Rise Twain is the duo of Brett William Kull and JD Beck. We recently looked at their self-titled album (reviewed here) released on the ‘mainly prog’ Inside Out Music label. The guys were very kind to respond by email to a few prompts, so to find out more about Rise Twain, the album and the pair that created it, read on.
LTW: The two of you worked together over a decade ago (on The Scenic Route, I believe) with the intention to do something together. How did you finally make this happen?
Brett: Yes, JD and I got to know each other on the album North by his band, The Scenic Route. We sort-of made a pact that we’d work on something together, as writing partners, down the road. He and I just found a natural, easy, and inspired writing model – without it being structured or overwrought. The pact finally came to fruition when I asked JD to add some piano and vocals to two songs on my album, Open Skies Exploding. Despite it being many years on we were instantly reminded why we liked to work together. From those two songs came the spark to create a project together.
JD: … and from there the process, once in motion, reaffirmed our ability to work together. It is free of onerous tendencies or pressure of expectations many duo or team songwriters can face. It is a mature and educated arena for Brett and I; it allows for maximum fluidity in conception to delivery.
LTW: When you talk about gelling with someone, what was it between the two of you that clicked?
Brett: From my point of view I look for creative openness and unique ideas that can be executed authentically. JD has these qualities. He has a great sense of humour, as well as a lightness AND darkness that I also respond to.
JD: We share fluency in mind-expanding sound-language, a keen ear, and the ability to translate soundscapes from the reaches of unfamiliar depths, as well as the thoughtfulness of space in between. Brett is a veteran and a master at these things. Communication is easy and allows for endless opportunities in the work at hand. Yet, as deep as we can go in the fabric of those vibrations, we agree that simplicity and the notion of allowing the expression to breathe is paramount. We also share the sense that expression should be universal or should be able to be seen from different points-of-view, or angles as to allow the listener to take their own life’s meaning from the music. Having these qualities makes making music so incredibly enjoyable. I am thankful for his abilities. Plus, we laugh. Nothing is too serious to pry apart our friendship.
LTW: What was the writing process for the album? Did you start with a blank page or bring any musical or lyrical ideas to the table?
Brett: We generally (alone) had a verse or a couple of strung-together ideas that represented a mood, song, or simple structure. The idea could include lyrics (or not). This was true to varying degrees for all the songs, i.e. some more, some less complete. When the two of us got together in a room, showing the other an idea, the process was very fast, instinctual, and creative. We’d generally have a completed idea very quickly then schedule a night to record to stay on top of the energy and mood. From a big-picture view, we followed the emotion and lyrics rather than chords or riffs.
JD.: It was a text ping that became my favourite noise. I knew if the text came from Brett there would be some snippet or skeleton offered. I’d run to my piano like a child who had never beheld a toy before. I’d sit and in headphones repeat the treatment until a response was cast. Then, it was exactly as Brett had said in bringing lyrics or emotions to the table. However, I think we were both sensitive enough to make it personal but also able to coexist in both our lives.
LTW: You seem to have covered all the musical bases yourselves – was there any temptation to bring in other musicians?
Brett: We knew we wanted drums on the songs; Jordan Perlson and John Bicer each played five songs to accommodate this. JD and I had no problem bringing in other people to add colour, but the process just ended up unfolding with he and I playing all the parts.
JD: Indeed. We had some vocal comrades interwoven in parts that gave the choral parts some fresh colours. I do need to express my honour to Brett for he would take a skeleton and add a great deal of instrumentation, as needed, to fill in the voids so to speak. Then he’d send her on over and ask, “What needs changing? Who can be the change? What can you add, Jeremy?” This is the exact dance is what made us recognise that we could and should collaborate from that beginning long ago. Trust.
LTW: Can you give us an idea of some of the lyrical ideas that you had for the album?
Brett: Lyrics are always best when they reflect something you are in the thick of. You have to be smart about it so you don’t exclude timeless connectivity, but you also have to allow yourself to be unafraid and totally immersed to really show what you are singularly experiencing. I think that kind of vulnerability and honesty can be felt by the listener. For me, the album focuses on human behaviour as it leans into existential influence and the emotions that rub raw from it.
JD.: As I stated earlier, usually they do come from a deeply personal place. Yet in focus we built the language and style of language to allow for people to hear our point of view to our story or cast a glance inside themselves for their own relation to it. Take the song The Range – it has a meaning for me of dealing with the anxiety of a loved one who has enlisted into a calamity of war knowing they may never return while expressing the witness of that war from the point of view of that very enlisted soldier. The Civil War was my muse as I have a genealogy book kept on my family and two of my ancestors had vanished in the Civil War – never to return. Now take this idea and listen to the work and see where your point-of-view lies, whether in the Civil War or not. I wrote those lyrics to be broad in definition as to obscure for purposes that allow others to gather their own thoughts on what I am saying – even if it has nothing to do with loss to them. We had a friend who loved this song. When I told him where it came from, he expressed that it touches him in a different way, far from my meaning. My job was done.
LTW: Everspring and Golden were the singles that have that previewed the album – what was the thinking behind those choices?
Brett: Everspring is short in length, a heavy waltz and the first track on the album. Golden expands and shows more progressive dynamics while also being more dynamic. Oh, This Life shows how intimate and quiet we can be. But with that said, I remember asking our product manager which songs she would release. I gave her a few ideas and she ultimately came up with the choices and sequenced release dates we used. JD and I are not precious about control in this case, per se. We both love all the songs and feel lucky to be given the opportunity to share them. Even the sequence of the album was open for suggestion from our product manager. She ultimately sequenced the songs from a previous idea we had.
JD.: Hats off, indeed, to Thomas, Jessica, Freddy, Yasemin, and all the other folks at Century, Sony, and InsideOut. The fact that our songs invoked an expressed urge from them to share it with the world is a great honour. We feel that their input is priceless. It’s what they do. They are incredible at it. We made the music and they are putting it in peoples ears. When they came to us with the itinerary we eagerly got to work.
LTW: Aside for those two songs is there one track that you’d say could be the one that you’re best pleased with or that you will look back on in time and think “that was a good one.”?
Brett: I can’t say. That would diminish some and elevate others – and that doesn’t seem right or true. They all have special things about them that pull me in, some immediate, some slow and deep. The whole thing is mesmerising to me.
JD: One of the special things about this album, I think you’ll find, is that you’ll have one favourite, one day as you walk in the world, maybe with a feeling the song offers in your mind. Then the next day or week later you gravitate towards another, only to come back another day to the last. It is a collection of likeable and hooky works which allows one to vacillate to their daily favourite; like a good book of poetry where certain days call for certain pieces. But, saying that, the record is a great listen through. Its arc and order of songs really work well from song to song. There are secret reoccurring themes woven throughout. It plays like a dream. Once it’s done you ask, “Already?”, as it starts over again. I love albums like this. They’re a trip.
LTW: You must have been delighted with the Inside Out deal – how did that come about?
Brett: One January night I sat up with a glass of bourbon and our just-finished, mastered album. I thought, well, we can put this out ourselves or perhaps we could see if the album could find a home with someone that sees as much potential as we do. I found a few submission portals on label pages that I thought would “get it.” Thomas Waber of InsideOut shot me a message soon after and here we are now. I couldn’t be more pleased to have met him and his staff.
JD.: Here, here! I can’t thank Brett enough for sending out the record. I can’t thank Thomas enough for responding to it. So far this experience has been awesome. Everyone has been a delight. I can’t wait to see where it takes us.
LTW: For anyone new to you guys via Rise Twain and wanted to know more about your work, you both have massive back catalogues: where would you point them?
Brett: Thanks for allowing that. You can go to my Bandcamp page for my latest solo album, Open Skies Exploding (JD pays on two of the tracks).
You can also go to my band endeavour, echolyn. There you will find my other solo albums as well as some great albums I’ve made with Echolyn. Here are a couple of links below.
JD.: www.beck-fields.com is an electronic duo I have been a part of for 8 years. We have many self-releases available on the website and we have releases on Philly label, NoRemixes.
It is very different than the music or Rise Twain. But that is a good thing. Each person I work with brings out a different artist in me. My older band, where I first met Brett is The Scenic Route NORTH. It is our second album, produced and engineered by Brett Kull.