Lots of bands call themselves family, but Twin Ponies have put in the time.
Three members — bassist Phillip Hanna, drummer Jordan Tompkins, and singer-guitarist Wayne Jones — played together as Tugboat as early as 2010. But with the addition of guitarist Jacob Lauxman in 2013, the lineup’s achieved a truly unique dynamic, one at the center of their upcoming sophomore album, Body on Credit.
The alt-rock quartet enlisted engineer/mixer Josh Medina at Scottsdale’s Old Hat Analogue for the follow-up to their self-titled debut. While Jones says Medina made the experience “fun and easy,” Hanna notes this was their “first opportunity to record in a studio setting. It gave us freedom to just set up and play.”
Twin Ponies pride themselves on their performances. They also rely on their live shows to create their art. As such, you may have heard much of the LP already.
“There’s a few songs we’ve been playing out for six months to a year,” Jones says. Twin Ponies’ “play first, record second” approach is vital to articulating these songs beyond their basic structures.
“We like to see what we can get away with,” Jones says. “There’s little cues or acrobatics that we can take and put on the album. We know each other so well that we know how to reach that vibe.” That’s primarily why the band recorded the album entirely live in August 2018.
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As an extension of that, Jones says their M.O. makes the band’s configuration rather specific, adding, “There was a short period where we had to have fill-in drummers, and it didn’t feel the same. No one can create without these personnel.”
The songwriting process helps further that vibe. Jones says that he’ll create the “skeleton” of most songs and the others imbue their own “languages,” adding, “Each song gets treated like its own entity. So it takes time to get together those six, seven, nine songs.”
As part of this exhaustive process, Twin Ponies sat on Body for roughly a year, primarily for edits and to sort the programming. (It was roughly the same span for Twin Ponies, says Hanna.) It’s a freedom they’re afforded, ironically enough, by not being full-time musicians.
“If we’re just doing this as a full-time gig, then you have to punch the clock at 9 a.m. and write and write,” Jones says. “But if you’re not punching in, you can just pick up the guitar and play something, and maybe you get something [going].”
If there are any downsides to their process, Twin Ponies are just now understanding what the record means.
“Once you get that final package, then you get a sense, and to share it with the audience,” Hanna says.
Musically, Hanna says the LP feels “more spaced out,” while Jones believes the album reflects “a wide spectrum of moods, abstractly.” The emotional and lyrical content, though, is another question entirely.
“The album’s about finding humor in some of the madness of life,” Jones says. Hanna, on the other hand, believes it’s about growth, taking “things you’ve always dug and expand on them.”
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Jones is quick to add that the LP “means something different to everyone,” which is reflected in the music. Body is a smorgasbord of punk, and grunge, trying to capture sentiments from the earnest to the asinine. Whatever the sonics or sentiments, the LP encourages listeners to delve in headfirst.
After everything, Twin Ponies have what they want: a new album and plenty of supporting shows, including their record release on October 11 at The Rebel Lounge. The four members recognize the sheer madness that goes into their pursuits, but like any family unit, self-awareness is key for longevity.
“It’s amazing any band functions at all,” Jones says. “You have to be crazy to be in a band.”
Twin Ponies are scheduled to perform Friday, October 11, at The Rebel Lounge. Tickets are $10 to $12 via Eventbrite.