It’s the middle of February, and Cameron Walker-Wright, one-third of indie rock trio Twin XL, is on the phone in his hotel room in Orange, New Jersey. The band, which includes brothers Stephen and John Gomez (The Summer Set), is kicking off its final stretch of shows over a year-long span with Fitz and the Tantrums before getting back to work to finish its debut album. It’s a good thing that the touring is about done, as the world is about to come to a standstill. No one knows this yet, of course.
Walker-Wright estimates that there are 10 to 12 songs done, but that all three members are only excited about a handful of them. And that’s a requirement for the three, who are both musicians and producers, and are doing all the work themselves.
“We still feel like we have a pretty long ways to go,” he says. The plan was to release an album this summer, but the pandemic did away with that. At the rate with which Twin XL is growing—a year ago, the three were touring without any sound or gear techs, a merch manager, tour manager or anyone else—that seems doable.
Twin XL may not yet be a name everyone recognizes, but Walker-Wright and the Gomez brothers are all veterans in the alt-rock field. Walker-Wright, who sings, played in several bands including Nekocat. Also in that band was drummer Jess Bowen, who’s better known for playing in cult favorite band The Summer Set. That band included John (guitar) and bassist Stephen Gomez.
Walker-Wright and the brothers also have plenty of experience writing for other artists, scoring film trailers and writing for brands. They traveled in many of the same social circles, and even moved to Los Angeles around the same time. But it wasn’t until meeting at a party in Los Angeles and deciding to spend a day writing together that the first spark was ignited.
“It was just kind of for fun, or something for another artist to use or cut,” Walker-Wright says.
Forming a band was never the plan. After all, there’s good money to be had for writing for other artists, and that’s what was working for them. After meeting several more times, the three realized they really liked their songs and didn’t want to sell them to someone else.
That batch of songs included what would become their first single, “Good,” a breezy, whistle-led earworm, with its singalong declaration: “Nobody gonna kill my vibe.”
It was John Gomez’s idea to take the next step, and he asked the others if they wanted to be in a band. Walker-Wright compares his proposal to how bands often come together in high school: “He was like, ‘Hey, you want to like be in this band and, like, go play shows and stuff?’”
The name also came from John Gomez, after a sign he’d seen on a truck.
“I don’t even know if I totally processed that it was a mattress size,” Walker-Wright says.
Twin XL quickly diverged from the work both brothers and Walker-Wright had done before. The Summer Set, after all, was a pop-punk and emo band.
“The stuff I’ve done, artist-wise, I think is pretty different,” Walker-Wright says. “One of the things that made it really obvious to us that we had to go pursue this project was [that] it almost took on a life of its own really quickly. One thing that’s really hard for bands to do is to figure out their identity and figure out their sound. That can be a process. And for us, it almost just came out of nowhere and just kind of happened. We’re very lucky for that.”
Last year was a whirlwind for Twin XL, which saw the trio tour constantly, sign a record deal with Sony’s RED Music and make and release an EP, How to Talk to Strangers, which included “Good,” as well as other gems like “Friends” and “Sunglasses.”
Walker-Wright says the band was listening to a lot of Foster the People, MGMT, Passion Pit and Sir Sly at the time, which influenced their decision to use bright synths, poppy bass playing and standout choruses that jumped off the page.
“We all have a mutual love for that stuff,” the vocalist says. “It was like having the same feeling I had in high school when I was learning about music.”
With each tour in 2019, Twin XL was able to grow its “family,” adding a merch manager, a front-of-house sound tech and finally a tour manager. When they tour, they perform with a drummer. Skizzy Mars’ Dave Briggs joined the first few tours, before that band went back on the road. Their latest drummer was Brennan Benko.
Because the three create their music in the studio, where they use drum machines, their general motto for drumming is, “We’ll figure that out.”
The trio has also upped the stage production along the way. Hopefully concertgoers will get to see it again, soon.
“We have this new really cool LED light-up sign of our logo that I think definitely elevates the show a little bit,” Walker-Wright proudly states. “We’re getting there.”
Twin XL’s newer songs include “Melt,” which Walker-Wright describes as sonically bright and groove-driven. The band released a quarantine-filmed video for it in May. Like the other songs the three were working early in the year, it’s more relationship-driven than what’s on the debut EP.
“Melt” is like the ultimate ‘I’m obsessed with you’ song, where ‘you could literally do anything to me and I’m still going to be obsessed with you,’” he says. Another newer track, “Problematic,” is about chasing someone who’s bad for you.
“We’ve definitely been getting a little bit more personal, lyrically, which I think is good,” Walker-Wright says. “I think that also just comes from the fact that we’re a lot more comfortable writing together all the time, and it’s been cool to get a little more real with the lyrics.”
Walker-Wright and the Gomez brothers don’t plan to stop writing for others. They’ve doubled down on working with The Mowgli’s former singer Colin Dieden, and Walker-Wright worked on Dreamers’ most recent album, but Twin XL is the priority now.
“It’s really great to go work with other artists, and whenever I do that, it makes the music that we make with the band more fun and better,” he says. “I’ll clear my head, work on something else, and then learn a bunch of new tricks that I can go bring back to the writing process.”
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.