shore
Swimmin around again
See the sunset down until we go
Runnin around again
Waves folding all around me
Better remembered than how it was said
Summer nights they roll until the morning
I couldn’t remember just how long its been
I can’t wait until you come home
One more chance to call you my own
In their collaboration, it’s hard to dictate what their precise roles are. To simply call Gjon the songwriter and Sean the producer separates the two too much, taking away from the intensely collaborative nature of the Twïnn project. “Sean can probably tell you,” Gjon revealed, “that if I’m left to my own devices, the stuff can get pretty out there and can really weird, at times inaccessible. He helps reel me in, he’ll say ‘it’s causing me ear fatigue’.” According to Sean, it’s Gjon’s unique approach to songwriting combined with his own “practitioning, sort of ‘hey I’ve studied how we should best craft a sound’” that’s made their songwriting/producing teamwork so well. In a phrase, Gjon designs the coloring book, Sean fills it in.
As for the “mosaics from space” aspect of Twïnn, the cosmic energy of that phrase radiates throughout their work and is rooted in one constant element: synthesizer. “In school,” Sean mentioned, “my area of study was synthesizers and synthesis yet as the years go on, my natural tendencies have led away from synthesizers, meanwhile Gjon, coming from a more instrumental background, has gone headfirst into the synthesizer deep end…he has these very clear ideas on how he hears synthesizers and how synth textures enhance what we’re working on. I think I’ve been good to help bring those visions to life.”
The nature of synthesizers brings about two distinct principles – creation and fleeting opportunity. Because of the dynamic electronic nature of the synthesizer, it offers the possibility to create very new sounds. It doesn’t rest on the necessity for set scales, it opens the possibility for creation, for the establishment of something truly organic and unique. Similarly, as Gjon put it when discussing analogs, “you have to get it right there because if you turn them off, they won’t start where you left off so you have to get it right in that moment.”
Twïnn’s first album, Beaucoup Fodder, was done previous to Sean’s involvement with the band and contained a very different sound. Songs like “Skeleton” and “Low” took on a more surf-punk sound than the electronic psychedelic that Twïnn now encapsulates. According to Gjon, the sound was also just too depressing for his taste. Upon Sean’s involvement with the group, the decision was made to transition to something more upbeat, more electronic, “stuff to make people happy,” as Gjon put it.
Yet the psychedelic aspect of their sound was, according to Sean and Gjon, never really intentional. Returning to the aforementioned IDM which Sean was inspired by, “the genre is inherently extremely psychedelic just in its nature.” Gjon, who takes his inspiration from more mainstream artists such as Love, MGMT, and XTC, believes that the psychedelic sway of their sound is more a byproduct of the music they listen to than an intentional decision. “If we sat down to make psychedelic music, it would be terrible, I think we found a sweet spot where the influences seep through the cracks.”
Having released both an EP and a single in 2020, both of which came out during the height of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the band grappled with the dichotomy of operation and creativity. “Though the pandemic didn’t affect the group’s creative output,” Sean revealed, “certainly from an operational standpoint, we got held up several times. It took us nearly a year to get ‘Waves’ done.” Sean, having at one point been diagnosed with Coronavirus, revealed that the hardest part of creating during the pandemic wasn’t necessarily the act of the creation, but was the difficulty of the day-to-day which prevented them from putting creativity into motion. As Gjon said, “how do you say ‘hey sorry I can’t go to that family gathering but I’m gonna go to Sean’s and work on stuff’.”
Gjon found his creative output to be untouched by the pandemic, sourcing his filing-cabinet-esque-mind. For Gjon, finding material to write about is as simple as daydreaming, as looking back and picking out memories to fixate on. “I hear about writer’s block and you’re probably just not being honest enough with yourself because there’s probably enough bullshit in there for you to go through as well as a few prolific things in there if you just apply yourself and write down.” Be it a girl who broke his heart when he was twenty-two or a line from a Doors song that his father would perpetually misquote, Gjon simply has moments stored away which he “could ride off forever.”
Twïnn’s most recent release Waves and their latest EP Long Night Moon can be found on all streaming services including Bandcamp, along with their full discography.
A lover of music, writing, and literature, Lilly Eason is a senior English student at Sewanee and calls Nashville, TN home. She has an infatuation for the music and style 1960’s, a good classic literature meme, and a cup of strongly brewed coffee. Can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @lu_loveday99.
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