Falling in love is a lot of things. It’s exhilarating. It’s beautiful. But, above all, it’s terrifying. At least, that’s the way TWINKIDS’ Matt and Gene feel about the subject on “Body Wonder,” the new track from their upcoming EP, Boys Love, named after a genre of gay Japanese romance manga. “It’s about falling in love and how scary that is and how consuming that is," Gene says. “As much as it’s a beautiful thing, it also really changes you and changes your behavior. Losing your sense of self is the biggest thing that really scares me.”
Throughout the track’s synth-heavy four minutes, the duo’s lyrics trace the familiar dependence that comes with falling in love, singing, “I won’t know how to fall if you let go of me.” It’s this gloomy, melancholic approach to love that surges throughout their debut project, as well. For Matt and Gene, this a sonic response to their past relationships—albeit with a heavy dose of '80s J-Pop thrown in for good measure.
Long before they moved to Los Angeles to pursue a music career, the duo met in the fabled halls of Oberlin College, the small liberal arts college that counts members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mars Volta, and Beach House as alumni. Gene, who was born and raised in Tokyo, had met Matt while working on J-Pop music and, eventually began to write, perform and produce songs together.
Armed with their laptops and a range of influences steeped heavily in Japanese drum machines and synths, the duo spent the past two years crafting a debut EP produced entirely from their own closet and bedroom. With Boys Love set for release on August 18, OUT caught up with the queer musicians to ask about the “twink IDs,” nauseating exclusivity of LA’s gay scene, and childhood love for Sailor Moon.
OUT: How’d you come up with the name TWINKIDS?
Gene: We started the project when we were in college—our junior or senior year—and one of my friends said it by accident about us. We were like, wow that could be it.
Matt: Yeah, there’s not much that behind it. It kind of sounds like twinks, which we thought was funny. [Laughs]
Yeah, I was going to ask if you know the band name could be read as “twink IDs.”
Matt: Yeah, definitely trying to play into that a little bit because it’s an identity we’ve both worn—and do wear.
Would you ever want to release a J-Pop single?
Gene: Well, for the Boys Love EP, we got the rights to this Japanese pop song from the late ‘70s and we’re releasing a cover. In the future, we’re looking into doing an original in Japanese, as well.
What should we expect from your new EP?
Matt: We moved to LA a little over two years ago and wrote all the songs on that EP during our first year here, and that was a really unstable time for both of us—right after college, financially awkward. That comes through in a lot of the songs. It sounds really vulnerable and a lot of the lyrics are sort of this second coming-of-age situation that we experienced when we moved here.
What do you like about LA’s gay scene?
Matt: I love the drag queens and hate... maybe everything else.
Gene: Yeah, it’s so strange because I feel like the scene is nauseatingly exclusive. Going out as half-white, mixed, small people, I feel like the scene isn’t really for us—or for me at least. It’s really frustrating.
Matt: It definitely feels like it’s changing, though. A part of it is just that we’re both in our heads about feeling like we’re not masculine enough or not white enough in these gay spaces. It’s not always malicious, but it often feels like that. [But] there are definitely places you can go to that are more inclusive and much queerer.
Gene: The classic WeHo scene has not been my fave.
What are your musical influences?
Gene: We’ve been listening to a lot of ‘70s and ‘80s J-Pop It’s really shiny and sparkly sounding, but a little bit sad, too. That’s right around the time when synthesizers and drum machines were coming up, so it’s really heavy on those kinds of sounds, as well.
Matt: That music is really the perfect intersection of me and Gene’s tastes. I feel like I’m really into music theory and love classical music and that complexity, [but] I feel like that era in Japan was really embracing those complexities.
Yeah, for sure. I wanted to ask about Sailor Moon because you post a lot of her on your Instagram.
Gene: [Laughs] I have a really vivid memory of watching Sailor Moon as a kid in elementary school. I would watch it from behind a couch and the second someone would walk into the room, I would duck and hide behind the couch and act like I was just hanging out behind the couch. I was so embarrassed that I loved Sailor Moon, but I’m definitely embracing it now.
Matt: We were watching all the transformations in that cartoon when they’re putting on their looks. We were thinking that this is so queer. It’s so gay. We both had that experience as kids of loving how femme that was.
Gene: It was strange to see a celebration of hyper-femininity and have that be really cool. I mean, Sailor Moon is a drag queen for sure.
On your singles so far, you talk about a toxic cycle in a relationship and also about needing someone for the sake of validation. Are these themes going to play out across the entire album?
Gene: Yeah, I think so. I was just getting into a relationship at that time when I was writing those songs, so a lot of the themes are set in the bittersweetness of relationships. When it feels so exciting, but it’s also so toxic because it’s all-consuming. That’s what most of these songs are about.
Do you have any recommendations for getting over someone?
Matt: [Laughs] I’m going to say absolutely not because it takes me ages to get over people. I brood about it forever, so I’m not the best person to seek advice from. Maybe write really sad songs about it and then release an EP?
Photography: Grant Spanier