Japan-infused electronic magic by TWINKIDS
TWINKIDS is an experimental Los Angeles pop duo delivering an exciting japan-inspired minimal electronica, with chasing beats and intricate synth stabs. The electronic pop project is compromised of pianist-producer Matt Young and Tokyo-native singer-songwriter Gene Fukui. We met TWINKIDS a while back doing a shoot i LA, and now they are out with a new EP.
Who are TWINKIDS and how did it all start?
Matt: Gene and I met at Oberlin College & Conservatory in Ohio - we had both been serious about pursuing different musical endeavors, me as a classical pianist and Gene as a J-pop songwriter in Tokyo. We started sharing songs with each other, and then editing them and writing together. Around that time we were also both getting into production, so we realized pretty quickly we had a lot of the same taste and wanted to talk about music in the same way.
Gene: Oberlin harbors a really academic and artistic community, so even though we came from quite different backgrounds both culturally and musically, I think we had the same disciplined approach to music. We were later accepted to a residency at the Banff Centre in Canada and got to work with some incredible musicians. That really solidified us as a band.
How would you describe each other and the dynamic of your relationship?
Gene: Matt comes from a classical piano background, so I think his approach is much more technical. He has the ability to solve musical issues like a puzzle, which is endlessly helpful, and he helps me solidify my ideas which are much less organized.
Matt: Ever since I started playing music really seriously and getting into really big classical pieces, I’ve always had this really hazy understanding of melody. There’s always this part of me that’s like…what actually is a melody?
Conversely Gene has this deep, intuitive understanding of melody that I might never understand, and while I definitely edit some of his melodies, and some of them are mine that he’s edited, he’s definitely the melodian between the two of us. I’m seeing more and more that we actually fill in each other’s musical weaknesses - Gene has that intuitive melodic ear, and I can go in on the more technical production and arrangement stuff.
How would you describe your music?
Matt: I like to think of it as virtuosic electronic pop. We’re really into this idea of high contrast - spinning a verse one way, and then swinging in with a chorus that sounds really different, or having a build that never drops. I’m influenced by more “left” artists like Oneohtrix Point Never, Arca, Philip Glass, so I’m also constantly trying to marry that type of more academic electronic music with straightforward pop writing.
Gene: Japanese electronic gay pop
Your new EP came out a few weeks ago, what's the essence of it?
Gene: All the songs on Boys Love were written during a really unstable time in our lives, right after we moved to Los Angeles. They’re all about the anxieties of being young, gay, in love, with no sense of self. I think you can hear that tension in the production too. Like Matt said it's all very high contrast in the way the songs suddenly open up just to tighten or close in later. Boys Love also refers to the gay romance manga genre in Japan, so it's kind of an homage to that as well.
I've been told you sing in both English and Japanese, why, and where did you learn Japanese? Why this fascination of Japan?
Gene: I was born and raised in Japan, so I speak both languages. I only moved to the US when I was eighteen, so I really hold the Japanese culture near and dear to my heart. The first songs I wrote were in Japanese, so it just felt kind of natural to have Japanese as a theme in our music. I've also been so influenced by Japanese pop music, especially the period in the 80s and 90s where classic Japanese ballads and folk music were merging with American pop and soft rock, as well as the development of synthesizer technology.
I’ve also felt pretty uncomfortable with American bands using Japanese themes as a cool gimmick, so pushing Japan as a theme in our music is kind of my way of reclaiming ownership of that.
Matt: Gene really turned me on to J-Pop and specifically that 80s/90s era he’s referring to. When Gene first played me Oda Kazumasa, and then artists like Akiko Yano and Yumi Arai, I was like…I’ve never heard anything like this before. How does it work? For our Oda Kazumasa cover that’s on the EP, I tried to really faithfully reproduce the bassline and a lot of the percussion parts. Transcribing those taught me so much about arranging, so I’m trying to study records from that era more and more.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Matt: The first artist who comes to mind is Bjork. Me and Gene just went to her performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall. To me she’s so fully formed as an artist…I can still listen to Homogenic and think it holds up, sounds more modern than so much of what’s coming out now.
Other pillars for me are Imogen Heap, Jon Hopkins, and The Knife. I admire those styles of production so much - I’m constantly returning to those albums for inspiration.
Gene: Erykah Badu, Rihanna, Ringo Shiina, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, a really good bowl of ramen or tacos.
What is your biggest dream?
We’d love to have a long career in music doing different types of work - scoring films, video games, writing pop music, making work that’s totally in the academic electronic music world. At this point we think TWINKIDS has a lot of potential - we have so many ideas and are excited by improving as a band and getting closer to our ideal sound - so we’d love to look back at a rich disography that we're really proud of.
Check out TWINKIDS on Spotify and Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/twinkids.