Twen: A Conversation with the Rising Band

Composed of lead singer Jane Fitzsimmons and guitarist Ian Jones, Twen launched right out of the Boston DIY-scene and hit the road for a three years long tour without any recorded music. After relocating to Nashville while living in a van, the duo released their signed debut album, Awestruck, which hooks you in with its ambiguous lyrics, feedback-fueled jangly riffs, and woozy harmonies. They’re flexible, flowing from the eccentric and catchy “Honey Smacks” to the moody, slow-burning “Horseblood.” The 2020 single release of airy “Soothsay” and intimate “Thrice” demonstrates their command over their craft and their maturity as songwriters. Rejuvenated from converting their van into a home during the height of the pandemic, Twen prepares for the independent release of their second album with the infectious Bore U.” The dynamic between Fitzsimmons and Jones is lively but self-assured; they have a great sense of trust that is guided by a shared palpable passion for their music. Escaping the warped mentality of the music industry, they are redefining who they are as a band and rebelling against restrictive convention to freely create.  Here’s your opportunity to hang t(w)en!

WPGU: How did y’all individually get started with music?

Ian Jones: I just played in bands in high school, and I started playing when I was a kid. I’ve been in bands pretty much my whole life. Doing the rock thing. When I was nine or ten, I got an acoustic guitar. Said “Stargazer” on it. [Laughs.] That’s what it was called: Stargazer.

Jane Fitzsimmons: And I have little to no background in music at all. I feel like I’m just a drifter coming in from the street because I never did it growing up or in high school. I was just an avid listener of music and a fan. And, then, in college I randomly started singing with my friends. Picture a dorm room and —

Ian Jones: It was not an acapella college. It was a dorm band.

Jane Fitzsimmons: [Laughs.] Yeah, there was a guitar. My best friend was a violist, and it was a really random assortment of people. We just really liked being in a band and writing music together. That eventually fizzled out, but I craved it so much that I couldn’t handle not being in a band anymore. We [points at Ian] had been together for a while. His band broke up. My band did. We’re like, “Well, why don’t we try writing music together?” And, then, that’s what Twen is. Kind of didn’t expect it!

WPGU: Who are some of your musical influences?

Jane Fitzsimmons: It’s so lame, but when I grew up, something like the soundtrack of The O.C: a lot of movie and T.V. soundtracks. I’d get all of them and then look up every single artist and then look up everything related to that artist. Then, I’d do the same thing with ‘70’s or ‘80’s movies that I was watching like Stripes or Steve Martin movies. And then that’s how I found out about music because my family is not really into that at all. Like, my mom likes Barbra Streisand and The Roches, which is cool, but that’s about it. [Laughs.] So soundtracks are where I started.

Ian Jones: I had an older brother, so he was into emo bands. So, my first CD that I got was blink-182’s self-titled and then AFI, CKY, and skate culture — Tony Hawk Pro Skater. I just had a lot of CDs and Limewire, so it was super easy to download shit.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Ripping everybody off. You didn’t say The Beatles.

Ian Jones: Oh, yeah, sure. [Jane laughs.] And then after I was into hardcore and emo stuff when I was like twelve or whatever, then I went back and got into classic rock and the various musical genres of the family tree that is music. You know those graphs that have the musicology like the history of music and the roots of where various genres come from? So, yeah, when I was a teenager, I was really into music.

WPGU: What kind of influence do the Boston DIY and Nashville scenes, both individually and collectively, have on your music?

Jane Fitzsimmons: Well, Boston, when I was in that fledgling band, I ran a house venue, so there were bands coming through. That was my first impression of touring bands. I have horrible flashbacks now because I did not realize what they were going through at the time. I could’ve asked, “Do you need a place to stay? Do you need some food?” Instead, I was like, “Here’s the basement.” I saw so many bands coming through that were all different genres, from grunge to weird electronic, and not even bands just from Boston but from other DIY scenes. Like Vundabar played in my basement, and they’re popping off right now. To see that in the context of a basement show, it’s very intimate.

Ian Jones: Tacocat was another band that played at one of those house shows before we ever started this band, and then we ended up going to tour Europe with them.

Jane Fitzsimmons: So that was a full circle moment.

Ian Jones: And now we are on the flipside of it where now we go and we play college shows, house shows, or DIY venues and we’re dealing with college kids who don’t give a shit.

Jane Fitzsimmons: I’m like, “I understand now.” This is my karma! [Laughs.] I didn’t put it together then. Yeah, that was pretty much it. Ian was also in a house next to mine, but he didn’t host shows. He was in that same scene. You kind of just had a “do it” mentality. I feel like not everyone had it figured out like, “We’re doing this,” or “We’re going for the gold, baby!” or even try to be commercially successful because there’s no music industry in Boston. It wasn’t really about that at all, which is very empowering to just fuckin’ do it and to not overthink it. That’s how we started; that’s how we did it. Nashville, though, I don’t really know anymore.

Ian Jones: Yeah, well it seems weird on the flipside of COVID with DIY venues and house shows. I don’t know what it’s going to be.

Jane Fitzsimmons: It’s just funny how a couple years can change everything. For Nashville, too, when we first moved here, all of the house venues got shut down. We went to two house shows, but they got shut down really quickly because of the Oakland fire that happened a while ago, which made everyone crack down on house venues all over the country. You felt it in Nashville because they all got shut down, so then we kind of didn’t feel that DIY scene that we knew in Boston. It was a whole different thing. So we just played shows all the time, and that got us tours that would take us nationwide, like support tours. So, I don’t know, we never felt super Nashville based.

Ian Jones: Both towns are super transient with college students and people move and then move away —

Jane Fitzsimmons: And we’re transient, too!

Ian Jones: I mean, yeah, we’re in our van right now. I don’t know if you knew that.

WPGU: Yeah, that was going to be my next question, too! How’s van life been, especially during a pandemic? What kind of effect does van life have on your musical process?

Jane Fitzsimmons: The plan was to build the van before the pandemic hit, so I bought this van in like 2018. Thank God I did because the prices went up like crazy. I would not be able to afford it.

Ian Jones: We bought the dip, baby!

Jane Fitzsimmons: Love it!

[Both laugh and throw their arms up.]

Jane Fitzsimmons: I love when that happens. So when the pandemic hit we had this empty cargo van that we had bolted in these Honda seats from a totaled car, and it was not fun to tour in, but it kind of was. Then, we put windows in it, and it was a really slow process. When the pandemic hit, we were like, “Oh, we have months and months of time to work on things.” Because all of our tours got canceled, it was really nice to have a project, or we probably would have gone a bit crazy. So, that’s all we did for ten months straight without really even working on music. Like, we couldn’t even handle it. Just being in quarantine, holed up, I think it would have been sad, bad, and shitty. So, I’m glad that we didn’t write during that period of time. And then, last year in February, we started living in our van full time. We’ve been in it ever since, and I fucking love it. It’s great!

Ian Jones: Best decision I’ve ever made.

Jane Fitzsimmons: [Laughs.] Yeah, not really any regrets. Other touring bands know what it’s like to be in a van all day and what they need and how to organize their stuff in different bags and shit, so I was thinking about it way before we did it.

Ian Jones: We had a lot of time to make sure that we got it right. We saved a lot of money, and it has actually liberated the musical-making process. Since we are not paying rent, our standard of living can be much lower because we don’t have so many bills to pay. It frees us up so rather than having to work just to pay the rent, we can just spend all of that time making music, and it’s been really liberating because we’ve been much more —

Jane Fitzsimmons: Productive

Ian Jones: Yeah, prolific.

Jane Fitzsimmons: We can actually do music.

WPGU: Y’all toured a whole lot before releasing an album. What was your favorite memory, if you can recall that?

Jane Fitzsimmons: I know; it’s all just gone! The first thing that comes to mind is there’s this skydiving place called New England Skydiving that’s in…Massachusetts?

Ian Jones: It’s in Maine.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Yeah, on the border. We were on a tour up in the Northeast, and we contacted them. Skydivers party really hard! They’re like adrenaline junkies and have big parties. We played one of their parties for free but got paid in skydiving. So, we got to skydive as a band for free! That was sick but also kind of fucked because we skydived first and then played the show. Your body is just glitching out from going that fast, so it was a weird show, but it was fun.

Ian Jones: I remember going to all of the new places for the first time because I hadn’t really traveled before we were touring. And now we’ve been all over, from coast to coast, numerous times, so that initial feeling of “Oh, I’m in Louisville, Kentucky! I’ve only heard of this place,” is gone. Because I’m from New England, I’d only ever heard of these places. When you’re going to all of these places for the first time, it’s really, really exciting, ya know?

Jane Fitzsimmons: Florida?

Ian Jones: Yeah.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Florida. [Clenches fists.] We toured Florida, and I fucking love Florida because touring bands definitely do not take the time to go through Florida because it’s hot and can be kind of sketchy, but that’s all the things we liked about it. [Laughs.] So we would just do these really extensive tours, and we’re probably due for one again. I miss that. That was fun. Lot of good friends

Ian Jones: That was pre-pandemic like 2017-2018, I guess, when we were booking our own tours. I don’t remember booking any in 2019 or 2020 because it was all support runs for other bands.

Jane Fitzsimmons: And they don’t do a great job of making it. Like they’ll do 10-hour drives. It’s not very human the way booking agents book tours.

Ian Jones: Well, they don’t give a shit.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Yeah, they’re just in it for the money.

Ian Jones: They just route a tour and don’t give a fuck. And then you the band are left in the polar vortex in January in the Midwest —

Jane Fitzsimmons: In -10º weather —

Ian Jones: Sliding across the road with 60 mph wind gusts! And they don’t give a shit wherever they are because they’re just sending emails, so agents are not your friend.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Yeah, it was scary! I was driving us in Iowa, and I’m just like, “I’m not going to let them die! Not today!”

Ian Jones: So we just made the decision that we weren’t going to do that shit anymore post-COVID. I think, when you’re a young band, you just want to go out and do it, like you want all the adversity.

Jane Fitzsimmons: You say yes to everything —

Ian Jones: But that’s like an idealistic thing, and then once you actually experience it, you’re like, “I don’t need to do that shit anymore.” I’d rather do things that make sense and are efficient than just doing it because I have some ideal that I want to fulfill. It’s like, “Well, I’m on tour!” Well, just take it easy, and do it right. Don’t be an idiot.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Don’t burn out!

WPGU: Your vocals are more intuitively based. What’s your songwriting process like? Do you start with the lyrics and then create the music around it?

Jane Fitzsimmons: Sometimes a song’s vocal melody will have a word or two in it or a feeling that comes from that melody. Like our single “HaHaHome,” that came first with the vocal melody and then all the instrumentation, the chord progression, and sick riffs came from that. Other times, it’s something beautifully intricate that Ian comes up with and then I’ll react to it. It’s kind of like the same thing where you start with a seed and then build off of it. With the first album, I just went, “Here we go.” It was very impressionistic. I was really attached to certain syllables that I had, and even if it didn’t make sense, I was like, “Well, I want this sound, and I don’t really care if it’s not a word.” But, now I’m crafting it so it may not have a literal storyline planned out, but it’s got an anchor in reality. [Laughs.] Which, hopefully, my psyche’s got too. My lyric process will probably change again, too.

Ian Jones: We both bring ideas, so I’ll bring something and she’ll finish it or she’ll bring something and I’ll finish it.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Yeah, it makes things fresh. It’s nice to not be the sole creator because, what I think, it’s the seed of why would there even be a song? Like, what is it for? And that’s sometimes hard to come up with. It’s fun to compute an idea.

WPGU: What inspired “HaHaHome” and “Bore U”?

Jane Fitzsimmons: “HaHaHome,” as I said earlier, came from the vocal melody, and I remember just sitting at a drum kit singing that. It was like a dirge-y kind of thing, and then, Ian added some psychedelic guitar to it, so the rest of the structure got rounded out. I remember that was a weird time when we weren’t paying rent, but it was between a house and a tour. It was out of this context of home; it’s an everpressing feeling for us seeing that we don’t have a stable one, which is the way I like it, but it’s kind of where that came from. And then “Bore U” is an old, old song. We’ve been playing that on those Florida tours in storage units. It’s an old, dusty track. I think that there was a lot of self-consciousness in the lyric content at first, but then, when I finished it out with the bridge in this new version, I tried to make it more affirming because it’s how I feel about it now. So it’s kind of like this full circle of doubt and then being like, “Oh, it’s alright.”

WPGU: Tell me about your 2019 album Awestruck.

Jane Fitzsimmons: I mean, it’s a tale as old as time. Any artist you would ask, that’s how it goes. We still play a couple songs in our live set like “Damsel” and “Baptism.” I think we have beef these days with a “debut moment.” At least in the music industry world, there’s a big, heavy lean into “it needs to be a debut.” And if you have something that you’re building as a stepping stone or you’re trying things out and experimenting, you know, that’s not as lauded.

Ian Jones: Everyone just wants the next big thing, so all the journalists and everybody in the music industry just want the next big debut. There are bands changing their name just to put out their next record as a debut because they know that journalists and press will write about it, even though they’re just putting out their second record. And that is bullshit.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Well, I think it’s a certain culture in general. What women have to go through to try and look young all the time.

Ian Jones: It’s the music industry’s way of keeping everything focused on debuts, like “Oh, this band is the next big fucking thing!” And the next record comes out, and you never hear from them again because it’s shit. So it’s like, we are going to put out our second record, don’t give a fuck if it’s not our debut, we’re just going to do our thing, and it’ll be good. Awestruck was a good debut, but it was so wrapped up.

Jane Fitzsimmons: I’m grateful for it.

Ian Jones: Yeah, I am too.

Jane Fitzsimmons: It could’ve gone a lot worse. [Laughs.]

Ian Jones: Yeah, it was so wrapped up in the growing pains of being a new band and the two members that we made it with — we parted ways with them — and I went and redid the bass. You know, a lot of things about it didn’t go as smoothly as they might have gone. It’s a good album; it’s not great.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Well, we learned it all then instead of it blowing in our faces much later, so I’m kind of grateful that it was kind of hard the first time and not the second time. I’ve learned some lessons.

Ian Jones: And then when I listen to the record that we have now for our second record, the fact that that one is not signed but the first one was signed just because we were a buzzy band with a debut record, it’s just hilarious. It just makes us want to do it ourselves because we realize the whole thing is just a game. You either work it or you say, “Fuck it,” and do it yourself. So, we’re just doing it ourselves.

WPGU: This might be the most important question I will ask. How long did it take to get the red off your skin from the “Holy River” video?

Ian Jones: Oh, there’s a good answer for this one! In one of those shots, I pop out from behind a tree, and you can see me lean face first into poison ivy. It’s growing up the tree.

Jane Fitzsimmons: That whole tree was covered in poison ivy.

Ian Jones: Poison ivy is a serrated leaf, and you’ll just see a big vine of it and me leaning directly into it. [Jane laughs.] And as soon as I realized it, I ran inside, and I was scrubbing my face because you have a 15-minute grace period with poison ivy where water will destabilize the oil. So, I guess the red face paint came off pretty quick because I was trying to get poison ivy oil off of my face.

WPGU: What’s your proudest accomplishment together as a band?

Ian Jones: Just keeping it together this long.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Yeah, that’s true. And always evolving the songwriting process, which we are doing constantly.

Ian Jones: I would say this record; this songwriting is the biggest thing.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Ian has been learning mixing, so he’s basically the one mixing all of the tracks. We have a master engineer: Joey [Oaxaca] has been helping him out. And I’m editing the music videos.

Ian Jones: We’re doing everything ourselves, so that’s the graphic design, the posters, the merch, the booking. We write our own shit. We record our own shit. We mix our own shit. We do this with a couple friends but they’re still in our camp, in our family. We don’t go outside of our own means. We keep it in the family. And it’s amazing because the one time we didn’t do that, which was signing on for that debut record deal, was where it went a little bit wonky.

Jane Fitzsimmons: A little misaligned.

Ian Jones: So now we are coming back, coming back into ourselves.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Coming back home.

Ian Jones: I would love it if that empowered someone else to do it because I think that’s the way to go. I think, if you can do it yourself, do it yourself.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Follow your intuition rather than someone telling you that it has to be a certain way or even when you release it or how you release it.

Ian Jones: Nobody in the music industry has a fucking clue what’s going on right now. That’s what I would say. So, if  you’re a young artist and you’re fucking going to do it, just do it your own way with your own vision. Don’t worry about this formula or anything anybody is saying. Fucking everyone is just making shit up right now. I wish I had known that with our debut record, so we might have done it differently. No regrets.

Jane Fitzsimmons: But many regrets. [Laughs.]

WPGU: What are your favorite songs to perform?

Ian Jones: It’s tough to say right now because we have a new guitar player in the band, Asher, and we sound so fucking good with this new guitar player in our band. It’s the best our band has ever sounded.

Our older songs sound fresh now because there’s another guitar player other than me. But then we have all these new songs we haven’t played live yet before, which you will be among one of the first to hear.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Yeah, I like them all right now. It’s just crazy! All of our songs are different from one another, so it keeps it super fresh.

WPGU: You had a song drop Wednesday the 23rd: “Dignitary Life.” Any hints as to what your upcoming projects are looking like?

Jane Fitzsimmons: It’s coming.

Ian Jones: It’s honestly really fucking good.

Jane Fitzsimmons: We love it, and it’s coming.

Ian Jones: And if you love “HaHaHome” or “Bore U,” you’ll definitely like the new stuff. It’s going to be your record of the year. And all the songs are different. It’s not just one song recorded ten times with slight variations or one groove that just repeats over and over again. We’ve got bridges, and we have verses that are different from the choruses. The record goes all over the place, ya know? So there’s ballads and big hooks —

Jane Fitzsimmons: And anthemic rock —

Ian Jones: There’s fucking drum machines. It all fits together really good. So we will not let you down.

Jane Fitzsimmons: And it will be soon because we are not bogged down by the holding patterns of the overlords because we just put it out whenever we want.

WPGU: I really appreciate y’all being here and taking the time out of your day. Is there anything else y’all want to add?

Ian Jones: Listen to “Dignitary Life.” We’re super excited to come to Urbana.

Jane Fitzsimmons: It will be fun!

Get your tickets for Sunday, April 10 at the Canopy Club with Kangaroo Court or for other tour dates:

About Margot O'Malley

Margot is a freshman from the Chicago suburbs studying Political Science. She attends concerts regularly, expresses herself through fashion with her multiple aesthetics, and has a strong hatred for corporations.

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