Psychic Twin is the brainchild of Erin Fein. Along with Rosana Caban, Psychic Twin has just released their first album Strange Diary on Polyvinyl Records. Fein is no stranger to the music world. She was in Absinthe Bline as well as Headlights, having eight albums between them not counting EP’s and other releases. Fein answers our questions about Strange Diary, the difficult journey that it took to produce it, and her new found co-artist in Rosana Caban.
Somewherecold: Hello Erin. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I think I’d like to begin by asking you about origins. When did you start being “musical” and what drew you to music in the first place?
Erin Fein: Well, I started to be musical I think from the very moment that I knew how. I was playing the piano and singing from a very very young age. I wrote songs from the time I was very small. I guess its just one of those unexplainable biological things. I feel like I have always had some kind of connection and understanding with the musical realm.
Over the years, what has motivated you to continue working in bands and, now, bringing out your own debut album in Strange Diary?
That’s hard to define. I know I felt like I had music trapped inside of me. Stuck, waiting for me to do something about it. I had always worked with other people previously, so I really had this nagging feeling on the inside about how I felt I sort of needed to find out what would happen if i struck out on my own and wrote a record, just me. I felt like the creation of Psychic Twin was partly to satisfy that question inside of me. And at the end of the day, I just really love writing and making music. So I have kept doing it because I just love it so much.
Strange Diary, for me, was an incredibly raw listen. I don’t mean that in the sense of production but in the fact that you bare your soul here. First I would like to thank you for sharing this with the world. I find this sort of art to be incredibly important for those of us that need catharsis in similar situations. Second, can you talk a bit about the history of this album? Where is it coming from and how did it get to its final form?
Thank you for sharing that with me. It means so much to me to know that maybe what I went through might reach or help someone else who has been through something similar. I know at the very darkest times in my life, I have greatly benefited from reading or listening to other people talk about or share their journey through great pain in some way.
The album’s history is long. I started writing in my basement in Urbana, Illinois. I just let the music pour out and worked and wrote and wrote and worked until I found the sonic path for Psychic Twin. There were many changes around the making of the album. Namely my marriage and my musical partnership absolutely fell apart. But the nature of what I was writing about and how I wanted it to sound, that never changed. Once I knew where to go with the project, I stayed in the dream world that exists in my mind and wrote from that place. So it didn’t matter where I was, or who I was recording with, the vision remained. I eventually moved to Brooklyn alone and continued to write and pursue my dream to finish and eventually release this record. The final version came together after working to find people who I felt understood my vision and could help me to expand and finish it. First meeting Rosana, meeting my manager Dave Mount, and then meeting Jacob Portrait and working with him on the final version of the album. That’s when I feel like things really clicked into place. It took years to find the right team. The songwriting was done way before the release of the album, but having songs is only one part of releasing a record. It has been an uphill climb from the beginning, but every part of the process has lead me somewhere. The nights in my basement before my whole life fell apart, to the lonely garageband sessions in my bedroom in Brooklyn, to the cabin sessions in Pennsylvania with Rosana, to the finishing touches with Jake in Greenpoint. Just as my life was twisting and turning, so was the process of completing this album. I’m so very happy to say I survived the long process and so very grateful that I was able to release this record after everything. It is a dream come true.
Can you talk a bit about your choices for tones and textures in the composition of the songs on Strange Diary? What draws you to certain synth sounds and sonics? How do you approach songwriting in this regard as you arrange different beats, textures, and voices in your mixes?
I, like most songwriters I presume, am very particular about all of the sounds I use. You have to be. The tones and textures on an album are what make it unique, they are what gives your music its character, its shape and its feeling. I knew that I wanted Strange Diary to go deep, in that, I wanted there to be melodic depth to the songs. So I gravitated towards sounds that felt that way to me. The beats, I wanted to have a sense of urgency and also the rhythm of the heart beating, I wanted to be able to dance to the music, but to not make traditional dance music. I wanted the music to have a somber tone because that is how I was feeling, but I wanted to bring a peacefulness into to the songs as well, maybe because that is what I was searching for.
I’m curious about the song order on the disc. Is there a purposefully chronological sequence to the songs? Like, are the first from your time in Champagne- Urbana and the later tracks from your initial times in New York? If this is the case, where do the chronological breaks happen?
The structure of the album has to do with lyrical content and flow. I think if you read the lyrics you can discern a journey, and if you listen to the whole record you can hear that journey sonically as well. That was my hope anyway. 🙂
When I do interviews, I like to choose a few songs on the most current disc of the artist to hone specifically in on those tracks. Can you talk more in depth about “Running in the Dark” and “Hopeless”?
“Running in the Dark” is a song I wrote about experiencing insomnia and panic attacks while going through my divorce. To put it simply, I was having tremendous anxiety surrounding the divorce, I was trying to process what had happened, what had gone wrong. This song is in reference to me being awake all night, trying to unravel all of the confusion about what had happened in my mind and acknowledging my need to get away, to run far away so that I could start my life on a path that didn’t feel so messed up. “Hopeless” is ultimately about loneliness, the deep, enduring loneliness that came about from moving to New York City alone on the heels of a broken heart.
Rosana Caban plays drums on the disc, correct? Can you talk a bit about her role in the project, how you two met and began to work together, and what sort of influence she may have had on the arrangement of songs in the studio?
Drums weren’t exactly ‘played’ on the album, they were written, and put together in programs, the
drumming on the album is all electronic. The drum parts were written by myself and Rosana and several other people who I worked with in earlier stages of Psychic Twin. Rosana is my live drummer. She is an incredible live drummer and she is also an audio engineer and producer. She and I worked on “Lose Myself” together, but the other songs on the album were written before she joined. She has had a tremendous impact on Psychic Twin however. From recording the final single with me, to helping our live show become what I had always dreamt it would be, but never knew if I could achieve, until I met her. Things were not where they were supposed to be for Psychic Twin until I met Rosana. And I have never felt so connected, supported and cared for by a bandmate before. I was looking for someone who would respect how much I want and need to have my hands on all of the elements of Psychic twin because it is so personal, someone who would not be offended or bothered by that. She completely respects my vision and my process, and helps me in the areas where i am not as strong. She’s truly the yin to my yang in the project.
Drums weren’t exactly ‘played’ on the album, they were written, and put together in programs, the drumming on the album is all electronic. The drum parts were written by myself and Rosana and several other people who i worked with in earlier stages of psychic twin. Rosana is my live drummer. She is an incredible live drummer and she is also an audio engineer and producer. She and I worked on Lose Myself together, but the other songs on the album were written before she joined. She has had a tremendous impact on Psychic Twin however. From recording the final single with me, to helping our live show become what i had always dreamt it would be, but never knew if I could achieve, until i met her, Things were not where they were supposed to be for Psychic Twin until I met Rosana. And i have never felt so connected, supported and cared for by a bandmate before. I was looking for someone who would respect how much i want and need to have my hands on all of the elements of Psychic Twin because it is so personal, someone who would not be offended or bothered by that. She completely respects my vision and my process and helps me in the areas where I am not as strong. She’s truly the yin to my yang in the project.
For our readers who are gear-heads, what equipment do you use in the studio? What does your live set-up look like? Also, if there was any piece of gear you could have that you do not, what would it be?
That’s a tough question to answer because I recorded this album literally all over the place and with many different people. I recorded parts of it in my basement in Illinois, in a friend’s house in Indiana, in a cabin in Pennsylvania, in Rosanna’s parents’ house in Florida and in my friend’s apartment in Brooklyn. We use pro tools now, but my former bandmate used Cubase. Rosana has a great microphone by Blue called a Bluebird, its first gen (circa 2006) that we did a lot of the re-recording of my vocals on. It’s a really great mic. She uses a Focusrite 24i interface. Truth be told, we don’t have a lot of fancy recording gear yet, but we did a lot with what we had. For me, part of what makes the record so special, in terms of gear, are all of the vintage synths. There are so many special synths on the record. Yamaha SY77, Juno 60 and 106, Prophet 5, Casiotone 701 and 405, just to name a few. And I love to manipulate the sounds either internally or with effects pedals. Lots and lots of effects pedals. Right now, I would really like to own my own Prophet 5 and also a Mellotron. I am currently taking donations… (haha)
The other night, you had a record release party at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, NY. How was the experience?
It was one of the absolute best nights of my life. I’m not sure how to describe it. We worked with a wonderful choreographer, Ashley Robicheaux and four dancers who joined us for three songs. We had guest vocals from Angelica Bess of Body Language and then National Sawdust itself is just the most incredible sounding and looking venue. I encourage anyone reading this interview to google it just so you can see what it looks like inside. I felt like we were in a rocket ship, and every one of us went up into space that night. I got to share a very personal journey and story. Everything looked beautiful, we wore Chromat that night and will now be wearing their pieces every night of our upcoming tour with Strfkr! This night was where everything came together, but in a way, it felt like an ending to me. I said goodbye to my old heart and asked a new one to take its place, I felt that something was completed, something was finished. The audience was so wonderful, it just couldn’t have been a more beautiful and cathartic night.
What artists/bands have most influenced you in terms how you write, listen to, and think about music?
Some of my heroes: Annie Lennox, Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper, Janet Jackson, Arthur Russell, Tears for Fears, Giorgio Moroder, Brian Eno, John Carpenter, Siouxsie Sioux.
Thank you so much for talking with me. I hope you have a fabulous tour.
For tour dates and releases for Psychic Twin, go to the Polyvinyl site here.