Twin XL: Five Names and Meaningful Pop Songs Hit the Road
Interview by McKenzie Moore
Graphic by Emily Lantzy
For the alt-pop group Twin XL, their first year of touring has been busy, especially after releasing their first EP together has a band. At their tour stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at The Rave II on the Night Heat Tour with iDKHOW, I had a chance to sit down with Cameron Walker, the lead singer of Twin XL, and talk with him about their debut EP, his British roots, and where the name Twin XL really came from.
So first off, I’d love it if you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself for us.
I can give you my full name, it’s quite long.
Yeah, absolutely! Please share!
Hi! I am Cameron Alexander Francis Walker-Wright. That’s my actual full name.
That's a really fun full name.
Yeah! There’s a story to it, if you wanna hear it.
For sure! Go for it man!
My dad is from England, so I'm like a half British dual-citizen. In England — I don't relate to this, but I guess when he was a kid growing up, having a middle name was a big deal, and for whatever reason his parents didn't give him a middle name. So he kind of overcompensated by giving me and my brother two. And then my mom kept her maiden name hyphenated which meant that I ended up with five names.
That's amazing though! That must have been really sucky as a first grader.
Well I just used Cameron Walker-Wright and then as life went on I just shortened it to Cameron Walker. I thought it sounded better.
So then is Walker your mom's last name?
Yeah, it’s my mom’s last name.There's no real reason that I did that either, it just sounds better. You know, it rolls off the tongue. Like Luke Skywalker.
So I know the two of you in the band are brothers. For the rest of you, how did you all come together and decide “Hey, let's be a band!” Also from that decision, how did you get to “Hey, let's actually do this for real and let's record an album and let's go on tour together?”
Right. Well, so John and Steven are brothers and they used to play in a band called The Summer Set and I met them about ten years ago. I was playing in other bands and then we kind of just kept running into each other. I played in a band called The Ready Set for for a long time, and we just got to know each other. Then eventually, we all ended up living in Los Angeles for the purpose of being songwriters and not touring so much. We bumped into each other at events or parties over and over. We'd be like, “We should write together,” and then we did that for like a year. Finally, we ended up booking a day together. And then I think that day we wrote our first single that we put out, but we didn't know we were gonna start a band. So we just kind of kept writing together. And then after about a year of doing that, we had these seven songs that we thought were really cool, and John called me and he was like “Hey, I want to be in this band that we accidentally made a record for.” And I was like, “Okay!” And then... here we are, basically. So that's kind of the story, it’s almost an accident.
That's a really awesome origin story that you all just slowly came together to form an accidental band.
Yeah. It was just an organic thing where we were having fun writing music and we didn't really know the destination for it or the purpose. It's just worked out.
After coming together and doing all of that, what landed you guys on the name Twin XL?
So John came up with the name, but I know his story is basically a combination of things. I think he was driving and he saw the word “twin” on something, and he just thought that aesthetically looked cool and then I don't know how he arrived at Twin XL, but he didn't even think of the fact that it was a mattress size and that was like an afterthought. So before we had officially decided on it, we had obviously realized that Twin XL is a mattress size, but he was like, “Well that's kind of cool,” because then there’s this story of him and his brother when they first moved to Los Angeles they actually lived in a studio apartment sleeping on twin XL mattresses. So there's something cool about that. Then I was like, “Well I had a queen mattress when I first moved to Los Angeles.” But that band name was already taken. So obviously, I'm so fine with it. I like it.
Thats awesome! Moving onto music, you guys put out your first album together this year. How did it feel to finally have someone besides you guys in the band listening to the music you put out?
You know, we had shown friends and stuff like that, and I think part of the reason that we felt really confident putting this stuff out is because our friends’ responses to it were genuinely positive. I'll show them any stuff that I'm working on, and I think that the response when I showed everyone the first couple songs we wrote was so positive and real that we were pretty confident when we started putting music out. But I think what was sort of a surprise was making the music videos, which were such a big part of it and kind of how that enhanced the music to me and created this visual aspect that gave the songs a brand new meaning.
On that very same album, you can tell what the fan-favorites are by being on tour and seeing the crowd react. Are those your favorites to play live, or are there songs that have a more sentimental factor that make them your favorite?
It's so interesting, because I think a live show is so different from listening to a record. Like there's a song on our EP called “Thrill” that is just like this cool vibe track, but it has a funky feel and it's got a quirky foreign part and I think it's easy to dance to. When we play it live, it's like people love it, but on the record, it's like almost like something we weren't even sure if we were going to put on the record because it's a little silly in a way. But there is a song called “Don't Wake Me, I'm Still Dreaming” which is a more personal song, and I think people still like it live, but it's more of a down tempo. So it's definitely a point in the set where everything is sort of slowing down but it's just like the pace changes. But it has to change so that we can pick it back up again. So it's like that thing where it's a necessary part of the set, but it's definitely not the part of the set where people are going off. You know, a song that works really well on a record but sometimes it just isn't the greatest live and I think that the cool thing is how different those two scenarios are.
This year is the first time you guys have been touring together as a band. Is it kind of what you're expecting since you guys have been touring before or is it different now that it's your project?
We've all toured in different situations. We've all been on buses and we've all done that whole thing or with a full crew, and I think it has been a very humbling but also exciting experience to go back. The first one we did, we were just the three of us plus our drummer Dave in a 15 passenger van without a trailer with all the gear in the back. So it really felt like we had to do that as a band. We had to do all that stuff ourselves to really strengthen the connection we have as players and friends and really experience that together; even though we've experienced that before, it's like we had to do it again with this project. So I really feel like here is where we're starting and who knows where we'll go. We're kind of growing as a touring act. We're growing very organically right now. This is the first tour ever where we have a merch person, because on the last tour right after our set, I would run to the merch table and John would pack up all the gear and it was very hectic but I don't think there was one time that anyone ever complained about it. So I guess that's the difference, is kind of going back to our roots and doing a lot of things that we haven't done since we were like 16 or 17. It's just kind of a humbling, cool experience to do that again.
Speaking of your tour vans, I've been in my fair share of them and there's always something that's personal or special that bands do to try to make their vans feel like home. Is there something you guys do or add when you hop in a van to go on tour?
The van we have now is a bigger van, which it is still a van but everyone has at least two seats to themselves which is huge. I have this little thing that clamps my phone onto my seat so I can watch movies by myself. We actually have a TV in in the van that we never use because whoever's driving would have to listen to the TV and that sucks. So I like to just kind of sit in my own little universe with my headphones on and listen to music or watch Netflix to pass time. Sometimes we talk and we hang out and listen to podcasts through the van speakers. As far as specifics, I think everyone kind of has their own and does their own thing. On top of that, I have a bad habit of not putting my clothes away in my suitcase all the time. So I’ll take a million different jackets or sweatshirts out of my suitcase and then they'll just kind of like pile up and I actually like that because then if I want to sleep I’ll push them into the corner and use them as a pillow. But I don't think anyone else is happy about that.
On the last leg of the iDKHOW tour, I spoke with Superet and they were telling me that iDKHOW have a very specific breed of fans. Have you noticed anything within the fans that's different from fans you've encountered before?
You know, they were really great fans. I mean I honestly I just feel like the one thing I'll say about iDKHOW fans is that they are very dedicated. They will line up outside hours before we even get to the venue, you know? Those are the types of people that you know if they like your music, they're gonna be there for you forever and ever and ever. And I think that's the coolest thing ever and iDKHOW is very lucky to have that type of fan base. I don't know how to describe it. I think with bands like Jukebox the Ghost it was a little bit of a different demographic. So it was like maybe a little bit of an older fan base for the most part. There have been multiple shows on this tour that people came out and saw us on the Jukebox tour that we're like, “We saw you there and we came back out.” So even though they weren't lining up at the door or rushing to the merch table like clearly, they still came to enjoy music and everything about shows. I think if people go to a show — they want to have fun. So anything you can do to enhance their fun, I think people appreciate it. I don't think people go to shows to be like. I don't like them, screw that, screw every other band. I only like this band. I think everyone wants to get into music or else they would just go somewhere else.
I completely agree. On another note, you guys are in Wisconsin today. Wisconsin is a very “fun state.”
Yes it is!
I was gonna put “fun” in air quotes.
No it is really great here! You have great old-fashioned’s!
We are know for a good old-fashioned, also cheese, and more importantly — beer. Is there a specific beer that is your favorite?
From anywhere! I only ask because if you ask any good Wisconsinite they a very specific answer to give you.
I like sours, I like stouts, I love Guinness.
That very much screams British roots.
Yes! It’s Irish. My mom's part Irish too. So I'm basically just clear and I just sunburn really easily.
Yes, me too!
But yeah, I guess like Guinness or Stella is like my go-to. I'm not like a super big time IPA person. But, I mean I'll drink anything. So that's another thing I'm saying. I've never tried a beer that I like specifically didn't like. With IPA’s I just feel like I'll drink it and I just feel so heavy and tired.
That's how people a lot of people feel about Guinness though.
That's true. Yeah, you're right. I think it's something with the Irish. It must be genetic. We take metabolize alcohol so fast.
Yeah it has to be because at 16, they hand you your first Guinness and they're like you need to drink this, and at first it’s really bad, but then like two years down the line it's all you can drink.
You're just drinking it when you wake up.
Since we're on food and drink, what are your favorite food stops when on tour?
So let's assume that there's not a lot around, let's just say it's an average stop. A lot of times we will look for a Triple Play or a Panera Bread. I think Chipotle is probably what we eat the most as a band. It’s quick and convenient. And you can get like a bowl if you don't want to get a burrito. That's the main thing. Oh! If we have a day off we'll try and find a steakhouse somewhere we can drink and go see a movie. Honestly, we go to Applebee's alot just because it's convenient. The other thing as well is that we're in all these weird random parts of the country that we’ve never heard of before. You're like scared to try the local food, and I'm sure there's really great local places everywhere, but you're like “Do I take a chance on that or do I just go to Applebee's, you know? What do I spend money on? Do I try somewhere I’m unsure about or do I take that money somewhere I know exactly what I'm getting everywhere?” But, you know, we've taken the chance a couple of times that it's always been great. So that's probably less a subconscious thing.
The last question that I always ask is for the people who read this interview and think, “Maybe I should check them out,” is there anything else about your music or your message that you want people to know?
Well I think our music on the surface comes off very uptempo and almost happy in a way, but I think if you really listen to the EP, there's this really cool, dark undertone. I think what's really cool about the EP is that it's easy to listen to it as this super poppy thing, but then I think when you really listen to some of the words and sonically how it sounds like there's something weirder about it that makes it different. Our latest, our first, and our only EP is called How to Talk to Strangers and it's available on all streaming platforms available everywhere. And we have CD’s now which people are actually buying. We sold out of them on this tour which is the craziest thing. They want us to sign it so they can keep it on their wall or something, it’s crazy cool. So, yeah. Buy our CD and I’ll sign it for you.
If you enjoyed this interview with the five-named Cameron Alexander Francis Walker-Wright, Twin XL will be on tour this fall with The Maine across the US and with Fitz & the Tantrums in 2020. Stream their latest EP, How to Talk to Strangers, now. As Cameron said above, it is available on all streaming platforms.