Thursday, April 13, 2006

Riot Act Featured Musical Artists: Watson Twins will help you forget what you can.

(Note: Greetings to the people checking out the blog for the first time! Take off your coat and stay awhile. Thanks to whomever biguped us on the Rilo Kiley Boards; and spread the word on our feature artists, that's why I did this in the first place)

After some hinting about featured musical and poetry acts here on the Riot Act, I’m excited to do our first Featured Musical Act. These ladies not only have their own awesome EP out, entitled “Southern Manners”, but they are also currently touring Europe (look out, Rotterdam, Paris, Brighton, Glasgow, Belfast, Dublin, Manchester, and London) with Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis on the strength of their collaboration, Rabbit Fur Coat. It’s entirely possible you’ve seen them on Letterman, or seen the video for Rise Up With Fists! I really dug their voices and music, and noticed that when you search for them on the web, you find a lot about their harmonies with Jenny Lewis, and not so much about them. And so…

I’m excited to announce that the first ever Featured Musical Act on the Riot Act issssssss:

The Watson Twins

I stumbled onto them, seeing the ad for Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins performing at Irving Plaza in the Village Voice. I didn’t think too much of it, but then I logged into myspace, and they had a link to “The Watson Twins”. I clicked on their page (where there are 4 tracks available for your listening pleasure) and was grabbed by their vocals immediately. Words like beautiful, haunting, and alluring all come to mind, but they seem cliché and woefully inadequate. Let me put it this way: there are singers that try too hard to be all of those things in their vocals, and still cannot manage it with every recording studio trick in the book. Then, there are the voices that kick you in the gut with how amazing and honest they are. Voices that reach inside you, down into the pit of your stomach, the place you feel everything meaningful in your life, grab on tight and don’t let go. Guess which kind of voices Chandra and Leigh Watson have?

The Watson Twins, Chandra and Leigh, grew up in Louisville, Kentucky (in case an EP entitled “Southern Manners” didn’t give that away), singing and playing music together in some form or another for most of their lives. After college, they got a taste of touring by driving around the country together for six months, occasionally stopping at an open mic to play and sing. They’ve been making music in Los Angeles for several years now, first for five years with now-defunct rock band Slydell, as well as some of the other artists in the Silverlake music scene. While contributing their stunning vocals to the backgrounds of groups like Rilo Kiley, Orphan Train, Joe Firstman, and Fairchild, the Watson twins were also putting together their own music. After contributing some powerhouse backgrounds to various projects, they got their chance to step out front and shine on Southern Manners. And, boy, do they shine.

I must confess that Southern Manners is not in my usual taste of music; I tend to like my women with guitars with a lot more fury (Melissa Ferrick) or with quirkier lyrics (Jenn Lindsay) (both of whom I hope to be future features here). Southern Manners has got a mellow soul to it, and the whole disc really spoke to me about the intricacies, complications and contradictions of love. The Watson Twins seem to know these subject matters painfully well, and instead of getting caught up in the clichéd storybook romantic or the traditionally sad love songs, they explore those exquisite and difficult murky gray areas with precision and accuracy. My favorite overall tracks on it are the title track (track 4) and Darlin’ Song (track 7), although Friend and Foe (track 1) and Shoot the Lights Out (track 5) seem to have taken notes on previous chapters of my life and compressed them into a few minutes. The band, Russ Pollard, J. Soda, Brian Lebarton and Aram Arslanian (and a guest spot from Ms. Lewis herself), does a great job of completing the sound without distracting from our protagonists, they really fit together well. My disappointment with the cd? There's a great track on the Watson Twins' myspace page called "Waves". You can't download it from the myspace page, and it's not on the ep. Sup with that, ladies?

I let the Watson twins know I was thinking of featuring them on the Riot Act, and they graciously took a moment to answer a few questions from some dude they never heard of in between a crazy cross country tour and a trip across the pond for European touring. This section is called:

9 & 1 with Ruby K- The Watson Twins

1) You've got a great mashup of gospel, r&b, and country mixed in with the folk and rock, who really moves you in those specific genres?

Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Shirley Brown, Candy Staton, The Band

2) How and when did you decide to make music your life?

It was a natural evolution that took place as we got older... we were always going to punk/hardcore shows growing up, singing in church, etc. so music was a big part of our lives... then we learned how to play guitar, started writing songs and decided to give it a shot.

3) You went cross country before you settled in LA. How did making that trip affect you?

That trip was amazing, we've always loved traveling and getting to see the country from the window of a pick-up truck was inspiring to say the least.

4) If we got to see your cd book/Ipod/mix tapes for the road, who would be surprised to see in there?

Anthony Hamilton (R&B/Soul Singer)

5) "Southern Manners" as an EP is very focused on love and its many, well, insane qualities (and that's one of the things that really hit me about it). How did you end up picking the songs for it, was the goal to focus on love?

Love/Emotion/Relationships have always been a part of our songs... it's such a universal theme. The songs on the album weren't specifically picked because of that, but there is a common thread, so in the end we felt they complimented each other as a whole.

6) One of my favorite tracks on “Southern Manners” is the title track. Is there a specific story behind it?

Southern Manners... there's not one specific story, but a sum of a lot of different experiences that I rolled all together... I will say however, that manners are very important.

7) It was digging Southern Manners so much that persuaded me to pick up "Rabbit Fur Coat" as well. How did you end up hooking up with Jenny Lewis for the Rabbit Fur Coat project?

We met Jenny years ago and we sang on a Rilo Kiley B-side, which was really fun. When she decided to do this solo record, she called us up and ask us to do some back-up vocals... we were honored needless to say and have had a great time singing with her.

8) You guys are based in LA. Someone from the East Coast has Southern Manners, has your joint project with Jenny Lewis... where else can they find you?

That's about it for now... but fingers crossed there will be more in the next couple years... we're just getting started :)

9) You busted your butts to get out your own EP, it's presently independent. Here's something I always wonder, and I feel like it depends on the artists and what their goals are. Someone digs the music, wants to help long term: should they order from you, find an indy record store, or try to find you in a major record store?

Well, right now we aren't available in any major record stores, except for but to answer your question... at this point it's all good... no matter where you buy the EP it supports us, which we greatly appreciate.

And here’s the last 1:

10) Anything else you'd like to say to the readers of the Riot Act?

Thanks for being interested and taking the time to read this interview :)

Their EP is available on their website for 8 bucks plus shipping. Or (and this is why I asked them) if you live in the NYC metropolitan area, you can go to Norman’s Sound on Third Avenue, just south of St. Mark’s place, and pick it up from Norman. I can always count on Norman to have just about everything I want to listen to. Thanks a lot for the interview, Chandra and Leigh. Congrats on not one, but two awesome projects out at once. Have a great time on your last shows in Europe, and come back to NYC to play for us soon.

Go get Southern Manners, and let The Watson Twins help you forget what you can.

So, what do you think of the new feature? Are you an artist who wants to be featured? Do you know of one you’d like me to feature? Post a comment and let me know...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the musical education! I've been seeing a lot about Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins lately and wondering about their music - now I know that it's GREAT!


11:14 AM  
Blogger Bill B. said...

I love the Watson Twins, great to see you featuring them. I got the EP about two months ago and fell in love with it. Can't wait to hear more from them.

9:44 PM  

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