Twin Sister’s In Heaven is a record packed with people whom Andrea Estella seems to know very well. Ask the vocalist about certain characters from the Long Island band’s first full-length, and she handily rattles off some colorful details.
The namesake of “Gene Ciampi” is “an Asian cowboy—Hollywood, [a] little over his prime, tan, wrinkled, handsome and confident.” “Kimmi in a Rice Field” is primarily about “a very scared innocent little girl,” while her “dead sister” included in the same track looks “more demonic and ghostly.” Describing “Space Babe” yields “space cowboy,” “weirdo,” “crystals,” “kind of Neverending Story-ish” and “girl with purplish hair.” “Daniel”—one of In Heaven’s more grounded characters—is actually spun off a real person Estella met, but since she never got to know him, she embellishes for the sake of the song.
“He would kind of look like a young man in really fancy clothes because he’s working at a wedding and catering in a hotel,” Estella says, “and he’s very young and has his hair parted and slicked back.”
In Heaven finds each character in some fantastical scenario. Gene’s a lovable, aged movie star trying to snare your attention; the gentle Kimmi picks flowers until her wicked sibling’s spirit compels the field to swallow “her whole body”; Space Babe is on some time-bending journey for the sake of love; and after sharing eye contact with Daniel, a narrator fantasizes about him.
“Each song is a different world, and there are all these characters,” Estella says. “The band and me—that’s their only common ground.”
Getting acquainted with In Heaven’s characters is a good way of getting acquainted with Twin Sister. The Long Island, N.Y.-based five-piece, which started in 2008, makes intoxicating indie pop that carefully dips its toes into trip-hop and psychedelia. Estella’s voice is a Bjork-esque thing that’s adept at sounding both pleasurably familiar and uncomfortably peculiar.
“With the characters, I go all over the place,” Estella says. “I do many different voices. I do high-pitched kind of like baby voices, very low kind of manly things. I just want to be comfortable and be able to do all of it.”
This taste for exploring far-out, often far-fetched concepts and places is intrinsic to Twin Sister’s approach. In a past interview, drummer Bryan Ujueta described his band’s work as “more fantasy than actual dreaming—dreaming in a broad sense.” A sense of wanderlust came through in Color Your Life, too. The 2010 EP’s cover showed the inside of a dollhouse—an image that seemed intent on taking you away—and its music fleshed out another enigmatic soul by way of “Lady Daydream.”
A few of Estella’s interests play a big role in her lyrics, namely fantasy, science fiction and Japanese culture. “I really like Japan, and Japan’s so weird, so I get exposed to a lot of weird movies and music and fashion and food. I’m attracted to that stuff,” she says. “All Around and Away We Go,” a particularly childlike number from Color Your Life, was apparently inspired by poor anime dubbing.
“If I were to write songs about my regular life, those would be really boring,” Estella says before performing a new tune on the spot: “Hotel room/ On the road/ Being lonely.”
This isn’t to say that the vocalist is wholly averse to paying homage to everyday life, as In Heaven’s “Luna’s Theme” and “Spain” were inspired by her pets, and she’s currently writing new songs about “relationships and confidence.” It’s more that she uses her work to transport regular things into unusual worlds, and she sounds far more engaged when discussing unusual subjects in the first place. During her call with City Weekly, Estella mentions waking up early that day to visit “gigantic whale sharks” at an aquarium in Atlanta.
“I’ve got to see something really massive and strange,” Estella says, speaking as if she must be grinning on the other end of the line. “Maybe I’ll feel something.”
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