PACIFIC hangs with indie band to discuss inspiration, obstacles and duality.
San Diego’s music scene isn’t the same as it was three years ago. But neither is Twin Ritual.
The local indie band formed in late 2016, when Anthony Ramirez saw Laura Levenhagen sing with her band Le Chateau.
“I had a lot of music and music ideas written that I didn’t think fit for my other band,” said Ramirez, who is also in the music group Glass Spells. “So I reached out to her and said ‘Do you wanna jam out, see what happens?’ and we just started with a few songs and we went on from there.”
In that initial meeting, the duo wrote Hand Through The Mist, one of the band’s first singles. Adding guitarist Nathan Leutzinger and drummer Lionel Hernandez into the mix, the foursome coined themselves Twin Ritual, a name inspired by the concept of duality.
“Music itself and life itself is all about the dichotomy of bad and good and dark and light,” Levenhagen said. “Good is only as good as it can be if you’ve experienced bad at all. Pretty much everything we do is about the twin ritual of the combination of opposites.”
Twin Ritual got lucky early on and connected with producer Dave Trumfio, known for his work with popular acts like Wilco and OK Go. In 2018, Trumfio produced Twin Ritual’s well-received debut EP Hand Through The Mist.
Then came the departure of two band members, leaving Twin Ritual a little shaken up. But with the bad comes the good, and drummer Mike Buehl (of electronic trio L1ght Ra1l) and guitarist Tony Estrada (from pop-punk band Allweather) were soon added to the family.
Now, Twin Ritual is stronger than ever. In addition to performing gigs at The Casbah, Blonde and Space Bar, the band released two new singles, Strangers and Norma Jean, and made its festival debut at Wonderfront Music and Arts Festival last month.
Despite the success, the group admits there are still some kinks.
“You know in psychology they tell you when you form a team or a group (that) it’s the forming, the norming, the storming and the performing? I think we’re somewhere in the middle of norming — establishing how we do things, and just sorting out through everything we gotta figure out,” Estrada said
“I think we are really settling into a groove and figuring out how we’re going to do this,” Levenhagen added.
New dynamics: The union of Levenhagen, Ramirez, Buehl and Estrada has created a more collaborative process than before, resulting in new tunes that everyone lends a hand in creating. Twin Ritual now has three new tracks in the works, which it plans to record and release next year.
Inspiration in the clouds: One of the new tracks is called Airplane Mode, which Levenhagen wrote from, well, an airplane. “Getting on an airplane always makes me so much more introspective, so I always make sure that I have my journal with me,” she said, adding that the song was inspired by her friend going through a really rough time. Lyrics like “You keep your face toward the light” return the listener back to the idea of life’s duality.
Sounds of the past: Twin Ritual’s music is influenced by dance rock, post punk and synth pop. “We’ve been compared to bands from the ’80s a lot, and I think that we are keeping with that vibe, but I feel like we’re bringing (our sound) a little more modern,” Levenhagen said. Utilizing the talents of Buehl and Estrada, the next batch of recordings will swap programmed drums with live instrumentation, and add in some more upbeat guitar riffs.
All over the map: With the band members’ homes and day jobs spread out all over San Diego —Carlsbad, Golden Hill, UTC and City Heights — coordinating rehearsals can get a little complicated. But the band notes that the dedication from each member makes it easy. The group splits its rehearsal time between San Diego Content Partners and Superior Sound, fitting in practice whenever and wherever they can. They also have a strict policy about canceling last minute.
Scene changes: The group has definitely noticed a shift in the San Diego music scene over the last few years. “(It’s) less douchey, less competitive. The competition’s still there, but people are less jerks about it,” Buehl said, adding that other musicians are now less likely to snub you at a show. “Everyone who plays in San Diego are in multiple bands … so it’s less about being number one and more (about being) curious about other people’s sounds.”
Let’s go to the Disco Goth: One of Twin Ritual’s favorite shows to play is “Disco Goth Night,” a recurring event organized by Ramirez. For each showcase, Ramirez invites a few local bands who play danceable-yet-dark music to jam together, drawing a large crowd and supportive community that’s fun to perform for.
Home is where the fans are: So, would the unsigned group ever move to Los Angeles? “I used to talk about moving there all the time, and I still think about it every now and then, but now we have this big community in San Diego that it would be really hard to give that up,” Levenhagen said, adding that she likes the idea of staying local but playing more L.A. shows in the future.
Twin Ritual with Paper Foxes, presented by Disco Goth
When: Saturday, Dec. 28
Where: Soda Bar, 3615 El Cajon Blvd.
Tickets: $4 online at sodabarmusic.com