If you're comparing Athens, Ga., band Twin Tigers to anyone from the Norwegian death metal genre, then sure, they're a happy band full of sunshine and lollipops and good vibes.
But that doesn't mean they aren't the darkest act coming out of the college town today. Twin Tigers doesn't fall in the same ranks as Athens' other acts, like the modern psychedelia of Of Montreal, the bristly punk of American Cheeseburger, or, as frontman Matthew Rain describes, most of the "hippie dippie" stuff that the city has become known for in recent years. Twin Tigers' new album Death Wish — come on, just look at that name — has a gloomy, lush quality that fits somewhere between despondent New Wave and forlorn shoegaze without really belonging to either, and without cleanly belonging anywhere in this legendary music scene. Rain is way more influenced by Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine than Drive-By Truckers.
"It's an unfortunate truth for us," Rain says. "There's not really a scene that we're involved with here. Every time that we're trying to put together our local bills, just figuring out what the support situation is going to be can be kind of difficult."
It may have been a little bit easier to fit in back when Rain got together with bassist Aimee Morris in 2007. On Twin Tigers' less calculated first album, 2010's Gray Waves, Rain says the band wore its influences on its sleeve, and there are more straightforward rock riffs on there than you'll find on Death Wish. In the time since the first release, Twin Tigers picked up its 11th (and hopefully final) drummer, Logan Hornbuckle. He brought a lot of electronic percussion equipment with him. Soon thereafter, Rain switched from writing for and playing guitar to the keyboards and synth, leaving the axe work to Forrest Hall.
Still, Rain's not sure how it turned out quite so dark. He wrote a lot of material, and the songs that made it on the record just happen to fall into a certain camp. "It's weird because you don't really wake up one day and say OK, this is the kind of album I want to make this time," he says. "You just write songs that are sincere and the result that you get in the end, it's different every time hopefully." He admits that the themes the record covers are not unique: romantic failures, sexuality, death. But just because the album's called Death Wish doesn't mean it's all doom and gloom.
"I think a lot of people have misread that to be ... they're like, are you OK, is this some sort of suicidal whatever?" Rain says. "It's more like living life in this full-throttle way. I feel like American culture is completely built on stacking all your pennies away until you're old enough to quit working and trying to enjoy your life at the very last stretch, and obviously that can be a smart way to live in some respects, but you just gotta have your own experience and just live on the edge of life."
Touring has given Rain and his Twin Tigers bandmates plenty of opportunities for that. Over the years, they've played opening slots for lauded art rock acts like Interpol, Les Savy Fav, and Deerhunter. "Supporting big bands is always a fantasy thing, because you get to come out and play to this large crowd, but at the end of the day, it's not your crowd," Rain says. And the people who would come out to a Twin Tigers show at a place like the Tin Roof might not be willing to shell out $30 for a big-venue show. Fortunately for Charleston, their local performance is a cheap $5, and Rain is completely confident Twin Tigers will be able to pull off the loud, rich depth of Death Wish despite the smaller venue. "Aimee's amp is bigger than she is," he promises.
There are more plans for Twin Tigers to tour throughout the year, including dates with Dead Confederate and Wild Nothing. They also hope to release another EP soon. Maybe it won't be so dark. Or maybe it will give Norwegian death metal a run for its money.
"Being in a band can be like being in a car crash," Rain says. "Everything is happening really quickly, and a lot of times, before people know it, it's over, so you've just got to try and make the best stuff you can while you're still playing together."