Guitar Center is typically the place where aspiring musicians spend every penny that isn’t earmarked for van fuel, cheap hotels and even cheaper restaurants. This year, the chain gave their customers the chance to win the ultimate rock and roll fantasy: a mountain of free gear and an all expenses paid recording session with Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker. After a three-month competition where feverish online voting reduced thousands of entries to the top 100, Barker handpicked the winner: Twin Berlin.
The end result is the band’s new EP, There Goes My Virtue: three songs that pack a sonic punch unheard since the Libertines ended in a trainwreck, the Exploding Hearts ended in tragedy, and the Strokes got too bored being model-shagging rock stars to bear the sight of each other long enough to make another decent record.
Popdose caught up with drummer James Janocha (pictured left above) and singer/songrwriter/guitarist Matt Lopez (pictured right) to hear more about the effect Barker had on their music.
The new EP crackles with electricity. Perhaps one of the big tells that Travis Barker produced the record is the crisp and vibrant drum sound. So many producers bury the drums in the mix so the beat sounds like rabbit turds falling into a plastic bucket.
But I digress. James, as a drummer, what was it like recording with such a percussion icon?
James: The coolest thing about working with Travis was that he was very committed to making the record Twin Berlin wanted to make. He really wanted us to be proud of the end result. I was incredibly nervous when I met him at Red Bull Studio — especially when found out that I would be using his kit to track the EP.
You hear so many horror stories about heading into the studio with big time producers who want to change things and put their twist on it, but that just wasn’t the case here. Travis let me know that he liked the parts I was playing. He just offered suggestions so the band could make decisions together.
As a drummer, he really helped me to open up the drums more and look at things from a new perspective. He would ask me things like “did you ever think about trying it using the ride? Or “what about throwing in a side snare?” But he never took over and said, “I want you to play it like this.” Granted, he did sit in and jam on some ideas with Matt and bassist Sean O’Neil (pictured center above). I couldn’t be happier with the end result. It’s still me. What you hear still has my groove, my feel. It’s still Twin Berlin. Nothing more, nothing less.
Have you opened up for any of your heroes on tour?
James: This past summer, we had the amazing opportunity to live out one of our childhood fantasies. We shared the stage with Third Eye Blind, Spin Doctors, Switchfoot and Eve 6. That was the whole bill, just them and us. I can remember covering songs from all these bands when I was learning to play. The whole day was just surreal.
Matt: The Earthfest show was awesome; I used to listen to the first Third Eye Blind record a lot in elementary school.
James: Everyone we met was great — from all those bands. Whether we were grabbing a drink, catching a set, or just shooting the shit, we felt like we belonged.
If you could open for anyone, who would it be?
James: I would have loved to play a show with Nirvana. I think playing with the Foo Fighters or Weezer would be awesome. Especially since the late Mikey Welsh (former bassist for Weezer) did the artwork for this EP. We’re all just huge fans.
Matt: Opening for Nirvana would have been awesome, but out of bands that are still touring I would go with The Cribs, their shows are a lot of fun.
What other young bands would you love to have open for you?
Matt: They’re not young, but it’d be cool to have Kiss open for us, so long as they let us borrow their pyrotechnics.
What records influenced your sound?
James: Weezer’s Pinkerton definitely did a number on us. Pretty much anything from The Stooges, Nirvana and the Ramones would have to be included.
And most importantly, what’s next?
Matt: We’re going to be releasing a lot of songs very soon, some are pretty new, some we’ve been playing since the beginning of the band. It was never a plan to hold back and not put stuff out, it’s more a matter of what we can financially afford to do. We want to release stuff, we just want to make sure it’s recorded and released the right way.
James: We’re also in the beginning stages of putting together our first video, which I am stoked for.
Until then, for less cash than a Grande Frappuccino (and offering twice the jump start for your ticker), you can buy a copy of Twin Berlin’s There Goes My Virtue (produced by Travis Barker) on Amazon MP3.