Two albums and an EP into their time together and Phoenix, Arizona's Twingiant are burning ever brighter. Expanding on their Stoner Doomster Sludgy sound, the band's latest album, or should I say record and cassette, Devil Down finds TG seriously hitting their stride and broadening their horizons. Sea of Tranquility's Steven Reid discusses devils, line-up changes, cassettes and Van Halen with Twingiant guitarist Nikos Mixas…
So take us back to the start Nikos. How did Twingiant come to be?
Twingiant was originally formed in 2010 by two members, Chris Warmouth (bass) and Dave Natkin (guitars), who wanted to play stoner rock/post metal type of music. They recruited a drummer by the name of Willy and me, to fill out the line-up. Jarrod, the only vocalist we've had, joined a short time later. Originally it was a three guitar band, but then we changed our minds and after our first gig we decided we needed more low end. Chris, who was originally a bassist, switched back to bass. Shortly after our debut album, Mass Driver, was released, Chris was released from the band and Jarrod, who was only doing vocals at the time, took over bass duties. Last summer Dave, the founding member, left the band. Tony replaced him on guitar. The line-up has been stable since then. We come from four different backgrounds musically, so there's a cornucopia of influences. They range from rock to metal to jazz to classical music to rap to country to even Greek bouzouki music.
As you mentioned, back then the band was a five-piece outfit. Did singer Jarrod Le Blanc moving to double up on bass at that time change the dynamic of the band at all?
Jarrod really wanted to play bass in a band again so it was a welcome transition for him. Jarrod will admit that Chris is a much better bassist than him but at the same time, it was beneficial for us for the bass to provide more foundation to the sound and not worry about featuring it as a solo instrument from time to time. It has really worked for the better of Twingiant as far as the tonality is concerned.
How do you look back on Mass Driver now?
That's our first album so it's very near and dear to our hearts but at the same time we'll say that it really doesn't really represent our sound currently. We still play "Pale Blue Dot", "HISM" and "Mass Driver" live but we haven't touched the other songs for a couple of years. I think our very first song we ever wrote, "Awake In The Hull", sounds so foreign compared to the most recent song we wrote, "Devil Down".
Which moves us on to the Sin Hombre EP, which proved an excellent bridging point between the all-out power of Mass Driver and the more diverse Devil Down. Was that a conscious decision?
That EP totally represents the transformation of the Twingiant sound to a "T." We were in the middle of the Jarrod switching over to bass thing and he was going through some personal issues as well. It's a very dark sounding EP.
So, tell us about your excellent new album Devil Down. Do you think it is the definitive TG statement so far?
If you ask me, it's close but do I think it's definitive? Not yet…The reason being is that Tony joined us on guitars the prior summer and I felt like we were only starting to hit our stride in the writing process on the final two songs that made the cut for Devil Down. Don't get me wrong, I love this album, but I think the best is yet to come.
To me there's definitely a broader approach to Devil Down than your previous releases. Are you keen not to have the band pigeon holed into a particular scene or genre?
If you ask any of us, we hate being pigeon holed in a genre, that's why we always label ourselves as "loud and heavy." Those are the only two attributes you can always count on as Twingiant sounding like at any given moment.
I very much like the nod to Van Halen with both the album title and cover - as well as the cool TG logo which is a take-off of the classic VH logo. You wouldn't really tell from the band's music, but I'm guessing that you're all massive VH fans?
Hahahahaha! No, not all of us… we all like VH to some regard but I'm the VH whore of the band. I think VH represents all that was good about rock and metal in the 70s and 80s. It was about excellent musicianship and having a good time. Early Van Halen was the perfect kegger party music. There's nothing like that around anymore. I miss that about modern rock music these days. Devil Down is a subdued nod to them…a sort of "thanks for the memories!"
Again there's been a line-up change prior to this album. If you don't mind me asking, what led to the departure of guitarist David Natkin?
Without getting too deep in the weeds, he just wasn't happy in his personal life and made some major changes. There were no hard feelings, we're all still good friends and he's in a much better place today.
However, his replacement Tony Gallegos has slipped into the band seamlessly. How did you hook up with him and what does he bring the band?
Tony is a local legend in the stoner/sludge metal/rock scene in Phoenix with Mosara and Enirva. When we announced that we were looking for a new guitarist we reached out to him and asked him if he knew of anyone and he said, "Yeah…me!" Enirva was still going strong at that point so we didn't take him seriously but here we are today. Tony brings experience and bravado to Twingiant. He plays with confidence and has great stage presence. We're always trying to outdo each other when it comes to leads, it's quite fun.
Now I've never had the privilege of seeing Twingiant live, but I'm guessing it's a sight to behold. I've really enjoyed all of your releases, but do you see the true home of TG being on stage?
Well, we work hard at being a well-balanced band. We want to be both a great studio and a great live band. You have to work at the craft. So many times you'll hear a band that sounds awesome on their recording and you hype yourself up to see them and you're disappointed and vice-versa.
I'd like to focus on the track "Under a Blood Red Moon" from Devil Down if we can, as on the face of it this song feels like a departure for TG. Where did the idea or influence for that song come from?
There are times that bands get pigeonholed into a "sound" and "UABM" is one of those songs where you get to show off the other styles of music you like to play. If you remember the early Metallica albums, the songs "Call Of Cthulhu", "Orion" and "To Live Is To Die" are perfect examples of "departure" songs.
Can we expect similar, or different, curve balls on future albums as well?
Absolutely, I'm sure a bouzouki - a traditional Greek instrument - will be heard on a song at some point.
I know that you have some local shows lined up over the next few months. Is there a chance of the band putting together a more extensive tour so fans from further afield can experience the Twingiant live experience?
Yes, in October we're going to be going on a seven date tour through the Midwest with our friends Chiefs, who are on Battleground Records, from San Diego. We'll be announcing those dates early summer.
Looking on your website, I don't actually see Devil Down available as a CD. However there are downloads, vinyl and even a cassette version of the release. Will the CD follow up later?
We wish. We had to make a really tough decision on what format to put it out on with our limited funds so vinyl was the clear winner. We are very grateful and pleased that Medusa Crush Recordings from Canada put it out on cassette. Unless another label wants to put it out on CD, it probably won't happen.
I still have a cassette player for my old demos and bootleg tapes; however has there been much demand for that version of the album?
When we were shopping the album to labels, Medusa Crush Recordings, showed interest immediately and they currently only put out albums via cassettes. We've noticed that there's been an uptick of cassettes again because of the affordability of the media and the players. It made sense for us to jump on the cassette bandwagon. The official release date isn't here yet so it's too early to tell what kind of demand there will be.
So what's next for the band? Is it live shows for the foreseeable future, or have you started looking ahead to the next album or EP already?
After the release show we're going to start writing again and by the end of the year, the goal is to do a split EP with Goatroper, a hard rocking sludge band from Tucson, Arizona. We'll do a couple of shows here and there and then we go on tour with Chiefs in the fall.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to Sea of Tranquility Nikos, it is hugely appreciated.
Thank you! It's people like you that keep the scene alive, we appreciate the opportunity to spread our propaganda!
(Click here to read our reviews of Devil Down)