It’s Not Just Me on Stage: An Interview with Psychic Twin
Brooklyn electropop group Psychic Twin is currently on tour with STRFKR, with stops in both Houston at White Oak Music Hall and in McDade at Sound On Sound Fest that are sure to excite the crowd with their ability to intertwine psych, pop, and abstract, free-flowing melodies with lush, eerie vocals, which can compare to the liking of, say, Rachel Goswell of Slowdive. Psychic Twin is the brainchild of Erin Fein who was able to schedule some time with Free Press Houston on the first day of her tour — and Halloween — about the development of the band, defining music, and the bond of different music scenes.
Free Press Houston: Happy first day of tour — and Happy Halloween for that matter. Have you prepared anything extra special for the tour and holiday?
Erin Fein: Thank you, it’s cool getting to start on Halloween! I’ve been sitting in my room, rocking back-and-forth, and sweating. [laughs] Well, Rosana and I have matching, floor-length black velvet capes, and we have vampire teeth, so we’re prepared with costume. We are very much hoping to discover some party that will let us in, hang out, and have some Halloween fun.
FPH: And anything in particular for this tour, in general?
Fein: Honestly, we’ve just been rehearsing like crazy. We tried to get a set ready that we think feels good. We got some new outfits to wear on the tour by a designer named Chromat that we’re really excited to have on tour. Just making lists and being nervous, pretty much!
FPH: Where did the name Psychic Twin come from?
Fein: So, really early on in the development of the project, I knew a lot in my mind. I had a solid idea about what I wanted the project to sound like. I was downstairs in my basement in Illinois and had all of my weird synths out and I was writing music. As the songs started to begin to come together, I remember having a thought that I was writing with, like, a clone or twin, you know? I was doubling my vocals a lot and doing call-and-response vocals with myself, just writing the bass lines, the keyboard parts, the layers. It felt like I was so in my head that I had a twin or another version of myself with me, making this weird, synthy music. I was just marinating on what that felt like, what it meant to me, and what the project was supposed to be. It popped into my head one day; it felt like having a psychic twin! It was like I was with a twin who knew my every move, knew which way I wanted to go with a song, and knew how you wanted to sing. Wouldn’t that be a strange and beautiful thing? The words, psychic and twin, I thought, were so beautiful and mysterious that it just became the name of the project.
FPH: Speaking of mystery, your music, to me, has a sense of secrecy, in that very seldom live footage is posted, and even with the cropped Facebook cover photo. Is any of that an intentional decision?
Fein: I do love the mysterious element, and I really love a little bit of separation between myself and my life as Erin, and between that and what Psychic Twin is, so it’s very intentional. I think some of that is just an aesthetic choice that I like. I like the way that looks, you know? And some of it is because there is an element of an alter ego that I turn to when I perform on stage in Psychic Twin, it’s not just me on stage. It feels like a character, to some extent. I think some of that mystery helps me get into character and perform the way that I’d like to for the project.
FPH: You’re starting your tour with another artist playing Sound On Sound, STRFKR. Could you describe how that came about?
Fein: I think a lot of different ways. I had met a couple of the guys in STRFKR a little over a year ago. We ended up hanging out after one of their shows. We ended up hitting it off, I was a fan of the band. Polyvinyl did a 20th anniversary compilation where bands on the label did covers of other artists on Polyvinyl, so we did a cover of STRFKR’s “While I’m Alive.” The band has been really supportive, they came out to see us when we had a show in LA, and then when this tour came together, they asked us to open, so we were just over the moon.
FPH: What do you think about labeling groups into different subgenres? According to your Facebook, you label yourself as “Psychedelic-Elektro-Pop.” Does that divide music to an unnecessary degree?
Fein: It’s an interesting thing, defining a genre these days, because I feel like musical genres are divided, and then subdivided. Sometimes it can get a little silly. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. I guess artists are just searching for a way to describe sound, and it’s difficult to describe sound. So really, you just try to use a few words that you think generalizes what it is you do. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, afterall. At the end of the day, there’s no better way to familiarize yourself with a band than listen to the music and decide for yourself.
FPH: To you, what is surreal urgency and how does that relate to Strange Diary?
Fein: I think the word “urgency” probably has to do with the way the music feels, you know? It’s up-tempo a lot, there’s a dancey element, the rhythm is something that, I think, makes people want to move. That stuff brings a word like urgency to mind. The music is pulsing, you know? As far as a description of it being surreal, I think that probably comes from just the sort of synthy landscape that has that magical, mysterious feeling to it, and can take you, hopefully, into surreal places. It definitely does that for me. When I close my eyes and listen to the music, it takes me into a dream world, and that’s what I’m hoping it does to other people, too.
FPH: I know that the process of recording Strange Diary took quite a long time. Why?
Fein: Yeah, indeed. It wasn’t actually the songwriting that took a long time. In fact, a lot of the songs on the record have been done for years. It was that my life fell apart, it really just fell apart. I don’t come from a background with a lot of money or financial support, so when my life kind of crumbled, I had to take years to rebuild my life as a single person, and I decided to do that in Brooklyn, and that was really hard. The real answer was that it just took time to get back on my feet again.
FPH: Prior to this interview, I spoke to another band from Brooklyn, Small Black. Since that’s such an enormous area, do you still feel like there is a homey scene? Is the scene too divided? Is it a common sight to see a hardcore band at a dreampop show?
Fein: I don’t think it’s divided. Actually, there’s a really beautiful scene. The interesting thing is that there are many scenes, you know? It’s so large that there isn’t one scene, there are just so many, and I think it’s broken up, really, into sub-genres and styles of music. Different bands gravitate towards each other based on what they play and do. We found ourselves in a wonderful scene, kind of centering around Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick, and those are three different neighborhoods. There are a lot of synth and slightly strange music, and a lot of female musicians that we’ve started to come close with. There are a couple of fantastic promoters in the area, such as Natalia Schwien and others. Also, Tom Tom Magazine, which is an awesome magazine about female drummers. My bandmate worked for them for a long time.
People have really come together and created a home inside the scene for us. But that’s just one small part of the scene, I think that’s the cool thing about Brooklyn. It’s very intimidating and it takes a bit of time, but you really find your tribe if you hang in there.
FPH: Your tour ends December 6, what is the band’s schedule after that?
Fein: I am going to get a very large bag of potato chips and eat the entire thing in bed when I get home.
FPH: Why should people come to your show in Houston and see your set at Sound On Sound Fest?
Fein: Oh, man. I don’t really know how to answer that question. We have really cool outfits, I’ll tell you that much. They should come see our weird costumes. Do you like synth music? If you do, then maybe you would like to come listen to some synth music? [laughs]