"Queer is more inclusive and more vague - in a good way ."
Gene Fukui of TWINKIDS.
Gene Fukui and Matt Young are the electropop duo TWINKIDS. This Friday, they'll release Boys Love, their debut EP on Om Records. We asked the pair about their writing process and the way their queer identities influence their music.
Listen to their recent single, "Body Wonder," and read their responses below.
How did you land on the name TWINKIDS?
Matt: We started sharing songs with each other when we were in college, and then we started editing them and writing together and eventually decided to play a show at a cafe near campus. The venue was asking what to bill the show as, and our friend accidentally said the name to me, so we used it and it kind of stuck. Also it has the word twink in it which is definitely something we've been called.
What does the process of writing a song look like for TWINKIDS?
Gene: The core idea of each song always comes from one of us alone, but by the time we send it back and forth and talk it to death its hard to remember what came from who. We always take that initial idea, whoever it came from, and listen to a bunch of music and brainstorm what kind of song it could turn into. From there it's usually a lot of passing it back and forth, then sitting in front of the computer together, then pulling out all of our hair and deciding nothing is working. A million years later we have a finished product!!
How did you each individually contribute to the writing and production of your upcoming EP, Boys Love?
Matt: Gene’s definitely the melodian on Boys Love - Overdressed and the chorus of Body Wonder were his ideas, and even with Ponte Vedra and Shotgun which initially came from me, Gene handled the bulk of rewriting and editing, getting the songs to a place where they flowed and were memorable for both of us. It’s also Gene’s voice you hear on all the songs.
I handle most of the production and arrangement stuff. Gene really pushes me to find the right sound, and he really knows when its right and when its wrong. I made this horrible (what I thought of as) IDM version of the Japanese cover song ("Love Story wa Totsuzenni") with this stuttering snare pattern that I thought was the best thing I’d ever come up with. I was so convinced of it, and I was so mad when Gene hated it, but I would have never come up with the version we have now if he hadn’t. That version really was shit, and I really love the way it sounds now.
Gene: Yeah that version was fucking shit.
What drew you to playing and writing music?
Matt: I grew up playing classical piano and was really intense in that world from when I was about 11 and through conservatory until just a few years ago. I fell in love with the technical aspect of playing an instrument, and when I started playing real literature in high school I got really excited by chords and music theory. Even though I listened to a lot of non-classical music before then, a few albums made me really excited about producing - Speak for Yourself by Imogen Heap, The Eraser by Thom Yorke, Homogenic by Bjork - and once I could hear the layers and what was going there, I wanted to try and do that myself.
Gene: I have a much less technical background - I mostly just grew up writing songs on my piano or with friends. I started my first band when I was 11 and started writing songs around then. I grew up in Tokyo, so I was working with a Japanese music management company from when I was in high school, and got a lot of cool training writing Japanese pop songs during that time until I graduated college. I grew up listening to a lot of synth-heavy J-pop music by artists like Kazumasa Oda and Utada, and also Western artists like Amy Winehouse and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I guess I started writing because of my strong urge to want to be like these artists I loved so much.
"I think my queerness made me vulnerable to music."
Matt Young of TWINKIDS
What do you hope the audience will feel or experience while listening to a TWINKIDS song?
Matt: What I love about electronic music is how transportative it can be. A lot of the sounds don’t exist in nature, and I love hearing sounds sequenced in an impossible or non-human way. For me I hope our songs bring the listener to that other place, to a specific sound world that has its own rules. I think our music is full of surprises too…so I hope they’re surprised.
Has your identity as a queer person informed/affected your music in any way?
Matt: It's hard for me to separate my identity as a musician from my identity as a queer person. I think my queerness made me vulnerable to music. I use music to express pretty delicate feelings, and I think what me and Gene do is pretty sensitive. If I hadn’t come up queer, learning to love myself and understanding why I didn’t feel normal, and then rejecting the idea of being normal, blah blah blah, I’m not sure I would have been as receptive to the discipline my music teachers asked of me or come into myself as a musician at all, so it all feels like parts of the same story.
Gene: Yeah I second that. I also think it's quite natural for queer people to become artists because art has always been one of the few ways where being different is celebrated. So it just felt right to look up to and want to emulate these emotional and sensitive artists that were challenging gender and sexual identity norms in one way or another. Being influenced by those people socially and musically, it's all a part of the same story.
What does the word queer mean to you?
Matt: For me queer is a really liberating word. Sometimes the word gay doesn’t describe me, it feels exclusive, made for and used by tall white masc4masc dudes, especially in LA, whereas queer feels like I can do masculinity my way and use femininity in that, and dress and style in a way that makes me feel beautiful.
Gene: Agreed. Queer is more inclusive and more vague - in a good way - I think it's the first step in heading towards a society where labels don't matter as much.
What parts of yourself/your identity are you most proud of?
Our perfectionism drives us crazy, but we're really proud of that part of ourselves. We won’t put out music that we wouldn’t listen to or that we don’t think holds up against other music we like. That can be a really frustrating and painful process but ultimately it gets us to a place of resilience and allows us to put out work with confidence.
Boys Love will be available on streaming platforms this Friday, August 18th on Om Records.