Baton Rouge progressive-rock band Twin Killers likes to perform in unconventional venues.
In April, Twin Killers played a multimedia show at the Manship Theatre featuring dancers, classical string players, backing vocalists and backdrop projections. Twin Killers and another local band, The Lazarus Heart, will appear in another unusual space, the Irene W. Pennington Planetarium at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum, Friday, Dec. 7.
Twin Killers will utilize the planetarium’s 15,000-watt Surround Sound system and the space-oriented imagery that’s typically shown in the domed theater.
“I think the music calls for it,” singer Jessica Ramsey said of the band’s planetarium performance. “We’ve done plenty of smoky barrooms.”
“Not that barrooms are bad,” guitarist Andrew Martin added. “There’s a time for that, but we’re trying to encourage our audience to live in the music.”
Martin anticipates that the audience’s attention will be divided between music and the show’s visuals.
“We’re going to be more of a soundtrack rather than have all of the energy focused on us,” he said. “We’re hoping that people can get in a trancelike mindset.”
Twin Killers features Martin, Ramsey, drummer Jermaine Butler, bassist and keyboard player Jeffrey Livingston and, the group’s newest member, violist Ruth Navarre. Dave Hinson, a multi-instrumentalist who arranges strings for the band’s recordings, also will perform.
The addition of Navarre’s viola to the group was a natural choice for the band’s atypical music.
“We wanted strings because the music is so dreamy,” Ramsey explained.
Psychedelic-era projections of the kind Twin Killers used at the band’s Manship Theatre show and use of the planetarium’s images are another enhancement that fits the music.
“Not necessarily sound wise but idea wise,” Martin said, “that’s my favorite era of music, the late ’60s, early ’70s.”
Creating complex music and performing multimedia shows in off-the-beaten-path places are ways for Twin Killers to distinguish itself within the local scene, Martin said.
“When you’re in a town where things are primarily focused on football and the overall culture is not an art culture, you have to strive for more,” he said. “To break through, you have to overcompensate.”
Neither Martin nor Ramsey, both in their mid-20s, are fans of the current indie rock and electronic music.
“In the past five years indie rock has become passionless,” Ramsey said. “It’s flat, bland. And I hate to turn on the radio and hear a song where everything is electronic and the lyrics are about texting or the club or something super cliché.
“I wasn’t privileged enough to be a teenager or a young adult in the ’70s, but even when we were growing up, the ’90s pop music was still music. They still had guitar and drums. Pop music lyrics were great and they had hooks.”
“Even the Counting Crows,” Martin said, “these bands in the ’90s, at least they had a guitar and some raw energy. When I say our band is similar to the ’60s and ’70s, I want to channel that energy that they were doing so well then.”
In addition to the band’s planetarium show, Twin Killers’ other big news is its upcoming album, Hand-Painted Dream Photographs. Greg Saunier, drummer in the internationally known indie rock band, Deerhoof, mixed and mastered the project.
Responding to an out-of-the-blue email message from Ramsey, Saunier agreed to mix Hand-Painted Dream Photographs. The album will be released in March.
“He said he liked the music,” Ramsey recalled. “We couldn’t even get a price out of him for three months, and then he gave us a ridiculously low price.”
Deerhoof has been a major influence upon Twin Killers. The band is also named after a Deerhoof song.
“Our album came out wonderfully,” Ramsey said. “It’s always refreshing when somebody surprises you. Greg did a lot of things that we would have never done.”
“He gave it a touch that no one other than him has,” Martin said.
In November, Twin Killers also got to perform on the same night as Deerhoof at the Spanish Moon in Baton Rouge.
“It was wonderful,” Ramsey said. “We just keep talking about how we didn’t take a picture with them. We’re never going to get over that. And with Greg, we felt like we knew him already and he felt like he knew us. It was like seeing a friend.”