Twin Temple's Satanic Doo-Wop Embraces the Darker Side of Soul
Alexandra and Zachary James of Twin Temple
Twin Temple make music that appeals to the dark side of your soul. The LA-based band, led by the husband and wife duo, Zachary and Alexandra James, combines blues, New Orleans voodoo vibes, rock ‘n’ roll, doo-wop, northern soul, and gothic ballads. Alexandra’s voice channels the power of Amy Winehouse, Imelda May, and LaVern Baker, with her own gothic noir style thrown in. Zachary, the lead guitarist, plays his Gibson semi-hollow with a soulful touch of a blues rocker, supplying warm, ripping riffs from his Orange Amp. Rounded out by their backing band, Robin Ryder (Drums), Aaron Orbit (Bass), and Jeffrey Howell (Piano/Organ) the group bring dark, macabre themes to the style of traditional American music.
Aside from making waves on stages across LA, the band's debut EP is just as impressive, recorded at the band’s Starry Eyes studio (previously Dave Cobb’s Studio 1974) as well as the studio of Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (Prince & the Revolution) at Henson Studios. Collaborators on the recordings included engineer/producer Kevin Mills (Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Michael Bublé, Prince), Jared Tankel (Budos Band, Charles Bradley) and former Dap-King trumpet player/horn arranger Todd Simon. Tonight, Twin Temple bring their act across county lines when they come to OC for a sinister set at The Continental Room. The couple took a quick minute to give the Weekly details about their inception, fascinating performance style, and the darkness behind their musical craft.
OC Weekly (Kim Conlan): What inspires your music?
Alexandra James: Well my husband is also here alongside me, and he’s the other half of Twin Temple. What’s inspires our music?
Zachary James: I would say it’s classic American.
AJ: Yeah we love classic American music from like New Orleans to Stax records, to doo-wop, to soul. I mean, American is really like our playing field, and then on the other side of the coin, Satan, really. All things dark and evil.
Your style is an incredibly eclectic mix of the old American standards, but how would you pinpoint the essence of your work?
AJ: I think we would call ourselves a satanic doo-wop band.
How did this project come to be and who is involved?
AJ: It’s basically the love child of my husband and I, my partner in crime, Zachary. It came about, we dug ourselves under the earth and resided in our coffins for about a year or so, just writing and figuring out what exactly we wanted to do. We had bands before, we were sort of bored of them and we got married, and we thought, “What can we do together?” After many months deliberating underground, this is what we came up with that most excited us.
As for the conceptual aspects, what are you drawing on to create the visual style you have?
AJ: I think there’s always the cowboy that wears the white hat, and the cowboy that wears the black hat. I think we draw on the cowboy that wears the black hat. We’re happy to fill the role of the villain.
Outfits, stage design—do those details come from your personal collection?
AJ: Mostly. Mr. James and I have a kind of odd and varied collection of funeral, mourning, Victorian, evil, ceremonial, magic garb. During the video of “Girl Trouble” we also had the pleasure of working with one of our favorite stylists name Brandy St. John. She’s got a similar, kind of dark aesthetic. She loves death as much as we do. She’s done a lot of custom suits for Jack White, and I think she gets the weird dark American vibe that we’re going for.
I noticed you had a recent trip to Paris and visited the catacombs there. What was that experience like?
AJ: We were really inspired about this tale that they told us that in the late 1800s they conducted a midnight funeral mass of all classical funeral marches and hymns, and there was a secret concert down in the catacombs. They played like Chopin’s “Funeral March” and there were all these black horses riding in the dead of night going to see a concert down there. Ever since visiting the catacombs, it’s kind of been our goal to recreate that hallowed scene.
You’ve released the recorded track and video for, “Girl Trouble,” now what comes next?
AJ: On May 26th will be debuting our next single called “Let’s Hang Together” and it’s coming out on Play Like A Girl Records the day before we [perform at] Play Like A Girl’s One-Year Birthday Party at The Echo and Echoplex. We’re super excited to be a part of since they’re a rad feminist collective that mostly does shows here in Los Angeles supporting female talent.
Twin Temple perform with The Knitts and Calico at The Continental Room tonight. Doors at 9 p.m. No cover. For full details, click here.
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