For the past year, The Shining Twins’ Alex Weiss and Marisa Kreiss have been terrorizing the NYC music scene with their infectious pop-punk songs and raucous live performances. The duo (plus guitarist Xan Aird) pick up where bands like The Slits and Hole left off, writing defiant, honest lyrics that remind us that not all girls are interested in falling in love—some just want to have fun, remember?
Even though they’ve only recently learned to play their instruments, the girls have honed their skills while playing everywhere from dive bars in Brooklyn to venues in Tokyo and Paris, earning the adoration of musicians like Mark Ronson, Adam Green and Albert Hammond Jr. along the way. Recently I stopped by the girls’ insanely messy Bushwick loft to discuss boys, feminism and getting fucked up.
How did the band get started?
Marisa Kreiss: Alex and I had been hanging out for a while and we both had a lot in common. Like, we both liked to go to shows and hook up with dudes in bands. So we thought that a good way to get all these dudes to think we were even cooler than them was to start our own band.
Alex Weiss: It was basically all about boys.
Did you have any idea of what you wanted the band to sound like?
AW: In the beginning, it was more about bands like Guided By Voices. We figured if they could make a simple song, we could make a simple song, but as we started to learn our instruments, we were able to emulate the punk bands we liked.
MK: Like The Dammed.
Right now, a lot of female musicians like Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls are referencing ’50s pop songs and singing about the innocent and pure aspects of love. Your music gives the middle finger to purity and innocence. You’re more “I Want To Have Sex” than “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Was that a conscious decision?
AW: We like all of that music but at the same time, that’s not how we feel. We’re actually talking about the shit that we do and when we sit down and try to write a love song, we write something like “Ted.” Which is basically about our friend Ted—
MK: And fucking him.
AW: He’s a Lothario.
Are you worried about the band translating to a more mainstream audience?
MK: Well, no. I think kids would connect to our music because it’s just so angry. I know that so many girls have to be angry because we were so angry growing up.
What are you so angry about?
“I Hate You”[audio:https://thoughtcatalog.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/i-hate-you.mp3|titles=The Shining Twins – “I Hate You”]
MK: Everything. Being a girl is really annoying and the shit that we put up with is unfair. And for me, growing up in like a rich, conservative area, I felt like I was held down. I couldn’t talk a lot and I was the only girl in my family so my views weren’t taken seriously. Now that I have all this freedom and moved to New York, I can let all that anger out and talk about the things I wasn’t allowed to talk about for, like, seventeen years. I can scream it out in a song and now I can’t stop.
Do you consider yourself a feminist band?
AW: We’re not feminists necessarily but we want there to be a new way for girls to look at feminism. Like, there’s a way for girls to talk about sex openly and to feel empowered without calling yourself a feminist.
Over the years, I think the term has become so convoluted and destroyed that people have just become scared of it.
MK: Yeah. This one time we actually saw Kathleen Hanna speak at The New School.
AW: It was right before we started the band.
MK: And we left in the middle. It made us so angry because she said something like, “All I really did was put sparkles on the feminist symbol.”
AW: She was showing a picture of a Le Tigre album cover that had a glittery feminist symbol and said, “That’s basically my career in a nutshell!”
MK: It was so stupid. Like, why do you have to downplay everything? We just looked at each other and said, “This is bullshit!” and left and that’s when everything started.
When you first started playing shows, you were banned from some venues. What’s up with that?
MK: Yeah, we’re banned from Lit and Bar on A. There’s like a level of drunk you should get before you do a show and we always think that it’s one level—
AW: Too far.
MK: We were out of control.
AW: In the beginning, we didn’t know how to play our instruments. Now we can get wasted or yell and spit on the audience and still be able to play our songs.
Now things seem to be going really well for you guys. You had a residency in Toyko at Le Baron for a month, opened for Mark Ronson and played Art Basel in Miami.
AW: We’ve been really lucky.
MK: I didn’t know how it actually really happened because we didn’t get a manager until recently, right before we left for Japan. Before then, we would get e-mails from people or we hung out at [East Village bar] Cabin and met people. That’s how we met any label guy. We had just hung out there for so long—
AW: And finally, people were like, “What do you do?”
MK: “We’re in a band! Just like you guys!”
How was being in Tokyo for a month? What was your day-to-day schedule like?
AW: It wasn’t fun at first. It was different but then we started to get the hang of it and now we can’t wait to go back.
MK: We had to work at Le Baron from 9 to 11 and then DJ 3 to 5 in the morning.
AW: Four nights a week. And then we had to fit in shows randomly. We would go from a show to our first DJ set to another show to our second set of DJing. And during the day we would try to go places like Shibuya and Harajuku. We got up and did all of it.
MK: We were there for so long. We lived there for three weeks. I’ve never done anything like that before.
AW: We had an apartment. It was sleep-away camp.
MK: And when I went to sleep-away camp when I was younger, I would leave because I’d be so anxious and start puking. But you just had to deal with your anxiety in Tokyo. There were no drugs, just booze. It was good for us, though.
What’s lined up next?
AW: We’re going to South By Southwest.
MK: And we’re going to be releasing a single. Our plan is to release singles on different labels and our first one is supposed to be finished this month.
AW: We’ve recorded everything so many times and we don’t have one thing to show for it yet. Our goal for 2011 is to work on stuff and take over.