These days, Twin River is almost unrecognizable as the same band that first emerged on Vancouver’s indie scene in 2009.
At that time, it was a stripped-down folk duo featuring singer-songwriter Courtney Ewan Bromley alongside guitarist Andy Bishop (White Ash Falls). Their performances were quiet, intimate affairs in which the two harmonized on sparse ballads.
“For a long time it was us sitting up there, cross-legged on stools,” Ewan Bromley remembers. “It was totally open-ended. We got together when we could and played the songs that we wanted to play. It was mostly us hanging out, honestly.”
Things began to change in 2011 when the pair made their four-song Rough Gold EP. They recorded the session with local guitarist Malcolm Jack (Capitol 6, ex-Sun Wizard) and singer-keyboardist Rebecca Law Gray (Chains of Love, Mode Moderne), who helped to imbue their rootsy tunes with full-bodied sonic depth.
After that, there was no turning back. Dustin John Bromley (Pleasure Cruise, Keep Tidy) joined on drums, establishing a five-piece lineup that favours noisy pop-rock and atmospheric synth textures over quiet laments.
“This might sound pretty cheesy,” Ewan Bromley says, “but I think it was a case of growing up and not wanting to write sad music. I don’t really listen to a lot of slow, sad stuff anymore. It’s more fun to play in a synth-y rock band, and more fun to listen to.”
This radically overhauled sound is on full display on the group’s debut full-length, Should the Light Go Out. It was recorded in the dog days of summer 2013, with sessions taking place at Kelowna, BC’s Bottega Studio with producer Darcy Hancock of Ladyhawk, and in Vancouver at the Hive Creative Labs with Colin Stewart (Dan Mangan, the New Pornographers, Black Mountain).
This yielded a sunshine-streaked collection of songs that span the full range of Twin River’s new sound. Opener “Bend to Break” charges out the gate with fuzzy strums, punk-injected rhythms and reverb-kissed pop sweetness, while “Secret in a Séance” takes a spooky approach to giddy hooks, and “Word to the Wise” is shot through with jagged, surf-tinged guitar leads. Any folksy influences are reduced to an undercurrent.
Twin River’s diversity shines on the garage-psych stomper “Anything Good,” which was written and sung by Bishop, and on the Disintegration-style 10-minute revenge tragedy “Golden Man.”
“I have a tendency for long, cinematic songs that often gets tamed by the band,” Ewan Bromley says of the latter cut. “I had this long saga in my head, lyrically, and there was nothing I could get rid of. I said, ‘Sorry guys, we have to have six verses.’ It felt so good that, once we got going, it was hard to stop.”
While the outfit is still a relatively new entity, it has already undergone a radical process of reinvention. With its lineup now solidified, and with a new sound that opens up a world of possibilities for the future, it’s clear that Twin River has arrived.