Summer Twins, Bossa Nova and Brasil-Inspired Music

A band from Riverside, CA, Summer Twins, is composed of two sisters. Chelsea and Justine Brown were inspired by 50’s and 60’s music and they decided to form their own garage pop band, bringing fun and colorful music.

The band has just released their newest single, Another Hit, and is looking forward to releasing their album sometime this year. Chelsea and Justine talk about their trip as musicians so far and what more new inspirations they have encountered along the way.

Aimée Santillán: How do you guys describe this journey that you guys have been through, these past 10 years?

CB: I feel like it’s kind of a lifestyle at this point.

Justine Brown: Everything is evolving, too.

CB: Yeah, the band has always been evolving. We’ve always had different members. We’ve gone through lots of different members, different phases, and we’ve released lots of different stuff. So, for me, it’s really personal. My songs are really personal, so when I change, like the band kind of changes. It changes with us. It’s always growing and evolving.

AS: And what is it exactly that you would say that mainly evolved? The lyrics?

CB: The lyrics, the songwriting, our musicianship, the arrangements. We are always learning. We’re working with different producers. We’re touring. We’re always constantly trying to improve, trying to be better and better. So, we’re working on an album right now, and I feel that with the new album, people will see a lot of growth, there’s a lot more maturity in the newer stuff, I think.

AS: Both of you guys have your own band, right? Separate from Summer Twins?

CB: Yeah. So, I’m the main songwriter for Summer Twins, and Justine recently started her own band, where she’s the main writer, called Easy Love.

JB: I started probably two years ago, and I released the self-titled album last year – last February. So, it’s a little bit different. It’s kind of more geared towards 90’s/2000’s style, but also mixed with like 60’s. It’s a little more with that style, rather, like with Summer Twins, I feel like it’s more 60’s/50’s.

AS: I also read that you guys worked with a Japanese label a couple years back, Irma Records, how was that like?

CB: That was really cool. Ever since we started the band, we’ve been really into Japanese fashion and culture, so it has always been a dream of ours to go to Japan. So, when that label reached out to us, we really scoped. It was really fun for us too, because they would work with different fashion lines out there, so we got to model their clothes and play in their stores, and kind of be involved in the fashion as well as the music. We really want to go back, it’s been a while.

AS: Do you guys plan on it, in the next couple of years?

CB: I think we’ll go back, once we get this album out, we’re still working on it right now. But once the new album’s out, I really want to go back to Japan. We’ve never done a tour of Europe before, so I would love to do that. I want to go everywhere.

AS: You guys haven’t toured over there before?

CB: No. We did a tour in Brazil this past December. We also play in another band called Winter, so we play in like three bands together. We did Winter, Summer Twins, and we played Easy Love in Brazil this past December.

AS: What was that tour like?

JB: It was really good because not a lot of bands that are similar to us are able to tour over there, because usually it’s just bigger bands the ones that are able to go over there. So, it was nice, having the connection, because Samira [Winter] is from Brazil, from Winter, her mom lives there. She’s from there, so she kind of knows the bands there and was able to book a tour with this girl group called Power Records, they’re  kind of like a label, and they focus on girl writers, so they kind of helped us book the tour. We got to play in a lot of small towns that normally don’t see a lot of girls playing music, so it felt really good to be able to play in smaller towns, and kind of inspire other girls to play music, because it’s not that easy over there, it’s really expensive to buy instruments there, so it’s not easy to start a band.

AS: Where you by any chance inspired by the sounds that you heard over there? Like, it’s a completely different culture.

CB: Yeah, the culture is a lot different, but the people are the same in a way, too. But yeah, Justine and I started getting into Brazilian music, like this last year it was all we listened to – Brazilian music. A lot of 60’s Brazilian music, like Tropicália. Some of our newer songs in the next album have a bossa nova feel to them, and I got a new song called My Old Friend that I have an English version and a Portuguese version, Samira helped translate it into Portuguese, so I’m excited to play and record that song in both languages.

AS: Did you become pretty fluent of Portuguese?

CB: Not as fluent as we would like to be, but we were able to get around a little bit, like we were able to order food and understand the basics, but it’s kind of hard because people talk so fast.

AS: When is that album coming out?

CB: We don’t know yet, we are actually still finishing it up, we’re going back into the studio right before this tour to finish some vocals and keys, and hopefully finish the whole album. So, it might be a little while before it’s actually out, it usually takes a while, but we’re really excited. It’s been a while since we released anything, and we’ll be releasing two new songs pretty soon. We’ve got two new singles coming out, so we’re excited about that.

AS: As far as the Burger A-Go-Go Tour, how many festivals have you participated for that in the past years?

JB: I think all of them.

CB: I think we’ve played all of them that Burger [Records] has put on before. We’re really excited, like Sean [Bohrman] and me, from Burger Records, have always been talking about doing a Burger A-Go-Go tour. It’s something we’ve been talking about for a couple of years, so it’s really cool that it’s actually happening, we’re super excited.

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AS: Do you have any memorable experiences from past Burger A-Go-Go festivals?

JB: For me, some of the biggest crowds we have played to were at those festivals, like on a big stage, in front of a giant crowd, so that is definitely memorable to me. And then, there was one year when we covered a No Doubt song, we covered Just a Girl, and that was really fun.

AS: Do you get to interact with fans in those kinds of festivals?

JB: Yeah, there was one time when we were taking polaroid’s after the show, we set up a little table for fans to come and we were taking polaroid’s and signing them, and just talking to people. It’s always cool to meet fans.

AS: Do you plan on doing that again, or was that just like a one-time thing?

JB: Yeah, we’d do it again. We always hang out on our merch table afterwards, so we can talk to people, get to know them. We also started a “Dream Team” – it’s like an online club called “The Summer Twins Dream Team.” It’s where we keep in touch with our fans. It’s like $1 a month for people to join, so it’s a way to support the band and then also have access to a secret blog, where we talk to fans, and keep in touch.

AS: And you guys publish there frequently?

CB: Yeah, we try to. We recently sent out some post cards to the members who pay $5 or more – postcards from Brazil. We also post downloads on there, unreleased material that no one else will hear.

AS: So, you guys were mainly inspired by the 50’s and 60’s girl groups, what kind of bands specifically?

CB: The Roundheads, Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley, Barbara Lewis, Sam Cook, I really love Doo-wop. And more recently, some Brazilian singers like Gal Costa, Chico Buarque, and Jorge Ben Jor, lots of Brazilian stuff, but still kind of like 60’s era.

AS: What is it that you like about those genres?

CB: I feel like everyone has a sort of music that they’re drawn to, like something that you can’t explain. It’s like when you hear a song or a band, and it’s like you just feel it in your soul and you feel it in your heart, and you just connect with it. For me, that’s 50’s music – the melodies, the chord changes. I really, really love the string arrangements. At that time, bands would like to record in really nice studios, and they had access to orchestra, and they had really amazing arrangements, so I’m really inspired by that. One of our new songs that we’re about to come out with is called Dream World, and it has violins on it. It’s the first time that I’ve done that, so I’m really excited about that. I can’t really explain why, like it’s just me, personally, it’s what I’ve always connected with. I feel like Justine would probably have a different answer, too, she’s more into- I don’t know, what’s your thing, Justine?

JB: I really like the 2000’s music like The Cardigans, The Strokes. But I also like 60’s, like The Kinks, like The Beatles, Radiohead, probably one of my favorites.

AS: How do you see the future for Summer Twins?

CB: I feel like I’ll always be writing music. I can’t imagine not doing it. We started out first band when we were 13 or 14, and started Summer Twins when I was 18. So I’ve just been doing it most of my life, I can’t imagine not doing it.

JB: It’s really like a healing process. You know, when we write about things, and if you want to be a certain way and you just write about it. I want to grow in this way, to kind of make it come true, you kind of put it in a song. Also, if you are going through a heartbreak, or you’re going through a rough time, it’s also a good time to put it into a song. It helps heal you, and it also helps heal others, and kind of helps you motivate. So, it’s kind of hard to imagine not playing music.

CB: Yeah, I think the more that we do it, and the longer we do it, and the more we commit to it, and have to make sacrifices to keep the band going, it’s hard, but we’re starting to see that it’s worth it and it’s necessary.

AS: You guys were introduced to music from a very young age, then?

CB: When we were kids, we were also listening to The Beatles and The Kinks, music like that, or jazz musicians. I played bass in a couple different bands. We definitely grew up around music.

AS: Were you also introduced to other types of art?

CB: Yeah, we are actually really into arts and crafts, drawing and painting. As kids we were always making stuff. We had a little craft table, and we were always drawing and making stuff. Even now, we like to make our own art work, like for both of our bands, we are always drawing out the artwork, the titles, all the album art.

JB: All the merchandise.

CB: Yeah, the merchandise, we design all that. I feel like art can go hand-in-hand with music. I think I would want to be a designer, if I didn’t play music. If I hadn’t gotten in a band, and chosen music, I probably would have spent a lot of time in art.

AS: Do you have anything else to add?

CB: We’re excited about the new album, and this tour is going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be fun for us, and maybe a little tiring, I don’t know, we’ll see, because we’re playing both, Summer Twins and Winter, so, we’re doing double duty every night. But it’s cool because we get to showcase different skills, and each band is a little different. So, I think it’s gonna be a cool night of music.

– By Aimée Santillán

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