Interview with Joel Sires – guitarist/vocalist for TWINS
Ruix: I was wondering what some of your earliest musical memories are. Considering the amount of Cedar Valley musicians with the surname Sires, I’m assuming music was a big part of your family growing up?
Joel Sires: I wish I had a cool stock answer for this, but music has really sort of always been around. I consider myself lucky, as I feel people my age were right at the tail end of radio and MTV playing a big role in shaping our tastes. So pop radio in the late 80’s to the mid 90’s was definitely some of the first stuff I remember. For example, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” playing from my mom’s bedside alarm clock radio and my dad and my uncles singing beer-soaked versions of early Beatles songs are some of my earliest musical memories. But really, probably listening to my uncle Dean Sires play country bluegrass guitar on Iowa Public Radio and at family get togethers really had the biggest impact on me and it’s probably the same for my brother and all our cousins. That’s what sort of got all the Sires boys picking up instruments.
Rx: When did you start playing music seriously? Was the Teddy Boys your first band?
JS: I was a relative late-comer to actually playing music, compared to the rest of the family. I tinkered around with guitars when I was still a little boy. My brother and I learned the riff to “Smoke on the Water” at the same time – he learned it on the low E and I learned it on the high E. I didn’t come back to guitar until I was about 19 or 20 and didn’t start writing songs for real until I was probably 22. My first band was the Teddy Boys, with my brother Harper, Devin Ferguson from TWINS, Dylan Sires, and Ross Klemz from Dylan Sires & Neighbors. All the other boys had kicked around in high school bands before we started taking it “serious” with the Teddy Boys.
“I consider myself lucky, as I feel people my age were right at the tail end of radio and MTV playing a big role in shaping our tastes. So pop radio in the late 80’s to the mid 90’s was definitely some of the first stuff I remember.”
Rx: I first met you back in 2008, when the Teddy Boys came through Dubuque with Samuel Locke Ward. How many albums did you release, and when did you call it quits?
JS: As the Teddy Boys we recorded a lot of music, but only officially released one album, in 2006. It was called Love After Dark and I’m pretty sure Ross still has an entire spindle in his basement if anyone is interested! That band was a lot of fun, but towards the end I was sort of responsible for every aspect of the business side of things and felt like I wasn’t able to spend as much time doing the thing I enjoyed and got into it in the first place for – writing songs. We didn’t really break up or anything, we sort of just fizzled out after I quit booking shows. We went about as far as a band with no business-minded people or outside help could go. But I had a lot of fun learning. And I still love about 95% of the music we made together.
Rx: The members of the Teddy Boys more or less formed two bands representative of the two main stylistic elements of the Teddy Boys – Dylan Sires & Neighbors and TWINS. Was this an intentional decision?
JS: Well, I mean I can’t speak for Dylan and his band, but for me, yes, it was intentional to keep moving in the direction of some of the last songs I wrote for the band. I recorded a lot on my own after the band dissolved and that was more in the vein of pre-Beatles Brill Building-type stuff. When we started TWINS in late 2012 and I had a drummer behind me again I fell right back into the power pop stuff.
Rx: We are both big fans of Brian Cox (mastermind behind the Slats, an Iowa skronk-pop band most active in the early/mid 2000s). What aspects of the Slats resonate most with you, and how do they factor into your songwriting and playing?
JS: Oh yeah, I love the Slats. They blew my mind when I first heard them. I couldn’t believe there was a band that great and unique that was basically from my neighborhood. The effect they had on me was pretty profound. It was like, after I heard the Slats for the first time I went home, cut my hippie hair, and threw away a good majority of my music collection – it was huge. The songs still hold up. They’re brilliant. Especially Brian’s stuff. The hooks have stayed with me, the absurd lyrics and the brevity with which they operate inside their songs have long been things I have taken away and have tried to put to use in my own work. I still measure every new song I write on “the Slats scale”. I rarely live up to it, but I try. Benchmark group for me and a lot of other Iowa musicians.
“after I heard the Slats for the first time I went home, cut my hippie hair, and threw away a good majority of my music collection – it was huge. The songs still hold up. They’re brilliant.”
Rx: TWINS is obviously indebted heavily to power pop. Why did this genre hook you? How do you pay tribute to a past era while putting your own stamp on the form?
JS: Yes, power pop has always been my sweet spot. I Can’t Explain (pun intended) why power pop has always been my thing. I suppose finding one artist has led to another to another that is in a similar vein. It’s just such a cool genre and it’s always seemed real and honest. You get great, clear messages over heartbreaking and sticky sweet vocal hooks, laid overtop muscular, ballsy guitars. Everything is economical and working class. You broke my heart and I’m bummed but not bummed enough to sing a pretty melody and kick your ass with a nice fat guitar sound.
“You broke my heart and I’m bummed but not bummed enough to sing a pretty melody and kick your ass with a nice fat guitar sound.”
Rx: Along with power pop, I hear a lot of Thin Lizzy in your newer songs. Please tell me I am right.
JS: You are correct and yes, I love Thin Lizzy. I have been HUGELY into the late 70’s hard rock sound, which to me is a close relative of power pop, for the last couple years. Mostly via Cheap Trick’s influence on me I was steered towards great shit like Thin Lizzy, the Runaways, Kiss, Sweet, the Move, and AC/DC. Those influences have definitely jumped into the foreground on my new songs for our next record. And I’m excited for people to hear the new LP and dig up some of those great bands.
Rx: Your first album was self-released. Your second LP, Tomboys on Parade, was released by Maximum Ames, one of the most visible labels in Iowa. How did you come to their attention and what is this relationship like?
JS: I wish I could say that we came to Maximum Ames’ attention because we were the best band in town, but really a lot of it had to do with the online support and word of mouth Patrick Tape Fleming stirred up for us following our first album, Funny Faces. He definitely was our champion in Des Moines, still is. Mostly we work closest with Chris Ford at Max Ames. Chris also really took us under his wing when putting together our LP Tomboys on Parade and really encouraged us to work hard for ourselves alongside the support provided by the label. We have learned so much in our time with Maximum Ames and we have made some of our best friends via working with them. It has been a lot of fun and I feel forever grateful to Chris and Pat for all their continued help. I couldn’t be happier being closely associated with the two brightest and best songwriters in Iowa. Love those dudes.
The plan is to have a set of songs that is representative of our live sound, with a slightly heavier guitar sound then we have used in the past and a continued emphasis on harmonies and mega hooks. It’s far and away the best set of songs we have ever went into the studio with and I’m itching to share it with people.
Rx: What’s on the horizon? Is there a new TWINS record forthcoming?
JS: 2016 will hopefully be a banner year for us! We had a little trouble getting out of the gate with this new set of songs but we are currently at the Sonic Factory Recording Studio in Des Moines, Iowa, recording our new LP with producer Patrick Tape Fleming. The plan is to have a set of songs that is representative of our live sound, with a slightly heavier guitar sound then we have used in the past and a continued emphasis on harmonies and mega hooks. It’s far and away the best set of songs we have ever went into the studio with and I’m itching to share it with people. Plan is to have it wrapped up and to the label by January and then after that it is up to them when it’s released. Hopefully as soon as possible, so we can get back on the road supporting a brand new product, visiting good friends, playing alongside great musicians, and turning some heads and hearts on to rock and roll music. It’s what we do best.
Learn more about TWINS at www.twinstheband.com.
All 12 tracks of Square America, the latests tunes by TWINS, are AVAILABLE NOW via maximumames.com.
About The Author:
Bob Bucko, Jr. has been in a thousand bands you’ve never heard of. He has released three solo LPs as BBJr, as well as loads of CDs and cassettes under his own name and in collaboration with friends. He also operates the Personal Archives record label and is Board President of the Dubuque Area Arts Collective.