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Image courtesy of Tidalwave Comics
feature
A new breed of comic companies know how to rock 'n' roll, and are using graphic novels and merch to capture rock audiences. From Ozzy to Evanesence, Weird Al to Melissa Etheridge, comics are drawing musicians together.
When he was a child, Public Enemy frontman Chuck D avidly drew his own comic books. At New York Comic Con 2021, he and Anthrax did a panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of their iconic "Bring The Noise" collaboration and their respective graphic novel releases through Z2 Comics. Chuck D's early passion had come full circle in a way, and he is among a growing legion of rockers and rappers who are seeing their music serve as springboards for comic book series and graphic novels.
According to a June 2022 report, comic book and graphic novel sales were up 60 percent in 2021, hitting $2.075 billion — the highest industry mark since 1993. Superhero movies and TV, as the popularity of anime and manga, have likely helped those numbers. Now, musicians want to get in on the action with an increasing number lending their names and catalogs to comics and graphic novels.
Companies including Z2 Comics and Opus Comics are heading the charge, creating stories inspired by iconic musicians; and, once in a blue, even penned by them. But unlike past efforts — Marvel Comics featured Alice Cooper and KISS in issues back in the ‘70s, or the unauthorized biographies of the Rock ‘N Roll Comics series in the ‘90s  — today's artists don’t always need to be in the stories.
"My goal originally was to bring something fresh to our current fans who connect with my lyrics or wish to delve further into the world I created within those lyrics," says Spiritbox singer Courtney Plante, who worked with writer Jim Krueger and artist Amilcar Pinna on the upcoming Z2 book Eternal Blue. "I think this story has the potential to be exciting to someone who knows nothing about my band." 
Outside interpretations of a musician’s work are also in the mix.
When asked to come up with a comic to include in the limited edition package of Ozzy Osborne’s new album, Patient Number 9, Image Comics President and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane wanted to shirk tradition, and the Ozzy camp trusted in his vision. Instead of creating panels and word balloons, McFarlane published 20 pages of artist Jonathan Glapion’s pin-ups and a novel he wrote around the character Patient 9. He hopes the resulting "horror novella" will appeal to fans that might not normally read comics.
"I didn't want to do an Ozzy autobiographical thing," says McFarlane, who recently directed a semi-animated video for Patient's title track. "It’s almost like a storybook… It’ll be worth taking a look at it to [see] whether people find it interesting, odd, or a failed experiment."
At their two recent San Diego Comic Con signings, McFarlane and Ozzy met around 1,000 fans with hundreds more waiting in line.
Meanwhile, musicians such as Coheed and Cambria's Claudio Sanchez and Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance have created original, long-running comic book series inspired by their music. Sanchez's comics, a series called The Armory Wars, expand upon his band's mythology album by album. Way has written or co-written and created a number of comic series (the adaptation of his Umbrella Academy became a Netflix hit), and co-founded the DC Comics imprint Young Animal.
Making Rock Collectible In A New Form
Opus Comics have been creating comics inspired by artists including Disturbed, Evanescence and Joe Satriani since 2018. Like Z2, Opus let the music inspire the stories, as with their adaptation of Helloween’s Keeper Of The Seven Keys trilogy into the comic Seekers Of The Seven Keys. "We’re using that [original music] as inspiration for a new saga [that] has all the characters you know and love from Keeper," explains Publisher Llexi Leon. "But now there's something new happening and new characters coming in. We're able to mix it up a bit."
Opus' American and European releases are limited edition with higher quality paper, sold direct-to-consumer with a higher price point. In May 2022, they began putting individual issues and will publish trade paperbacks with bonus material beginning in spring 2023. Releasing material in three stages exposes bands to new audiences, Leon tells GRAMMY.com.
Leon first delved into a comics/games/toy crossover with his 2010 music-oriented series Eternal Descent, and Opus’ parent company handled Iron Maiden’s comics and collectibles between 2015 and 2020. Leon adds that Opus sold 250,000 comics in the first quarter of 2022, and all of their series will also feature special action figures.
Z2 Comics are also playing on the predilection modern rock fans have for merch. In the way that Rhino Records used to get very creative with their box set packaging — such as a mini-Marshall amp replica to house a heavy metal collection — Z2 have been offering deluxe editions of their graphic novels.
Chuck D’s comic bundle| Z2 Comics
For example, Z2's super deluxe edition of Chuck D’s book (priced at $199.99) includes colored vinyl of Public Enemy’s Apocalypse 91: The Enemy Strikes Black album plus four exclusive art prints — one illustrated by Chuck himself. The horror-oriented King Diamond book has an Abigail baby hearse; the forthcoming Melissa Etheridge and Halestorm books will feature an acoustic and electric guitar, respectively; the latter of which will go for $4,999.99.The "Weird Al" Yankovic release will include a mini-accordion, Judas Priest will have a Hellion statuette, while Spiritbox will get a functioning spiritbox (ghost hunting device) that will also play a key role in their comics story.
Making Fans Of The Bands     
Z2 made its first forays into music-based graphic novels in 2018 with  Murder Ballads, which featured an accompanying soundtrack by multi-instrumentalist Dan Auerbach (the Black Keys) and blues singer Robert Finley, and The Ghost Of Ohio by Black Veil Brides frontman Andy Biersack.
Josh Bernstein, Z2's Chief Business Officer and Partner, says no one declined the opportunity to do a graphic novel. But when lockdown forced artists to find new revenue streams, Z2 offered them a solution that lured many otherwise dubious musicians into the fold. While they could tout early successes, industry word of mouth also helped propel new projects.
"The artists that we signed were our biggest advocates," says Bernstein. "Mikey Way called All Time Low. Anthrax definitely called Pantera. Anthrax’s licensing team spoke to Judas Priest. The Doors' management were so happy they gave us the Charlie Parker and John Lee Hooker projects. Now, he says, "there's not enough time in the day to do all the books that are being offered."
Where Z2 once published 12 books a year, they now release between 20 and 40 titles.
"I know how comic books and graphic novels resonated with me," says Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. His forthcoming illustrated Z2 life story, which he co-wrote, includes his appearance at the infamous PMRC hearings in 1985. "I'm now a pretty avid book reader, but it was comic books and graphic novels of actual novels that led me there. I hope this book on my history does the same for others."
Artist involvement with comics makes them feel attached to the work, which can involve significant collaboration with artists and writers. Melissa Etheridge, whose Z2 title Heartstrings: Melissa Etheridge & Her Guitars will publish in October, was inexperienced in the world of graphic novels. She mostly let the artists do their thing.
"It does fictionalize some of the stories, and I let that be because it’s a graphic novel," says Etheridge. "This is not my life’s memoir, this is a cartoon. I’m really pleased. The artwork is just phenomenal and so interesting and it moves the story along. The story just flies by and it’s a really beautiful, touching way to tell my story."
Speaking about the differences between comic books and music videos, Evanescence singer Amy Lee told Comic Book Resources that "there are no limitations as to what is possible, special effects, creating an entire world." Evanescence's anthology series Echoes From The Void was released through Opus and focused on imagination rather than her personal experience. "It's been about what ideas they spark in other people's imaginations," she said."I've always loved hearing fans' interpretations and experiences with our music. This is like giving some of those alternate realities a moment to shine."
Fantoons' offerings for rock fans include band coloring books, lithographics and buttons, as well as graphic novel biographies on Lemmy, Motörhead, and Billie Holiday. In an interesting twist, they have an illustrated Where Is Alice Cooper book in the vein of Where’s Waldo?, and a Rush graphic novel about the making of their album A Farewell To Kings. That latter concept may be a first in rock comics.
There are still some fans who want a straight-up rock bio in four-color form. TidalWave Productions does single issue biographies that explore specific aspects of their subjects’ lives. In 2008, the company started "doing female empowerment biographies," says TidalWave Publisher Darren G. Davis, "which led us to our first musician comic book on Michael Jackson in 2009. We ended up working with Rock 'N Roll Comics in 2010 to bring their Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin comic books into graphic novel form."
TidalWave sells mostly through Amazon, and moves some units through distributor Ingram. Davis says their top selling titles are always related to the Beatles, Metallica, David Bowie and Prince. Recently, Dolly Parton has been their biggest seller so they did a second book this year. Dave Grohl, Elton John and Lorretta Lynn issues are in the works.
Still More Tales To Tell
The comics medium offers musicians a chance to see their work be interpreted in exciting new ways and explore new horizons. Comics companies, meanwhile, are showing no signs of slowing down.
Z2 is bullish on the K-pop and Latin markets, having  found success with pop punk/emo (All Time Low), female singers (Poppy), and underground hip-hop (Czarface, Flatbush Zombies). Bernstein says that artists with dedicated fanbases — who may not be the biggest names — sell the most books: Z2's top seller is the first Gorillaz Almanac at 75,000 units sold, while Yungblud hit 25,000 and Babymetal did 22,000. Other top sellers include books from Machine Gun Kelly and Anthrax, along with big pre-orders for Tori Amos and "Weird Al" Yankovic.
Sales of Z2 comics are rising as retail re-opens and touring has resumed, bands are taking their books and merch on the road. "We're just speaking to this whole other audience of music fans that would love to read more about their favorite bands but otherwise wouldn't know how to go into a comic store or where to start," Bernstein says. "I'm hoping it's a gateway drug into much more reading and interest in these bands."
"People love their fandom," notes TidalWave's Davis. "As a kid I used to collect anything with Duran Duran and Olivia Newton-John on it. Whether it was magazines, buttons or t-shirts I wanted it all. What is out there now is amazing and we are proud to be a part of the memorabilia that gets the fans excited."
Ultimately, the success of these projects comes back to the followers who made the artists beloved and famous in the first place.
"So long as there is a dedicated fan base, that is the secret [to success]," asserts Bernstein. "And who is more dedicated than a music fan and a rock 'n' roll fan?"
The Vinyl Shortage, Explained: How Long Waits, Costly Materials & High Demand Are Changing What's On Your Turntable
Photo: Jordan Kelsey Knight
interview
As Big Time Rush continue their comeback, the former Nickelodeon stars relive making hits like "Boyfriend," new songs like "Dale Pa' Ya" and, yes, "The Turd Song."
Just over one year since Big Time Rush announced their reunion, the TV-made boy band have proven that they weren't just made for a show. With 18 million followers across social media and a 44-date North American trek — including a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden — the group has certainly made a comeback.
The foursome — Carlos PenaVega, James Maslow, Kendall Schmidt, and Logan Henderson — were initially put together for Big Time Rush, a 'Monkees'-style Nickelodeon series that had a four-season run from 2009 to 2013. Big Time Rush released three albums that only spawned a couple of charting hits (2011's "Boyfriend," which featured a remix with Snoop Dogg, and 2012's Blur-sampling "Windows Down"), but built a dedicated fan base that couldn't wait for their return.
This time around, the band is free from the obligations of their contracts with Nickelodeon and former label Columbia Records, officially taking ownership of the Big Time Rush name and music thanks to their cheekily titled LLC, Bought The Rights. And as Henderson hints, Big Time Rush is only getting (re)started. 
"We have so much music we're about to release," Henderson tells GRAMMY.com. "We're still excited and hungry to keep on finding Big Time Rush — what the sound is, what it means to us, and records that really make us tick."
They kicked off their reunion with the single "Call It Like I See It" in December 2021, which marked the first time all four members contributed to a single since their formation. They've since released four more new tracks, most recently their first Spanglish single "Dale Pa' Ya," an homage to their Latin American fans. On Aug. 25, they revealed five shows in South America for 2023 — further confirming that they're not slowing down any time soon. 
As Big Time Rush wraps their U.S. tour, the guys share standout memories from some of their biggest hits, a couple of new songs, and one that, as they put it, has "taken on a life of its own."  
Schmidt: I remember a rented mansion for the music video. We were joking about it because the way the video turned out, it seemed like only the guys in the video liked us — like, the way it was edited in the end, we were like "Wow, it seems like every girl in this music video hates us."
Maslow: We play that currently on our tour and it's one of the crowd's favorite songs every single night. When we put together this little section with a bunch of classic songs, including that one, we really didn't know what to expect or how much we'd even enjoy it compared to the new songs. But it's one of my favorite times in the show, because everybody's just rocking out, they know every single word, and they scream that song at the top of their lungs.
PenaVega: We made a couple of music videos for "Boyfriend," the first one was on the TV show. That one stands out to me because we were on the Paramount lot in the parking lot. They blocked off the parking lot for like two or three days and we literally brought in a carnival — ferris wheels and the spinny machines, just a full-blown carnival that they rented. They brought it on, they set it up and we shot a music video. James rode a ferris wheel with a plant.
Maslow: Highlight of my BTR journey right there.
PenaVega: That was probably the start of the epic music videos for the TV show. We hadn't done one that elaborate, and Nick really put some money behind it. That was a lot of fun. Then the second music video was obviously with Snoop Dogg. 
Schmidt: Do remember, in that video, the little green man in the cup? Now that I look back on that, I'm thinking, "What is that about?"
Henderson: We had this huge dance breakdown at the very end, and we were sweating bullets because there were so many people in there and the air conditioner wasn't working. And Snoop has this huge, like, trench coat on, and I was like, "How are you not sweating? It is so hot in here." And he goes, "It's all in your mind."
PenaVega: He said, "Being cool is a state of mind."
Henderson: I was like, "Okay, well, I'm about to pass out."
Schmidt: We did the music video at the airport, obviously. That was pretty wild.
Maslow: To rent out an entire airport just for a music video, that was another step in terms of "Wow, things are growing."
Henderson: That is still our biggest song today. Even when we go to other countries, some of our fans speak very little English and that's the one song they know every word to. It really is such a special song to have with fans all over the world.
Maslow: And when it comes to live performance, it's one of our favorite moments, because we always pick one — usually four, these days — "Worldwide" girls. It's a cool opportunity to bring somebody up on stage and sing directly to a fan. 
The song has aged well. Not so sure that those dance moves have.
Henderson: That song was a little complicated, because there's a lot of things going on. You have a guitar sample from Chaka Khan, Ryan Tedder is the one who produced that one.
PenaVega: That song cost us a lot of money. 
Ryan has since sold this house, I heard, but it was out in Colorado. His basement was turned into a ginormous studio. It was the most beautiful studio I've ever been to, still. 
Henderson: We got to see the place where Adele recorded all of those massive songs. You could feel it in the air.
PenaVega: I was actually hanging out with Justin Bieber back in the day, and I played him this record, and he was like, "Yo, they pitched that to me, and I passed on it." I was like, "Oh, really? Well, we're taking it!"
Henderson: Honestly, it works with four voices really, really well.
Schmidt: And again, getting a Blur sample, that's huge.
Henderson: I don't know what happened behind the scenes for that. Probably something we don't want to discuss.
PenaVega: Again, it cost us a lot of money.
That music video is probably my favorite music video that we did. The boys and I took a trip to Maui and literally spent five days there, had the best time ever. We went cliff jumping, did all this stuff, we had all this footage, and when we got back to shooting the TV show, I made a quick little 25-second trailer like, "Oh, here's us in Maui, what happens next?" I pitched it as an idea for a music video, and they said "Let's go." That next month, we went to Maui for a week, and they paid for everything.
Henderson: We were like, "Haha suckers!" and then it was billed back to us and we were like "Aww."
Maslow: It was way before the technology we have now, [where] we can have a GoPro that shoots 4k or 8k. We had to actually custom build a waterproof casing for a huge RED camera. So you had this six-figure camera with some kind of janky plexiglass thing and our cameraman would go jumping off cliffs with this huge thing splashing in water, and we just kept praying, please don't get water in it.
PenaVega: The best scenes [were when] they mounted the cameras on the front of these jeeps and we drove around, just us and our, like, "video girls," hands up, going crazy. 
Henderson: Why can we not do a music video like that anymore?
Schmidt: We can, actually!
Maslow: I'm thinkin' Turks & Caicos for the next one, boys, what do you say?
Henderson: That was the first one [we wrote together upon reuniting] that felt like a real Big Time Rush song.
Schmidt: There were a lot of Zoom sessions early on in the pandemic, and it just was really hard to make the connection. I know people wrote great songs during the pandemic over Zoom, but it certainly is way better to be in the room going back and forth. The same trajectory happened [as it did in] the beginning [of writing songs together], where it took a while to get to something [good]
I feel like, in the funnest way possible — and I'm joking about this — but it feels like writing a song is a bit like a battle. You know? You're waging war against a brain fart. And everyone's got an opinion, and they all matter, so it's trying to weave together something to become a beautiful tapestry. That's a couple of metaphors.
Maslow: You can pick whatever cherries out of there you want to. [All laugh.]
Schmidt: ["Call It Like I See It"] was basically just a party at James's house. 
Maslow: The record sounds like we were having a good time. 
Schmidt: We felt like people needed a party, so we brought them the feeling of a party.
PenaVega: Our Latin American and South American fans have always been incredible to us. I mean, we put 30,000 tickets on sale for Mexico for this tour, and they sold out in six hours. It's seriously unreal. We always wanted to do something to give back.
Maslow: And the amount of fans said they did learn to speak English because of our songs, to your point, we always felt — ever since we first went down to Mexico and Latin America, we felt such a love for those fans. Just such a welcoming appreciation. We've always wanted to give back and show our appreciation and our effort the other way around. [Motioning to Schmidt and Henderson] Us three have learned a little bit of Spanish touring down there so much.
Schmidt: Carlos had a good head start.
PenaVega: The day we got in the studio with Maffio, he was just like, "Let's make a song that we can make the world dance." I feel like that song, even though it's Spanglish, it's such a universal song. I feel like the world is gonna hear it, and want to get up with us to dance.
Schmidt: "The Turd Song" has developed a life of its own. It actually wasn't that big of a thing for us back in the day.
Maslow: Until this tour, we never played that song.
PenaVega: We did it at one show, and I was just like, "Oh my god." I stopped singing, and everybody is just shouting, and I'm like, "There's freaking 10,000 people singing 'The Turd Song,' oh my god!"
Henderson: It's a little cringey, but I've just had to let Jesus take the wheel on this one.
PenaVega: We didn't do it at one show, and the next show there was a sign that said, "Justice for 'The Turd Song.'"
Schmidt: It was written in the script [for the TV show], and [when] we did the table read, none of us knew how to sing it.
Henderson: The creator of the show [Scott Fellows] is literally 12 years old.
Schmidt: He is probably just loving that his creation is taking on a turd of its own. 
Henderson: You know, we actually have legitimate music that's coming out.
PenaVega: A "Turd Song" remix! With Dua Lipa!
Maslow: Probably called Doo Doo Lipa.
Schmidt: Maybe we can get another one from Pooplo!
TWICE Detail Their "Absolutely Magical" Growth And How 'Between 1&2' Expands On Their Relationship With Fans
Photo: Courtesy of Marcus King
video
Marcus King pays tribute to his favorite classic rock trios in this soulful performance, which features a '70s flair, a whiplash-inducing guitar solo and a pair of classic cars as a backdrop.
Rising rock singer Marcus King may only be in his 20s, but when it comes to his taste in music, he's an old soul. He learned his first musical lessons from his blues-rocker dad, and he cites his earliest memory as the time he opened up his dad's guitar case as a child and strummed the strings of an Epiphone El Dorado.
Now, as a singer/songwriter and guitarist himself, King expertly blends his classic rock and blues inspirations into his original music — most recently on his upcoming album, Young Blood, due Aug. 26. The project was produced by Dan Auerbach, who King also teamed with to write "Pain," a bluesy and fast-paced rock track that puts the singer's classic influences front and center.
In this episode of Press Play At Home, King and his three-piece band head to a parking garage for a grungy, searing performance of the track. From classic cars in the background to the outfits and visual aesthetics, vintage vibes are abundant — but it's the music itself that truly embodies the spirit of '70s rock.
"Pain" is just one example of the "classic power trio" sound that King strived for with Young Blood. He drew inspiration from musical idols like ZZ Top, Grand Funk Railroad and Black Sabbath, as well as his favorite films GoodFellas and Raging Bull. "We tried to make the music feel big," King explains in a press release, "like you’re seeing it in a theater."
Though the music takes plenty of cues from legendary acts from the past, King's blend of soul, rock, blues and country is uniquely his own. The GRAMMY nominee’s unmistakable raspy tenor crests over the instrumental lines and puts the singer/songwriter's signature stamp on the performance. 
Press play on the video above to watch King's blistering performance of "Pain," and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Press Play At Home. 
From The Black Keys To Behind The Board: How Dan Auerbach's Production Work Ripples Through The Music Community
Photo: Gustav Olivares
interview
California trio Thee Sacred Souls bear it all on their self-titled debut LP, out Aug. 26. A "Frankenstein of love stories," Thee Sacred Souls culls universal stories for a beautiful, accessible introduction to sweet soul revival.
A series of 30-second demos posted to Instagram changed Thee Sacred Souls' lives. Then in their early 20s, the San Diego-based trio uploaded three clips of stripped-down, mid-tempo soul — partially-engineered clips reflecting their burgeoning creative relationship and shared love of early-to-mid 1960s records – and left the rest to the universe.
Their passion, strength of songwriting and their singer's Marvin-meets-Curtis falsetto meant the band’s demos ended up in the hands of Daptone Records head Gabe Roth. Not too long after, Thee Sacred Souls drove north to record at Roth's — one of the architects of the contemporary soul revival — Riverside studio. They developed on their demos and, from that session, "Can I Call You Rose" became the band's first single as well as one of five 45s on Daptone's new imprint, Penrose Records, in 2020.
Released at the top of 2020 right into the pandemic, "Rose" quickly became popular among soul aficionados and made Thee Sacred Souls a leading light in the burgeoning sweet soul scene. Alongside contemporaries like Durand Jones and the Indications and labelmates the Altons, Thee Sacred Souls blurred Chicano soul, California's "Westside Sound" and the popular tracks one might hear coming from the radio of a lowrider as it cruised down a boulevard.
In the 1960s, such songs lacked the polish of Motown soul, but often employed equally engaging harmonies and earnest messages of love. Those rougher, more raw songs endure  among soul aficionados and, when reimagined by the Souls, made their work strike a nerve during the unpredictable early days of the pandemic.
"In times of despair, people always kind of turned to entertainment for solace," theorizes singer Josh Lane. "With so much going on, I think having a song that was so heartfelt and about the fanciful idea of love like that, COVID definitely inflated the energy of the song."
Fast forward two years and three 7-inch singles later, and the Souls are bearing it all on their self-titled debut LP, out Aug. 26 on Daptone/Penrose. Although thematically similar – the album and the band's singles are almost exclusively love songs — Thee Sacred Souls is a "Frankenstein of love stories" — the band’s words — pulled together for a devastatingly beautiful, accessible record.
Thee Sacred Souls universal messaging also underscores the thoughtful development of a group that's learned together, finding their groove while blooming, quite like a rose.
GRAMMY.com sat down with Lane, drummer Alex Garcia and bassist Sal Samano on a brutally warm afternoon ahead of their SummerStage performance in New York. It was the band's second time performing in town in less than a month — at their sold-out previous show at Brooklyn Made, the audience seemed to hang onto every lyric.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Tell me a bit about the origin of Thee Sacred Souls.
LANE: I was following Alex’s project and… . we would just kind of go back and forth on Instagram. One day, one of us said we should jam. So we went to his garage studio and he showed me a bunch of his work and we jammed out for a minute. I didn't know that he and Sal had met once before and kind of started the project that we are now — writing some original instrumentals and doing a lot of old soul covers.
After we jammed out for like an hour or so, he was like, "I got some demos I've been working on with this guy if you want to listen." I liked them all, but one of them I was instantly vibing with, so we started writing right there. We wrote the song "Rose" in one sitting, really.
SAMANO: Me and Alex were playing in separate bands and we were playing a DIY show. We started talking about what we grew up listening to and what we wanted to make. Pretty much just decided right there that we wanted to try doing some soul.
Were you guys hip to any of the other soul revival stuff that was happening at the time, particularly around Daptone?
LANE: I didn't grow up on soul; our parents were really Christian and so I grew up on gospel music. My grandma listened to some soul. When I was in college, I started listening to soul — Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Al Green — pretty much all the soul artists that everybody kind of grows up knowing in America. They all came from the church. So I resonated with that.
But my main influence at the time was Stevie Wonder. I had all his albums on my cheap MP3 player. And so I would listen to that on my way to college to community college, just singing all his songs.
SAMANO: I was a little bit, but not as much as Alex. Alex knew a lot more about what Daptone was doing. I was fairly new to learning about all the newer groups.
GARCIA: To me [Daptone’s] sound is still different from the rare soul sounds. The Daptone sound is their own thing; they don't sound like any other bands. I like their ethos about the way they make music and Gabe’s ideology with studio production. Just that they’re like a real family as far as record labels go. So, all that stuff turned me on to them.
I started to dig deeper into finding their influences and I really liked instrumentals mainly because that's where I come from.
The Souls are one of the early groups on Daptone's Penrose imprint; how did you come into that world?
GARCIA: We had put our demo out, just like a short clip on Instagram, and it kind of took off. People started talking about us and sending it to their friends. This one dude named Diego, he's in a band called With Strangers… he knows Gabe, and he's like, "Yo, I want to send this to Gabe Roth," and [Gabe] came out to our gig in Fullerton.
It's exceedingly rare that a band that just has a demo would get label interest — especially for one that's as notoriously particular as Daptone or Gabe. What about those demos caught his ear?
GARCIA: Like 30 seconds of a demo. It was "Rose" and "Weak For Your Love" and maybe "Will I See You Again" too.
SAMANO: Maybe he heard through our music what we want to sound like or what we listened to. So I think that Gabe being who he is, knowing what he knows, I'm sure he was able to pick up on that just [by] listening to us. I mean, we weren't killing it up there; we didn't sound amazing. So I think that he probably saw us and was like, maybe they have potential.
GARCIA: The producer's mind sees the diamond in the rough for sure. That's, like,  one of their gifts.  I'm not even like a flaunty person, but I think [the demos] sounded good.
LANE: We wrote good songs, and the engineering wasn't bad either. I think people like Gabe want to see people who are self-sufficient enough to have ideas and cut demos on their own so that he can work faster and get right to the heart of the idea.  I think he heard all that.
What were you guys listening to during those early days of the band?
SAMANO: Old records, obviously. all kinds of s—, right? But me and Alex listened to a lot of rare soul records, kind of obscure records.
GARCIA: Like the Royal Jesters.
SAMANO: Yeah. Back then, it was more of the West Side Sound, which was a lot of Chicano soul, soul from San Antonio and Albuquerque.
Are you guys record collectors as well?
GARCIA: Yeah. But I mean, when we first started, we were just trying to get our collection up, then digging together. We’re at Soul Shack — this one record shop that Sal used to work at — they’d let us in the back room before they were open.
LANE: I was super new to even the concept of collecting. I was an LP collector of current stuff. And then I would always look to get different compilations of like Aretha or Marvin Gaye. So while they were building their collections, and already those guys I was kind of in a class of sorts. Alex knew some of the people that I liked, and he saw a nice Al Green cut and was like "you want this one." And it's one of my favorite records, "Wish You Were Here."
A lot of the times when we would write songs, they would just have  things in their mind that other 45ss reminded them of, and it was a new way of songwriting for me — creating something brand new out of thin air based off of a passion and influence.
This album comes out two and a half years after your first single. How did you create this record? Did you go into Penrose and do it all two years ago or was it a long process?
GARCIA: In 2020, it was hard to even get into the studio. I don't remember how many sessions we had [that year].
LANE: The two singles happened pretty fast. That was like one session, a couple of days, in and out.
GARCIA: All four of those [first Penrose] songs were done before the pandemic. And then we were supposed to go back in right to start recording more. Also, the [West Coast Penrose Showcase] tour was supposed to be happening.
I feel like [lockdown] also gave the songs more of an opportunity to sit out there, for people to get into it, and  listen to the songs over and over again.
LANE: You sit and talk to people for an hour after a show and so many people said, like, "This song got me through so much during COVID." A lot of couples would come up holding hands being like, "These were our songs that we'd slow dance to in the living room when we couldn't go nowhere." So, I started to see the value of that silver lining of COVID.
Do you think that's one of the reasons why your first few singles, particularly "Can I Call You Rose?," hit so hard?
LANE: In times of despair, people always kind of turned to entertainment for solace. Like back in the '20s and '30s. You wouldn't be caught dead not trying to make it to a dancehall to check out your favorite jazz band or whatever because times are so tough. Even if it's your last dollar you're going to use it to go see music.
With the 2008 bubble or whatever that s— was, my family would go to the movies every weekend. We didn't have the money for it, but they were trying to get our mind off of the pain. And COVID being in a lockdown situation… psychologically, there's a lot of warfare to be with your own thoughts without your friends.
With so much going on, I think having a song that was so heartfelt and about the fanciful idea of love like that, COVID definitely inflated the energy of the song.
SAMANO: Record record collectors love collecting records. They bought like every single color [vinyl] just to  lay them out and look at them. We're just like, alright! [Chuckles]
You know he's gonna go and put those on Discogs later! For this record, were you taking songs that you had written during the pandemic and brought them into the studio?
LANE: The sessions were kind of different. Some of them were like a week long; some of them were like, come down for two days. At some point, Gabe realized that it might be better for us to like, do three, four day sessions, go home, sit on that energy, write more and come back.
SAMANO: Toward the end it was like long sessions – like just book a week, maybe have a week off and then book another week. We were going pretty hard.
GARCIA: Till Three mornings, sometimes, driving home afterwards. Sometimes just like staying in the studio and waking up starting in the morning.
Are there any songs that you're particularly proud of from all that effort? Or ones that were really really hard?
GARCIA: My favorite song's probably "Love Comes Easy," which is the last song on the record. It's got the most Chicano soul sound. I track organ on most of the record…but that was pretty hard for me because I'm not I'm not a keyboard player.
SAMANO: Probably "Future Love." I remember I had a pretty hard time on bass on that song. I didn't even know that we got the take at the end of that session. Then, I played drums on it, which I don't usually do. The song reminds me of a Whatnauts track — their earlier stuff.
It's interesting that you guys are all playing instruments that you don't play normally on the record. Was that your desire or was Gabe being like, "try this thing?"
GARCIA:  If I'm tracking a demo, I'll track bass and keys and whatnot. But I wouldn't want to play that in the studio. But Gabe was really pushing for me to play organ.
LANE: If you see life as lessons, it really is a master class as well as working on your trade. I played some glockenspiel, some vibraphone.

My point though, is that I would go home leaving the studio and being like, Man, I really got to start woodshedding just for the future, because it's fun to have that energy of like who's doing what, and to be at that caliber where you can. Someone might be technically better at something, but if you could all get to the baseline level of being a good musician at different instruments, maybe you want this other person's color on this instrument, even if that's [another person's] sword.
I think my hardest one was "For Now" because Alex came up with a sick riff — I think the coolest riff on the record to me. It's such a pretty riff that's also sad. So, it instantly brought up sad feelings for me. I didn't finish my last verse till we were in the studio… I pulled from all the different sad emotional situations I've had in my relationships. I pulled from every relationship and made it one for the song, and it was hard.
This album is a portrait of all stages of  lovelonging, that feeling when you're super deep in, and then love that's lost. What connects all of these different stories? Are you guys writing about somebody in particular?
LANE: I think about this concept a lot actually. Even growing up, I didn't even think of the concept of not writing love songs. I remember early on Alex being like your love is cool and everything but we don't need every song to say "loving" or be about love.
But love has so many faces. Life is love. Whether it's envy — that’s like a tainted kind of infected version of love — or heartbreak, it's the inverse of it's all the same feeling just given different meanings. And so I pulled from the imagination. If it happened to me, I pulled from old relationships, but very obscure, like fragments — none of the songs are about one person.
"For Now" is about the breaking up of a love [where] one person is feeling it intuitively, the other person knowing it's going to happen and they're going to be the one to do it, but they don't know how to do it. I've been that guy and I've been the guy that had to happen to me from a lover.
So it wasn't, like, Taylor Swift-style with "this song's about this person." It's like fragments of all these loves and heartbreaks and things, and storytelling and cinematic nature. It's like it's a Frankenstein of love stories."
We exist in this time of such turmoil on so many different levels. Do you ever feel the drive to make music that's a bit more political or that says something about this particular time?
LANE: So, I'm not going to speak for everybody, but it's always in the forefront of my mind. I kind of see music for music's sake, and the beauty of it. But also as a society member and a firm believer in the beauty of humanity… I have a really strong idea of heartfelt brotherhood, [a] love that goes past romantic ideas. Which I think is what we kind of leaned on for this album.
I think the reason people look for old school love music or soul music is because it just felt deeper and more fulfilling and had more to it. And instead of being political this round, it's like how about we just give people something that makes them think about love deeper? And maybe kind of cleanse them that way?
[With] "Give Us Justice"…I've already dealt with insecurities about being Black in America, and not seeing myself as valued or valuable. And then seeing all this murder happen. And then all this uproar.
That was a moment where there was no ifs, ands or buts — it's not necessarily being political. It's speaking of pain, so that other people have something to hold on to.
I'm fascinated by scenes and subcultures, and there's certainly a whole sweet soul scene that's that next generation from the Daptones and the Colemines of the world. Share your perspective on what's going on right now.
SAMANO: It's cool to see everybody that's kind of on the younger side tapping back into what they remember growing up. It just starts this cycle of younger bands looking up to newer bands that are looking up to older bands. [I think everybody] is going to start to [incorporate] different things into their sound.
LANE: I think there is a scene, but I think we've lived kind of in and out of it. Not to say that we don't find the people in the scene to be friends, and we hang out from time to time, but… it's more like labels that are kind of cultivating new scenes, kind of making new universes and it's still in the baby stages.
GARCIA: I feel like Daptone’s probably the closest that you'll get to what Motown had — just tons of different sounds and styles within soul, played by the same group.
What within this world of soul are you guys particularly excited about?
SAMANO: I'm excited to always hear anything that Brainstory’s got coming out. I was saying how everybody has different interpretations of soul; they definitely got some soul like infused with psychedelic and funk and jazz.
GARCIA: Bobby Oroza too. Also Max Traeger and Paul Sha La Da – their new project Las Los.
LANE: I'm personally just excited for the whole scene, because once a scene is established, it has no choice but to kind of evolve over time. And so I just love to see the different mergers like our friends Brainstory with this infusion of 70s/60s soul and psych. Holy Hive, which kind of infuses soul with folk and indie. I'm excited for our bandmate [backup singer] Jensine.
And I'm excited for us, honestly. We're brand new. Our relationship as writers is growing and changing. I don't even know what to expect for album two or three. The sky's the limit, and it's cool to see where our hive mind comes up with the direction for those projects.
What's next for you guys? Are you already working on album two or three?
GARCIA:  I've been dabbling, but it's just kind of hard to find time right now. Because it's getting busier so we're gonna have to adapt to a new way of writing.
LANE: I think we've all low-key been dabbling in our own little garages and rooms. Just a couple of days ago, Alex was already kind of starting to team lead some direction with it when it comes to like, Hey, we should set aside certain days out of the week to actually sit and have sessions.
We all got ladies — shout out to the ladies — and we got to balance the time with our people and our creative interests. It's gonna be a tough one.
I don't know if you guys all know this, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on each of your ladies’ favorite songs.
LANE: That might be, like, a text message later — I don’t wanna get in trouble. [Laughs]
SAMANO: She’ll walk around just singing every single song. She gets all mad; she's like, “Your songs are always stuck in my head!”
GARCIA: For my girlfriend Emily, it's more like let's just get the record out, because she's been designing for us since day one. We designed the cover together and it was a long process. She has a different perspective on our band because she's working directly with us and Daptone.
LANE: I'm not gonna try to discredit my love story because it's new, but she's a music head. When I was listening to basic-ass music in my younger adult time, she was like one of those obscure '60s music collectors and listeners. So, she's always sending me songs that remind her about our love and stuff.
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Photo: Courtesy of JYP Entertainment
interview
With their eleventh mini album, 'Between 1&2,' TWICE aim to continue growing their artistry by both pushing genre boundaries and connecting even deeper with ONCE.
Since TWICE released their first EP in 2015, they have had a way of uplifting people through their music. The K-pop girl group has taken the world by storm with hit after hit — including"Fancy," "Feel Special," and "I Can't Stop Me" — and now, they're ready to enter a new era.
On Aug. 26, TWICE will release their eleventh mini album, Between 1 & 2. The project sonically takes inspiration from the early 2000s (as evidenced by the upcoming single they're teasing, "Talk that Talk"), but overall presents a theme of connecting TWICE with their fans, ONCE — hence the project's numerical title.
Though TWICE has long been breaking barriers for female groups worldwide, the past 18 months have arguably been their most impactful to date. Earlier this year, they brought the Twice 4th World Tour "III" to the U.S., playing nine sold-out shows that saw over 100,000 attendees and made them the first K-pop girl group to hold stadium shows in North America (and only the second in K-pop history after BTS). Before that, their 2021 releases, the mini album Taste of Love and the Korean album Formula of Love: O+T=<3, earned TWICE their first top 10 projects on the Billboard 200.
They look to expand on that success with Between 1&2, which comes just one month after TWICE released their fourth Japanese studio album, Celebrate, and two months after Nayeon's solo debut with the EP I'M NAYEON. As they continue to mature their sound and grow their fan base, the women of TWICE are also proving that they're powerful as both individuals and a unit — and that their star power is only on the rise.
GRAMMY.com caught up with TWICE's nine members — Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Jihyo, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung, and Tzuyu — ahead of the EP release to discuss this new chapter of their careers, preparing for Between 1 & 2, and what their impact means to them.
First off, you guys recently renewed your contracts with JYP. That's a big milestone. What are you excited about going forward as a group? What does being in this group mean to you?
Jihyo: We didn't realize that all members have renewed their contracts until right before the official announcement. We wanted to share this incredible news with our fans as soon as possible because our fans are the main reason why we all decided to renew our contracts with JYP.
We are excited to explore what new styles of music and concepts we can bring to the table and are looking forward to the increase in our members' musical contributions to the albums. Being a member of TWICE means having life-long friends and family. The sense of belonging will forever remain with us.
Nayeon was recently the first member to go solo, and you mentioned that your band members helped make important decisions. Can we expect more solo projects from the rest of the group in the future? What was it like preparing something to perform on your own?
Nayeon: I felt a lot of responsibility by being the first member to launch a solo project. Even though I'M NAYEON was a solo project with my name literally written in the album title, I knew that I'm not only representing myself through this album, but also representing TWICE. Therefore, I felt the obligation to pave a clean, smooth pathway for other members who might be thinking of releasing a solo album in the future. Along my journey as a solo artist, all members of TWICE made sure to take the burden off my shoulders by being supportive and giving me important feedback when I needed their opinions.
For this new mini album, Between 1&2, what can fans expect the overall vibe and sound to be like? Did you try anything new?
Jeongyeon: There are total seven tracks in this album, and all tracks sound different from each other. We are exploring different genres such as pop, dance, ballad, and rock, so you can expect a variety of styles in this album.
We have incorporated retro vibes into the album, since one of the concepts of the album is Y2K. The tracks that embody the retro concept the most are "Talk that Talk" and "Brave." Even though the styles are different, the tracks are connected under the theme of "the conversation between ONCE and TWICE," like how the album title Between 1&2 implies.
What did you guys most enjoy about preparing this mini album? Is there anything the fans should look out for?
Dahyun: I enjoyed writing lyrics for the two tracks "Gone" and "When We Were Kids." As our time as TWICE members grow, the members' participation in the album is increasing, which shows how we are growing as artists each year. You can look out for CHAEYOUNG's lyrics in the song "Basics," and JIHYO's music and lyrics in the song "Trouble."
Do you guys have a song you enjoy the most from this album?
Chaeyoung: I personally love "Basics" for [a] very obvious reason: I wrote the lyrics myself. "Basics" is a fast-paced dance song about the need to put importance in the basics of love by getting to know each other slowly, instead of diving straight into a relationship.
For the upcoming music video, can you explain the concept or theme? How does it relate to "Talk that Talk"?
Dahyun: The music video is about TWICE members looking for codes and investigating the mission of confessing our love to our fans, ONCE. With the concept Y2K trending, you can find fragments of Y2K-themed images and styles within the music video. This concept relates to "Talk that Talk," since the melody is in an addictive retro pop/dance style that reminds you of the year 2000.
Jeongyeon: Also, the lyrics of "Talk that Talk" are about trying to get the other person to say everything on his/her mind, which relates to the theme of the music video, where TWICE undergoes the mission to make ONCE say "I LOVE YOU" to TWICE.
You're one of the top girl groups in the world right now. That can come with a lot of pressure, but why do you think TWICE has been so successful over the years? What do you think draws listeners in?
Mina: I believe the unique point of TWICE is that we are always true to our music style. Even though we've tried different concepts and genres over the last years, our music has that power of making the listeners realize that they are listening to TWICE's song. I think [that's] what attracts listeners to our music and our group.
A post shared by TWICE (@twicetagram)
How have you guys grown as a group over the years? Is there anything you want to change going forward?
Mina: Looking back at ourselves since the debut, I noticed that our members' album contributions have grown significantly. It started out with writing lyrics, but now, our members are capable of composing and vocal directing, too.
Momo: The growth of TWICE is absolutely magical, but I also want to focus on the growth of our fans. We've heard that our songs bring back the memories of significant events relating to a certain era of a person's life. I love how fans say that our songs remind them of a time and place when they were listening to the song. This relationship between our music and our fans' memories is something that I want to keep on building going forward.
Is there anything you've enjoyed doing this year outside of music promotions? Any new hobbies?
Tzuyu: With the opening of our individual Instagram accounts, we've been able to share our personal lives with our fans. Recently, I've had a delicious meal with CHAEYOUNG and posted a photo taken by her on my Instagram, which fans loved.
I'm also trying to find new hobbies by taking one-day classes with DAHYUN. We recently made cute potteries and enjoyed every single moment of it. I want to try leather crafting next.
Do you have any new goals for the rest of this year?
Sana: I hope all our members can stay healthy, both physically and mentally. The well-being of all nine members is crucial to all of us, as we are so closely connected and are basically a family. We will continue to take good care of ourselves, as well as other members' to spread the bright energy of TWICE to ONCE all around the world.
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