Twist Helix have been on my radar, since the release of the second single from Machinery 'Frida Kahlo' came out 10th July. I fell in love with the band on the very first listen, with alt-pop synths, big fat bass lines and Bea's distinct Spanish/Geordie hybrid vocals you have something as equally unique, as it is brilliant!
They've worked flat out over the last few years building a solid reputation across the UK and winning plaudits from BBC Introducing North East and Radio3 (Spanish National Radio).
Machinery is Twist Helix's third album in four years which is remarkable output for a band that isn't that well known, but make no mistake these guys deserve to be playing the venues like Glasgow's Barrowlands; Manchester's Victoria Warehouse and Gateshead's The Sage.
As an album I really want you to listen to the whole thing - partly because you should do this every album. (Artists put albums together in such a way, that takes you on a journey).
Machinery as a whole piece is an incredibly accomplished body of work. Opener 'Louder' and then third track 'Frida Kahlo', are tracks that make you want to get up and dance, this isn't just an album full of indie/synth bangers.
When I first heard 'Transmission' the instrumental I felt as though I was Sandra Bullock in Gravity - floating in space with lots of light and cosmic dust floating all around me. It was uplifting and my emotional response was an overwhelming sense of joy. I couldn't help but smile. That's what music is meant to do - it connects with the soul of the listener.
Their last single before the albums release 'Vultures' gets better with every listen (you have to listen to the lyrics) and when the record ends with 'Good Night Little England' I had visions of a futuristic space scape and if I'm honest melancholy. The best artists will always leave you wanting more though....
So with that in mind, pull up a chair, grab and drink and sit back and enjoy this interview.
I was lucky enough to catch up with the band just ahead of the album release
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard your music before?
Bazz: The “elevator pitch” is so hard to do… I guess for me it’s like a hybrid of Eurovision-esque euphoric synth pop and indie rock.
James: I'd go for 'Ibero-Geordie-Indie-Electronica', bands love hypens.
Bea: "You know that episode of Friends where Ross plays the Synth?"
Who was the first artist or musician who’s you feel in love with?
Bea: It’s a bit cringe but I was super into the Backstreet Boys when I was a kid. Singing their songs was how I learnt to speak English and probably the reason why I took up playing the keyboards. I’ve been known to do the choreography to ‘Everybody (Backstreet's Back)’ as a pre-show warm up.
James: My earliest memory of listening to music is the cassette tapes my parent’s used to have on in the car, I remember this one really random mix where all of side one was tracks from The Police’s ‘Outlandos d'Amour’ and side two was Tom Petty’s ‘Full Moon Fever’ so as an adult I can’t hear one without thinking of the other.
Bazz: Personally, it was Alex Pennie. He was the keyboard player in The Automatic when they first broke through, he had that really shrill shouty backing vocal style that people either loved or hated. I was firmly in the former camp, I thought it was amazing, and when I saw them live in Manchester he was tearing about the stage swinging his mic around, pelting a cowbell, screaming… I think he barely touched the keys for most of the set to be fair. I remember people around me going “what a dick he looks, too big for his boots that guy” but I was just stood thinking “that’s what I want to do”. I don’t care if people think I look like an idiot, I just want to reach the one or two people in the audience who want to leave having felt something.
What’s your creative process like and has this album had to be different due to Lockdown and COVID19?
Bea: I guess 'Machinery' is a bit of a change in pace for us. We were lucky to be offered a studio residency at Sage Gateshead to start work on the album so for the first time the three of us had a space of our own to write collaboratively, play around, and just let our personalities show. So the new record is definitely more reflective of our influences and tastes as group.
Bazz: Like Bea says we actually wrote the majority of the album last year, then spent quite a bit of time on the road tweaking things and developing the sound. We managed to get it recorded just before going into lockdown which was very fortunate, although it was quite strange being in the studio watching the rest of the world locking down and wondering whether we’d all have to suddenly leg it home.
James: Yeah we were really lucky that most of the hard work on our part was already done. The real hero behind the record was Inaki (organic audio) are John (blank studios) who were able to work between the studios in Newcastle and Cuenca, to get the album out on time.
How have you found lockdown?
Bazz: I’ve found it quite monotonous to be honest. I think everyone did really well at first to try to keep each other’s spirits up but as time goes on it just becomes such a repetitive existence, get up – shower – eat – turn on laptop – work – eat – work – close laptop – eat – tv – sleep – repeat.
Bea: Yeah same, it's rubbish, I miss gigs, I miss my family and my friends.
James: On the plus side the spiciness of the GIF's exchanged in the band chat have definitely improved.
What music have you been listening to in lockdown?
Bea: I really got into Empathy Test in the spring and had their Monsters album pretty much on repeat. They reminded me of Depeche mode, really dark and moving songs but delicate and beautiful at the same time. Also, big shout to Swine Tax, their new single 'Relax' is brilliant!
James: I've been enjoying the new releases from Krakow Loves Adana, Avec Sans and Me Lost Me, anything that takes me somewhere a little different really. On the subject of escapism, I’m currently passing this second lockdown with a marathon playthrough of Life is Strange/Life is Strange: Before the Storm; both have really amazing Soundtracks.
Bazz: been really bad with music over lockdown, I think I’ve tended towards comfort in familiarity more that anything. I listened to Notes On A Conditional Form by The 1975 quite a bit when it came out, and there’s a new album on the way from The Cribs which I’ve been really digging the singles for. Aside from that it’s been some of the stuff our mates have brought out over lockdown: Motel Carnation did an Oasis cover which was fun; Deep.Sleep, St. Buryan and bigfatbig brought new stuff out; Ally from Massa Confusa brought out a new single and a new project called Not Myself… I guess I’ve just leant on the music of my friends for most of this!
Which music has been your favourite discovery in 2020?
James: There's an indie-pop band from London called Fightmilk really clicked with me this year. There's a sort of downtrodden, melancholic charm to their songwriting paired with a wry self-effacing wit that's Sleeperesque check out their singles 'If You Had A Sister...' and 'Dreamphone' they're quite brilliant. Also Bazz I think they have a stripped back cover of Mens Needs by the Cribs on their Bandcamp seeing as you mentioned them earlier!
Bazz: I'll check it out! As I say, I’ve not been keeping up with new music very well. I did discover a sort of post-punk/new wave band called Molchat Doma from Belarus. They came up on a playlist I was listening to, apparently one of their songs from 2018 was a meme at some point in lockdown but all I know is it was proper dark, dancy post and I liked it a lot. Then there was Dađi Freyr in Eurovision as well, what a bop that was.
Bea: I have a special place in my heart for an upcoming band from Glasgow called 'Kendama'. Imagine a cross between CHVRCHES and Blink 182. We hosted them a show at the end of last year and their energy on stage was incredible. They dropped a single called 'Wine' at the start of this year and it just blew us away.
Any plans to tour once we’re allowed to have live music again?
Bazz: It really depends, we had a chat as a band as to whether to play socially distanced shows when they started happening and it’s really tough. Speaking for myself, I always thrive off a crowd that are really giving energy back, and with tables and distanced seating there I’m not sure how it’ll be. I just don’t want to give a performance where I feel like I’m phoning it in. Hopefully if there’s an effective vaccine and we can get venues back up to capacity though it’d be a no brainer.
James: Yeah we’re not really a sit-down, stroke your chin kind of band. More smoke machines, gimmicky lights and constant jumping. We'll be back when the times right.
Bea: PLEASE LET IT BE SOON!
Do you have any hidden talents that we wouldn’t necessarily be aware of?
Bea: I can name all 196 countries of the world in under fifteen minutes
Bazz: Apparently I do a pretty good impersonation of an Air Raid Siren
James: I can sense when lasagne is afraid of me.
Summing this album up in one word - exhilarating or español si lo prefieres - estimulante!
For fans of Chvrches, Martha Hill, Goldfrapp, Tiësto, Róisín Murphy, The Knife, The Ninth Wave.
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