“I STILL FIND MYSTERY in creating something out of thin air,” says Keith Joyner, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and chief songwriter for the Los Angeles-based band Twinstar. The new album, The Sound of Leaving, is unmistakably Twinstar—bridging a gap between the hazy days of the Wrecking Crew and cinematic 60s pop, and a current post-punk revival. In essence, it’s something you think you may have heard before, but then again—maybe you haven’t. Indeed, the music itself is a strange hybrid borne of the sometimes-competing musical interests of Joyner and Twinstar’s other main constant, multi-instrumentalist and co-producer, Chris Candelaria.
“There was a time when our roles were more or less predetermined going into an album,” says Candelaria. “But I don’t think either of us were interested in repeating the past. We allowed plenty of time to experiment. And what we’re left with is—I hope—a more realized version of our old selves.” Nothing embraces this idea more than the startling opening track “The Man They Came For,” a post-punk-cum-new wave rocker that is nothing less than a departure for the band. Though surprises abound as the album eases into lush orchestral arrangements, from the sparkling jangle of “Amazon Eyes” to the at-first meditative, then explosive closing opus “Sold.” It shouldn’t make sense, but it does. In fact, what we find is a wiser, more thoughtful band embarking on a quest to create something special in an age where short attention spans often prevail. “It came from a very focused mindset,” says Candelaria, “It would seem a shame not to represent it in the classic sense of an album.”
So why the long wait since Twinstar’s last recorded output? “I’m not a casual listener,” Joyner continues. “I constantly seek out music that moves me in some manner. We approached this album with that in mind. It took a good while for the songs to materialize. There were no artificial deadlines. We simply let it guide us to its natural completion, and here we are.”
And The Sound of Leaving simply would not have been the same without the additional assistance of a select few. Says Joyner: “For the first time, we put our implicit trust in others to bring something to this project that we could not have on our own.” Those talents include Joe Higgins (AM Radio, Peel) on drums and percussion, orchestration and string arrangements from Chris Carmichael (Alison Krauss, The Autumn Defense and a legion of others); guitars and co-songwriting from David Roland (David Roland & The Last Transmission); recording and engineering plus guitars from David Newton (The Mighty Lemon Drops, Thee Mighty Angels and honorary Twinstar member); Erin Barnes on hammer dulcimer; mixing by Mark Rains (BRMC, Acid Mothers Temple); design by Cristina Padron; and mastering by Mike Wells. Joining the live band are guitarist Johnny Joyner and keyboardist Michael Ashton.
For those unaware, Twinstar evolved from the ashes of Los Angeles bands Revolux and Chihuahua. Twinstar’s self-titled debut was released in 2002 followed by the EPs Expatriate and The Arena of the Unwell. Keith cut his teeth in the Athens, GA outfit Seven Simons, releasing two albums (Dog Gone and TVT) before notably replacing Johnny Marr in The The (Matt Johnson) on the Dusk tour. Chris played in various bands in San Francisco and LA before forming the critically acclaimed Chihuahua, who signed to Island Records subsidiary Supreme before sadly imploding.