What do you get when you cross ’60s style psychedelia mixed with spaghetti westerns? Twin Smith, a refreshingly unique band out of Toronto who sling guitars instead of guns, but pack a punch just the same. Their current roster of four friends includes Dave Browne (guitar/vocals), Stephen Court (acoustic guitar/vocals), Noel Bryant (bass/vocals) and Cosimo Costa (drums/vocals).
The quartet played a set during NXNE last weekend at Baltic Avenue bar, a gig awarded to them after a promoter watched them play a previous show a couple months back. The highlights of their sound are their charming three and sometimes four part vocal harmonies, and their fun and sometimes a little quirky spaghetti western tunes that sound like they could be on the Kill Bill soundtrack. There’s also a song about trolls, and who doesn’t love a song about trolls? They’re also all very talented and accomplished musicians.
I was fortunate enough to chat with these fine fellows after their set and get the low down on how they formed the band, how their style has evolved into something that’s really quite different in these parts (or, probably, anywhere) and what their plans are going forward. They joked about how they were born, and then formed a band, which isn’t far off from what actually happened.
Browne and Court started playing together a whopping twenty years ago, when the call to make music in their early teens brought them together. After different incarnations of bands in the early days (nay, years), Costa joined in 2003 as their drummer, eventually moving to steel guitar and is currently filling in on drums again until the band finds a permanent fixture following the departure of their former drummer. Bryant joined the group two years ago and has become part of the family, commenting how much he enjoys playing with the group because of the level of talent and the material that each person brings. Even if they stick with the current line up, the chemistry in the group is evident and an important part of the mix, especially with all the harmonies that work in tandem.
Stephanie Beatson: When you’re writing, do you generally co-write as a group or does one person come with an idea that is then shaped by the rest of the band?
Noel Bryant: Ideas are brought to the table and everybody works with them.
Dave Browne: It’s pretty democratic, the way we write songs. Everyone’s ideas are taken into consideration.
Cosimo Costa: I like that when any one of us comes up with an idea, we’re so excited to have the other guys make it better. A song always gets better when all of us touch it.
Bryant: There’s no ego. Steve’s kind of the maestro. He makes things work in musical terms.
Browne: We’re kind of barfing out ideas, and Steve tells us what they actually mean musically. He’s like a musical modem, and more.
Bryant: He translates our ideas.
So when you guys are barfing out ideas, do you have certain sounds or ideas that you’re going towards?
Bryant: We follow a path though we don’t necessarily have concrete ideas, but rather bits and pieces and then we see where it goes and if we can make it work.
Browne: We’re so unshamefully eclectic.
Court: That’s the way to be. When we’ve tried to be any one thing, we got bored very quickly and wound up doing something else very quickly, so we might as well be a mixed bag.
Browne: We all have so many influences. We’ll never all be listening to the same thing at the same time, so it all swirls together.
Would you say your style has evolved a lot over time?
Browne: Oh yes!
Bryant: We’re playing different styles than we were two years ago, and I’m sure we’ll be doing different things two weeks from now [laughs]. It’s nice to have that freedom to play whatever. Everyone comes from different stylistic backgrounds, so it’s nice to be able to use all those different things to do whatever works.
What are your plans going forward from here?
Browne: We have to do something concrete. The thing that’s hindered us, since we started, is we’ve gone through different line-ups, with drummers and what not. And a very fast evolution of songwriting. So we haven’t been able to say, “OK, these are our songs and these are our players, and we’re going to make this album.” It’s been constantly changing. It’s been hard to nail down. There’s no reason now we can’t buckle down and do something.
Bryant: It’s hard because you feel like you’re in a certain place before you lay down something concrete, and we’ve been changing and moving a lot of the time. It’s been a bit of a troubled thing, but I think we’re in a place now where we can really do something. We’re very restless with songs.
Browne: Our biggest problem has never been coming up with material, it’s been whittling down the mountain of ideas.
I’ve seen them play a few times, and it’s true; their set is constantly evolving and they regularly introduce new material. Recently, Twin Smith have been adding some synth to some of their songs, enhancing the psychedelia already present in the guitar effects. Though they have no official recordings to date, here is a video of their NXNE set:
Photos and video by Stephanie Beatson.