“We were wingin’ it the whole time. We’re still wingin’ it, and it’s going great.”
When the founding members of Twin Peaks decided to drop out of college and pursue music fulltime, they really were just “wingin’ it.” A philosophy that has worked out so well for the group, they’ve decided to live their lives by it.
We caught up with front man Cadien James at South by Southwest and found out quickly that sometimes, the best strategy is not having one at all.
Vinyl Mag: You guys recorded Sunken pretty quickly in order to make money on tour. Did you feel you had a little more leeway with Wild Onion?
Cadien James: Yeah, we were able to take our time with it. I started playing with Taylor here and there. He wasn’t around for the first album. We were able to experiment with having some buddies of ours help us work on the album that knew how to engineer. Taylor plays, but it’s buried in the tracks, but we had him play on a couple things, and now he’s playing live with us.
VM: Your videos for “I Found a New Way” and “Flavor” feel really summertime oriented, and they make you feel really young and youthful. Would you say that’s basically what Wild Onion is about?
CJ: We’re not a band who often thinks about what we’re going for. I think it naturally comes out with a natural process. My thing is, if we were to have a biography about us one day, or an autobiography if I do it, it’s going to be called “Wingin’ It,” because we’re always winging it. I guess we have a summer vibe. If that’s what you take out of it, that’s wonderful. No, the album is a little sad boy sometimes, because I’m just singing about a babe, but it’s still summertime vibes.
VM: Can you tell us about your decision to pursue music full time?
CJ: We all loved playing together. We were trying to play a lot more house shows when we were finishing high school. We booked this DIY tour before we went to college, so we went to all of these house shows across the west coast and the states. We were all in school and all thought that would be much cooler, so we dropped out – wingin’ it. We were wingin’ it the whole time. We’re still wingin’ it, and it’s going great. I guess a lot of people can wing it, and it ends up really bad, but we’ve been lucky in the sense that we all have a similar mindset with it, and we wing it together. We know what to say yes to and what to say no to.
VM: I know you guys are BFF’s, but what’s the most obnoxious thing about touring all the time with each other?
CJ: Oh, just that I’ve slept with all the dudes from the band more than I’ve slept with ladies at all in my life. A lot of the smells; the smells are bad.
VM: Can you tell us about your decision to release the demos album, Mind Frame, for free?
CJ: When we were thinking about doing the demos – I love Wild Onion, but I was sick of listening to it. I’m very happy with it, but there are things about it that I think could be better, and that’s why we always keep making more music. But I was also going back through the demos thinking, “these have some magic to them.” There was a nice characteristic to them. Some people might get something out of it, and I’d like them to hear it. I want to give them a gift. You see a lot of musicians who put out their albums before they’re for sale, like Chance The Rapper – he’s one of the most successful rappers coming out in the last couple years, a real success story, and he’s never sold any of his music. He has two great albums out. It’s a lot harder being a rock band to do that and sustain yourself, because there’s less money in being a rock band right now. You have more people involved, and the money is more spread out, and there’s less of it. It’s a little harder to put your music out for free as a rock band. Maybe I’m doing it wrong; I could learn some things. Anyone out there [reading] this, let me know.
VM: Some people have called your music ahead of its time – maybe even a bit ambitious; do you agree or disagree?
CJ: I feel like it’s behind its time almost. We play old school rock ‘n’ roll. Like I said, we never worry or think about those things too much. We have three different songwriters. We all write different kinds of music, but when we get together and play it, it works, and we’re all fans of each other’s stuff. We don’t worry about trying to have a super-cohesive sound necessarily; we just try to make a good album, a good piece of art we can celebrate live. It’s totally different live, because we have all sorts of things on record that we can’t think about doing live.
VM: Do you guys get sick of people talking about your age, or do you see it as a compliment?
CJ: We’re very lucky. There aren’t a lot of bands that are young, our age, right now that I’m a big fan of. There are a lot of great bands in Chicago right now that are doing stuff. In general, I’m not missing a lot of bands that 19 or 20-year-olds. I guess I am proud of that.
VM: We’ve seen your name all over Austin and feel like you guys might be the hardest-working band at SXSW. How many shows are you playing?
CJ: Nine total; we’ve already played three. Maybe this year we are, but not in past years when there were a lot more unofficial shows. Now SXSW is on everyone’s shit. They won’t let you do a certain amount of shows that aren’t official, and there are so many bands and so much social media, it’s a little bit harder, and there’s a lot more competition. I remember when I first heard about SXSW, Black Lips were playing 15 shows. The notoriety of that at SXSW is what I would hear going up before a game, but coming down here – this is my third year – this is the most shows we’ve ever played. I guess we’re playing more than most people. I’m down, I’m tired, I have a couple more days, but I’m still with it. I got free beer.
VM: What are you most excited to see this year?
CJ: We started to see a lot of our friends from Chicago. Maybe that makes me lame. I really hope I can catch Sheer Mag this week. They’re really cool, out of Philly, really dope, kind of 70’s power pop punk band. A lot of Chicago artists, because I do have pride in a lot of bands who are a couple years behind us, who are around our age, doing their first SXSW. I’m just so happy and proud to see them coming out here and making it on their own, trying to find any shows they can play, saying, “alright, we have two. Let’s go, road trip.” There are a lot of Chicago bands down here. Strange Faces, Modern Vices, The Boxers, Petty Crimes, and some of the older bands in Chicago, too.
VM: You guys are going to be busy.
CJ: Yeah, I don’t really have time to see anyone. I have tomorrow off. I’m just going to try and see some friends, but I also really want to go swimming in the river, since you can do that here. So, I might miss out on some bands and go swim. Last year I had a broken leg at SXSW; grateful to not have one this year. The first year I went to swim there, and it was fucking wonderful. We jumped off that bridge, and we were so excited about the rope swing. Bands are cool and all, but I like water.
VM: Do you guys consider yourselves BBQ joint people or food truck people?
CJ: I’m gonna say food truck, because the best food truck is BBQ Heaven, which is a BBQ joint that is a food truck, and they have Trailer Treasure. They got a spot by Hotel Vegas this year. We met them our first year, but they have this huge keg filled with Louisiana water seasoning with crawfish in it for free, free beers, and then they have shark and alligator meat to buy. We are going! It is dope! I’m gonna say food trucks.
VM: Is there anything else you guys would like to say?
CJ: Just keep breathing! The four words I appreciate in life are love, kindness, compassion, and positivity, and I try to think about that wherever I go, whatever I do. So I hope all of you reading this, I hope you can fuck with that too, because I fuck with that.