Interview: Cameron Walker of Twin XL

Twin XL

This past week I was able to chat with Cameron Walker (vocalist/guitarist) of the alternative rock band Twin XL. We discussed how he and the band has stayed active during the pandemic, their process for writing songs lately, and what he and his bandmates’ are most looking forward to once he’s able to tour again. Twin XL has steadily been releasing new music this year, and they look forward to what the future holds for them.

Thank you for your time today, Cameron. It seems like the new single for “Lemonade” that came out a little bit while ago is really taking off and getting a positive response. So how does the vibe of the new single compare to the rest of your upcoming album?

I think “Lemonade,” to me is actually more in line with what could have been a song on our previous EP. And I think that was sort of a conscious decision because we hadn’t put anything out for a few months. And we wanted to just kind of put something fun out that we really loved and, and that was a reminder of like, “Hey, you know, we’re still here.” And so that’s kind of why we put that one out as sort of a soft single, to say, and I think there is a little bit of an evolution in it, especially lyrically, it’s a little darker. And I think we’ve just kind of naturally been writing about sort of darker stuff, just as a reflection of what’s going on in the world right now, it’s almost impossible not to. So, lyrically it kind of points towards where our music is heading for the next couple songs. 

It’s interesting, because it seems like a lot of people are using this extra time that they’re not touring to be going back into the studio and kind of hashing out their songwriting a little bit. So, how did the actual songwriting process go during these new record sessions?

Yeah, they’ve been kind of debt free every time, especially just with the limitations of not being able to always be in the room together. A lot of the new stuff was written remotely and file sharing and getting on zoom and talking about stuff and, and writing on zoom, which is a challenging thing to delay. But, I think the flip side of that is, is these are songs that I don’t think we would have written, if we were just doing it the normal way where we get together and write a song in a day or two days, we’ve been taking a lot more time with the songs and going back and changing things and going back and rewriting things and sort of by being separated it’s kind of been a positive thing. Where we have more time to ourselves to work on stuff, like I can sit, you know, for six hours in my studio by myself and try to come up with something cool that I think the other guys will like, and then I do and then I send it over to John, and he’s like, “this is really cool, but let me try to change this guitar part here. Or, I’m not really feeling these lyrics, let’s get on zoom and make it perfect. And it’s just been a different way of doing it. And there’s been a really cool flow to it. I don’t think we would have made the music that we made so far if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic. So finding the silver linings in it? 

Sure. So do you have a working title for the new album? Or is that still being considered at this point?

I think as far as an actual album goes, we’re still sort of playing it by ear, because I think the sort of magic of putting out a full album is being able to then go and play a show and play in front of back after the tour on the album and all that stuff. So I think because there’s still some uncertainty on when that’s going to be possible. We think the tentative plan for us is to continue releasing music as we write it, always wanting to put our best foot forward and whatever songs are that we love the most. And then in my head, the plan is, “okay, let’s take the best of all the stuff we release that hasn’t been on an album, and let’s put that package together. And then let’s write like another six songs and just make a really long album. And that’s kind of a tentative plan. And I think it changes every day, but we are still trying to grow and make every release different when we don’t want to feel like we’re repeating ourselves. And we’re kind of heading into a new era. You know, at least mentally right now, within the next song that we’re putting out. It’s called “Slow Heart,” which I think we’re announcing today or tomorrow. So, it’s definitely a sonic change for us. And hopefully people kind of resonate with it.

Awesome! So a lot of readers on our site have made comparisons to your past sound on previous music releases to bands such as Panic! At The Disco, The Maine, and lovelytheband, and I think you’ve toured with a couple of those groups as well. So if you were to describe to someone what your band sounds like today, what would you tell them as far as the different elements that go into your band.

I think it still lives in the alternative/ indie-pop realm. But I think whereas a lot of the EP is kind of this more laid back shoegaze sound, I think that the next couple songs we’re gonna put out are a little bit more gritty, and a little more hyped up. And, and I think the other thing too is when we made the EP, we weren’t even like a real band yet, we were just a studio project. Making songs, the three of us were just making songs together. I think there’s been a massive evolution within our band, just simply because we started touring all the time and playing shows. And now we’re thinking a little bit more about like, when we’re writing, we’re not only thinking about it, but we’re definitely in my head. I’m like, “Okay, how is this gonna feel at a show live?” Because with the EP, what ended up happening is those songs that are a little more laid back, and mellow and lo-fi on the recordings, when we got into a room with rock drums and distorted guitars, we kind of played it like rock songs. So I think it worked out really well, it felt more hyped up live and on the record, which is always a good thing. But I think now we’re kind of more consciously being like, “okay, how is this gonna feel live, and try to capture that excitement on the actual records?”

So who actually has been producing these new singles? Are you guys pretty much doing this by yourself? Or are you working with a producer?

We’ve always been really self contained. The EP was totally just that. We put out our song “Messy,” which was like our first song, when we collaborated with Colin, my friend who goes by Little Hurt, was a co-writer on it. And I think we’ve been, we’re not like one of those bands that we don’t want to work with anyone else kind of thing, at all. And we’ve definitely been collaborating more on “Lemonade,” we collaborated with a writer/producer duo called The Happy. And so we produced the demo in the session, and then we still took it and kind of maybe did our Twin XL things to it after the fact. So some of the new stuff is co-productions. Some of it is just us, and it’s been cool to kind of branch out and work with other people and have some other hands on on the project. And I think it’s helped us grow a lot. 

And you mentioned sometimes you coordinate with other band members through zoom meetings to work on different parts, and stuff like that. So has this process been evolving because of the pandemic? Or, how would you describe the process right now?

Yeah, I mean, it’s a totally different process. I think at the start of the pandemic, we were just trying to navigate how we’re going to do it. And we were at first just sitting on zoom and trying to write as if we were in a room together, which is really difficult because of the delay. So then we kind of realized that we can get on, we can come up with a start to an idea. And then we can all break away. And I can go record vocals over a demo track. And then I can send it to John and he can sit and do his guitar/keyboard stuff in his studio. And Steven can mix it and do all the cool production stuff. It’s kind of like everyone is doing the stuff they’re best at. But separately. If that makes sense? You put it all together and you hope that it ends up cool, but hope it all works on the end. Everyone’s been growing a lot individually within the band too just because I’ve had to do more production stuff by necessity than I normally would have. Normally, I go to a session and we write a song and I sing it and then I leave. Now I’m more involved in the tracks and the production and the sonic landscape of everything, which has been really fun for me to get better at.

That’s awesome. So I understand you have been working with Colin, of Little Hurt. I think you’ve toured with some of his projects in the past? So what made you want to collaborate with this artist again, and Colin in particular?

So I before we even started touring with the Mowgli’s, I had written with the Mowgli’s for their single “I Feel Good About This.” And that was when we first met and I think it’s just one of those… I work with so many people and I’ve always been working on so many different projects. But there’s always a special connection you have with someone as a songwriter. And I think he’s somebody that just from the first day that we wrote together, we became best friends and we totally understand each other’s brains and, and we were working on so much music together for Little Hurt. And he’s been working on more Twin XL stuff. Actually, the next single that’s coming out. He wrote it with us. And, yeah, he’s just an amazing songwriter. I feel like we complement each other very well. So very fortunate to have met him. 

I‘ve caught one of your guys’ live sets in the past in DC, but how would you describe your live performances? I know it’s been a while since you guys have been touring, obviously. But that’s kind of out of your hands. But what are you most looking forward to once you’re able to tour again?

Yeah, it’s fun. We just shot a new music video the other day, and there was like, a part in the music video where we were performing. And that’s kind of the closest aside from like acoustic stuff that’s like the closest to like playing a real show. And it’s so funny, because when I was on the way there, I was like, “I don’t even know if my muscle memory is gone. I don’t even remember what to do.” (Laughter) But then once the playback came on, we just rocked it! It just felt like no time had gone by and we could play a show tomorrow. So yeah, I mean, our shows have been very high energy.  I’m usually drenched in sweat, and disgusting by the end of it. And it’s funny because even when we were on tour, especially they’re all here on the main floor, we had this show, we had to take a red-eye and I had to fly and play a festival in Florida. And I remember, we were so tired, and we didn’t sleep at all. And so, I felt like, “I’m really just gonna chill and like, take it easy during this set.” And then I just can’t….as soon as it starts, it’s almost like clockwork. So I’m definitely looking forward to just doing that. And it makes me feel so good to perform. And I think we all miss it dearly. And the dream is still we can do it. We’ve talked about trying to set up some sort of live full-band live stream events, and we’re working on that. So I’m looking forward to doing that, even though it’s not quite the same energy when you’re playing to an empty venue. But it’ll still be a really fun thing to do, I think, and I think fans will think it will be a special thing. 

Yeah, definitely. And it seems like a lot of touring acts are doing that these days, with the live streams to keep their fans engaged as they lead up to the “great restart of touring.” So hopefully, it’ll be right around the horizon. Talking about the pandemic, how have you been staying busy and active besides just music and writing. Anything you’ve kind of learned about yourself, or things you’ve been kind of teaching yourself during the pandemic?

Um, I mean, I think maybe a lot of people feel this but I’ve been trying to actively go outside more. This is such a basic thing. Because usually I would be running around LA and going to sessions and then going to an event or something at night, and I’m just constantly moving around. And when you take all that stuff away at first I was just kind of depressed and sitting around, eating, and not feeling great. And I think I realized that I need to go start doing stuff outside because that’s what people do now. So I’ve been trying to get as I live right by a park and I’ve been going and taking walks and hikes and stuff. I just got an Oculus Quest, a VR headset, that I’ve been enjoying the fitness apps and just trying to stay as fit as possible for when shows do come back. And otherwise, just making a lot of music. Definitely made more music in the last year and a half than I ever have before. 

So was that because of having more time on your hands, or because you found a creative push, or a little bit of both?

I think at first it was like when the pandemic first hit…it was really scary. I think everyone just was…nobody knew anything. Nobody knew what was going on. Everyone wasn’t sure. I was like, “Is it safe to even go outside and breathe air? Do I need to be taking my bike?” I was losing my mind. But I think one thing that was keeping me sane was like just throwing myself into my work and getting lost in it. And kind of like creating a purpose and knowing that on the other end of it, all the work that I’m doing right now is going to be really important because people are gonna look back at what people made during that time. And I think it’s different than what they normally would have made. 

That’s cool. So have you been listening to anything that’s kind of inspired you around this time? I know that some artists are slowly trickling out like new singles, and I was just curious if anything’s kind of piqued your interest these days.  

More recently  we toured with I don’t know how, but they found me, and they put out a full album that I really enjoyed. And they were so good for us on tour. And I’ve known their drummer Ryan for like, over a decade and I’m super stoked to see them having more success with their new album. I think it’s great music. The band called Kitten have got really big. Now I’ve been going back and listening to a bunch of Phantogram stuff. Yeah, well, I always kind of knew their music, but I didn’t really ever dig very deep into it. So I did that. More recently Electric Guest has been on constant rotation for me. So you know, and then I’ll always go back and listen to stuff I grew up on, the good stuff. The other stuff that’s getting closer to being on classic radio. (Laughter)

There is somebody tweeted the other day that went viral because of them saying Green Day was on classic rock radio. It made me feel ancient. (Laughter)

Yes, there’s a video of a couple of kids reacting to blink-182 or something and then Mark and Travis watching it. And it’s so funny. Every kid is like “yeah, my dad plays this as well.” (Laughter)

That’s funny! The  last question I have for you is based on the buzz surrounding all the new singles, what goals do you have for yourself as you progress throughout the rest of this year and moving forward in your career as a musician?

I’m just always trying to write better and better songs whether it’s for other artists or for Twin XL just always trying to write the best stuff possible and and always trying to get to  the next hypothetical level of whatever it is and then I otherwise keep things interesting with Twin XL and progress to make sure we’re not repeating ourselves too much and keep things exciting. And keep people on edge and hopefully this next single will do just that.

That’s great! I wish you nothing but the best and I hope things start to clear up a little bit for touring in the near future, so we can connect again at some point. 

Absolutely. Yeah, hopefully in person next time!