Twinsmith does not sound like Nebraska. The Omaha foursome’s melodic sophomore album, Alligator Years, is a pastiche of indie rock tropes, new wave influences, and synth pop flourishes. There are no cornfields or wheat mills in sight. It’s a record that bursts with youthful energy and a prankster’s sense of playfulness. Zombie apocalypses and homicidal girlfriends are what occupy these twentysomething minds. The band has been busy wrapping up their headlining tour, but we got the chance to catch up with guitarist Matt Regner to find out how they formed, how their sound has evolved, and where they’re headed.
How would you describe your sound?
Diverse. We didn’t want to make an album with ten songs that just kind of all sounded the same and just mixed together into one monotonous kind of thing. We wanted to jump around quite a bit.
What inspires your music?
We like to dance—we like to move with the performance. That’s the kind of music we like to listen to so that’s the kind of music we like to make. And lyrically, we pull stuff from our lives and write about it.
How did you guys meet?
High school. We all grew up in Omaha. Bill, the bassist, grew up in the same suburb as Jordan [Smith] (vocals) so they knew each other. Oliver [Morgan] (drums) and I actually met as bartenders at a barbecue restaurant. Our previous drummer had quit and the next day I went in to work and I was like “Hey Olly, do you want to be our drummer?” And he said hell yeah!
What’s the story behind the name?
We’d been around as Betsy Wells for a while. But we wrote a bunch of new songs, had a new sound and a couple of new members, so we decided to do a new band name, which is probably one of the hardest parts about a band—naming it. There really are just no good band names. We were just sitting around the house one day and Jordan was kind of rattling some stuff off like, “Well, my last name’s Smith and I like the Minnesota Twins so let’s just smash those two words together and be done with it.” We were all just like, yeah, sounds good! Kind of an anti-climactic band name.
How has your music has evolved since the band started?
The four of us started just over two years ago. Jordan and I came from a folk-pop background, and Oliver brought this rock element to the band so we were kind of melting them all together and seeing what came out of it—it ended up pushing us more in a pop direction. It’s really dynamic, just a lot of influences and trying to see how we could kind of fit it all together to make it work. On the new album it’s a lot of stuff going on, even just from song to song, it’s crossing a lot of genres.
You guys just wrapped up a US headlining tour. Any favorite cities?
There are the cities that are always great like New York and LA, Chicago’s always awesome, Minneapolis is always a blast. But some unexpected places we went to, like Athens, Georgia, is just a cool little college town. We did college towns so the bulk of the population is kind of built around universities, but the people that are from there or maybe went to college there, they’re all kind of into like the coolest weird stuff. Billings, Montana, actually was one of the more unexpected awesome places.
What’s the vibe like at your shows?
There’s just an energy. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing for five people or 500 people, it’s just kind of the same routine and it’s fun for us to have fun. So whoever’s there, we want them to leave a little happier than when they came.
What kind of direction do you see the band taking in coming years?
Jordan and I, when we set out to start this new band we wanted to focus on the short term. Set small goals that are easily reached and just keep building on those instead of having this one grand goal of being famous and making a ton of money. A lot of bands start out with that goal and then they get discouraged when something bad happens. I think we have been very pragmatic and it’s gotten us this far. It’s hard to say where I’d see the band in five years, but I’m very optimistic about it because I’ve seen all the goals that we’ve set and so far been able to reach, and we just want to keep touring and start writing again soon.
If you could collaborate or perform with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?
I’ve just always been just obsessed with the Talking Heads and David Byrne and what he did back in the day, and I’d say I would love to collaborate with him, but he would be so far over my head musically that it would probably turn out terribly.