By Laura Studarus; photo by Shawn Brackbill on September 27, 2011
Last spring, Long Island-based band Twin Sister packed in their normal lives and became full-time musicians. As bassist/guitarist Gabel D’Amico recounts, there was no love lost to their day jobs. “I was finishing up school. I was writing big papers and stuff. [Guitarist] Eric [Cardona] and [vocalist] Andrea [Estella] were working at Edible Arrangements,” he laughs. “Those were pretty horrific jobs. [Drummer] Bryan [Ujueta] is famous for having a lot of funny, odd jobs for barely anytime at all. He worked at a cowboy hat store; he worked at a puzzle factory.”
It was a long time coming for the band, filled out to a quintet by keyboardist Udbhav Gupta. Having met in their teens while navigating the New York music scene in separate projects, it was love at first sight. “Teenagers are figuring themselves out and finding out what they’re all about,” explains D’Amico. “The people that are now my partners are the people that, when I was younger, I looked at and said, ‘Those are the people I have to be with!’ They must have felt the same way.”
As the work became more diligent, the tunes solidified. With 2008’s Vampires with Dreaming Kids and 2010’s Color Your Life EPs under their belt, the friends took what seemed like an obvious leap of faith: They rented a house in the Hamptons to write their debut full-length. “I think it was burned into all our brains, growing up reading about bands,” admits D’Amico. “We were like, ‘Oh, we have to try that!’”
“It was wintertime and there was nobody around,” D’Amico continues—dashing the assumption the band shelled out big bucks for the experience. “It was bizarre but it was fun. It felt like we were in Opposite World. It felt like we were supposed to be in a thriving community but we weren’t.”
The self-imposed boot camp of sorts served Twin Sister well. The resulting album, In Heaven, is 10 tracks of sly, influence-hopping retro-pop. It’s a description that D’Amico, for one, agrees with. “I think that it would be impossible to make music without nostalgia. It hits on a very subconscious level,” he says, flipping through his father’s records in search of reference points. Finally, he gives up, laughing in defeat. “I think the radio is responsible for us sounding like a million things at once—pop radio.”
With all members still in their early-to-mid-20s, Twin Sister inevitably captures a slice of youthful exuberance. It’s a playful attitude that informs their dream-pop-leaning sounds—often influenced by band members’ actual dreams. “Andrea just woke up today talking about a wild dream she had, and it made me think that dreams are fun. I think in some ways [dreams are] like that for us.”
“We’re not political or anything,” D’Amico, continues, laughing. “So it makes sense for [dreams] to have more inspiration [on us] than, say, the war. We’re just not that kind of band! Although, I have dreams of, like, making a sandwich. I’m waiting for my dream song to come along!”
There’s also a certain tongue-in-cheek element to their lighthearted tunes. “Sometimes it’s something that we joke about for months before we work it into a real song,” D’Amico says of their tongue-twisting lyrics. “Just by the virtue of it sticking in our heads as a joke, we usually come to the conclusion that it’s worth considering as a real idea.”
Single “Bad Street” includes a memorable Blondie-leaning rap—one of many moments on the album that resulted from the band’s endless wordplay. “Those were just little lines that [Estella] used to sing for almost a year,” D’Amico recounts. “She’d just say these little rhymes, and we’d all think they were so great and ask, ‘How do you put that to music?’ We figured it out and realized how perfect it was. It was like, ‘OK, let’s be the tight little backing band while she kind of exudes all this personality.’ That’s very her, she’s very much herself in that song.”
Despite the success of their first outing, D’Amico assures the band is far from complacent with their new role as full-time musicians. “I think if we made an album we thought was perfect, where would you go from there?” he says, when asked if Twin Sister had an ideal to chase. “We’d give up! It’s good that we’re unsatisfied. Totally unsatisfied!” F
3 albums that inspired Twin Sister's Gabel D'Amico to make music
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO
The Velvet Underground & Nico
I just think of it as one of the best examples of pop songwriting put in the context of really experimental arranging.
It’s all kinda attitude. Everything is right there. It’s stood the test of the time.
An example of a group of people who really know how to play off of each other. Everyone in that band is doing what they want to be doing, and it all works in harmony.