For many bands, making it out of one’s original scene means a certain decline in authenticity. Sure, they still retain the same face-value humility when peddling their new cassette at their merch stand after the show, but especially in the age of Instagram popularity and the saturation of indie acts, it’s easy to fall down a slippery slope of turning one’s band into a means for indie clout and online popularity while abandoning the idea of music for music’s sake. Thus, it’s all the more refreshing when bands maintain their DIY tenor and deliver to audiences music they believe in, not just what will get them the most views on their Audiotree Live performance or mentions in someone’s Instagram story. Twen, an indie psychedelic pop band from Boston, is one of these bands that shows that even in the digital age, DIY isn’t dead.
The group, composed of Jane Fitzsimmons and Ian Jones, met in Boston and crossed paths in the DIY scene. From there, they formed the duo, accidentally recorded a live EP in a basement, released said EP, embarked on tour for two years straight and never looked back. The band has played alongside White Reaper and Ron Gallo. One of the band’s most compelling traits is its pure, pro-DIY attitude. Its merch is all hand-selected from thrift stores, dyed, tailored and screen printed by the duo themselves, according to a recent interview with i-D Vice.
On Oct. 9, the band stopped back in Boston to open for The Dodos at Brighton Music Hall.
One can’t talk about Twen’s live performances without first addressing Fitzsimmons‘ atypical and invigorating stage presence. The singer’s MO consists of buoyant movements coupled with stirring facial expressions à la Björk. At one point, as the band’s next song started, she squatted on stage and helped herself to a banana for a snack. Her eccentric stage presence isn’t one of a contrived musician attempting to be quirky and weird in the name of pretentious pseudo-art. Instead, Fitzsimmons is just having a good time onstage, and the authenticity shows. Yes, Twen is cool, but not too cool to have fun while performing.
The show consisted primarily of songs off the duo’s first and only full-length record, “Awestruck” (2019), a dreamy, psychedelic powerhouse. Starting off was the title track, an invigorating shoegaze jam that evades description. The lyrics are unintelligible, the rhythm perplexing, but it works — and it works well.
Next was the more obscure “High on the Weekend” (2018), a pretty standard surf-rock tinged tune, one of Twen’s less engaging songs. Sure, it’s catchy and fun, but it feels like something that any psych band could perform and one wouldn’t know the difference. However, the ensuing “Azkaban” picked things back up. The duo’s commanding vocals are one of the strongest points of the song. Coupled with Jones’ masterful guitar and a fun, house-show rawness to the whole tune, “Azkaban” proved to be one of Twen’s most impressive tracks of the night and of the entire record. (Seriously, go listen to “Azkaban” on Spotify right now. You won’t regret it.)
Another high point of the night was the band’s most popular track, “Damsel.” Fitzsimmons‘ bendy vocals are floaty and mildly distorted, and Jones‘ surfy guitar is a dreamy delight (even as I listen to the song while writing this, it’s hard not to close my eyes and sway along). The song is evocative and unconcerned with deep analysis of the lyrics — it’s a song that focuses on feeling, which is a reprieve in a time wherein so many try to cover up a lack of discernible musical talent by bumbling out fake-deep lyrics. Twen is secure enough in its talent that it needn’t resort to these tactics, leaving its listeners with tracks they can actually feel.
The band closed the set with “Baptism,” which I can say with full confidence is the group’s magnum opus. The track is infectious, and fair warning, if you listen to it, you probably will listen to it about five more times immediately after. And then another three times every day for the next week. Seriously, this psychedelic track is not something to be overlooked.
If you missed this show, fear not, because Twen will be back in Boston on Dec. 3 at Brighton Music Hall with The Joy Formidable. If you’re anything like me, you’re marking your calendar now because this isn’t a show to miss.