Twister are a high energy rock band of the highest order. Their anthemic songs are bursting at the seams with soaring guitars, catchy melodies and whopping choruses. These four North-East Lads are absolutely going for it, if you haven’t seen them live yet, make it a priority, you won’t regret it! The band have sold out O2 Academy 2’s and other venues around the country, so they’re seasoned troopers – Twister have played alongside such stellar performers as Status Quo, Bumblefoot (Guns ‘n’ Roses), Jools Holland, Texas, Scouting For Girls, Electric Six, Simple Minds and many more.
Having had the pleasure of reviewing their debut album Cursed and Corrected last year, I was gobsmacked to find they’ve been together for about ten years, and they’re still in their early 20s! So I made it my mission to find out more….
It’s a cruel “Twist” of Fate (sorry! – couldn’t help it!) that the band was on the point of breaking big, courtesy of their non-stop gigging and then releasing their debut album, when Covid brought pretty well everything to a shuddering halt. Perhaps one upside of this has been musicians being more easily reached for interviews, so here I was, getting to chat with Stevie Stoker, frontman for Twister.
As always these days, I started by checking the guys were all fit and well. Stevie replies that happily, they’re doing great, thank you. He goes on say that they’re one of the lucky bunch, still being able to work from their own studio. I get straight to my question about their longevity: “Twister have been described as an Upcoming NWOCR band, but I get the feeling you’re not exactly “new kids on the block”, you’ve actually been together for quite a while? – is that right? You must have been pretty young when you got together!”
Stevie agrees – “Yeah we’ve definitely been around the block! I started Twister when I was 13 at school and I think we’ve done almost everything you can as a band from the sublime to the ridiculous. From holiday parks and small bars, to European tours and arenas. There was one weekend we played a holiday park in Burnham-on-Sea and we’d been advertised as a cabaret band. They were a bit shocked when we turned up. And the day after we opened up for Status Quo in front of 8,000 people. Both amazing experiences though!”
I follow up by asking about their roots – although they’re described as being from the North East, I’ve lived in Newcastle and I know it can be a very sensitive subject! – I ask if they’re all from the same side of the River Tyne, and which one (Toon Army or Soondaloond?!) Stevie plays this with a straight bat: “We’re actually spread out a bit. Me and Jake are from the pit villages in Durham, Ryan is from Stockton-On-Tees and Jack is from Hartlepool however he lives in Newcastle. Surprisingly there’s very little name calling goes on!”
We talk more about their early years – most people might only know of Twister from over the last couple of years, but I guess they’re well known in the North East – going back a little, am I right in thinking they’ve won at least one local “Battle Of The Bands” competition, and then a national competition as well? Stevie confirms all this: “Yeah we’re proud of being from the North East and our support network up here is absolutely insane. Over the last couple of years we’ve been concentrating on spreading our wings and getting ourselves to as many new people as we can.”
“We’ve done a few Battle Of The Bands over the years and won some great competitions and come close in others. We finished 2nd in the Surface Unsigned Festival in 2010 out of 12,000 bands internationally which was amazing. The final was at the O2 Arena in London, it was a really honour to play on that stage.
Our last BOTB’s appearance was in HRH’s Highway to Hell competition back in 2019 and we won. We’re now part of the HRH family and signed to their label ‘Off Yer Rocka’.”
It’s a cruel “Twist” of Fate that during 2019 they were breaking through and becoming more widely known – touring widely and thinking about a debut album – and then of course everything changed.
I wondered whether that meant at least that they put all their energies into developing the album, and whether they were writing the songs during that time or were some of them quite old? (Stevie says later on that they’d put “our last 5+ years” into making the album?).
Stevie agrees and says they wanted to use 2020 as a fresh start. “We’ve released EPs and Albums before but didn’t feel like we’d released them in the right way or got the mileage out of them. So we deleted everything and took what we felt were the best 6 songs that we had and put them with 6 brand new tracks along with an intro and I’m over the moon with the way it turned out. We pride ourselves on being a live act in the truest sense of the word and admittedly its been a very challenging time for us not being on the road and also not earning in the way that we usually do.”
“However it’s definitely been an opportunity for us to learn new skills and adapt. We turned our attention to Patreon and with us having our own studio its been really great for us and our fans to keep connected. Now we are doing weekly live shows online just to Patreon in which the fans have a say in what we play and we can engage with them over the chat. It’s kept that community vibe that we are used to”
We move onto the album: Cursed and Corrected was released in November 2020, and I had the pleasure of reviewing it for Velvet Thunder. My soundbite was that “It left me thinking that without doubt I’d just heard something rather special!” I really enjoyed the catchy maturity across the whole thing, and made the point that it proves the band had certainly worked their apprenticeship, as it were! Stevie appreciates this and says “Well that’s very nice of you thank you! It really means the world to us that some people love the album as much as we do. We had a lot of plans changed last year as we were due to tour Europe with The Quireboys and our plan was to start releasing singles during that but our whole schedule changed obviously”
Following on from that, it’s clear that right across the music industry there’s been a lot of anxiety when producing “hard copy” during the pandemic, across the whole spectrum from musicians, record companies, PR folk, publishers etc – and I ask whether they’d had any problems with getting the album released, were they originally hoping to get it out earlier? Stevie says “The main thing that held up the release was mastering. We were due to be in Abbey Road two days after we went into the first lockdown so we ended up having to wait until the end of June to have that done. Thankfully we were still able to get the fabulous Mr Frank Arkwright to master it and that was a dream for me as he’s worked on some of my favourite tracks and albums.”
He goes on “As for hard copies I think they’re essential for touring acts as that’s the only way we actually make any real money. Although I think Spotify is amazing as a tool for us to reach more people fans like something special. We put a lot of work into the artwork and presentation of the hard copies both CD & Vinyl so that when people receive them it’s a real special occasion.”
It is sad that the band have missed out on the “events” side of new music being released, but I wonder whether they’ve got over the simple excitement / rush of it coming out yet? Stevie confirms: “To be honest I’m over the moon at the response the album has had, and yes it’s sad that we haven’t been able to tour it yet but we definitely will do as soon as we can. We’ve just focussed on what’s next. Writing new material, planning a live album and also releasing the B Sides that didn’t make the album. We’ve got a lot of new music to bring out this year so keep your eyes peeled!”
I mention that Cursed and Corrected was voted 4th best Album Of The Year by The New Wave of Classic Rock group website! – and the single 64 White Lies was voted 4th best Song Of 2020 on Hard Rock Hell Radio! I suggest the reason is that their songs are very accessible, fresh, rocky – everything that’s good about Classic Rock in fact! And that makes it popular across a broad range of musical tastes – but was Stevie surprised at the level of positive reactions that you and the album have generated?
“Yes! I really am! I’ve always said you need to see us live to get what we are about but we’d never put anything of this quality out before. I think finally people are hearing what we want them to hear. The support we have had from The New Wave Of Classic Rock community and from HRH and their plethora of platforms has been out of this world and the album wouldn’t have done anywhere near as well without them. I’m so proud be a small part of such an amazing music fan base!”
Looking at the album’s tracks, I suggest the album’s opener, “We Are…” is quite unusual, it’s like the entrance anthems that boxers go in for, although it does then sweep straight into Save Us Yourself. Is there a significance in this “Introduction to Twister”? Stevie says “I’m pleased you’ve asked! The album intro is our stage intro music which as you say leads into Save Us Yourself. You get a glimpse of what we do with it live in the Save Us Yourself music video. Jake and Ryan have timpani drums either side of the stage and as the intro starts they walk out, just the two of them. I then head out about halfway through and address the crowd. It’s great for catching people attention and making people who are at the bar turn and find out what’s going on.”
I describe how one of my favourite tracks, “Trees”, has a lovely overall sound and production, it feels like a mature composition in the way they’ve put it together – and some great lead guitar licks from Jake! And then it flows into “Wild And Lonely” which has a completely different mix of instruments (synths etc) – I ask whether the four of them nailed down how they wanted to do these, or was their production team able to advise? (either way the “backroom team” have done a great job! – for example 64 White Lies is another great combination of song-writing, playing, and quality production).
Steve responds “Well thank you very much! Yes, we did all of the preproduction at our place before heading down to Parr Street Studios in Liverpool to work with Tony Draper. We had most of how we wanted it to flow already mapped out but Tony sprinkled his magic all over it and made it come to life. He’s an amazing producer. We’d tracked all of the synths before we went to Parr Street so the only keys that were recorded there were the Piano parts in Mystery & Young & Affected. Just because we wanted a real Grand Piano on the album.”
And another favourite, “Mystery”, shows Stevie’s versatility, and his strength as a vocalist! I ask who plays keys on this and other tracks – keys aren’t credited as such on the album but there’s some lovely stuff on here!
Stevie modestly says “Mystery is a very emotional track and I think that comes across in the performance of it. As it happens our old drummer and good friend Joe Major (now of Keylock) played piano on Mystery and a few bits on a couple of other tracks. I played a few keys parts as well but all the impressive bits were Joe. Haha!”
Perhaps the album’s overall strongest track is “Monroe” – for me, this captures everything about Twister – a great mix of powerful riff-led classic rock and massively catchy melodies. I ask if that summed Twister up? Stevie is emphatic: “Ohh definitely! I think energy drives us and the pure love of what we do. Monroe for me holds a special place in my heart as when I wrote it wasn’t in a great place, being able to turn that into a song and using it to voice my feelings in that way makes everything a lot easier to deal with. I think a great song is something that can really make you feel. Doesn’t matter what that feeling is, you tend to get lost within it.”
He adds “This is the 5+ years of our lives in a record.” “Everything that has happened to us personally and professionally as a band over the last five years has created these songs. Every single track is a little piece of us poured out in lyrics, guitars, bass, and drums. From heartbreak and frustration to joy and elation this album epitomises what we are as a band and sets the precedent of what we want to achieve.”
There are 13 tracks on the album, and I’m guessing that the band has probably written and performed maybe twice as many tracks over the last five years? – how did the four of them whittle down to these 13 – did they each get to choose a couple or was there a bit of a squabble?! ?
Stevie smiles and says ”When we started choosing the songs for the album we whittled it down to about 25 then picked 12-13 tracks we thought would sit together the best on this album and to be honest it didn’t take us long to agree on them songs. We have always said that the other songs we still love playing will come back in some way and we have just decided to release them as a B sides album.”
Sort of going sideways on that, I ask whether the four of them all have very similar tastes and influences, or is there a healthy range of influences that keeps them on their toes? Stevie says “I think we all have common favourites but more importantly we all have different stuff we love. It’s great for songwriting if you don’t put any boundaries in the way. You never know what can come out. We’re all Classic Rock fans but equally most of us like Metal, Indie and even Country. It’s nice to mix it up.”
Coming back to the current situation, I wonder how the four of them are coping with lockdowns and such? – are they able to “remotely rehearse” from home like some others? Stevie says “We’re all working from our studio and having this place has really brought us closer and built on our team ethics. I’ve seen lots of bands fall apart over the last year and it’s really sad. We are most certainly one of the lucky ones.”
Given how their songs have been written over a five year period, are they conscious of their style changing / evolving a bit? – is there a sort of natural development, are they already working on new material? Stevie says “Yes without a doubt. We as players, performers and songwriters always want what we do next to be better than he had done previously. That’s just way it is. But sometimes with that process you might end up making thinks heavier in places, lighter in others and giving more character to songs. I absolutely love it!”
And that, folks, is the bottom line!
Twister have always been a band of two sides; one with powerful rock driven riffage opposed and accompanied by their undeniably catchy melodies. Cursed & Corrected contains the 13 best tracks Twister have written since their inception, and the band are itching to get out there and play them live!
Twister’s debut album “Cursed and Corrected” is released by Off Yer Rocka and is available from www.officialtwister.co.uk