There are probably enough alt rock bands on the scene in LA that, if you laid them end to end, they would reach at least to Austin and maybe even to Nashville. Which is why it is so hard for a new band to get noticed. They have to be not only outrageously creative and spectacularly good technically, but they have to have something different – genuinely different, not a gimmick. We Are Twin meets all of those requirements – outrageously creative, spectacularly good technically and something genuine and different. Their debut release, XTRA LOVE, displays their creativity, their technical chops and most – but not all – of what makes them stand apart. For that, you have to see them in person.
The core of We Are Twin is the Sri-Lankan-German multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Balachandran and New York singer/songwriter Gabi Christine. The duo added the equally talented Zack Smith on bass, keys and vocals and the terrific Justin Frazier on drums and vocals to shift them from duet harmony to alt rock energy (more about that later). The result is alt rock that doesn’t quite cross the lines into punk or souls, but often erases the lines to create something new with the best of all three.
The album kicks off with “Baby Please”, an electroshock journey into an emotional no-man’s (or woman’s) land, with machine gun drumming, fast-echo interstitial vocals and spikey lyrics like And the way you hold me is giving me chills/it kills me. Driving it all is Nic’s manic – but very precise – guitar riffs, creating a surging platform for Gabi’s multi-octave voice. They drive on the cliff-edge of too much, too fast, too punk, but never go over it.
"In the Moment”, my favorite song on the album, upshifts the tempo, adds psychic release and pushes it along at breakneck speed with Frazier’s primal drumming and Nic’ high gloss, high energy guitar rifts and synths.
The title song “XTRA LOVE” follows, allowing you to catch your breath with a down-and-dirty bass beat, pop hooks and Gabi’s voice restrained to a seductive come-on as she sings Won’t you come close and keep me company. On the surface XTRA LOVE is blues-tinged pop, but beneath the surface is seething punk energy, waiting to break through and pounce. This is what sets We Are Twin apart; they can inspire you while they set your teeth on edge in an especially delicious way.
“In the Moment”, my favorite song on the album, upshifts the tempo, adds psychic release and pushes it along at breakneck speed with Frazier’s primal drumming and Nic’ high gloss, high energy guitar rifts and synths. Like a Star Wars speeder bike zooming through a Blade Runner cityscape, you are flying in Gabi’s song of an all-night rave, truly living in the moment.
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Gabi and Nic’s moment came when they met in New York in 2009 and clicked so well they produced 15 songs in their first effort, blending genre’s and styles in unconventional ways. Since then they haven’t so much evolved, as exploded. This explosion is on display in the songs “Come Alive” “You Said” and “No Matter What it Takes” All three put We Are Twin’s creative, unorthodox blends front and center. Hypnotic rock beats, anthemic hooks and walls of hyper guitar riffs combine with lyrics that you are driven to understand in midst of the music mayhem blasting form the stage. Moving from lines like Let’s Make the Time Stop to It’s your electricity making a fool of me to How we like to break the rules on/on our quest for the truth Gabi’s vocals demand that you listen and think…while you jerk and vibrate.
But We Are Twin is not all fire and electricity and kinesthetic thrills. “Love Was Blind” is deep, pure, young-love soul pain. On the album, Gabi soars and sails over a scaffold of synths, echoes, keys and muted drumming, her voice front and center but still one part of a powerful whole. In person, she and Nic present the song in an acoustic harmony that is glorious, with Gabi’s voice drawing blood and tears by itself.
As we dry our eyes from :”Love was Blind” We Are Twin hurls us into a somewhat abrupt transition to pop rock in “All or Nothing” , led by Justin’s punk style drumming supporting Gabi’s vocals ranging from down- and-dirty to operatic belt, punctuated by call-and-answer guitar riffs from Nic and chorus tracks. They keep the momentum up with “Running in the Sun”, a driving edge-of punk ode to first love that blends jackhammer-paced drumming and soaring lyrics and guitars in a wrap up dance number guaranteed to leave you breathless as you hit the repeat button.
It remains to be seen if We Are Twin can maintain their stand-out sound and avoid becoming another very good girl-led alt rock band. I predict they will, partially because of the quality of XTRA LOVE, but also because of their acoustic duet performances. I saw them at a SOFAR house concert where it was just Nic and Gabi and realized this was the kind of creativity that changes the music landscape . Where their album and rock venue performances roil your body and hook your ears, their acoustic duets are a thing of beauty that transcends the alt rock club sound but conjoins with it in a love affair befitting today’s blurred-line genres.
Even stripped of their electronic clothing, with just naked notes to offer, Nic and Gabi inhabit the upper tiers of talent. As they move forward, weaving the vulnerability of their unplugged courage into their edge-of-tomorrow power performances, they could become not only successful, but historic. They have earned our XTRA LOVE.
Host, Music Friday Live! radio