“Like, you know, Satan’s not my daddy,” quips Twin Temple front goddess Alexandra James, deadly serious, but delivered with Cali-girl energy. TT wrote the new song “Satan’s a Woman” to address an inequity that pisses her off: “It’s sort of annoying, because why do we assume that every god is automatically a man? I didn’t get into this to worship yet another patriarchal daddy. I just felt like it was very exclusionary.”
By “into this,” she means Satanism, which is one of the driving visual and lyrical principals of the band — and life — she shares with husband/guitarist Zachary James. “I wrote the song basically from the perspective of a woman being like, ‘hey, let’s look at this a different way. Can we stop always talking about Satan as a man?’”
“Satanism is like a Pied Piper for the outsiders,” she says. As such, the fans flocking to see the talented doo-wop band perform favorites “Lucifer, My Love” and “The Devil Didn’t Make Me Do It” are faithful to the dark duo, who will soon open an arena show for another creepy crew who made it big: Ghost. Twin Temple are not dissimilar to Ghost’s layered heavy pop inflections or image vs. music discreteness. Thanks to the specter of TT’s black-clad gothic style, onstage blood-drinking and hex-casting antics, though, the uninitiated may presume the lineup would be of a heavier musical bent.
“One of our friends brought his friend, who’s super death metal and metal, to one of our shows. She saw our whole Satanic altar set up before we walked on stage and was like, ‘Oh, hell yeah! I haven’t been one of the really heavy, brutal shows in a long time.’ And we come on sounding like a ’60s girl group,” says Alexandra with a laugh. “They’re like, ‘wow, WHAT?’ I think people have like a definite cognitive dissonance between what they expect us to sound like what we actually sound like.”
While the couple don’t like to dwell on past musical projects, the pair are no strangers to the L.A. scene, playing both separately and together in more glittery — both musically and visually — lineups, earning rave reviews, TV appearances and shows at SXSW. “We could go through baby photos if you want,” laughs Alexandra. “I mean, I started my first band when I moved to L.A. [from the Bay Area] when I was 17, so it’s over a decade that I’ve been playing music. I think this is my seventh band or something like that.”
It’s the first one to gain major purchase, however, thanks in part to the re-release of Twin Temple Bring You Their Signature Sound… Satanic Doo-Wop via metal label Rise Above Records. Yep, that title pretty much says it all. While reviews of previous projects have likened Alexandra to Tina Turner, her powerful, timeless voice is well-suited to the horns-augmented classic doo-wop stylings that Twin Temple purvey.
“We love classic ‘50s and ‘60s rock and roll,” Alexandra says, with Zach adding, “there are a few bands in the area who do a real kind of throwback, period-correct [doo-wop] thing. But we’re so off-kilter with our interpretation. I don’t think they want anything to do with us.”
Initially there was no target audience or major goal; TT was for the pleasure its creators, though clearly, they’d be perfect for David Lynch films like Blue Velvet or Wild at Heart, or any Tarantino project. They did, however, figure that anyone who was into vintage music or stylings would dig the band. Says Zach: “And people who like punk and metal…”
“…and who are down with Satan,” adds Alexandra. “And/or anyone who marches to the beat of their own drum, and free thinkers; people who don’t really pay much mind to traditionalism.” There haven’t been many bands of the this ilk; the only one that comes to mind is the ‘80s-‘90s L.A. lineup Radio Werewolf, started by Nikolas Schreck, then joined by his wife, nee Zeena LaVey, daughter of Church of Satan founder Anton Szandor LaVey.
“We don’t view Satan as an actual person,” they clarify. “We view it as a symbol for freedom and subverting societal norms and individualism.” As for people who call the project a gimmick: “No. This is our lives and this is our spirituality and this is who we are. A gimmick means that you’re kind of adopting something with a very superficial knowledge of it,” says, Alexandra noting that she leans toward being a “green witch,” essentially working with the elements to harness the energy of the natural sources. “We’ve both sort of gravitated towards the occult and magic since we’re were little kids; long before we were really creating music, we were dabbling with exploring that side of ourselves.”
While Twin Temple songs are clever and rife with gallows humor, lyrics are at once open-ended and serious about individual freedoms, especially when it comes to “punishing women for being sexual beings, policing our bodies and our sexual lives.” Along with lyrics like “I just don’t understand the patriarchy,” and “I’m sorry women are necessary / To the survival of humanity,” Twin Temple put their money where their blood-dripping mouths are.
The James — perhaps a Lux Interior and Poison Ivy for a new generation? — are determined to act against oppression in a way that is also concrete and actionable, and recently did a fundraiser that benefited Planned Parenthood and Yellowhammer Fund, with other charitable projects on tap. Twin Temple also offer fans 18 and older the opportunity to “Join Thee Coven” (a Patreon site) for $6.66 a month to receive “secret writings on Satanism … how to practice Magick…” along with the chance to “commune with fellow likeminded heretics.” Lyrics about Lucifer including “You’re a much better kisser than Jesus,” and a twisted love song about a fateful demise, “Let’s Hang Together,” display a melding of music and belief set that’s serious and sublime, but oftentimes delivered with a wink.
Any blowback — and there has been some, including from far right Info Wars radio host Alex Jones — doesn’t bother the couple. “The project,” which Alexandra refers to as their “magickal child” — “gives our personal beings an opportunity to express ourselves in a way that we weren’t able to in the past,” explains Zachary. “It enables different parts to come together. I think that’s what people are sensing,” he says. “Twin Temple also gives them an opportunity to express something they haven’t been able to before; it’s bringing together those binaries.”
Twin Temple play a sold-out show at the Roxy on Sunday, June 23.