Rock n Roll Bodhisattva: Cadien Lake James of Twin Peaks
Cadien Lake James is a name that instantly sticks in your head. It’s one of a kind — just like him. Anyone interested in today’s rock music, especially the Chicago scene, has to know Cadien Lake James. Guitarist and singer in garage rock sensation Twin Peaks, this charismatic kid with an old soul comes from a Chicago lineage of musicians and activists and has been spending the past year bringing the Chicago rock sound to eager audiences across the globe, built out of strong house show roots.
In the context of my arrival into the Chicago music scene in 2015 — rather, a specific garage rock scene that Twin Peaks is very much a major part of and inspiration to— Cadien and I hadn’t gotten to spend any time together at shows or parties as Twin Peaks has been touring nearly nonstop since 2015 began. But they come back home to Chicago when they can, so I messaged him when I knew he would be back for a couple days and asked if he’d want to do an interview. He was very polite and amenable to the idea, suggesting Heartland Cafe as a meeting spot on a Sunday morning at 11 am, to my surprise — let’s just say my expectations for politeness and professionalism are on the lower side for young band guys, but Cadien is a classy dude.
I took the train up to meet him in his neighborhood of Rogers Park, a far-north Chicago neighborhood. It was the day of the Pride Parade in June, just two days after the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in favor of marriage equality, and it seemed appropriate to be taking the red line filled with joyful partiers up to see Cadien, who had vocalized his support for the ruling and his LGBT family members on Facebook. His political leanings and statements were part of what made me want to interview him in the first place, from advocating for Chuy Garcia for Chicago mayor in the recent election against Rahm Emanuel, to his support for the Black Lives Matter movement and raising awareness of the issues facing our generation today, most recently contributing his endorsement to a list of artists supporting Bernie Sanders for President.
He’s pretty modest about all of it, though. He’s one of the more genuine people I’ve met, and after talking to him for a few hours it seems his political statements seem to come less from a place of political agenda than him simply airing his genuine feelings. Of course, he has over two thousand Facebook friends, three thousand Instagram followers and an even bigger devoted fan following for Twin Peaks, a receptive audience indeed.
Twin Peaks is an undeniably charismatic young rock band, bringing the spirit of Chicago house shows around the world, the infectious rock n roll party vibe of youth and fun. Although they’re all still 21 or so, they’ve been on the scene trying to make it since they were teenagers. While the Elmhurst scene of The Orwells and Modern Vices are the suburban-originating kids, Twin Peaks are native Chicagoans who formed early bonds and now are en route to world domination, via non-stop touring (with The Orwells, Modern Vices, Wavves, and others) and a new album on the way after their underground hits, debut EP Sunken and last year’s LP Wild Onion, which led them to performing at major Chicago music festivals like Pitchfork and Lollapalooza and other festivals across the country. They’re serving as an inspiration to an entire scene of Chicago music kids (and kids across the world) trying to make it. They get a ton of respect from many fellow musicians who admire their genuine spirit and work ethic, not to mention their thousands of excited fans who hang on their every wild rock n roll antic, well-documented by the band on social media.
Something about Cadien, though, is a little different from your usual early-20s band dude. He is definitely an old soul in the body of a 21-year-old musician. With relentless energy on stage, whipping his head around at high speed like he’s possessed by the rock n roll demon itself, offstage he’s incredibly open, honest, funny and down-to-earth, with the self-assuredness and inner zen of someone who’s been here before. Although, he is definitely still a 21-year-old musician — for our Sunday morning interview he rolled up admittedly hungover, wearing a backwards hat, big black t-shirt, baggy pants and small yellow sunglasses hiding his distinctive big blue eyes — but something about his vibe is a little different than most kids.
To explain the title of this piece, I think Cadien is a bodhisattva in the form of a young rock n roll musician. If you’re not familiar with the word, a bodhisattva is a Buddhist term that generally refers to a person who has made it their mission to help all sentient beings achieve enlightenment. Traveling the world, making people happy through rock n roll, while never neglecting his roots of family and friends at home and continually seeking truth and justice, Cadien has devoted his life to a world that demands a lot. While most musicians only see the perks of what it means to be successful, Cadien uses his connections and ever-growing status in the music world to help fellow musicians starting out and lend his voice to important social issues. While his non-stop schedule is no doubt exhausting, Cadien seems willing and able to transcend his own discomfort for the higher goals of creating great music and making thousands of people happy — a testament to the power of a tuned-in individual.
While it’s obvious that Cadien’s reputation as a musician and performer will continue to grow by leaps and bounds as Twin Peaks spreads their rock n roll energy across the globe, he’s one of the few young musicians in Chicago I’ve met who I could see making a name for themselves as some sort of political leader or community organizer outside of the music scene. Well, not outside exactly, but supported by all the connections he’s made. His charisma and open-hearted nature, passion for music, his friends and family and community, and his awareness of important political issues would make him an ideal leader for our generation to rally around. As Chicago, the United States, and the world confront crises every day, we need someone like him. Maybe rock n roll can save the world after all.
But, for now, Cadien and I met on that sunny Sunday morning at his father’s old restaurant, Heartland Cafe, which reminded me of the down-home, hippie craft places I used to go to growing up in New England — open, friendly, colorful. Cadien attributes a lot of who he is to his father, Michael James, a Berkeley student activist in the 60s and political leader in Chicago who now has a weekly radio show. (I think I want to interview him next!) We sat outside next to the sidewalk, where Cadien was warmly greeted by the wait staff and some of his friends from the neighborhood as they passed by, while kids and dogs frolicked on the sidewalk, next to a large statue of a Buddha head.
We talked for two and a half hours over brunch, which is why this article is my longest to date. (In comparison, Mario Cuomo and I had only spoken for an hour during our interview.) Cadien had gone to the legendary Chicago jazz club The Green Mill the night before and despite him saying it had been cool for us to meet at 11, had definitely been out very late. But when you’re 21 you can live that life, and have the energy that you gotta have when you’re in a non-stop touring sensation like Twin Peaks. We talked about everything, from his history in the Chicago music scene and his extended family of artists, including his brother Hal James who used to play drums with Smith Westerns, to his early years going to a Zen Buddhist temple with his mother, his disastrous drunken karaoke performance at a lesbian wedding at the age of 10, our experiences doing psychedelic mushrooms at our respective hippie schools, how he deals with having chronic seizures, and his open-hearted, upbeat philosophical approach to life.
The majority of our conversation is transcribed below. He’s such a funny dude who had me laughing half the time, and, if you’ve never met him, he’s pretty much how you would expect him to be, so this interview is all in the most lighthearted spirit. Everyone should be so lucky to get to talk to Cadien for a few hours at least.
Brunch with Cadien at Heartland Cafe
Rogers Park, Chicago: June 28, 2015
Cadien Lake James: I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of doing interviews, but I did read the one you did with Mario and I just remember thinking wow, that was a really good interview, it was really tight.
Katie Ingegneri: Thanks! Yeah, I feel like you guys have been away ever since I’ve been getting to know everyone. You guys were at the first house show I came to at Benny’s [Benny Goetz of The Symposium], like in January…
Oh yeah, where we played like one song? That day we had been rehearsing in Indiana, in a little tiny beach house, we were out there and then we all just went to the bar — even though we’re not 21 yet — and we played in one of these places, The Flamingo, in Gary, where you can smoke inside still…we went and did that, then showed up in Chicago and went and did that house show, like “let’s do it! Let’s rock!” It was fun.
Yeah, Benny’s is always a good time.
It’s a shitshow, man. But yeah, it’s fun. It’s so far from me. Like, this is where I live, you know what I’m saying, I’m so far from all the shit we do — luckily I’m right off the train, but this has been my life forever. I’m the guy on the outskirts — it’s not the suburbs, I guess, I should not complain. I’m not in Elmhurst.
Yeah, do you think you’d move closer?
No, I was thinking about it, I was thinking about moving in with the Strange Faces guys. I don’t know, also just save money and live at home — I have a king-sized bed at home. That makes it really hard to leave your house. I’m not gonna find another place where I can fit that. So, I’m gonna live with my mom and dad and brother, take it easy, save some money. This is a great neighborhood too — Rogers Park is the best neighborhood in the city. It’s becoming less of a secret. It’s definitely low-key up here. It’s awesome, the beach is like two blocks away, right across the road…
Oh really? I didn’t even realize that. That’s awesome. I’m from Boston, so I’m still learning all of Chicago.
Oh right on. How long have you been here?
Just under two years, but yeah I love Chicago.
It’s such a great place. Did you go out last night?
Yeah, have you ever been to the Green Mill? It’s right by the Aragon and Riv off Lawrence red line, and they have this cool marquee that says the Green Mill with all these flashing lights, it’s this old jazz club, been there forever. I heard about it forever but I’ve only been 21 a couple months so I never got out there, and that place is awesome cause they have jazz until like four in the morning, live jazz. Kind of expensive, but it’s worth it cause you get to watch jazz in this super chill bar, it’s kinda classy — I’m not a classy guy but I liked it. They had this dude walking around who looks like a biker gang motherfucker as the security guard, with a mustache and a belt and just shushes everybody so loud. Like a table’s talking too much and then you hear “SHHHHHH!!” Just all up in their face. I was drinking tequila soda, just looking around — I had a good time but I shouldn’t have went out.
So this is where you lived your whole life?
We used to live one block north of here and one block east, and then I live one block west of here. So…[in a faux-British accent] “and I have never left, so I don’t know anything but these three blocks.” I’m just kidding, I have left, obviously.
Yeah you’ve been all over the place.
Yeah man, it’s great! It’s great traveling.
That must be such a cool thing to be like, your job.
Absolutely. I encourage everybody to travel while they’re young. We may not make much money in our own pockets, but if we get to see the world and make people happy and make ourselves happy, that’s about all I can ask for now — worry about the rest later. When shit gets real.
You’re still young, got plenty of time…
Still a baby boy.
I know, I always forget your whole crowd is like, twenty, twenty-one, it makes me feel a little old.
Yeah we’ve had that with older brothers, like the Smith Westerns guys, they’re doing that band Whitney now. Have you heard about them?
Ah, no I haven’t. I saw The Orwells posted a pic on their Instagram last night.
Oh yeah, that picture. Well it’s like, Max [Kakacek] who played guitar for Smith Westerns, and the last drummer the Smith Westerns had, Julien [Ehrlich], they have this new project called Whitney. It’s like — I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like pop music but it has like slight country and funk influences which sounds weird but like — it reminds me of The Band. It’s super cool, they’re playing tonight, and I probably won’t go, but — if I had the energy I would.
Where are they playing?
Don’t remember. Might be a house show, might be like some bar, might be the Whistler — but I don’t really know.
So is your brother [Hal James] in that one?
No, he played drums for Smith Westerns on tour for just like over the course of two or three years, on and off, but he never played on their records and he was just kinda helping them out when they needed a drummer. It was fun for him for a while, but he didn’t really like touring and being gone from home, and he didn’t write any of the music so he never felt that involved in the project. It was a funny thing, like my pops was always pressuring him to keep doing it, like “your name’s in The New York Times, keep going” but he was like “I don’t care about any of that. I’m tired.” So yeah, he didn’t do that for long. That was his only musical excursion, nothing since — we play around a little bit, we might put out something ten years from now. We’re ideas dudes, we have a lot of ideas, but executing them is another story, as many of us in life know. So motivation is a real thing to work on.
Yeah, it’s so easy to have great ideas, but then it’s like “how do I actually do this?”
I mean, I love ideas. I’m a big talker, so I like weed. I get high and come up with ideas, like “wouldn’t this be cool? Yeah, we should do that!” And then you’re like “let’s just chill though, let’s do that tomorrow.” It’s a never-ending cycle.
Yeah, that’s like when I’m writing, I can come up with great ideas when I’m stoned, but actually writing — I’m like, this is more of a struggle.
I’ve never been able to discover whether I’m better at writing music or not, high, cause I can never remember after I get high whether I can write better high or sober. I’ve never been able to figure it out.
Cause you probably do it both ways then?
Yeah, and probably once I’m high, if I’ve ever thought about it seriously, I don’t remember…I can’t be certain which days I got high or not, it’s just a random thing.
Right. I know like, you and the guys are probably always just up to shenanigans…I know Jack is a big weed fan.
Oh he likes weed the most. Colin’s in the band now too and he really likes weed too. Colin really likes weed. And he really likes cigarettes. We all like cigarettes, but he really likes cigarettes.
Old-school, man. It’s like it’s the 60s.
Chicago’s the best city.
I like it.
It’s like everything you could want in a city, for sure.
Yeah, coming from here definitely makes it hard to go elsewhere and think it’s as good, but being away more and more and having less time at home — I’m just getting in a weird zone where I kinda like being gone more. It’s definitely home, my family’s here and all my close friends, but I kinda feel more at home traveling. That’s just what I’m used to nowadays. I remember the Orwells used to be like “man, I can’t wait to get back on tour” and it was like man, aren’t you psyched to chill? I used to have a girlfriend for the first couple years of touring, I’d be on tour and always be like “man, I wanna get home, it’s been fun but I can’t wait to have like a weekend off” and now, after the last six months, I’ve kinda started just being like yeah I just wanna be gone, I just wanna be on the road. That’s how you get to do what we’re supposed to be doing. I think it’s what we’re supposed to be doing. Apparently.
Yeah, totally. So you think you’ll always be like, a Chicago musician?
Well yeah, at the core and at heart. I’ll probably move at some point but this is always gonna be my home, I’ll probably always come back — I might live in that house when I’m an old man, might raise my family in the same house I got raised in — I probably won’t, but I like the idea. Ideas, idea guy — see if I can execute it. We’ve been spending a lot of time in New Orleans, been taking a few weeks and getting down there when we can. Have you ever been down there?
No, but my ex-boyfriend who’s a musician, he lives down there.
Musicians tend to like it.
Yeah, he plays on the street cause he’s like a jazz guy.
Oh right on.
I think he finds a lot of success doing that. Like some guy hit him up, was like “hey man I need a clarinet player for my Jazzfest set,” and it was some guy who was like on “O Brother Where Art Thou.”
Yeah, like some huge name dude just hit him up on the street. Like hey, play with me.
Well good for him, that’s tight.
Yeah, I wanna check it out, it seems like a real cool place, but I haven’t been yet.
Yeah, it’s awesome. It’s easy to get stuck down there. They’re on their own clock.
It seems pretty chill, like it’s pretty easy to be an artist or musician down there.
You can be whatever you want down there. Southern hospitality is defnitely a real thing…most, some places. Maybe not most places. I don’t know. I’m not from the South. But where I’ve gone definitely seems that way, New Orleans — just everybody’s friendly, everybody’s got a story, you know. Old guys down there love me because I’ll totally eat it up if someone’s like “let me tell you about my life, son,” I’m gonna be be that guy who’ll eat it up. It’s easy to go down to New Orleans cause there’s a lot of guys like that. Lotta old cats who’ve had interesting shit that has happened in their lives. And it’s colorful walking around, it’s beautiful, feels kinda haunted in good ways and bad ways.
I love Dylan, I didn’t for a long time, but — I didn’t like the Stones or Dylan til right before we made the last record.
I was just not into it. I dunno.
So what did you grow up listening to?
Well I loved N’Sync’s “Millennium” album.
2000, or whatever. [laughter] Um, no my mom raised me on The Beatles, I remember we got Beatles 1 and that’s one of my earliest memories of listening to music was walking around in my living room, just pacing in circles listening to “Get Back,” and just being like “oh man dude, this is tight.” That’s probably not what my five-year-old brain was thinking, but I was like, “this is fucking tight, I wanna do this shit.” A lot of blues, my dad would have me listen to Albert King, Robert Johnson, Freddy King, a lot of the Beach Boys, Mamas & Papas…mom liked more 60s pop, kinda vanilla stuff, my dad liked black music — jazz, soul, R&B, and a lot of that, like, I loved it but it was never a couple big artists for him, he liked all of it, and it kinda went over my head, like I liked that genre of music — it wasn’t until I was older and I started getting my own taste of it, and delved into it more I guess.
Right. So are your parents musicians?
Kind of, in their own ways. I come from a really huge family, so…my mom apparently won like Miss Delaware or whatever it is, like some pageant when she was a hot teenager and she played flamenco guitar, she doesn’t remember it anymore but apparently she was pretty good at flamenco guitar back in the day. She was trying to learn cello for a couple years, and she got a flute, she was trying to learn flute, she doesn’t play it anymore — but we’re ideas people, you know.
And my pops, he plays a little guitar. He’s played for a long time, he’s always picked up Willie Nelson tunes and tried to learn country tunes, get his own versions going, and he plays a little trumpet as well. It’s tougher for him now, his fingers are a little slow, but he knows both of them, he can do them. So yeah, totally, they played, and then a lot of my siblings played too. My oldest brother David Libman, who lives in the neighborhood, 50, he gave me my first 8-track when I was in like sixth grade, this little 8-track CD recorder. The down button has been broken on it forever, I can’t get to all these early recordings on it, I need to go get it fixed. But me and Jack [Dolan] used to record songs on it in like seventh grade. Really goofy pop-punk songs, but that’s what like what we did Sunken on, and he plays guitars.
My sister Molly plays guitar, she’s 33 now, has two boys, and she had a dope band in the 90s called Ariadne, there’s a family Soundcloud that has a couple tracks and a demo tape, but I want the world to hear them. I want to finally get it out there, they were fucking cool man. Their demos are like, you guys could’ve been a successful 90s band…they were dope. My sister’s played violin her whole life, my closest sister, her name’s Casey Blue James, and she used to be like first violinist in some youth orchestra over there in Evanston, and my brother plays drums, Hal. So with all that going on, there was a lot of things for me to pick up. First guitars were my dad’s old crappy electrics he had collected over the years, so…yeah, I don’t talk about that a lot I guess, but a lot of music in the family.
So are you the youngest then?
Yes, I’m the youngest of seven siblings.
Not all of them from the same marriage, but, uh — oh my god, my friend Kevin is walking up and I haven’t seen him in forever.
[talks to friend walking by on sidewalk — friend brings up Chicago Reader’s Choice]
Friend: Every time I see something, like everyone’s loving on you — I’m like I know that guy!
Cadien: It’s all for you man…
[to me] He’s an awesome dude who cashiered here for a long time, very kind. That was cool, I haven’t seen him, he lived in Austin for a couple years. This place is like a community man, a community center. I’m big on family, that’s one of my values, for sure.
Yeah, seems like it. That’s great, that’s really cool.
Maybe you should run for president.
Someone commented on one of my statuses recently like “Cadien for President,” and I was like goddammit, like, I actually know very little about politics. I’m an ideas guy, that’s what I’m saying. Like be nice to each other, how about that.
The simple things. Like I can’t tell you about all the policies here but uh, what if we just did the right thing? Wouldn’t that be tight? I’m lucky being from this neighborhood, it’s the second-most diverse ward in the country. I dunno if that’s still true actually, it’s been gentrified the last ten years, but growing up here was the second-most diverse ward in the country, next to Queens, some part of Queens in New York.
Oh no way.
Where most of my siblings who have moved to New York live there. Actually ALL of my siblings who moved to New York live there.
In Queens? Oh no way.
That’s awesome. Yeah, I just went there for the first time last summer.
Oh right on.
It’s really cool, yeah.
Yeah, New York, man. It is cool. It’s overwhelming though.
Yeah, it is overwhelming. It’s a lot. Reminded me of Logan Square and like, coming up here…
Thanks for coming up here, cause yeah I gotta be honest, I would not have made it out there.
Oh yeah, no worries.
I’ve got friends in Logan Square who are really pissed at me cause I have three days left and I have not gone that way at all. I’m like “you can come barbeque in my backyard…I’ll just be there…” Logan’s great though. I just, I couldn’t live that far from the lake. I could, and I probably will at some point, but…something about being able to stroll over to the lake.
Yeah, that’s really cool. I haven’t spent like any time by the lake.
Been here two years and you haven’t spent time by the lake?
I know, it’s really bad.
You gotta go swimming this year.
I know, I do.
You gotta do it. Have you ever swam in Lake Michigan?
Oh my god, dude. You gotta go swimming. I’m a water baby, too. My dad baptized me and my brother and sister in the lake. The day we were born he would just [laughs] dunk us into the water off the pier.
Like a religious thing? Or just like a spiritual…
Like a hillbilly religious thing. Naw, it’s spiritual. Although he did want to be a pastor when he was younger for a while. He was raised Catholic-ish, but, yeah, then that stopped.
Yeah, that was the case with my parents as well. They were like fuck this, we’re not doing this.
Yeah, seems like it happens more and more. My ex-girlfriend’s parents were Mormon and they left the Mormon church a long time ago. Good people, but yeah they couldn’t get on board with all that shit, because religion is kinda crazy.
Yeah, it’s too much.
It’s used as a dark tool just as much as it’s used for a light tool.
Yeah, I mean people just want to be told what to think, basically. They don’t want to think for themselves.
Yeah. And some people want to tell people what to think — you know, the bad ones, they’re the bad guys.
Yeah, I loved [my graduate school] Naropa — Buddhism, it was great.
Yeah I was raised going to the Zen Temple until I was like five — I’m totally not a practicing Buddhist or anything, but I’m definitely grateful for that experience. I just have vague memories of sitting in temple and being taught to sit quietly while everybody was meditating, and that shit is cool man. I went back with a friend one time, we couldn’t really find anyone in there but the temple door was open so we just went and sat in there and did our thing for a little while. I don’t really go back, but I try to. There are people who are really hardcore into meditation and like achieving Nirvana and clearing your mind and all this shit, and that’s just stressful to me because it seems so impossible to me. Just a lot of hard work, I guess.
But more and more I see people spreading the word — just remember to take some time for yourself every day. You can spend 20 minutes a day just sitting, and you know, don’t worry about not thinking, just let the thoughts come and confront the things you gotta confront instead of ignoring them, trying to be like “oh I can’t think about that.” Be like “no, that’s kinda on my mind a lot, I should probably think about that and try to come to terms with something,” you know? Not enough people take time for themselves in that way. You know if I’m on the train, just close my eyes, or at home. I dunno. I think that’s important, and I think it’s easy that people have a lot of misconceptions about meditation, you know, it takes practice. Everything does. You gotta train yourself to be okay with taking 20 minutes and just sitting there quietly, but — I think it does you a lot of good.
Yeah, it really does. Yeah at Naropa I took a class, Contemplative Poetics, we were supposed to meditate every day and keep a journal of it. I was kinda bad at that.
Journals are tough…
But yeah, trying to get myself to sit down and like, just be quiet for ten minutes, you know, sit on my yoga mat.
Yeah, it’s a good thing, I’m not claiming that I’m really good at it, you know, try to do it when I’m stressed out, I remember to do it the most and that’s when I need it. Some days in the van I just try to close my eyes and not sleep, whatever everybody’s doing in the van I just try to take a few minutes to chill the fuck out. Then everything’s better. [laughs]
Yeah, it does wonders.
It’s true, it’s scientifically proven or whatever.
Yeah, exactly. And fuck transcendental meditation and all that stuff where you have to pay a thousand dollars to a teacher to get a word that you repeat, a mantra — it’s a bunch of bullshit. That is the most horseshit, it made me really upset when I realized the David Lynch Foundation does that shit. He does good things with it, he brings it to like schools and underprivileged people, and all the good stuff like that, but also it’s like, you take a class in it and you have to pay a thousand dollars and you can’t do it on your own, you have to have a word from a teacher. Like look at a list of words you can get online, it’s the same shit. So that’s some fucked up capitalist bullshit. I’m judging you, David Lynch. Supposed to be badass, and that’s not. That’s lame.
Yeah, it’s true. All you need to meditate is yourself, really.
Yeah, you just gotta be okay with yourself. You know.
So your parents, were they into that as well?
Yeah, that was my mom’s thing, for probably ten years she was going to temple, and then she stopped practicing and as of late she’s been going to church again, but she’s not deeply religious or anything, she likes to be with other people and talk about spirituality and good vibes. I don’t know. I don’t really understand it but I get it. I get it, man. [laughs] And you know, my brother, we all used to have our own meditation cushion things. But none of us really do that anymore. Cause it’s more just like, sit down and chill. But I do have an affinity for Buddhism and Zen, Zen vibes. Definitely the coolest religion, cause it’s not very religious. It’s a sense of ethics and morals as all religions have, but it’s got the least rules, and the least, you know, clear guidelines on here’s how you’re supposed to practice. It’s kind of just more like — be good people! Chill out! [laughs] It’s all we need to hear. I guess it’s not all we need to hear cause people say that, but it’s a start. Just needs a megaphone.
It’s always the loudest and the ones trying to get people’s money that end up being the ones telling everyone what to do. Like the Catholic Church. So much money, all of the things.
And fucking Donald Trump, who’s famous for “you’re fired!” Trying to run for President, oh I’m gonna give everybody jobs — but you’re fired! It’s just funny, unfortunately it’s all just for television, and uh…I’m totally fake political.
Oh, I don’t get that impression.
Well, to myself. Somebody told me the other day, they were like “you’re the most fake-deep person I know,” I was like, that might be true. At least like, I believe it, a little bit. But you’re kinda right. I don’t read enough anymore…I don’t have a bunch of context to my stuff, just my few life experiences and my vibes, but I believe my fake-deep bullshit. A little bit.
Well so where are you coming to your progressive beliefs, do you read political stuff, or your family, or…
Mainly my family, I mean this place has always been a very political place. I guess it would be less so now. This little room here, the grocery store, that used to be the dining room, and inside seating, and that room over there used to be the general store. So it’s kind of changed vibes. Cause it was like a farm, an owner of a farm who bought it, and just brought in this kind of grocery store as well, got something going on. But this place was always a very political place, my pops and his business partner ran a radio show out of here every Saturday, they still do it but they don’t do it here all the time. They talk about a lot of progressive topics and issues and stuff, my dad’s always been a politician.
My dad is cool, he’s like my biggest influence on me, I’m obsessed with my pops. I love that man. He’s crazy, but he’s cool. A greaser growing up, worked on cars, hot rod club kinda dude in the 40s — he’s 73 — and went to Lake Forest College for a bit, then he went to Berkeley in California graduate school, and he was there during the Free Speech Movement, doing a lot of protests out there, and that’s when he started doing community organizing and stuff. He ended up dropping out when he had like one senior paper left to get his graduate degree or something, cause shit was going down in Chicago. And he said I’m going to Chicago, the Civil Rights movement, that’s where I’m supposed to be. Probably ’69 or something…or ‘67. Cause he was here during the Democratic Convention in ‘68, there’s a photo of him pushing up a paddy wagon with some people at the protests down there.
And his thing was, he was uptown, kinda by the Wilson red line, Lawrence area over there, and he was organizing hillbilly whites around there — there were hillbilly whites around there back in the day, right? Organizing them, be like “you guys are poor, and so are these black people, and you all are getting beat up and you should stop being racist, you should probably be friends with them and we should probably work together.” And so he had a group called Rising Up Angry and that was their initial focus, but it grew when they were working with the Black Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition and Young Lords and all this stuff. He was all around that scene, just kind of working to get the regular folks involved who weren’t paying attention to politics. Spoke on stage with Martin Luther [King Jr.] at one point, and then he started the restaurant — doing health food and politics outta one place.
And then when Harold Washington, the first and only black mayor in Chicago, won, he ran all his campaign out of here, dad helped out with that, and yeah — he’s got a cool background, he’s got a lot of stories, so I’ve always soaked that shit up. I don’t think I’ll ever be quite as involved in politics as he is, but it’s certainly where I get my small penchant for political rants. He’s the President of the 49th ward Democratic party, and now a kind of fucking hypocrite cause he thinks he’s all for the people and shit but he wants to give people 15% tips instead of 20%? Cause you know, waitresses are usually single mothers and make the least money in America? But we just like to give him shit, really.
He sounds interesting.
Yeah, he’s an interesting character. I can’t even begin to describe the goofiness of this man, he’s very loud and speaks what comes to mind with little filter — luckily he’s a good guy so that’s not racist shit or anything, but you know, he can be confrontational in a way that to him is just like, funny, but it could be something where it’s like — I don’t want to talk about that and you just talked about that in front of ten people. Yeah, it’s funny. So that’s my dude, he’s like my tightest homie — pops.
We get along.
So is he with your mom?
Yes, they’re still together. And my mom is also my tight homie, I love her, she raised the boys to be sensitive and soft and caring, and okay to have emotions. In the band, like, everybody knows I’ll be a crybaby, and I’ll like be crying about stuff and want to talk about my emotions, and I always wanna tell everybody “I love you man,” sometimes they’re just like “yeah, yeah.” And sometimes they’re like “I love you too, man,” but I’m kinda always that dude who’s just very open and honest, and I got a lot of that from her. I know a lot of people didn’t have quite as easy family scenarios.
This is a great place. Reminds me of, um, Vermont.
Right on. Yeah it used to be, well it still is, like a lot of vegan and vegetarian options, and yeah…like the slogan was “good wholesome food for the mind and body.” So that captures the essence kinda well.
Must’ve been an interesting place to grow up.
That it was.
So when did you start playing in bands and stuff?
Well, uh, let’s see. I started playing guitar — my brother, when he was seventh or eighth grade, I was in fourth or fifth, he had a band with like two other kids in elementary school and they were learning three covers for a school battle of the bands, it was two guitarists and my brother on drums, and I was like — “yo dad, can you go get me a bass? I wanna start playing bass.” And I was like “yo I know I’m like three years younger than all you guys, but can I play bass?” So I just did it and I learned the songs on bass, and I liked it, so I could play with them. Cause I always wanted to be like my brother. That dude is cool. And then I, you know, started to teach myself guitar cause bass started to feel too easy, although I’m not like some crazy bassist, I just felt restricted. And then me and Jack, he sang me a song in the hallway one time, he had a melody and lyrics for it called “Just Tonight,” and I was like, I can figure out some chords for that. So we went and figured out the chords and then we made a little demo for it. If I can get that fucking down button working, I could find it — and not show anybody, because we probably don’t want anyone to hear it, but me and him would probably like it.
And so we started writing together, and we would play like the Old Town School folk music open mics and stuff, we got in trouble one time for playing some Against Me! song that had the F word in it, and we just played with me on an acoustic electric and him singing. And then we started writing with Connor, more punk rock songs. I started writing songs and singing, and we got my brother to play — full circle, I played bass for his band when he was in eighth grade and when I was in eighth grade he came back in and played drums for us cause we asked him to. And he played a couple songs, and Jack was playing bass at that point. Then we went to high school and really, I guess, okay, there was only one serious band other than Twin Peaks, and me and Hal had a band called Teenage Dream, and we played three or four shows — like we did two right down the block at this cafe, which is like a theater now, but owned by my dad — not anymore, but it was part of the package here.
So they would rent out the room from them, and when they weren’t doing theater shows we would ask if we could throw shows. We had Jeff the Brotherhood in there a couple times, way back in the day. They used to live here. And we did like a Valentine’s Day show with White Mystery. But anyways, me and my brother, we had a band and he was supposed to be the singer, he played drums and sang, and I’d just play guitar, and I remember we went to play one show — the first house show I played, I was like 14, we were in this dude Brent’s backyard, he called it the Crystal Rock House, and Brent was one of two guys in this band called Slushy, who was one of the older bands in the scene that would help us out and was totally down to play with us instead of being like “fuck you, young little kids,” they were like “yeah man, we’d get down with you guys” so we played in his backyard and we get there, and my brother, like there at the show, is like “you have to sing a song,” and I was like “dude what are you talking about, I’ve never sang them, I’m not singing them,” and he put me on the spot and I went for it! And that’s the first time, I guess I started singing.
And then we just did a couple more shows and then we stopped. And then my brother started touring with Smith Westerns, and I was like damn, I have to get a band together. And uh, Jack knew Connor, they had grown up across the street from each other since diaper days, but they hadn’t seen each other like all throughout elementary school. And they reconnected in high school, we started seeing Connor at our buddy Michael’s house where we would smoke pot and hang out across the street from Sunken garden park, so I emailed them both the track.
And originally it was supposed to be like, a six-dude band with three guitars, we wanted to be like the Almighty Defenders thing, like the Black Lips and King Khan & the BBQ Show’s project — but no one actually wanted to do it, so the three of us got together with our buddy Lucas who was the original keyboardist when we started playing, and we were called Friend, and that was the first incarnation of Twin Peaks, and then we just never stopped playing together. And eventually we switched it to Twin Peaks cause we thought Friend was lame, and all the stuff began, slowly but surely. So that’s my musical roster, right there. I played in Strange Faces for a while. Me and my brother. That was the last time me and Hal played in a band together, he played drums and I played guitar in the first year-ish of Strange Faces starting up again out here…are you familiar with Strange Faces?
It’s this kid David Miller, and this kid Ben, from PTA, another Chicago band, plays drums. And this little dude Taylor, and our buddy Phil. Taylor and David are from Cincinnati, David, it’s his project. We met David out at Evergreen State when me, Jack and Connor went there for like three months. And we convinced him to drop out of school with us. Actually, it’s funny, we were playing with them out there, and we knew our keyboardist Lucas wasn’t going to drop out, well, David dropped out before we asked him I think, so he could be like “yo I’m not gonna be in school,” and we were like “do you want to come play with us?” So he played keyboards with us for all of three or four months, and then it just kind of wasn’t working, so we had to kick him out. And he had just dropped out of school and moved to Chicago…and to his credit he really bucked up and started the new band, Strange Faces, and we recorded a record, and me and my brother helped him out for a while, and then I eventually was like “I’m too busy to do this,” and then Hal was like “if Cadien’s not doing this I’m not doing it,” and then he got a new band together and I mixed it, and it’s coming out next month on Autumn Tone records. [Editor: I’m not sure when this is actually coming out since I can’t really find info about it since we spoke a few months ago.] Nice little plug. It’s a fun scene out here, man. It’s pretty close-knit.
Yeah, it seems like a pretty unique rock n roll scene here. When I started listening to the Orwells and I friended Mario, he was posting about the Symposium and stuff and then I started listening to them — I was like oh these guys are really cool, they sound like the bands I used to listen to, early 2000 indie bands, and then I came out to see The Symposium when they played at the Empty Bottle in January and it was cold as shit and it was just me and Mario there, and he introduced me to Benny, and then Benny’s like oh you should come to my house, Modern Vices are playing and you should listen to them, and I really liked them, and then I was like okay there’s this really cool…
…thing going on. I like the Elmhurst extension, they kind of have their own little scene of bands but it’s all one family in the end, but they definitely have brought something to the table out here which is cool. It’s funny you bring up the Empty Bottle experience cause I had a very similar experience when I was like 14, me and Hal played in our band over there, Teenage Dream. It was like the coldest day of the year, and no one showed up except Alex White from White Mystery, White Mystery is a sibling duo band, and she caught the set — she was one of two people there or something and she was like “yo you guys are brothers? I like that, I do that too, you guys are cool,” and I was 14 and it was awesome, she’s been like a big sis kinda ever since, or cousin maybe, you know, we don’t get together or talk too often but she just always has had our back and gives very good advice, taught me about how to throw a show and be semi-professional about things. She definitely taught me to give thanks when it’s due and be grateful in the music scene cause a lot of bands are not necessarily that great at that. Same way family’s important to me, it’s important to make everyone feel like family when they do something nice for ya, help you out — make sure you give them credit.
Yeah, that’s good. It seems like Alex has been really supportive of a lot of up-and-coming bands. White Mystery had a show in the winter with the Vices and American Breakfast — I really like them — from the Logan Square scene — and that was the first time I saw the Vices not in Benny’s cramped house.
They’re starting to get the ball rolling, the Vices boys, I got a lot of faith in those guys. They’re the best, they’re some sweethearts. I started going in the winter when I was suddenly single for the first time in two years, and I didn’t have a lot of friends — well I did, but I started going over there and they all just totally had my back, and were the nicest dudes. And I was sleeping on the couch like every other night, at some point I was like “can I just move in?” and they were like “yeah dude, just bring your fucking bed over here, get over here man.” And we just had a great time on tour with those guys, and I was happy to see when they got home, they sold out Schubas, that was awesome. I have a lot of faith in those guys, I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
I got to hear some of the stuff they’re working on at the Treehouse [Records] for the next shindig, and I’m quite a big fan of where they’re going. They sound like them, but they’re getting like — I think it’s been fun for them going over to the Treehouse and being able to work with all the studio gear over there. I know it was for me at The Observatory, like you know, listening to Sunken, it’s just crappy gear in my basement shoddily put together, and then we got to The Observatory and it was like whoa, we can use all this different shit, what can I make with this? And I think they were having a kind of similar like, oh fuck, like we can do anything, and they totally are going for it and trying to experiment, so that’s always a promising thing for me with bands. I’m all about minimalism too, but they’re like writing pop songs and you just gotta play around with shit.
I’m a really big production man, that’s like kind of my favorite part of it — I like making records cause I like making sounds and a lot of music, even songwriting’s great, I can get totally hung up on like, “this just sounds too clean and glossy” and shit you know, that’ll bug me a lot with records. A lot of people are able to enjoy a lot more shit cause they don’t care about that, but for me it’s like, make it sound a little gritty and old school, give it a little grit and character, that’s a big deal for me. I really love the studio.
So do you record mostly at Treehouse now?
No, we did one single over there and I would definitely like to work there more at some point, I love the guys and they’re doing a cool thing, but —
Oh that’s where you did “In The Morning…”
Yeah, we went over there for two or three days and did that. I still do demos over at The Observatory where we did Wild Onion.
Yeah, where is that?
It’s over at Lincoln and Wellington basically, they have shows there too. They have a big open room with a stage and a bar, and then a studio across the wall from that, and then like eight people live there or something. It’s a big loft space on the third floor above this rug store, it’s very close by. I think the second floor does shows too, I think more visual artists live there. That’s a cool spot, I do a lot of demos over there cause it’s just closer and I get it for super cheap cause my buddy lives over there. But yeah we are actually doing this one ourselves again, like Sunken…we did the last record with our buddy Andrew and our buddy Colin, Colin used to play in Sister Crystals — they kind of stopped playing about two years ago, maybe a year and a half…it was him and this other gal, she plays in Dam Gila now, which I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, they’re part of that Feeltrip crew of bands. Are you familiar with Feeltrip?
Yeah, a little bit. Not a ton yet.
There’s a lot of cool bands out of that collective — YAWN is really cool. Their first record kind of had this like very sample-based, Animal Collective-y thing with like Beach Boys-y kind of melodies but live instrumentation worked in, and then their second record got more and more live instruments, and they played Lolla last year I think. They’re really great dudes, and there’s like Paul Cherry, Pleasure Hammer, Josh Cohen has a project called Blind Moon, there’s some good bands coming out of that scene. And Dam Gila is like an extension of YAWN and the chick who played in Sister Crystals now plays in that band. But anyways, we met Colin from Sister Crystals and he recorded the last record with us, and Andrew, and they were kinda like helping engineer it cause none of us knew how to work in a studio, and they had worked out of the Observatory before and had experience.
And Colin was kinda helping us write some stuff, just coming up with stuff here and there and playing keyboard parts I couldn’t play, and then come this winter when Sister Crystals was finally officially over, and he already knew how to play the entire record cause he recorded it, we were like “well do you wanna just join the band?” cause he’s a fucking amazing musician and such an awesome guy. We were a five piece for a year and a half when we did our first tour, and we kinda broke out in the house show scene here, and we got back from school before we kicked out David Miller, so it kinda made sense and we had never found the right person, we were holding off on it, and there he was. And now he’s in the band and he’s coming with us, and Andrew, the other guy who worked on it, he’s gonna come with us too and we’re going out to Massachusetts.
Yeah we’re going to the Berkshires, so southwestern Mass, and Sheffield, Massachusetts. My buddy has an estate out there and it’s fucking gorgeous, so cozy, we’ve stayed there a lot between Boston and New York on tour, there’s a lake in the backyard and it’s a really wonderful spot, and this guy loves to share it and have people appreciate it and enjoy it, it’s been in his family since the 60s or something. Instead of recording on the shitty 8-track with the broken down button, we got a half-inch tape machine, and all this outboard gear — I’m a gear nerd, I could go on and on about the gear but I won’t, won’t talk your head off about that. But yeah, we got a studio and we’re going out to record it between all our dates this summer. So that’s why even though we don’t have like a ton of tour dates between July and August, we’re not gonna be home, we’re just gonna be out there. After Denmark we go there.
Well, that’ll be nice.
Hell yeah! I can’t wait to record. It’s been forever since we made a record. And we have a lot of songs and we’ve grown a lot and I think it’s gonna be a lot better, it’s gonna be a lot more of what we want it to be. We’ve learned a lot about the business and working with labels since then, kinda sticking up for what we’re trying to do as artists. With Wild Onion we could only afford 15 days in the studio, and then we kinda had pressure to get the record out, so we had someone mix it, and we had to do it over the phone — it was just not an ideal situation. Turned out great, I’m happy with it, some things I would’ve done different but it’s fine, always say that. But this time it’s kinda nice cause you know, we want to finish soon and get a record out for people but we also have all the time in the fuckin’ world, like we’re not paying for the studio and we own all the gear, so we can just take our time and make a record we’re really proud of. I’m excited, it’s gonna be an awesome next step and next year. And we got that Wavves tour in September, that’ll be gnarly.
Yeah, that’s exciting.
And you’re playing Lollapalooza — that’s exciting as well…
Yeah, gonna try to do a couple special things for that. Celebrate playing out in Chicago. It’s been a fun build, doing Riot Fest two summers ago, and then Pitchfork last year, and now Lolla this year, it’s been like a natural slow build on the festival circuit. I’m psyched, I just wish we were playing at like 9 pm, and not like, 2 o’clock. But it’s fine, whatever, shouldn’t be complaining at all.
Someday you’ll be the headliners.
Let’s not get ahead ourselves here. We’re still a punk band. I guess not that punk. We’re not really a punk band. Punk bands aren’t as soft boy as I am.
Aren’t as what?
Aren’t as soft as I am. I’m a soft boy.
I mean you gotta start somewhere, in terms of popularity, just keep getting bigger.
I’m just glad anybody likes it and I get to make records. Honestly, in my mind, if we do not get more popular than we are now, I’ll have a lot of fun doing this for years to come. But it’s cool, it seems like we’re not done climbing yet. So we’ll see what happens, see how people like whatever we come up with in the fall.
I’m sure people will be super psyched. It seems like you guys are one of the few bands that a lot of people agree on.
I’m sort of finding some other bands are a little more um, contentious, whether people know them or don’t know them [personally]. Everyone loves Twin Peaks.
Well we love most people, so…maybe it’s just a matter of mutual respect.
Yeah it’s like what I said about Alex White. The Smith Westerns were great dudes and a great band, but I remember watching them and they’d say like “we’re from Shitcago” and all these kinda like — they were probably joking around for the most part, but they definitely had a kind of “fuck this city” attitude and once they grew out of the house show scene they never played house shows again, and you know…I don’t wanna say they forgot where they came from, cause they totally didn’t, and now Whitney, new band with the guitarist, they’re building out of house show scenes. I know they’re about the scene, but whatever it was, they seemed like they didn’t give a lot of love back to their city all the time, and I tried to learn from that, cause I watched a lot of that. Just trying to be grateful man, and this city has been so good to us, so I try to be good to it, go out to shows, stay involved in the scene. I wish I could have every band who hits us up asking if they could play a show with us, I wish we could let them, but we do our best to help people out. I’m glad people agree on us, that’s cool to know. Hip hop hooray. Who do they not agree on?
Well you know, I think it’s just funny coming into the scene like as an outsider, like I’m here because I’m genuinely enthusiastic about the music, but like, people who’ve known each other longer, it seems like there’s spaces for rifts to arise and everything.
That makes sense.
But uh, I dunno. I even know people back in the Northeast who like you guys, so it seems like you’re getting your name out there.
It’s spreading, man. We’ve played pretty good shows in Boston, I think we finally have outgrown Great Scott [in Allston], which I’m so happy about. Thank you Great Scott for the help, but yeah, I dunno. We’ve played there like five times, I just really don’t like the joint, we finally sold it out last time we were there so that was a good sign. I just wanna play the Sinclair [in Cambridge] more. That place is tight.
I don’t think I’ve ever actually been there.
Kind of comparable to Lincoln Hall but probably a little bigger, just a swanky joint. It’s just nice to play. And they give you a lot of tallboys. That’s alright with me.
Yeah Boston’s kinda weird when it comes to music, there’s a lot of venues and stuff but…I dunno, the scene is not really the same, I feel like. And also I don’t think the people are as cool there — there’s not a lot of cool, down to earth rock n roll types. It’s more like, bros.
It’s a big college city.
Yeah, it’s a college city.
There’s so many colleges there, it seems like. So it’s almost like a college town that got overgrown with more and more colleges…
Exactly, which is why I didn’t go to school there. Everyone’s like “why didn’t you go to school in Boston?” I’m like “well I grew up 20 minutes down the highway.”
I’m sure a lot of people from Boston don’t go to school in Boston, probably a lot of transplants. I like Chicago. I think part of what makes Chicago’s music scene work so well is, that for being such a big city it doesn’t have labels and publishing and execs and all that shit, it’s not a big business town for music, you know. It’s always had a lot of music history, like blues and jazz scenes here, but it’s pretty grassroots I think.
Yeah, I think that’s really cool. It’s such a DIY thing.
Plus the bands just wanna help each other out. There’s not much competition going on in Chicago. It’s kinda just like everybody’s doing their thing and most people get down with each other’s things. There’s definitely some beef here and there, but you know. I’m not confrontational, you know — I might not approve of everything everybody does, but I’m not gonna make it public unless I really need to, unless it’s some like racist shit, then by all means, call a motherfucker out. But drama man. I just don’t like drama.
Yeah, there’s no time for that.
…[laughs] Ain’t nobody got time for that, that’s true.
It’s just a waste of energy.
It’s a waste of energy and dude, Naropa knows about that. Do you consider yourself any sort of hippie-ish person?
Then Naropa was the right place for you!
Yeah, that’s where I did shrooms for the first time, first and second times.
Oh right on. Evergreen is the first place I did shrooms. Out there, shrooms grow wildly, magic shroomies…
Do they actually?
Well yeah, not super wildly but you can find them on lawns and in the woods there, people will throw woodchips down and they grow out of woodchips in the rain, I guess, I had no idea about that until I was there. Some kids make plots in the woods, kinda hidden so that they can get a bunch of shrooms and sell them. It’s like in abundance out there, so at a certain point you get sick of buying like $25 eighths of weed, cause you can get a gram for $5 of shrooms.
Oh my god, that sounds amazing.
Yeah, I had a week where I was doing shrooms like, every day. Not like a bunch, but it was kinda microdosing, and then I kinda realized for months afterwards, not some super fried acid casualty thing, but like, man, I like wore my brain out there, kinda like tired and slow all the time, take it easy. But I tried them there and I dived in there.
Well that’s the place to do it.
Yeah I mean, it’s gorgeous out there. Evergreen is very different, but kinda similar to Naropa, but probably a little less organized…I mean, I don’t know Naropa that well but it seems like for the most part kids who go there are pretty put together, and serious about what they’re doing in school.
Yeah, I guess it’s all schools like that — it’s a lot of great people, most people are great, but it’s just a lot of kids who aren’t motivated and it’s like 92% acceptance rate, there’s no grades, well yeah it’s gonna be a lot of like, stoned-ass motherfuckers who wanna do a bunch of drugs. And that was really uninspiring to be around in school. I get it, you know. I’m not judging them, I just didn’t wanna — I wouldn’t have stayed there either way. I don’t think I could like, honestly, made my own major and like, written up my own classes and shit…I’d rather just go to school and have grades and try to get good grades. It’s easier, just perform.
Yeah, I mean, these days, it’s just so fucking expensive.
I’m glad I’m not in school, but hopefully it doesn’t bite me in the ass one day. Only time will tell. Not too worried about it.
Yeah, I mean…yeah.
I’ll just have a wife who can be the breadwinner and she can support my failing artistry. Or a husband. Now I could have a husband. That’s great. I have a couple gay siblings so I’m very happy for them right now.
Yeah, it’s really great.
I remember actually — here’s a story: when I was like ten, my sister Coya who lives in the city, she’s lesbian and her and her partner got married in my backyard because they couldn’t actually get married. So they had a ceremony in my backyard, and my sister Molly who was in the 90s band I was talking about, she was dating this guy then, and he was bartending the shindig, and gave me like three glasses of champagne — like the celebratory one, but then he kinda kept being like “you want some more?” And I was ten and I was like “yeah, whatever,” so I got drunk — three glasses of champagne when you’re a little a ten-year-old kid, I was drunk as fuck. I didn’t really realize this until looking back later and being like “dude, like no wonder this happened cause I was drunk.”
So we had karaoke, and I had just seen “Wayne’s World” for the first time and I was watching that like every day, cause I was obsessed with “Bohemian Rhapsody.” And they didn’t have it on the karaoke, but I was so set on singing it. So I said “just give me the mic,” I guess this is one of my earlier performance experiences, I said “give me the fucking mic.” I’m like ten going “give me the fucking mic!!!” [laughs] And you know, I asked for the mic kindly, and I go through, and I’m like halfway or a little more through, and I missed one fucking word, or one line or something, and I just get so traumatized and drop the mic and run away crying. They had a Krispy Kreme cake that was just a bunch of donuts, stacked, and I had a lot of Krispy Kremes, and some champagne, and I just cried all night, and people were coming up and trying to console me and I was just “leave me alone!” and crying and I puked — and yeah! Early experience in life…shaped my performance…
Early rock star experience!
Yeah, just a sign that one day I would fail. No, I’ve had plenty of failures already, it’s okay to fail at things. You just gotta remember to learn from them. It’s the people who don’t have failures who are really failing. Mistakes are great. I’ve learned a lot of wrongs from the right things I did, and a lot of rights from the wrong things I did. So I’m into that. Fake-deep. Cadien Fake-Deep James.
No, you’re self-deprecating.
I just like to be goofy.
You seem very genuine, I dunno.
I’m pretty genuine. I dunno, I probably get a little bit from my obsession with Louie CK, I love comedians who just make fun of themselves all the time, so I like to give myself little jabs here and there. Just being self-aware. Sounding like a philosopher but just remember I’m not — winging it here. If I ever have a book I’m gonna call it “Winging It.”
That’s good, I like that.
That’s my approach to life — just wing it, man. Don’t plan it out too much. Just have a good time, try to be kind to my brother and sister.
That’s good, that’s like a good approach to life.
People make it too complicated. But I guess I got it easy, I can live at home and travel and people want to talk to me, it’s easy to just be like “well man, just have a good time, that’s what I did, just take it easy,” I don’t have to work, so — well I guess I have to work but it’s different, it’s work I love but there’s a lot of bullshit too. We try to be involved in business stuff with the band and be up to date. I wonder if the Orwells know where their money goes, or any of that stuff. I’m sure they do, there’s gotta be someone in the band who’s like all over it. They got a bigger system around them, that’s why I wonder. I should just ask them. We’ve always…
Yeah, how did you get to know those guys?
Henry [Brinner] messaged our old keyboardist Lucas while we were in high school, and we had a demo tape out and he was like “we all in Elmhurst are loving this, you should come out and play Mario’s garage house show,” and so we were like of course, what else were we doing at the time, we’ll play the suburbs. So we went out and he had a second floor to the garage — they had just had the cops come recently so there was no drinking, we were all like seniors but no one was drinking — smoking a bunch of cigs and smoking pot. And we played up there, and actually Alex Rebek, Pat, and Thomas’s old band, I’m blanking on the name of it —
Star Spangled KGB?
Yeah, got it. They played, I didn’t remember til later — Alex had shorter hair back then — but they played, and the Orwells played, and we played, and that was actually the first time that people like, sang along to all our songs, was in the suburbs out there — like every kid there knew all the songs in our demo tape somehow, like they’d been listening and it was funny cause no one was drinking but these kids were like hanging from the rafters in the garage and just going fucking nuts, it was like 15–20 people but we were all just having a blast. And so we put that out, and we were doing our first tour, DIY tour we booked, and I had a kickoff in my back yard — family, you know — we had five bands play the show and we had the Orwells play, and we kinda kept connecting there. And then we were on our way out to Evergreen, me and Connor and Jack, we’re driving the band van after the tour, driving up to Washington to go to school with our three dads in the car with us, it was an interesting road trip — and they had hit up Autumn Tone label and been like “yo these guys are doing this album Sunken, you should put it out cause it’s just online right now” — so they kinda got us signed.
And Autumn Tone hit us up while we were driving out there so it was really funny cause we were about to go to school and they’re like “do you guys wanna put out your record and come to South By” and we were like “let’s just keep talking about it, give us a couple weeks, like let’s talk about this for a little bit.” I remember on our first tour, the DIY tour we did the summer after high school, the third date or second date was Minneapolis, and there’s this chick in this older band, Teenage Moods, great band out of Minneapolis, but we played their house, and she was like “you guys are going to school? Why are you going to school, you guys should keep doing this, you guys are really good at this,” and we were like, well, we’re just playing basements and stuff, and she was like yeah but you’re young, just keep doing it…and so that was kind of stuck in my head that tour, I took it hard, I was like damn, I’d be down to keep doing this, if we had more time we could make this happen. Cause I saw the Smith Westerns do it, so I was always of the mindset that this could be done, cause my brother was in a band that did it, and didn’t really go to school for more than a couple months.
So I remember talking to Clay a couple weeks later in Austin on that tour, we went out to get burritos one morning and me and him are eating breakfast, and I’m like “dude Clay, like, we shouldn’t go to school man, we should be doing this. This has been so much fun, this is great.” And we both got so psyched on it, we were like dude, yeah, yeah let’s do it, and we go back to the house where everybody is and we start talking about it, and “are you guys fucking high?” Like, “we’re already going to school, I have like down payments made, we’ll talk about it next year but we’re still going to school this year.” So it got left behind at that point, and then we were on our way out to school and it just re-clicked. I was like see, I knew that this was supposed to happen.
So a week or two into school, get on the phone with Clay cause he’s down in California and we’re up in Washington, and he’s like yeah man, I don’t really fuck with school, let’s do it, fuck it. And Lucas, our original keyboardist, he booked the whole first tour and really without that guy we would’ve been nothing. Owe that guy a lot, miss him a lot. But uh, he was going to school for film at Cal Arts, and he was kinda like you know what dudes, you got my blessing, go for it, but nah. And David Miller came with us, and that’s all that stuff. But the Orwells got us signed, and we got back, and they’ve been boys, they brought us on tour and that was huge for us. So they’ve done so much for us becoming a band. Yeah, without them, we probably would not have anything…
I like weed…it’s getting harder for me though, I dunno. It’s hard for me to talk a lot of times when I get high, it always has been but I guess I’m more aware of it and less cool with that. I wanna be able to converse with people. I hate just sitting there and being like I’m just gonna look at my phone, which totally happens to me all the time when I’m stoned nowadays. I hang out with my brother at home cause we don’t need to talk, we just play video games — “I’m glad to be around you bro, let’s play some minecraft.”
Yeah, that’s nice.
It is, it’s very — cozy. I thought I was about to knock over this glass again but it’s just a straw.
I wouldn’t be surprised, I can be kind of a klutz. I mean, I did break my leg having Mario on my back in New Orleans.
That was a blast.
Yeah, that’s crazy.
I’m glad my leg’s not broken now. I got six screws and a plate. I have a screw like right here. That’s a screw. It’s kinda fucked, but it’s kinda fun. I thought I was gonna get it taken out, but then I went to see the dude and he was like, well, if you wanna pay my daughter’s college tuition we can take that out, and I was like okay, so we’re leaving it. I get it. Thanks though.
Yeah you played what, Pitchfork with the broken leg?
Yeah I was in a wheelchair, that’s the one who got press. That’s what pissed me off, it was totally cool but like MTV said, they were like “first day is over and already the best set of the weekend happened, this dude was in a fucking wheelchair,” and I was like “thanks for not saying it’s cause we were rocking so hard, it’s just cause I was in a wheelchair it was the best set? Fuck you guys,” but that was just cause I was upset I was in a wheelchair. And so I was being a little baby about it.
Yeah that was a long year last year, March until October, I was not walking. I was still getting fucked up with the Orwells on that March tour when it happened, I just wasn’t moving much. People were getting me drinks, I was just posted with my leg up, like yeah, my leg’s broken, this is great. [laughs] In some senses it was really tight cause people are really nice to you when you have a broken leg and they really take care of you, but also being in a band on tour, I just felt terrible cause it was like, it sucked playing shows like that, not being able to hold it down, really, and not being able to help move gear, man — I felt so bad that the guys were holding my weight and had to set up my shit and break it down. Sometimes, just cause I really wanted to do it, I would go set up my pedals like laying down onstage, just throw out my crutches and lay down on the ground and start setting shit up, cause you don’t wanna just watch other people do that. You start feeling like a useless little being, you don’t wanna be useless.
Yeah, that’s tough.
Yeah, but you know. At least my leg still works. It’s a lot tougher for most people in the world, most people got it a lot worse than a broken leg, at 20 on tour in a rock band, playing for screaming girls, and…I don’t know where I was going with that, but you get the vibe.
It could always be worse, for sure.
Count your blessings. Be grateful. That’s my overall message in life.
That’s good, I like it. Very positive.
Positivity, man. I did a group project on PMA in English my senior year — Positive Mental Attitude. Manifestation. Set your eyes on something and believe it and do it and make it happen. And sometimes it’s totally not true, like, you can’t just decide you’re gonna be a basketball star, cause most people are not gonna be able to do it physically, and maybe you can’t just decide to be a rock star. But you know, I don’t know whether to tell people that or not. Cause it’s working out alright for me and some of my friends, and some of my friends I’ve told that, seems like it’s going pretty good. But you never know if you’re gonna say that to someone, like “dude you just suck at music, you’re just not gonna be able to do this, you got a long ways to go.” But yeah, it’s a good message in general. Just try hard, do what you love.
My friend from last night just texted me, “hey how did the interview go, did you spew tacos all over the interviewer’s face” — delighted to say that didn’t happen.
So far, so good.
You should go to the Green Mill. Make a point of it. Go with a friend.
Yeah, I will.
I bet Matt O’Keefe would fuck with going to the jazz bar. Is he 21 yet?
Damn, I forgot.
I know, I asked him that the other day — he’s like nope, still 20.
Does he have a fake?
He used to have a fake, but then it got taken from him when they were on tour, and I dunno if he ever got another one.
They were saying there was some place they went to like in Logan…
[Cadien says name of place that I don’t hear]
It was [something]. I remember one time I was with the Orwells over at my buddy Max’s place, who used to be in Smith Westerns and plays in this band Whitney, we were hanging out at their apartment with those guys and they kept talking about how they wanted to go to a bar and we’re like “none of us are 21.” And they were like “they’ll probably let us in, we’ll take Grant first, and if Grant gets in, we’ll all get in.” And it was like “damn, true.” So when Grant texted us 10 minutes later, he’s like “I’m in,” we’re like okay, let’s go, cause if that baby-faced-ass little dude got in, no problem.
That’s so funny.
If he’s 21, I can be 30.
Yeah, for sure.
I’m sorry if you read that, Grant, or if that gets quoted.
Yeah, we’ll see what happens.
Hey, he can’t blame me, he was there and was down with the plan so, he’s aware.
He’s just gonna look better for longer, so — you got it going on, Grant. I’m talking into your phone a couple times in this, like acknowledging it as a person.
My buddy Daniel Topete, he does a lot of photography for us. His Tumblr has blown up with fans of ours and the Orwells who just, like, hit him up once a week being like “when are you shooting Twin Peaks again, we wanna see more pictures! Like oh my god how is it hanging with them!” and he starts telling me about it and I’m like, this world is crazy. I remember when I discovered that there was a fan Tumblr for us. And I gotta say, I check up on it here and there, and I don’t think she likes us as much as she did when she was a year or two younger. She used to update it every day, like hardcore, now it’s every couple weeks she’ll do some stuff. But uh, it’s okay. I’m not mad at her. I still think it’s far out that she did that. But I wonder if she’s just growing up and is like “I don’t really wanna run a fan page for a band,” which I would understand, cause I would never run a fan page for a band. But to each their own.
I think also when you aren’t guys aren’t like touring and stuff there’s like less —
No man, we’ve been on tour heavy.
Well that’s true, I guess I’m thinking of like the Orwells fan stuff.
She’s been copping out, man. Just kidding.
We need more content all the time! Yeah no Daniel’s cool, I haven’t actually met him in person but I got some of his pictures for the Orwells articles.
He is awesome. When I first met him it was our first South By in 2013, and he took a portrait of us and I realized his second cousin, his mom’s cousin, was my babysitter growing up. So we became buddies and started getting tight and then he stayed at my house last summer when I had a broken leg, and we decided that we’re cousins. So that’s my dude, that’s my cousin, we’re tight.
Yeah wow, you really have the whole family thing going on. I think I’m gonna hit up Jesse Fox for this one.
Oh yeah, she’s awesome. She’s the homie. We saw her in Cincinnati.
Didn’t her band play with you guys?
Yeah, Slippery Lips, and the bass hit her in the head during the set and she had blood all over her face and she kept going, and literally used toilet paper and duct tape. And she stayed the whole night. And we were like “you should probably go get stitches man, that was really fucked up,” and she was like “yeah, I’m kinda lightheaded but fuck it! I’m taking photos tonight, and I’m gonna be up front!” And she was, she was drinking beer and taking photos, and they probably turned out great.
We were both at the Fat White Family show here, I think that was the last time I saw her.
Dude, how great are they live.
They’re so fucking good. I went with Miles and Alex and some of those guys, it was like a Tuesday at Lincoln Hall and it wasn’t even that filled.
I heard it was kinda empty, yeah. Which sucks, I really wanted them to have a good show while they were here.
Yeah, I mean they still put on a great show.
But yeah I mean they’re incredible live. We’ve seen them like four times, maybe more, and the first couple times we met them, they were like, a little crazier, but they’ve been really kind to us the last few times we saw them. They like to kick it man, they’re chill. There’s some crazy stories, they’re like a real fuckin deal rock n roll band. They’re really nice dudes and they’re amazing musicians too. And they have it figured out, they’re not bullshitting it. I’m excited for the next album. Recorded it at John Lennon’s mansion.
Did they really?
Which still has like all of John Lennon’s old gear, so they’re playing like John Lennon’s old guitars and shit.
I wish I was tight with Sean Lennon!
But I’m not.
Maybe they can introduce you.
Jack actually really freaked out Sean Lennon, we played a show with Fat Whites and Sean in Toronto, and Jack was in the stall next to Sean Lennon, and he just puts his hand down and goes “nice shoes bro!” And Sean Lennon like ran out of the bathroom and was like really freaked out by Jack the rest of the night. And I was like dude, that’s tight. You freaked out Sean Lennon, that’s fucking John’s kid that no one really knows about. It would suck if your dad was a super famous successful musician. If your dad was a Beatle and you try to be a musician — I’d be like I’ll do architecture or I’m just gonna chill cause I’m rich as fuck. Of course I would travel and be nice, but that’s me. And actually you know what Sean Lennon loves making music so good for him. Shouldn’t be talking shit.
I think John’s other son also plays music…
Julian, yeah. I like Julian’s songs more. The guys in Real Estate are apparently big Julian Lennon fans.
He’s got some hits, 80s or 90s hits.
Yeah, I guess I never really listened to him so much.
They’re definitely better cause they’re Lennons. But it’s also worse, cause they’re Lennons. That’s hard. Or Jakob Dylan too, man, y’all gotta talk.
Man, I wanna see Deerhunter again. I was so high on hash watching them at Pitchfork, I literally might as well have been on acid, and I was just like crying. And Clay was looking at me like “what’s wrong with you” and I was like “this is so beautiful! I can’t believe this!”
[Cadien answers phone call from his mom, I hit the ladies’ room]
How’s your mom doing?
Good, she really wants me to go take my medication, and I’m trying to tell her I’m aware I’m gonna take it. I have seizures, so I have to take anti-seizure medications.
Oh okay. Does the weed help at all?
Apparently 99% of weeds have anti-seizure properties, and 1% could have seizure-inducing properties, but they’re not connected to my seizures, they’re connected to my lack of sleep and alcohol, which are a regular thing in my life. But my medication works, so I’m good. I haven’t had one since December. I had one in December because I got really drunk and forgot to take it at bed that night. And now I’m just taking meds once a day, so it’s been really easy, and I’m good. So hip hip hooray.
So you’ve always had it?
I started having them my senior year of high school. Not really sure what caused it. I had it during the school week one night, I had one in my sleep — it was a week I was taking a break from smoking weed, it was on a school night, I dunno. But I had grand mal seizures which are actually really intense, like five minute crazy seizures. “That’s my deep hardest thing, that’s my struggle. I have seizures.” [laughs] Yeah I dunno what happened with that, but I’ve had like ten since then. They’ve been spread out. Some people have them every day. It’s not too bad, I don’t mind. Like, I mind, but it’s a good way to keep me in check with any drug or alcohol use. Try to take it easy pretty regularly.
So do you have to take the medication like every day then?
Yeah. It used to be morning and night that I had to take them, so it was really hard to remember if I took it or didn’t take it, now I just have like an extended-release one. Just once a day, I can remember in the morning to take a med.
So your mom wants you to go take your pill now?
Yeah, but it doesn’t matter.
Were you gonna try to go down to the parade at all?
I dunno dude, I mean I should, especially this year, it’s gonna be fucking nuts, but…I’m tired. I’m really bad at like, saying no to things when I’m home. I’ve been out a ton but I’ve also been just hanging out with people on days when I should really be getting rest and sleeping, I’ve been like, well it’s your birthday, I’m only here for five days, I should go…even though I’m also only here for three more days and I need to sleep. I should just sleep. But I get it from tour schedule, I’m just very social. Wanna go do things. But I haven’t gone to parties cause, no. Cause no. Not down.
So you’re an extrovert then?
Yes, aren’t we all like, introverted extroverts or extroverted introverts, I don’t know the difference. I’m definitely introverted in many ways, but I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I wasn’t an extrovert. I like people, I like to talk, I like to listen to people, people are cool, but also, you know. I am aware of and believe in the fact we’re all out here by ourselves, as much as you can relate to people’s experiences, you can never truly know or understand anyone else’s experience. We try our best with symbols and words to communicate it, but we’re all island universes, and uh, that’s pretty cool.
I remember I kinda copped that phrase from one of the first pages of The Doors of Perception, Heaven and Hell, that book, talking about that and I read this paragraph so high and loving it, like “dude that’s fucked up, that’s heavy!” I kept reading it back over and after like the third time through I was like “yeah man, no true, only me understands me and that’s kinda cool.” It took me a minute to get that perspective there, but it did a lot for me. I took that page to heart. That was just earlier this year, and I still think that way. Might be making its way into some of my words, on records, I dunno. We’ll see.
Yeah, that’d be cool.
Hint, hint. No but it was cool, I didn’t read the rest of the book. [laughs] I read those pages and I was like “that’s cool.” I don’t need to read about this guy’s drug experiences, I’ll do it later. Have you read that book?
No, I’ve always been meaning to.
It’s a classic I guess.
I’ve only read Brave New World by him.
I need to read that book. I think I would really like that book.
Yeah do you like dystopic future stuff?
Yes, yes. I do. I’m a big fan of that.
Like Fahrenheit 451…
See, I never finished that book. I’m really bad at finishing books.
Yeah, me too.
I need to get better at books. Clay’s really smart and reads a lot of books, so does Jack. And I used to love reading books and I still like reading books, I’m just — it’s hard for me to read when I’m on tour, and when I’m home I don’t want to spend my time reading. I should, I’d probably have some great stuff going on up here if I read books. I’d probably be growing a lot more as a person. But I feel like I have a lot of time to do that in life. Right now I’m just gonna soak up the experiences around me.
Yeah, you know, everything has value…hopefully.
Yeah dude. Everything’s got value. I agree.
Huge, huge thanks to Cadien for sitting down with me and having this whole chat on a morning when he probably would’ve rather been sleeping during his rare few days off at home in Chicago, and giving me (on behalf of Houseshow and rock fans everywhere) a detailed glimpse into this stage at the young rock n roll bodhisattva’s life, where he’s come from and where he’s going. Very much looking forward to seeing where this journey heads next. Let’s close it out with my absolute favorite Twin Peaks song and video directed by Ryan Ohm.
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