BY AMY HABEN
Twin Guns are keeping New York City dangerous. While indie rock yawn bands and EDM crap fills the music halls and bars, it’s refreshing to know that there are a few good souls keeping the spirit of The Gun Club and The Cramps alive. Kristin, Jim, and Andrea make up the zombie beach party sound that is Twin Guns. I recently caught up with them in Williamsburg, where we discussed Jim’s previous involvement with The Cramps, Kristin’s Kyuss themed funeral, and Andrea’s country music roots.
Amy Haben: I’m going to say first of all, I’m really happy to have a friend that plays in a band that I actually like a lot. I am a fan. So, thank you guys for doing this interview.
Kristin Fayne-Mulroy: We’re very flattered! Thank you!
AH: Introduce yourselves and what you play.
K: I’m Kristin Fayne-Mulroy and I’m the bass player.
Jim Chandler: Jim- [laughs] Jungle Jim on drums.
Andrea Sicco: It’s Andrea, vocals and guitar.
AH: Ok. So, how did this come together? How did you guys all meet?
A: Well, I used to have a band called My Happy Gun. And I used to play with two older guys. And the old drummer was the first drummer from the Fuzztones– but he had lost all his boyish good looks by the time I played with him. It was a total mess. He used to just bring six packs of beer for himself while playing and fall from the stool. It became literally a Spinal Tap situation to find the right drummer. When finally we found a good drummer, we recorded an EP and then he quit and then I started looking for a different drummer and just around the same time I met Jim through other musician’s friends and he called an ad that I posted on Craigslist, I believe. “Looking for a drummer.”
AH: Really? So Craigslist is good for meeting people?
AS: So we dated for a while- naw, I’m just joking.
K: It started out very promising!
AS: Jim had the idea of why don’t we just do it as a two-piece? Like The Cramps, no bass player. So that turned out actually to be the most successful band I’ve ever been in, ironically. After years of struggling to find the right musicians. It turned out to be a win-win situation. And we carried on as a two-piece.
AH: So how many albums did you put out as a two piece?
J: Two albums and one seven inch. So we carried on for at least four years as just a two piece. Four or five years. And we did pretty good.
K: They just looked great on stage, the lighting was awesome, the sound was great and I loved it. It was almost like two people walking in with a suitcase and then the suitcase opens up and it’s a whole, huge atmosphere, and I was really intrigued and impressed by how they built this… everything. For me it was like this whole visual, auditory thing that was just great.
AS: Suitcase was where I had all my pedals- [laughs]
AH: Yeah, I agree. I just listened to one of the albums or I think it was the seven inch, actually, with just the two of you on it?
AH: And to me it doesn’t sound simple. It doesn’t sound like two people. It’s not as simple as say The White Stripes. Where you could tell it’s two people.
AS, J, K: Exactly.
J: It’s true, very true.
AH: Do you know what I mean? It’s very simple. There’s not a multi-layered feel. Like the way you guys feel.
J: Kinda like Black Keys, you could tell it’s just guitar/drums.
AH: Cool. And how were you trained? Like, did you teach yourself guitar or, what’s your background?
AS: I am totally self-taught. Up to this day I can’t recognize notes, you know what I mean? [laughs] It’s a very instinctual process for me. A friend of my mom’s used to be in a garage band in the ‘60s actually and he donated his original VOX “Wah-wah” pedal to me, ‘cause he loved my mom. The guy taught me some basic guitar stuff, but essentially, there was a guitar in the house forever and I never really touched it ‘cause it was like a really bad guitar and it was impossible to play. So I started off really late. I was 17 years old when I started playing guitar.
K: I love that you think that’s late.
K:- ‘cause I was decades later.
A: Cool. What, what city are you from? Because you’re obviously from Italy, right?
AS: I’m from a small town in Tuscany, it’s called Orbetello.
AH: How old were you when you came over?
AS: I was about 23 when I came to the States. I started listening to a lot of blues and American country music, actually.
AH: Like who?
AS: Um. I don’t know if I want this written- [All laugh.]
AH: It’s embarrassing country music?
AS: It’s a little embarrassing.
J: Dixie Chicks!
AH: Garth Brooks?
AS: I wish I could say “Oh, early Hank Williams.” No, it was actually, “Red River Valley.”
AH: What kind of music were you into when you were 17?
AS: I became really enamored with rockabilly, 1950’s rock & roll. And that became my big crush and then I listened to Neil Young growing up. And I love his mid to late ‘60s psychedelic West Coast stuff and minus Grateful Dead, I really hated the Grateful Dead.
AH: Yeah, me too.
AS: And that’s it, I mean I fell in love with garage rock early on so that kinda stayed with me for a long time and then I liked a lot of the sort of darker 80s stuff. [laughs] I mean, my, my mom used to listen to classical music most of her life, so I used to wake up hungover on Sunday mornings to the sound of Beethoven. I might have absorbed that on some level.
AH: Well they say that like if you listen to classical music, it helps you learn. It stimulates your brain in a way that no other music does…
AH: So it’s good if you’re studying in college, you listen to classical music in the background.
J: Oh, wow! That’s interesting.
K: Yeah, I heard that too.
AH: So, what about you guys? Are you self-taught, or?
J: I took lessons when I was maybe 15 for a year to get started on the drums. But pretty much self taught.
J: I still am very studious. I still go to practice on my own a lot and try to learn different ways of approaching the drum set. I’ve been learning some African rhythms.
K: I took four years of piano. I did take three bass lessons years ago. I was always intrigued by the bass, but I never really came around to it, so that’s why I was laughing when Andrea was talking about coming to it late at 17…
AH: When I listen to you, I hear The Cramps, I hear Rowland Howard in some sounds and I hear The Sonics. I hear a garage punk meets a graveyardy sound. What do you guys feel?
AS: That’s very accurate, let’s just say. It’s no mystery I’m quite a fan of Rowland Howard’s playing. And it’s funny ‘cause I should probably state that I’m not trying to sound like him. I had already developed that style before discovering his music. I think it was Henry Rollins that said something like, “It was like surf in hell.”
K: Influences that tend to come to mind for folks: The Cramps, old garage, one of the things that blew me away when I first saw these guys was that they evoked this visual aspect of music that I love, which was goth. I love Sisters of Mercy, I love Fields of Nephilim. And, even if I didn’t always love their music, some of it got a little cheesy sometimes, especially later in those bands. Looking at these two guys on stage, with clothing, I think when I first saw them, Andrea was wearing a hat, they were backlit, it just looked and the whole atmosphere that they evoked was definitely for me flavored with elements of those bands, those goth bands that did it really well. Visually, it was very dramatic, really intriguing, very mysterious, very dark, a little scary, a little dangerous and I loved that they were- it’s just, again these two people evoke this whole atmosphere on stage-
AH: I have to say, when I saw you guys I thought, “Velvet Underground” because you had sunglasses on and you guys were all dressed in black, it was red, it just was very cool. But not in a contrived way, it really felt real.
K: That’s awesome to hear. Thank you.
AS: I’m not religious, but to me, the Velvet Underground and Nico is my bible.
AH: I completely agree. With the whole Velvet Underground religion. Because I don’t go to church, I’m not religious but when I wanna meditate, I just put on some candles and I turn on the Velvet Underground and I lie on my floor. And to me that’s spiritual.
K: Yeah absolutely!
J: Wow, that’s great.
AS: I’d like to mention that I was lucky enough to be a kid who grew up with these kids whose father was the Italian director of RCA Records. He was a big shot like in the ‘60s and ‘70s. There’s a whole story that I can’t even begin to mention. He was telling stories of coming in the ‘70s to New York and he met Elvis Presley and Lou Reed and Bowie. And I used to have a little problem when I was young- I used to steal stuff. And when I was hanging out at their house one night I went into their incredible music room and I climbed on the shelf and I stole “Walk on the Wild Side” 45 and “Diamond Dogs” 45.
AH: You sinner! I have to say, ‘cause I’ve been to Italy, and to me you’re like a unicorn, because I don’t meet too many Italians from Italy that are into such great music.
AS: Right, right.
J: Would you agree with that? It’s kind of true, right?
AS: Yeah, I mean, there is- I grew up in the ‘80s where there was like, there’s a big disco scene, discotheques.
AS: And me and my friend, we used to go- me and my couple of rock and roll friends, used to just go outside the discotheque and smoke joints. But we would never go in because it was like crap music. It’s terrible.
AS: We’ve been playing on and off “1970,” which for us it’s like a platform to kind of experiment with throwing in a little bit of different kinds of covers.
K: That’s a great song for us to lay down while Andrea just kind of goes off and does what he wants do.
AS: On tour one thing was clear when we got to Detroit: We will not play “1970.” [laughs]
K: We had an amazing experience in Detroit. We know a band called the Ruiners, who are fantastic lovely people and they set up a great night for us. So we’re playing this place PJ’s Lager House, and the owners are great, the staff are fantastic and we’re playing this show and we’re like “Should we end with ‘1970?’” The way the venue is set up, the stage has a door in the back that opens up onto the street. So we’re like, “Ok, if ‘1970’ doesn’t go down well we can just…“
AH: [laughing] We escape!
K: [laughing] “We’ll just sacrifice the equipment. Just get the hell out. Van’s right outside.” But it went over really, really well.
K: -And people actually came up to us afterwards and were like “Hey, that cover was awesome!”
AS: It was flattering, we found a home in Detroit.
AH: So, maybe you’ve never thought of this, but I want to go around and ask you what song would you want to have played at your funeral?
J: It’s called “Riviera Paradise” by Stevie Ray Vaughn. It’s a beautiful instrumental.
AS: I’ll be playing live. [All laugh]
J: You’ll kill me for missing Stevie Ray Vaughn.
K: Oh my god that’s hilarious.
K: God, I don’t know.
J: You’d never thought about that? God, I had my whole epitaph picked out when I was eighteen.
AH: Wow, you were a dark kid.
J: “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” [all laugh]
AS: That’s a good one. “Last Christmas”
K: Oh my god. “Wake Me Up.” Oh My God. That’s hysterical.
AH: Who would you guys have as who would you guys want to make a guest appearance on an album, for example?
K: The Reed Brothers. Jesus and Mary Chain.
J: Alive I would say, I dunno, I would think it would be kind of cool to have Neil Young if I had to say someone right away.
J: We’re huge fans of his.
AS: I’m going to go for the big one- I would love Bowie to just do some background vocals.
AH: Of course! Oh, background vocals? He could do that, yeah!
J: Yeah, exactly.
AH: “We’re going to stick you back here.” [laughing]
J: Exactly. “You could play tambourine, David, okay?” [All laugh]
J: If you had to pick a dead person, uh, Jeffrey Lee Pierce could do it.
K: Oh whoa, yeah.
AH: Oh yeah! From the Gun Club!
J: Jeffrey Lee Pierce, uh. Totally.
AS: Iggy Pop has mentioned that upon seeing Jim Morrison he got inspired. Between that and the Velvet Underground, he got mostly what he did actually with the Stooges. I mean, growing up I was never much into the Doors because it was like every other girl had a Jim Morrison poster in their bedroom, you know, I guess I’m all alone on this, I guess. [laughs]
J: I love the Doors. I don’t love Morrison but the Doors are fucking great.
J: I love the organ, I love the drumming. It’s amazing music.
AH: Have you guy met anyone from the Cramps before?
J: I played with them.
AH: You played with the Cramps?
J: Yeah. After their Fiends of Dope Island, I toured in Europe with them.
AH: And you liked all of them? Did your personalities clash?
J: Yeah, well the bass player and I didn’t get along.
AH: But Lux and Ivy were good?
J: Yeah they were cool.
AS: – I really love Television, that first album, Marquee Moon. That’s another bible for me. I would love Tom Verlaine to play a little guitar.
AH: Yeah! [all laugh] So when’s the next album coming out? Or is there a date?
K: That’s a good question. [all laugh]
J: We have two singles coming out. We have one single put out by a guy in Canada, he has a label called Rockin’ Records, out of Vancouver. And then we’re doing a split with a Canadian band called the Pow Wows who are from Toronto. And that label is called Boppa Do Down. Tim Hanna owns that label. We also have a full length that we’re going to put out ourselves. I mean, we’re currently shopping it around labels so if anyone bites maybe it’ll be put out by someone else but it’s very likely we’ll just put it out ourselves again.
AS: These are people that are DJs themselves and they love the object of the 45 and the vinyl and the single, so they’re most likely going to put all these records in the jukebox in local bars.
K: We’ve been in the studio with Matt Verta-Ray.
AS: Matt Verta-Ray, yeah. He’s from, from Heavy Trash, Speedball Baby, Thing.
K: He’s in Heavy Trash with, with Jon Spencer.
J: This will be our third full-length album that we’ve put out. But what I love about Twin Guns and why I’m happier in this band than any band I’ve ever been in, Cramps included, or the Makers or any of these bands I’ve been in is that it’s a, it’s an effort, it’s a combined effort. And it gives you that gratification of creating with your friends. And that’s what I think a band should be, you know what I mean?
J: You get a lot of singers and guitar players that sometimes have such an ego they don’t really want to listen to anybody else.
AS: ‘Cause you’ve got to maintain the integrity of the vision at all costs.
AH: The music should be good, but you have to have a look that’s a little bit pleasing and have a good name.
AH: I used to bartend at a music venue and you see all these bands with a terrible name and they get up on stage with like a Gap t-shirt on and sandals.
J: Exactly. I always tell these guys that I always feel like the band should not look like the audience, you know what I mean? Just like if you go to the circus, you’re not going to see a guy in a t-shirt and jeans fucking putting lions through the hoop. He’s going to wear fucking sequins.
AH: It’s the same thing! It’s all show business.
J: You don’t want to go and like, see the Cramps play and because it’s hot they’re not wearing patent leather, you know what I mean? Because that’s what you think of when you think of the Cramps.
AH: I saw them at the Hootenanny in ’96 and it was hot as balls ‘cause it was in a desert area. They were all still wearing their latex, outfits and then Lux ripped it all apart and was just naked and I was just sixteen and I was like, “This is the best thing I’ve ever seen.”
K: Right, totally.
J: It’s like, what if you went to go see the Ramones and, and they were wearing shorts.
K: Cargo shorts!
K: I thought of a song. “Phototropic” by Kyuss.
AH: At your funeral?
K: Yeah, man!
AH: A Kyuss song at your funeral? That’s amazing.
J: Party on!