ENTERTAINMENT
10/08/2014 02:41 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

'I Should've Stopped, But I Didn't, I Blinked And We Were In The Grass': Talking With Mr Twin Sister

mrtwinsister

"I was driving.

We were in Florida.

We’d played a show the night before, and had to be in Gulf Shores, Alabama early in the morning for a soundcheck at a festival.

We left our show at 1:00-2:00 a.m., stopped at our friend Nathan’s place to sleep for an hour or two.

And then got back on the road.

I hit the mailbox backing out … definitely a bad sign.

I think everybody has felt that heavy-eyelid feeling.

I should’ve stopped, but I didn’t, I blinked, and we were in the grass between the two sides of I-10 heading at a thick stand of trees.

Everybody kind of woke up at the same time.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sound and smell right afterwards.

The end result was several broken limbs.

Fractures.

Becca from Ava Luna was with us at the time.

Her back was messed up, which was the scariest thing really.

But, all of us have the use of all our limbs, all of our senses.

So, as far as I’m concerned, we really got away with one -- me especially.

As the driver there is that feeling of guilt that is pretty inescapable, but I learned a lot about what kind of special people my friends are in how they acted towards me in the aftermath.

I think the fact that we came out of that whole thing intact strengthened our resolve to continue making music together.

It’s not something we talk about much with each other.

But I think there is a tacit agreement that we have been given something that is worth sticking to.

And worth fighting for.

The fact that it could all have been gone so fast was a reminder that this will not last forever, and we owe it to ourselves to not let it slip.

These things are cliches for a reason I guess."

A few years ago, Dev Gupta, the keyboardist and oldest member of the band Mr Twin Sister (formerly Twin Sister), told The Guardian, "I think to even be in a band and be like, 'We're going to make music', requires a serious amount of naiveté."

The band has since parted ways with independent record label Domino, after their critically-acclaimed "In Heaven" from 2011 "didn’t make [the label] enough money." They've gone through a legal battle in which they were essentially forced to change their name after a '70s band of actual twin sisters, called Twin Sisters, expressed they were "a little annoyed" this new band didn't have any twins. The lead singer, Andrea Estella, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And, as recounted by Gupta, the band was in a grizzly car crash that almost killed them all while touring in Tallahassee, Florida.

But from the troubles of the last few years, they've emerged with a new name and a new album, the just released, self-titled second debut of sorts, "Mr Twin Sister." Easily one of the best releases of 2014 so far, the album is absolutely beautiful through and through. For Gupta, Estella, bassist Gabe D'Amico, drummer Bryan Ujueta and guitarist/singer Eric Cardona, this band is their "shot at immortality." The Huffington Post discussed "Mr Twin Sister," a record deeply concerned with personal identity and what happens in the final hours of your night, with Gupta and how "mortality is a hell of a motivator."

Quite a bit of attention has gone to a lyric line in the first single, "Out of the Dark," which goes: "I am a woman / but inside I'm a man / and I want to be as gay as I can." With the name change to Mr Twin Sister -- a name with three identify signifiers that put together make it more amorphous -- the album certainly touches heavily on identity. Gupta explained:

I think all five of us subscribe to the idea that gender is not a switch at this point. It’s not even an idea ... For me, a sense of self is tied very much to my sense of spirituality and exploring different identities, definitions of gender, sexuality are all ways of shedding that weight of self ... Music is fun 'cause we can play with that sense of self. The clothes we put on.

There were three different lyric writers on "Mr Twin Sister," but as a band with a name that implies a singular person with an undefined gender, it becomes one voice due to the medium. Mr Twin Sister embraces having no clear leader, with a "democracy" that encourages all members to contribute a voice. The original lineup has been intact since the beginning, a rarity. "I think we realize that our relationship with each other is the source of anything good that comes out of the band," said Gupta.

mrtwinsister

This democracy of voices has contributed to making Mr Twin Sister "slooooowww," as Gupta described. It has been three year's since "In Heaven," but this is partially by design. Time naturally leads the creative mind "down this tunnel to a whole new idea." You're forced to start "re-examining and re-working," said Gupta. The trick, of course, is to know when it's the right time to finally decide your work is finished.

The band has a tendency to pursue "perfectionism." They're hard on themselves, calling their previous album "cartoony," as they've since worried they should have spent more time getting the sounds recorded just right. But the band has started changing this attitude: "We’re trying to fuse that [slowness] with still trusting your gut instinct and moving on once you make whatever decision," said Gupta. In one of their new songs, aptly titled "In the House of Yes," Estella sings: "Now that all I do is breathe / I can get a little free / It feels good."

Despite the years it took, and the going to hell and back, "Mr Twin Sister," comes across as a loose, body-freeing dance album. It somehow pulls off being awesomely overbearing and obvious and full of bravado without being heavy-handed. It pushes the amount of energy to lurch your stomach in just the right way. "You're the one, you're the one / You're the one, you're the one / You're the one, you're the one," the song repeats. All songs are about you.

mr twin sister

To release the album, the band created their own record label called Twin Group. Gupta is unsure whether the label will help other bands release material, but this departure from Domino has made making music "more of a job" than it was before. But the separation has allowed them to be free to do as they please, Gupta explained:

I think the simplicity of getting together with your friends and making something is what we always return to. If you take the time to think about what you might get in return for making that art, you can start going crazy. The role of music as a commercial entity is very unclear. To let go of that expectation is very liberating, not to say that we wouldn’t take your money, but I think the dream of making it, as defined by our larger culture, is incredibly destructive and really only serves to further the interests of people who want to control and profit from the work that artists produce.

Obviously, freedom has limits in society, which Mr Twin Sister certainly discovered as they got into potential legal trouble over their use of the band's former moniker. Another band of actual twin sisters using the same name wouldn't share or agree to offers to sell the name. Then these twin sisters got sued by a Christian organization named Twin Sisters, which makes educational music for children. It was "just a clusterfuck," as Gupta said, "so [they] decided to pull out." Mr Twin Sister was born.

The new name is like putting on three different clothes at the same time. It's a bit absurd, but a perfect ridiculousness.

In "Blush," the lyrics go, "Could you be near me? / There’s something that I need to say / It’s kind of a strange thing / just tell me that it’s okay / Have you ever felt like / you would always be alone?" It's a song so incredibly over the top, but it works in a simply awesome way, given how the band plays it. Estella, who credits her powerful new style to karaoke nights, spends many seconds dragging out the buildup and then, when she finally recites the question, it's the perfect blend of campiness and seriousness that gets to a truth only such a self-aware combination allows. What song has not been about just trying to reach out in a kind of loneliness? An absolute songwriting triumph.

"My ability to see myself in others and others in me, is for me, the key to finding any kind of sustainable happiness or contentment," Gupta said. With this album, Mr Twin Sister has taken the inherent format of band playing to an audience to a logical beautiful conclusion. What is the band? Who is the voice? What is the audience's role? Shouldn't the audience just be dancing? All these questions live in the house of yes. And as the song goes, "I'm in the mood / to let the rhythm push me out of here." A previous "yes" may have caused disaster. But when lying in the Tallahassee grass, strengthen your resolve and keep fighting for everything. You're the one. You're the one. You're the one.

before the beat drops

Before The Beat Drops is an artist introduction series dedicated to bringing you the rising acts before they make their break. Our unlimited access to music of all kinds is both amazing and overwhelming. Keeping your playlists fresh, we'll be doing the leg work to help you discover your next favorite artist.

All images from the Mr Twin Sister Facebook or Instagram unless otherwise stated.

CONVERSATIONS