Photo by Alexa Viscius.

twen is a diy band about to make it big

After two years of nonstop touring, Ian Jones and Jane Fitzsimmons announce their debut album, 'Awestruck,' and tell i-D all about the video for their sun-drenched single 'Damsel.'

by Nicole DeMarco
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Jun 20 2019, 2:01pm

Photo by Alexa Viscius.

The band Twen was born and bred in the Boston DIY punk scene, where lead vocalist Jane Fitzsimmons and guitarist Ian Jones met before moving to Nashville. They recorded a live cassette of their first ever show in a Boston basement, called Twen Live, and though it wasn’t intended for release, the band have toured the EP nonstop for the last two years. Not only does it document the band’s sonic evolution since forming in 2017, but it shows how far they’ve come. Twen are set to release their debut album, Awestruck, on September 20 via Frenchkiss. Today, they premiere their booming, sun-drenched lead single “Damsel” and its accompanying music video exclusively on i-D.

Twen’s genre-defying songs, fall somewhere between dream pop and psych rock, with an inherent DIY ethos. While the “Damsel” video’s playful nature speaks to the band’s desire to make thoughtful art and to simply have fun doing it. The concept came to Jane during a full moon, while journaling about ways to bring even more joy to the music project. The answer? Dirt bikes. In the video, they fly through the air against a bright blue sky and Ian and Jane kick up some dirt too — in matching screen printed, logo sets they designed themselves. “We really try to keep it DIY,” Ian says.

i-D caught up with Twen over the phone, before they went on tour with White Reaper, to hear all about “Damsel” and find out what it’s like to be a full-time touring band.

How long had you been playing together when you recorded your first show and made the live cassette?
Ian Jones: That happened as an accident. We were part of a lot of basement venues. Jane had a basement venue that she ran in Boston, and one of the bands that I was in had a basement venue. We were playing in that basement all the time and we just threw a show there. Some guy showed up and just recorded it. We hung onto it for a while, and then it ended up coming out really good. Once we got to Nashville, we just put it out as an EP. It was five songs from the first show. Now, it’s streamed thousands of times and everybody who knows us knows the live EP, but it was never meant to be that way… I don't think we would've done it that way if we had made a conscious decision.

Jane Fitzsimmons: Hell no.

Ian: But it has ended up being kind of a cool thing because it's our first show, so you can hear the evolution of the band’s music.

How did the Boston DIY scene influence your music?
Jane: I had a venue called Womb and we had a lot of bands come through there. We had Tacocat play and Vundabar kind of got their start there too. It was just seeing all those bands come in like every weekend. And just the idea of experimenting and not thinking about it. Just doing it and not letting yourselves get in the way. And letting everyone else in on that experience. You can't be scared for someone to see you practice because everyone's going to hear everything you do. I don't know if I'd even be able to make music if I wasn't exposed to that, for years, to get the courage to do it myself.

Ian: Boston's a particularly DIY town because, at least in my experience, there were so many great bands that could never get any help from industry. There's no infrastructure of music business there to take a band from point A to point B. Vundabar’s the perfect example because their growth has been very much their own doing — through DIY shows rather than, you know, somebody from the industry coming down and scooping you up. I think Boston produces really unique bands that just have identities of their own. And so I'd like to think that some of that wore off on us.

Twen
Photo by Hannah Deits.

You’ve toured so much and spent a significant amount of time on the road before even putting out a record. How does that feel?
Ian: It's kind of scary. It feels like we've really put a lot of work in.

Jane: it's not a very unique thing that people have to tour or promote their first record for much longer than they would maybe like. And I think touring has made us so good and tight, and able to handle pretty much anything. Even before the record comes out. You start to appreciate the songs in different ways you never thought you would.

Ian: We definitely would've put our record out sooner, but the signing process took so long. It just kept not coming out.

Jane: There's a certain part where you just have to embrace it and let that make you better, stronger.

And you’ve converted your van. Is the plan to make that home or to make touring a little easier?
Jane: Well, it’s in process.

Ian: Yeah. We've put two windows in and some temporary benches in, but once we have a longer slice of time we’ll do more on it.

Jane: Last April, we moved out of our house before we went on tour with Ron Gallo and Nude Party. We didn't want to pay rent for a whole month when we wouldn't be there… so we did a weird series of like, house-sitting, dog-sitting, running Airbnbs for other people...

Ian: Any sharing economy option that there was so we could live somewhere for free, we pursued it.

Jane: We love what it brings because we slowly got rid of most of our possessions. And have just been nomads.

Ian: I think it's a bit minimalist and that has really cleared both of our minds quite a bit. Just to have less stuff.

Twen
Photo by Hannah Deits.

“Damsel” is one of the songs on your upcoming record. What inspired the video for it?
Jane: When you called, I pulled out a journal because I have the exact time when I thought of it. It was during a full moon. Not to be witchy about it, but also to be witchy about it. I was having a lot of different ideas of things that I wanted to do to bring some more joy to what we were doing and not make the music business side of stuff a chore. It was dirt bikes. That's all. I could just see them flying through the air and listening to “Damsel.”

Ian: Against a blue backdrop.

Jane: Yeah, no context.

Ian: Just flying.

Jane: Just flying. That was it. Then the rest of it came about. It was a very simple thing. We like to gain experiences because that's really all you have. So we got to ride dirt bikes and that was a plus too.

Tell me about the Twen two-piece outfits you're wearing. They remind me of pit uniforms.
Ian: Those uniforms stem from the way we do merch — buying it all secondhand at thrift stores. Then Jane screen prints it and modifies it. We just went to a thrift store and found a bunch of clothes that would work together, with the white and the navy blue. Jane hemmed them. We really try to keep it DIY.

Jane: Yeah, I do some sewing and tailoring. Then we screen printed them. I wish I could wear mine around, but there's something about wearing your own band name! This is just an extension of the ultimate merch that we would want to sell, but don't have time.

Ian: If the record goes well then we'll put them online and if somebody wants to buy them, then they can buy them.

Twen
Photo by Hannah Deits.

Often, you’ll intentionally bend the vocals on Twen songs so that the response comes a little more intuitively and is less lyrically based. What does "Damsel" bring up for you?
Jane: Well, this song is one of the first songs that we wrote, especially in that way of just feeling it out. I think it changes a lot for me, which makes it possible to sing it for two, three years, and onward. But I think it's more about just accepting and believing in something. For a long time, I was a hard-core atheist and really rejected my religious background because I grew up Catholic and it sucked. Then, it's just being able to believe in something again and not because someone told me. It's just kind of a joyous declaration in something and it almost doesn't matter what it is, if you feel strongly about it.

Ian: Yeah, I think that song's pretty fucking joyful. That songs got some joy in it. No, that song is strictly about dirt biking! And nothing else. (laughs)

Twen play Union Pool on June 20, at 8pm, with Miss June and Ghost King. Get tickets here.