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RIVER DRIFTERS

by Matt Vend / 04.12.2014

As industrialisation continues to spread across a planet that was built on the foundations of living off the land, people seem to become more and more entrenched in urban lifestyles and environments – concrete wastelands, flashing city lights, highways and buildings. Yet there are a few eccentrics who choose to venture beyond, finding splendour amongst the decay of city life.

Recently I had the chance of performing a show under a bridge next to the Los Angeles River at night. The area was dark, yet faintly illuminated by the city lights and although the LA River isn’t exactly flourishing with nature, there was something bewitching about the whole experience. The giant, almost oval structure of the bridge created some of the best acoustics I’ve ever heard at a show and musicians played ‘til the early hours of Sunday morning, proving that there are human beings out there who still long for a feral escape from the cityscape and the high life.

On this particular night I met a musical duo who went by the name of TWIN.

When they told me that most of their tours were done by water instead of land, I was compelled to write about this as I’ve never heard or seen a band that travels/tours by boat. A few years back they got arrested for canoeing down the very same river that we played next to on that unusual night.

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TWIN have been traveling by water for the past five years. They’ve been charged with trespassing and loitering but the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. They are currently on a really long road tour but David Fort, one of the songwriters in the band, took the time out to answer a few of my questions about life and music down the rivers of the US.

Matt Vend: Introduce yourselves and tell us who does what in your duo?

David Fort: We are HypnoFolk pioneers TWIN and when we operate as a duo that consists of Brooklyn Samson aka Moon Eye Sun (violin, vocals) and David Fort (guitar, vocals).

You guys are from Canada, yet seem to do a lot of shows around the United States. What would you say are the biggest differences between the two countries in terms of appreciation for the arts and music?

Hmm loaded question indeed. In a way we have innately similar cultures, but at the same time we have unique differences. First and foremost, population is a huge difference and this effects how far you need to go to get to different audiences. I’m very excited about a new movement on both sides that is starting to recognise freedom and respect for life in all its wondrous shapes and forms.

So you tour by canoe. Give us a little bit of insight into this form of travel to get to shows, this has to be the most unusual way I’ve ever heard of a band touring. Are there other acts you know who tour in this way? How does it affect the shows and where you are able to perform?

I don’t know of any other bands that tour by canoe. There seems to be few other artistic entities traveling by water. Canoeing slows you down and makes it possible to book shows in smaller communities situated along the river. This aspect alone has changed the way we get our music out there in a huge way.

I believe you guys got arrested on the LA river a few years back, whilst on tour. Please could you elaborate on the experience, apparently they even came with a helicopter? That must have been pretty terrifying at the time, what was the final outcome of the whole ordeal?

Yes two police helicopters and one media one (KXLA) swooped down on us. They blasted a sound cannon, which was quite terrifying. You could feel it internally but not locate what was going on. We were arrested and charged (Loitering and Trespassing) on site and a seven month court case ensued. The story itself is relatively long and complex. The jist of it is that the Los Angeles River is a Coast Guard Regulated Navigable Water. TWIN and the River Armada Concert Series did this tour in celebration and regard to the fact that the EPA had once designated this river as such. If you rifle through our media history at armadatwin.com it will give a fairly concise documentation of the event. On the same website people can watch the Los Angeles River Music Armada documentary. I recommend that before doing any action like this, research both the safety and legal aspects of it as best you can, whether your adventure be politically or leisure oriented. This alone kept us safe and gave us tools to defeat the prosecutors in court.

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Photo by Nadine Fort

Give us a little insight to what it’s like to perform shows by rivers? Playing by the Los Angeles River at night must have been a pretty crazy experience, have you had any other cool experiences like this and what are the river tours like compared to conventional touring?

The Los Angeles River is very exciting to play by because people are recognising it once again and with that comes more birds and beauty! We could write a LONG list about how much the Sturgeon/Saskatchewan, Assiniboine, Mississippi, Sacramento, Chicago and Los Angeles (our river tours thus far) have shown and shared with us in regards to humanity, industry, plants, animals and the spirit world ­– compared to conventional touring.

It’s funny you ask, because Moon Eye Sun and I are doing our first ever road tour from Los Angeles to Winnipeg. We’ve been talking about it and with both tours you get tired, really tired! Both modes of travel have you traveling between 3-12 hours a day. In the canoe you are outside, in the car you are inside – both become sweaty! On the river you can often bath where you are though, which is nice. There is a little more independence on the river in regards to camping, more so than looking for a place to stay after a show. Weather becomes a huge part of your life on the river, for example right now we are in Austin sitting out a severe thunderstorm at the coffee shop we are going to play at. On the river we may have to wait out a big storm on the riverside as it is especially important to stay off the water during lightning. The freeway is as dangerous or more so than some of the hazards we encounter on the river, like rapids and dams etc… Oh boy I could go on forever. The river is cooler than the car and has a lot of challenges, but it leaves you feeling more empowered then you were before!

How would you describe your sound to anyone who hasn’t heard you play before?

Well we’ve been calling it HypnoFolk. That however is just a label. We create a vast array of music. TWIN is intense, TWIN is intimate, TWIN absorbs then releases everything it comes in to contact with. We play all original music.

What are your lyrics about and who writes the songs? Is it a joint effort or do you have one main songwriter?

TWIN started as my (David Fort’s) solo project but over the past two years has grown to incorporate Moon Eye Sun’s instrumentation, lyrics, and artistic visions.

Got any other harrowing road or river stories? It would seem you guys spend a lot of time touring… what’s it like being away from home for so long?

Well you start to let go of the idea of home and embrace a new vision of what home could be, or is for you. I feel like we are learning from so many amazing people that we will eventually assemble our own version of home and who knows where that will be! That being said, often on tour you start to lust for something that is your own – your own space, your own room.

What got you into making music in the first place?

Oh jeez, something in my childhood I’m sure. My mother raised me without a father for the first seven years of my life; she was very sharing and open to artistic/musical things. The man she married (who became my father) was quite good at passing great music down to me. Other than that, the world around us in both its natural and constructed form.

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Photo by John Scott

Favourite type of show to play?

Another loaded question! Ha… one’s with spirit and acceptance and friendship… Good food and drink are a good help too!

Do you guys do anything else other than music?

Yeah for sure, we worked all this past winter to pay for recording and putting out our latest album North Americana. Moon Eye Sun is a rapid artist and is currently pursuing screen printing, having done print runs in Winnipeg, Minneapolis and Los Angeles.

Would you ever consider touring South Africa?

Definitely! This is tied into the music influence question. As a child I was obsessed with Bob Marley and it got me into reading a lot about Africa. It is on my life list!

Any last comments or shout outs?

To all the good people we meet that propel us and give us hope and reason to keep going! It doesn’t matter where you go, they are there waiting to meet you.

*For videos blogs and free music visit TWIN’s website and Bandcamp and check out the Los Angeles Music Armarda Music Documentary.

*Read the next episode of Matt Vend’s American adventure: VEGAS ILLUSION and the previous installment, THE LA SAD BOiiS

 

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