Summer Twins really like proms. Like, they really, really like proms. Like, maybe, to an unhealthy degree. During one of their recent shows at LA’s Bootleg Theatre, the Riverside group, which is composed of sisters Chelsea and Justine Brown, actually hosted a for-real-deal prom, provided the soundtrack to slow-n-close dancing with their dream pop-meets-girl group harmonies, and even crowned a king and queen. The kicker is, that neither of them actually went to their senior prom.
“I wasn’t really into prom,” explains Chelsea, who plays guitar and sings. “I actually did independent study my last two years of high school because I felt I wasn’t learning anything from my teachers. So, because I wasn’t going to school there, I didn’t go to the prom.” Justine, who drums and is the older sister (Shhh… Summer twins aren’t actually twins) says, “I didn’t really want to go because it wasn’t really my thing. I didn’t have someone to go with.”
That’s okay, because they’re not really thinking of prom in a modern since anyways. “We really like the idea of a prom in the ’50s,” Justine says. “
Indeed, “Forget Me,” the title track of The Summer Twins’ newest EP does root itself in the era of beehives, poodle skirts, and coordinated dance moves. Driven by Justine’s peppy drumbeat and a doo-wop bass, the tune is basically the soundtrack for seventeen-year olds pulling each other tight right around 10:45pm. Despite being written and recorded by a pair of siblings barely old enough to buy booze, the song has the execution of the R&B pros. When Chelsea coos “When I first met you, I knew you had a problem or two,” she does it with the broad power of Mary Weiss but also with that famous hint of sass.
But, as with so many of the band’s songs, while the beat itself is washed in sunny California reverb and drowsiness, there is a fundamental sadness that rides just below the notes. Each of Chelsea’s refrains drifts away at the very end. Is she holding backs tears?
“That song is about being interested in someone and you know that person isn’t good for you and that person has issues and you stay away,” Chelsea says. “You know you should stay away, but you have a connection, so you can’t.”
Perhaps what makes the band’s sweet sound so surprising is that their technique was shaped, in part, by one of LA’s most notorious, most wild, most freakiest punk rockers: Don Bolles of the Germs. When recording their Summer Twins LP, the girls found their sound being shaped by Bolles, who handled production, into what it is now. “Don helped us achieve what we wanted, but also find vision,” Chelsea says. “He also told us that when he toured with the Germs, he didn’t know how to play, so he learned while on tour,” Justine continues.
In some ways, the Germs connection makes sense. While the Germs were wild as hell, cutting themselves and shooting heroin all the time, there was an underlying sadness and depression despite the berserk live show. Likewise, Summer Twins’ newest songs, each seemed to be tinted with that ’50s, late night wistfulness. But why?
“It’s a lot easier to write about sad stuff,” Chelsea says. “A lot of the songs have a happier feel to them, but we try to keep the songs real. That’s the reality of it. There’s always two sides to things.”
Summer Twins’ Forget Me EP is out now.