South Korea’s largest music showcase event Zandari Festa was given a bold Scottish injection at the start of the month as female duo The Twistettes took their high energy sound to the nation’s capital. Their irreverent punk ethos traces its roots to riot grrrl pioneers of the 90s and staple groups such as the Ramones. Yet unlike the Ramones’ familial pseudonyms, sisters Jo and Nicky D’arc are the real article which, on stage, produces an enthralling live chemistry that sets them apart from contemporaries.
Now a well-oiled live machine, the pair have gone from strength to strength since the release of debut album Jilt the Jive last year, which was warmly received by reviewers across the board. Crowds at leftfield festivals across the country such as Eden, Doune the Rabbit Hole, Mugstock and Loch Lomond Boat Party have been served up a slice of the duo’s minimalist brand of punk in recent times – but representing Scotland on the global stage marks an important career progression. Having been handpicked out of around five hundred hopeful applicants to perform at Zandari Festa, an event which, since its inception five years ago, has sought annually to feature the very best alternative talent from around the world, people are really starting to take notice of The Twistettes. Still recovering from an intoxicating breakneck set on the Korean peninsula, the pair took some time out to speak with the Guardian.
Glasgow Guardian: What did performing at a global event like Zandari Festa mean for The Twistettes and how did South Korea compare with other places you have performed?
The Twistettes: It was truly off the scale. We had so much fun! Korea is an amazing place. It’s like the world turned upside down. After a very long flight we were blasted into the middle of the wonderful, chaotic, hyper-reality that is Seoul. Then we were lucky enough to be at the centre of the underground music scene at Zandari Festival. Wow is all I can say. So many great acts to see from all over the world, in particular the Korean acts were really interesting, so much talent across all kinds of genres. It’s crazy. The alternative music scene is evolving quickly and is just starting to come into its own over there, so Zandari was different to similar events here but i think this gave it an energy and charm that is hard to explain. We loved it!
Glasgow Guardian: You’ve mentioned before that you were brought up with parents who listened to the likes of Bob Marley and The Clash. Would you consider political consciousness an important tool for artists to use in their work?
The Twistettes: Yeah, I think so. It’s not the only avenue to give music the depth I personally feel is needed to find a song or artist appealing – but it is pretty important to me that the music is saying something. It’s not always got to be an overt political message, it can be something more subtle. Though sometimes a spectacular melody with a bubble gum meaning can blow my mind as well. It all just depends!
Glasgow Guardian: With most money to be made in the industry increasingly coming from live shows, do you feel the art of making music has become secondary for some artists in modern times?
The Twistettes: From our perspective, we love to play live so it’s not a problem for us to be doing a lot of shows. It does make it hard to fit in time to write though and the creative process can feel squashed a little. We’re taking some time to finish writing and record our new album over the next couple of months so we won’t have many shows till next year now. This was a tough decision though as it takes us off the live circuit for a while but it’s worth getting that space and time to be creative. I think, as a whole in the music industry it’s something that is potentially limiting in the sense that the industry is now slanted towards live performances – hence the ever increasing screeds of acts from back in the day reforming for tours. I am absolutely a fan of this and am immensely grateful that I’ve seen loads of bands that I never would’ve dreamed I could see live; however, it potentially means there is less onus on new music being written and released. What is key though, is that artists who feel it’s important are always going to write. There’s always going to be a thoughtful audience interested too.
Glasgow Guardian: The minimalist approach to your music is quite unique as it is, would you be open to dabbling in different sonic directions on future records? Scotland has a proud tradition of alternative talent from Primal Scream and The Beta Band to even Hector Bizerk more recently. Do you have to always believe like you too can become the next best thing in order to do well in the music business?
The Twistettes: So many Scottish bands have inspired us. We love bands like Primal Scream and The Beta Band. We grew up listening to their music. Equally, many local acts more recently have motivated and helped us progress. Hector Bizerk are definitely one of them, especially the amazing Audrey Tait. Others like Girobabies, Amazing Snakeheads, Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5… the list is exhaustive. As much as we’d love to be as successful as the likes of Primal Scream, I think if reaching that kind of success was your only goal you wouldn’t last long! When you’re driving for 5 hours to get a show with an awful hangover from the gig the night before, or when you are putting your make-up on in the back of a van with no light after being at a festival for two days – or even when you’re eating a supermarket sandwich for dinner for the third day in a row cause you’ve no time or cash for a real meal, it doesn’t feel much like a rock’n’roll dream. All the good bits make it worth it though! We have a strong DIY ethic and believe it’s the experience you’re creating for yourself and the people who support you that’s the important thing. So, success to us is many things.
Much like the rise of Zandari Festa itself, which only boasted two international acts in 2012, The Twistettes’ increasing momentum marks a refreshing DIY story which resists the notion that radio play is the only real key to success. While there is still plenty of space for the duo to develop as musicians; crucially, they have worked hard in order to claim a position of control over their own destiny. Yet The Twistettes are but one example of the vibrant, alternative music Scotland has to offer. Glaswegian outfits such as Paws and Rascalton occupy their own impressive positions in what is a healthily self-sufficient punk scene. On that note, there is perhaps no better time than now to get out there and experience it for yourself.