Clearing Room for Space
BR’s Twin Killers add strings, choir, and performance artists to Manship performance
By Christie MathernePosted Apr 4, 2012
Anyone who has seen Twin Killers on a stage could come up with a thousand ways to describe them: intense, direct, driving; hypnotically focused with excellent execution; extremely skilled at filling up a venue, with both people and sound. A reputation precedes their live show as one with the rare ability to steal all the air in the room, taking everyone’s breath away and holding it captive until the set is over, which is usually when the audience remembers to inhale. As anyone could imagine, that sort of live catharsis can be exhausting.
When Dig sat down with Twin Killers last year, the Baton Rouge five-piece had just come home from a month-long tour of the east coast. Tired as they were, they wasted no time releasing “The Two Fridas” – a single that ended up being a step in an entirely new direction for the band. They weren’t quite sure how to explain it then, but one word came up that got to the root of the matter: “space.”
While space was an appropriate need for five people who had just spent a month in a van together, they weren’t only talking about the physical kind – they also needed their music to breathe, too.
This Saturday, the band will enter the Manship Theatre with more space, but it will look like a lot less…onstage, at least. In addition to their five core members, Twin Killers will be joined by a backup choir and a full string section. Though the arrangement will make them about three times their base number, they made it clear that there will be enough room – and air – for everyone.
So, where has all this “space” come from; and moreover, how did they make room for 10 extra people onstage?
“Well, we kind of created it,” said guitarist Andrew Martin. “Before, everything was filled up…with some kind of frantic energy.”
Since last year, the band has been writing and recording a new album, but in a way they’ve never tried before, and with instruments they’ve never had to leave room for. The addition of violinist Becca Hebert required a new approach to songwriting – namely, arrangement.
“It’s like structuring the chaos,” said vocalist Jessica Ramsey. “Before, we had so many things going on onstage. You could hear Andrew’s guitar going crazy all the time…it was like all of us were just pouring everything we had – all our energy was dumping out all at once.”
“It’s now more about knowing when to shut up,” added Martin.
Besides incorporating a violin into the mix, the songwriting process went through another healthy spatial change: They now write as a group.
“It’s really the difference between one person writing a song, and five people writing a song,” explained drummer Jermaine Butler. “We have to leave room for each other.”
Fans of Twin Killers might wonder about the reasoning behind adding a violin to the lineup, or if the change of direction will affect the band’s signature live intensity. A focus on “space” does sound like a total about-face for a band like Twin Killers, but even if that’s exactly what it is, they exuded the same energetic intensity talking about it as they have previously let loose during any live set. In short, they seem to know what they’re doing.
“Jessica’s voice has always seemed kind of…intertwined with the sound of a violin to me,” said Martin. “They kind of wrap around each other and enhance the whole thing.”
The association is validated by the two singles they’ve released since the end of their east coast tour last year – “The Two Fridas” and “The Ship” – both of which are paving the way to a mid-May release of a new full-length album. The album, recorded by Baton Rouge music mind John Tulley, will be mixed by Greg Saunier of the Washington-based band Deerhoof.
“He heard a song of ours and just offered to mix the whole album,” said Ramsey of Saunier.
The trend of charting new territory continues on Saturday, when Twin Killers will grace a stage they’ve never occupied before at the Shaw Center for the Arts. The Manship Theatre proper, loaded with balcony orchestra seating, has enough space to fit all 15 contributors – including the backup choir and string section.
The amount of local talent that will occupy the theatre is also notably massive. Dave Hinson, who will bolster the string section on Saturday, is a member of both Righteous Buddha and the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra; opening act and contributor Ashley Toman is the harpist responsible for the stringed Metallica tribute group, Harptallica.
“We wanted this show to be huge,” said Martin, “to kind of show off Baton Rouge’s abilities. There’s so much talent here, and we are so happy to be lucky enough to know all of these people.”
Between everything happening on the Manship stage this weekend, spectators will be pleasantly surprised when they find themselves sufficiently oxygenated during songs, and not catching their breath between them. “We wanted the audience to be able to breathe,” said Ramsey.
Planning on seeing Twin Killers at Manship Theatre this Saturday? Make sure you have tickets! Visit www.ManshipTheatre.org or call 225.344.0334 to claim your seats, or visit the Ticket Desk at 100 Lafayette St. Tickets are $10 in advance, or $12 at the door.
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