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Superstar Duos Debut

East Bay Express
…In the case of the Gutter Twins, Lanegan and Dulli, both veterans that got their start in the ’90s alt-rock scene, are Noise Pop virgins. The collaboration began with a rumor, when an Italian journalist asked Lanegan about a project with his longtime friend. On the spot, Lanegan played along, and penned them the Gutter Twins. The name (and idea) stuck.

The moniker is rather appropriate given the singers’ penchant for wrist-cutting melodrama. Lanegan’s gravely voice, like a built-in sorrow instrument, could convince you that locking yourself in a rundown motel room with only whiskey and cigarettes to survive on would be a good idea, while Dulli conveys his dark emotions by overwhelming force. Together, they could spill into overkill, but instead, the record simultaneously shows off their respective strengths and willingness to travel beyond the scope of their well-worn paths.

“We’re real good friends,” Lanegan remarked. “When we’re not doing music, we see each other a couple times a week, talk every other day. It was pretty intuitive, I think. He finishes my musical thoughts. It’s a natural, unspoken thing.”

At times, the songs on Saturnalia show hints of their past projects, such as Mad Seasons or QOTSA with the heavy psychedelic riffage of “Idle Hands.” But sonically, they’re never stagnant. “Circle the Fringes” mashes Middle-Eastern flourishes into a cryptic ballad, while “All Misery / Flowers” sees Lanegan speak-singing against an eerie, foreboding backdrop of screeching guitars and distortion. Each song was written collaboratively, says Lanegan, but in various combinations: sometimes Dulli wrote the music and Lanegan the lyrics, or vice versa.

Indie-label stalwart Sub Pop, which is releasing the Gutter Twins album, has long recognized the exposure that Noise Pop provides its artists. The Fastbacks played Noise Pop for years, until they finally broke up. But A&R head Tony Kiewel says the Twins’ launch with the festival was merely a happy coincidence.

“I’d be lying if I said it was something that we were consciously orchestrating,” said Kiewel. “But San Francisco is a really important market, A) because it’s a big city, but also Live 105 is a surprisingly supportive radio station, at least for us, and for many indie labels.” He notes the alternative rock station was one of the first to jump on bands like the Hot Hot Heat, the Postal Service, and the Shins. “If you can tip over a city like San Francisco, you always hope that’s the first domino. Then you can take that story and prove to Seattle and Los Angeles: this band and the song they’re writing are not only good, but more people like them. It’s the gross part of marketing,” he admits.

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