The Twenty Twos

The Twenty Twos: Over

Although The Twenty Twos have existed for less than three years, the history of this distinctive New York-based four-piece is ten years in the making. For it was ten years ago that Jenny Christmas (lead vocals and guitar), Terrah Schroll (vocals and keyboards), Hannah Moorhead (bass) and Jonny Cragg (drums) arrived in New York City. Christmas grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania - a town so small that it doesn't even have a proper name - while Schroll came from a slightly larger town in Southern Illinois. Moorhead hailed from Connecticut, and Cragg made the Atlantic crossing from his native Leeds. As children, all had one thing in common - they were gifted musicians who didn't like to practice. Jenny studied piano before switching to saxophone and eventually guitar. Terrah and Hannah were classically trained on the piano before switching to keyboards and bass, respectively. Jonny was forced to take guitar lessons as a kid, but was given permission to pick up the drums after his parents realized that he spent more time hitting his acoustic guitar than strumming it.Fast-forward to the spring of 2002: Moorhead and Schroll met through mutual friend Tracy Bonham, and bonded after forming a hard-edged rock band with a volatile singer-songwriter. Creative differences quickly led to the band's demise, but the partnership forged between Hannah and Terrah became the foundation for what would become The Twenty Twos. "We were determined to work together because we knew how great our chemistry was," explains Moorhead. "We wanted to form a band of musicians who shared our chemistry, but also our passion and vision."The girls began writing songs in a makeshift bedroom studio in Schroll's Astoria apartment. Songwriting came quickly and easily, thanks to a shared aesthetic and obsessive-compulsive work habits. When it came time to recruit a guitar player who could sing, Hannah and Terrah made a conscious decision to avoid the humiliation of cattle call auditions. "If we build it, they will come" became their mantra - and it worked. Within less than a month, the songwriting sessions at Schroll's Astoria apartment included Jenny Christmas, a highly regarded guitarist and singer-songwriter unofficially known as the hottest bartender in the East Village. "I first met Jenny when she was bartending at The Continental," recollects Schroll. "I handed her a CD of some ideas that Hannah and I had come up with, and in exchange she gave me a free Jack and Coke! Needless to say, we hit it off right away."Intensive songwriting and a rigorous rehearsal schedule yielded palpable results. By the end of the summer, the band lineup included ex-Spacehog drummer Jonny Cragg, a wily British import with a reputation for being one of the best drummers for hire in New York City. The only thing was, Cragg was never hired by The Twenty Twos. After agreeing to attend a rehearsal with the sole intention of poaching Moorhead for one of his myriad other projects, Jonny was so moved by the band's sound and vision that he immediately ditched his scheme and pledged lifelong allegiance to Jenny, Hannah and Terrah. According to Cragg, the decision was simple: "They were way better-looking than anyone I was playing with at the time."The lineup complete, success came swiftly for The Twenty Twos. Their unprecedented blend of driving rhythms, vintage synth noise and disquieting lyrics attracted the attention of British spaz rock act Supergrass, who invited The Twenty Twos to open for them in early 2003 at New York bervenue Irving Plaza. By the fall of 2003, The Twenty Twos found themselves on an extensive tour of the UK supporting fellow New York art rockers Stellastarr. 2004 brought more US tour dates with Supergrass, and by the end of the year the band was finally ready to lock themselves in the studio and start recording an album. A five-song EP will be released in June to support The Twenty Twos' participation in the 2005 Vans Warped Tour, and a full-length LP will be available in September.While The Twenty Twos' sound is far from sugar-coated, their songs display a sophisticated pop sensibility that can alternately induce you to get a lump in your throat or steal your next-door neighbor's Camaro and drive cross-country really, really fast. Cragg and Moorhead's rhythm section is suffocatingly tight, deftly switching from punk to spacey pop in songs like "All Made Up" with the contained fury of an electrical storm. Christmas's guitar playing is uncommonly resourceful, almost to the point of being economic - she has an extraordinary gift for knowing exactly how much to play without ever losing momentum or going overboard. "I moved to New York with dreams of being the next Jimi Hendrix, but I could barely play," laughs Jenny. "Then when I discovered the Stooges, I realized that I didn't have to be a great guitar player to make great music." Her vocals, on the other hand, are refreshingly unhinged - feline to be sure, but heartbreakingly human in their range of emotion. Her growls, yelps, belts and hisses on the album's centerpiece, "Touch And Go," draw you into a world that's terrifying yet familiar, tragic yet seductively sweet. "When I play music, nothing matters," explains Christmas. "It's complete freedom - from my own mind, my anger, my frustrations."Schroll's vocal style manages to mix seamlessly with Christmas's while remaining distinct enough to carry breathtaking leads on darker numbers like "Radio." Her arsenal of vintage keyboards is in many ways The Twenty Twos' secret weapon, providing lush, neo-prog soundscapes that lend the band's radio-ready pop songs a refreshing unpredictability and at times epic scope. With influences as diverse as The Cure, The Clash, Stevie Wonder and Yes, it's not surprising that The Twenty Twos sound like nothing you've ever heard before.