“People always ask the same shit,” Cadien Lake James vents. “We’ve been asked how we write songs and about hanging out with Chance the Rapper in, like, forty interviews. It’s like, c’mon, dude, just use Google.”
The singer and guitarist is only twenty years old, but with two Twin Peaks albums seeing release a year apart, he’s no stranger to the machinations of the music industry. It would be unfair to characterize James as prematurely jaded or weary, though. On the contrary, he mostly seems to be having a fucking blast. There’s a mantra that he’s keen to repeat: Life is good.
“I’m sitting in my neighborhood, parked on a bench in front of my dad’s restaurant with two buddies, smoking a cigarette. It’s bright over here. It’s not a dark day. Things are light and happy,” he tells me, setting the scene for our conversation two weeks ago. “Life is good.”
James is perched in Rogers Park, one of the last neighborhoods on Chicago’s North Side before the suburbs. This is where James, the youngest of seven siblings, was born and raised: “I’ve always been a Rogers Park boy. This is my stomping grounds.”
His father’s restaurant specializes in vegan and vegetarian foods, but the youngest James doesn’t appear to be especially focused on a healthy lifestyle. “Hang loose and party down” are his plans for Twin Peaks’ upcoming string of U.S. dates, and it sounds like he’s already been doing a little of both lately. In fact, he’s currently in a wheelchair from maybe doing too much of it.
Twin Peaks’ second record, Wild Onion, captures that free spirit. Released yesterday, the record plays fast and loose over 16 rock ‘n’ roll songs. The carefree vibe can be misleading though: James and his three bandmates – two of whom also write and sing on the record – clearly know their way around a hook and a melodic guitar line, and each of Wild Onion‘s tracks is written and produced with evident thought.
The future is indeed bright and light and happy for Twin Peaks, even if it is slowed down by the occasional phone interview.
“This was fresh. This was chill. This was nice.” James assures me at the end of our call. “We were just talking. I dig it.”
Twin Peaks plays DC9 this Sunday (with our beloved The Sea Life), the Lower East Side’s Mercury Lounge next Wednesday, and Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right next Thursday. Wild Onion is out now on Grand Jury Music.
BYT has tickets for both the DC9 and Mercury Lounge performances. Twin Peaks (the band) has nothing to do with “Twin Peaks” (the show), but to win a pair, tell us what TV show you would name your band after – and be sure to specify DC or NYC.
How’s your ankle doing?
It’s alright. I got a new cast yesterday. It’s blue – that’s pretty cool. My feet are looking pretty dirty. My toes are kind of gross. My friend just asked me if my toenails are painted – that’s a testifying statement to how gross they look, because they are not painted. But it feels pretty good. In four weeks, I get the cast off and I get a boot on. I’m on the road to recovery, man – just like D. Rose.
How are you managing a tour with it?
I’ve done a tour and a half in a boot already – when my foot was fucked up – so I’m used to it. I’ll roll around on a stool, or maybe I’ll bring this wheelchair that I just scored recently.
We were on tour with Orwells in March, and I had Mario [Cuomo] from the Orwells on my back, and I collapsed, and I fucked it up. I have to crawl upstairs. No fun. But it was kinda fun. I don’t regret it.
I saw some articles with rumors that –
I don’t know who they were talking to. I saw that and I was shocked. I also don’t remember meeting the Dum Dum Girls, so I don’t really know what’s good with that whole little segment there. If I met the Dum Dum Girls, shouts out, that’s cool. Maybe I was drunk and don’t remember it, or I didn’t know that they were the Dum Dum Girls at the time.
Are you still adjusting to reading about yourself?
I guess. It’s chill. Sometimes it’s weird. I mean, it’s weird doing interviews. You can feel frustrated looking back on the ways you’ve responded. But, for the most part, it’s fine. If people want to hear about me and listen to what I have to say and they dig it, then that’s cool. If they don’t, then they don’t gotta read it. I’m just hanging out. If people want to ask me questions, I’m glad to talk to people.
You mentioned having seizures on Facebook. Are those a regular occurrence?
My senior year, I started having seizures. I had four until August of 2012, and then I didn’t have seizures for two years – until last week. I’ve been taking medication for two years. It came out of nowhere. I don’t know if it was stress from the surgery or, you know, I guess alcohol withdrawal can be a thing. I was drinking less because of the surgery. Maybe it was the pain meds. I really don’t know, but they doubled my seizure medication. There have been no seizures since last week, so that’s a good sign.
That’s pretty scary.
I only have them in my sleep, so I don’t remember anything. I just blackout and people tell me how freaky it is. I’ve avoided videos of people having seizures. I don’t want to know what’s good with it. It sounds freaky.
How’s it been playing rock clubs and being underage? Have you come across any asshole club managers?
There are dudes that take it a little too seriously. I totally understand that we’re underage, and that means we can’t legally drink. But some people won’t let you be in the venue the whole time, and they’re really uptight about it. That’s kind of a bummer, because it’s just like, “Yo, dude, we can all have a great show and you can put X’s on our hands and we can hang out. Everyone can have a good time.” But, on the most part, we’ve had good experiences with venues, and people are kind to us, and a lot of times we get away with getting some beers too, so life is good. No complaints.
Touring sounds like it’s been mostly enjoyable.
It’s fucking awesome, man. We love touring. We’ve realized that for many bands it’s their least favorite part, but for us, when you’re in a band and you’re doing it full time, you have a lot of downtime, so it’s relieving when you get on the road and you’re playing for people and they’re appreciating what you’re doing. It reinforces why you’re doing it. We love getting to travel and meet people and play music together.
Is there anything that’s disappointed you?
For the most part, it’s been a very positive experience. But just being young and questioning what you’re doing in life, there are days that you feel down. I think anybody in any path in life is going to have days where you’re like, “Oh man, what the fuck is life? What’s going on? Do I really feel confident about what I’m doing?” But, for the most part, the next day is always just: “Oh man, I was tweaking. Life is good. People dig our music. We get to do this. Haters gonna hate. Lovers gonna love.” I like to be a lover.
Has having a brother who’s done this helped in terms of guidance or reassurance?
It definitely was inspiring for me, because my brother was my best friend and we used to play together, and then he was off touring the world and I was just like, “Damn, man, I want to do what you’re doing, Hal. You’re cool as fuck.”
He actually hated touring. He had a much different experience. He wasn’t a recording member in [the Smith Westerns]. He was just a touring drummer. That’s a division that can lead to a much different dynamic than what we have. We all love touring and have never had issues like that.
But it was definitely inspiring thing for me in high school, watching my brother get to travel and realizing, “This is definitely not impossible. If the Smith Westerns can do it – those dudes are larry motherfuckers – we can do it, man.” Not that they’re actually losers or larries – they’re fine.
What’s been your family’s reaction to your dropping out and pursuing Twin Peaks full time?
Everyone has pretty much always been supportive in my family. My parents had my brother out doing it before me, and they knew that it’s what I loved to do and wanted to do, so they were always onboard. I’ve got really cool parents. My family is the biggest fan of the band, which can be a little embarrassing sometimes. But being embarrassed is silly. I’m just very glad to have a supportive family. If people think that I’m lame for having family members at all of my shows and following us on the road, then they’re lame, because being tight with your family is rad.
The Chicago press seems to have had your back too. Have you felt a lot of love from the city?
I’ve felt so much love from the city. It’s funny for me, because I feel like I mess up a shit ton at any given show. We’re a way sloppier band live than we are on record. Maybe that’s part of our appeal – we have sort a Replacements things going on.
I feel like people have been giving us breaks from the start. They’re still giving us breaks. I don’t know if there’s something endearing about us or what – people are just down to give us some legroom to mess up and shit. I feel grateful for it, because if I was the critic, I’d think we were mediocre. I love playing with my boys and I love our songs, but I could see how people could not dig us and be harder on us than they have been.
Wild Onion maintains a toss-offed feeling despite displaying more studied songcraft. How do you strike that balance? Is there an energy you’re trying to capture?
You can really hear all of us playing on this record – more so than on Sunken. We were working much more as a band than we were the first time around. That probably came from touring a year-and-a-half in between. That’s where that sound and vibe comes from.
But, to another extent, the person who writes and sings a song generally has the most of the idea going into recording it and has put a lot of thought into the arrangement. We think of our songs a lot. We’re not a band that’s scared to use overdubs and instruments that we won’t play live. There’s a lot more that comes out on the recordings – a more arranged, thought-out song. But, you see that energy you mentioned live. It’s the polar opposite. Those things meet together in the studio.
Given that Wild Onion is twice the length of Sunken, and was properly recorded and mixed, does it feel like more of a proper debut for Twin Peaks?
No, I definitely feel like Sunken was our debut, because for so many people that was their first time hearing us. I’m still proud of that record. I like it a lot. We love playing those songs live. They’re still in our set. I definitely don’t want to write off Sunken. A lot of people want to call Wild Onion our debut. And after calling Sunken an LP, they’re starting to call it an EP now, because it’s so much shorter, which I get, but whatever, I consider Sunken our first record. It got put out. It was on vinyl. It’s a full-length. That was our first record. Wild Onion is our second try at it. We had more time to work on it.
Did you buy vinyl – or any sort of physical recordings – growing up?
Not until seventh or eighth grade did I start buying records. But the whole band is definitely dudes that like buying records. When we have money, that’s something we’ll spend it on. If it’s not cigarettes or beer or pot, we’re buying records.
I’m all about the physical thing. Aesthetic, physical copies of records are so great. I love the design of records too. Obviously, the music is the most important part, but it’s really gratifying getting a record that looks awesome and had a lot of thought put into its presentation.
I love the idea of records and tapes, because people put a lot of thought into their sequencing. I like listening to albums straight through, even on my iTunes. If I only like one song from a record, it’s not like I keep that one song on. If I don’t like the record as a whole enough to have it on there, I’m not gonna, because that’s how it was meant to be. That’s also where ADD music comes from. We have iTunes, and you can be like, “I only like these songs,” and you start writing off other stuff, and you give bands less time, you know?
What’s your record collection look like?
They’re mostly records that I’ve stolen from our downstairs, huger record collection. They’re records that I brought up to my room to listen to a lot. The other 25% are records that I’ve bought over the past five or six years. I probably pick up four or five records a year – not a ton. But I’m a broke boy living with his parents, borrowing money from them for now. I work with what I got.
It was awesome growing up and having my dad put on soul records and old folks stuff. Not all of it was formative for me, but it was awesome living in a household where it was like, “We’re going to put on a record in the living room when we’re hanging out and listen to it straight through.”
I don’t want to get too much into “spot the influence,” but there’s a glam rock quality to your guitar tones – and the Smith Westerns’ too – that isn’t particularly common these days. Are records from that era something you listened to?
I credit that to my brother hanging out around those dudes. There were some other buddies of ours who were my brother’s age, and I would listen to their demos a lot. They’re still some of my best friends. One of them plays in a band called Baby Blue out of L.A. – this guy Jacob Loeb. Another is my brother’s buddy, Ziyad [Asrar], who was in a band called Touching Voids and was the keyboardist of Smith Westerns for a while. And then my brother started playing with the Smith Westerns, and they put out their first record, and I just totally ate it up.
My brother and I were diving into T. Rex. Max [Kakacek] from the Smith Westerns would hook us up. He gave us a Nuggets comp, but also gave us Teenline, which is a power pop compilation. I was definitely picking up a lot of influence from what Max was listening to, because he was diving into so much music and I was getting it fed right to me. I thought it was awesome, because it does sound fresh. It’s something that I wasn’t hearing a lot. There’s definitely a garage thing in there, but there was a glam thing that was very distinctive. And I learned how to play guitar better by learning T. Rex solos, so there you have it.
But as you were saying about not getting too much into the influence game, I feel that. It’s a weird question to be asked. Maybe some bands are very conscious about what they’re trying to achieve and what they want to sound like, but we’ve always just naturally written songs and played them together, because we all like each other and like each others’ songs. We never thought it about too much or consciously tried to channel anything.
Was Twin Peaks always a band where you had three songwriters and singers?
It’s become more and more of that. Clay [Frankel] and Jack [Dolan] are writing more and more songs. They’ve always written songs, but when we first were playing, it was pretty much all my songs. What it comes down to is that we’re all doing this together at this point. We’ve all given up our other ambitions for the time being. So it’s, like, let’s just all play each other’s songs and have a good time.
It happened naturally. Jack and I have been playing since elementary school. When we first started, I didn’t sing at all – I just played guitar and would help him figure out guitar parts for melodies that he would sing to me. We’ve always worked together in that sense. We’ve always all had the ambition to have our voices be heard.
Has anything over the past few years stood out as a personal highlight?
It’s probably been getting to do really sweet shows like Pitchfork [Festival]. We got to play Riot Fest last year, and got to meet the drummer from the Pixies afterwards. We opened up for the Breeders at a festival in Cincinnati, and hung out with Kelley Deal. Stuff like that has been really surreal for someone who grew up loving those bands and being obsessed with that.
And we’re actually going to London, Paris, and Berlin for the first time in October. That’s going to be the peak at that one point. When we dropped out of school, it was like, “We might get to play in Europe!” That was one of our goals. If we were gonna drop out, we wanted to cross the seas and see more of the world. We know this country like the back of our hands now. There’s still so much out there though – so many different tastes and different cultures that we would love to tap into.
Were the Breeders playing Last Splash?
They were at that show. We actually played in Cleveland on July 5th, and Kelley’s other band R. Ring played, and she remembered us from Cincinnati last fall, and we hung out with her all day. It was so tight. She’s a total sweetheart. We were all freaking out a little bit, because we were like, “Holy fuck, this is Kelley from the Breeders. We fucking love the Breeders.” Her other band R. Ring is great too.
You wouldn’t have even been born when Last Splash came out. How did you come across it?
I’m the youngest of seven, so a lot of it was not only my parents’ music – my sister Molly was super into the grunge scene and alternative rock of the ’80s and ’90s, so I would pick up music from her too. She turned me onto the Pixies and the Cure and all that stuff.
For Jack, his dad always listened to really sweet music, so he would get music from him. Connor [Brodner] listened to more classic shit like Pink Floyd and Zepplin and the Beatles, because that’s what his dad was into, but then he met us and his taste has expanded a lot since then. I don’t know where it really comes from with Clay. He knows his music somehow.
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