By Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of West Hays.
Future Twin of San Francisco, Calif. is the kind of group that—by learning what surrounds the band, what they do and what they believe—you actually get a better sense of who they are than if you were to purely listen to the music.
It almost seems like the word “band” doesn’t even do them justice, as they are more of a “force.” Future Twin has real ideas for how they want to be and playing shows and releasing records is only a small sliver of that. It’s their grassroots activism in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area fighting for food sovereignty for urban families that keeps them going, giving their songs their own material to write about.
It’s a self-propelling machine. Future Twin is a band that’s actually about something. And they’re not limited to music and activism either, as if those inextricably linked mediums weren’t enough, but they’ve recently dabbled in performance art; creating a visual spectacle of their recent single, “We’re Here”. BTR was able to speak with lead singer Jean Jeanie about causes they’ve been involved with and how they plan to rework “the music video” format.
During BTR’s interview with Jeanie, she had mentioned that we were calling during the middle of a drought in San Francisco and California in general. When asked if the weather or environment made its way into their music, she says, “We like to think of ourselves as sonic anthropologists.”
The most notable environmental cause the band was involved with was over a piece of land called the “Gill Tract” in Albany, Calif. that was owned by UC Berkeley, which Jeanie describes as “one of the last vestiges of soil that hasn’t been developed on.” People in the area had been asking the university for decades to open the space to the public for “agrocology” and to teach people how to grow their own food to no avail. On Earth Day 2011, Jeanie and 200 others cut the locks to the space and occupied it, all the while doing “a little march through the neighborhood.”
They battled with the University for three years as the plan for the space was to be sold to Whole Foods. The university finally conceded to give the land to the people and although the state’s current historic drought is affecting the space right now, Jeanie can know that she’s in a band that gets shit done.
“It’s the punk DIY spirit but then translating it into more of like a social justice side of things. Not necessarily relating it to music so much but it’s the bigger picture of helping people become more independent and having more autonomy and more sovereignty to make their own decisions on how to run their immediate spaces. The artist side of it is, ‘If that’s happening, theoretically, then people would have more time to reflect.’ And that’s what I personally think art is,” says Jeanie.
Future Twin began out of what Jeanie calls “a need and desire to express.” Jeanie and a Japanese “ESL” friend of hers were “rolling around in The Mission” where the friend spotted a “cool car,” and then right after seeing a similar looking car but more “sleek and modern-looking.” The friend said, “Oh look at that sick car! It’s like that other sick car’s future twin!” Obviously the two of them were never the same. Living in SF, Jeanie says she was meeting a lot of people with “things from their past, debilitating their present self” and so she wanted to find a way for people to have “a place.”
Really, the band started as an idea more than anything and that idea was the one that “could deliberately manifest what they want to become.” Jeanie points to an ethos her friend invented called “USE” which stands for Unlimited Self Expression which is their way of “getting away from terminology that doesn’t have any meaning.”
The band’s latest release, the “cassingle” entitled Chillality, is also an ethos. It acts as a five-song preamble to a new album called Wavelength Sovereignty, with two singles from that on Chillality and then three previously unreleased singles which they deemed the Summer Singles Series.
“When people look at [creating art], maybe older people who aren’t in the same headspace for whatever reason, they look at it like we’re being lazy or we’re stupid or we don’t get it. There’s the whole thing of like, ‘Get a real job!’ and all this stuff. Chillality was this tongue-and-cheek response to that where essentially we’re saying, ‘Look, we’re cognizant of reality. We know that this shit’s fucked up. We understand.’ But then it’s still like, in the face of all this terror and suffering, it’s still trying to manifest this deliberate tranquility. Like chill, chillness,” says Jeanie.
The first song from the EP, “We’re Here”, speaks of being “unjustly displaced” in San Francisco, which Jeanie says “once people live in San Francisco for however long, it’s like a matter of time.” She calls out people who think of themselves as good people, moving into a certain neighborhood with the attitude of “We wanna have a baby! We wanna do this stuff to live our life!” to which Jeanie says, “Well, what do you think I’m fucking doing?”
Last month, Future Twin showcased an interactive visual art piece for “We’re Here” at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. Calling it a music video would be reductive as the band is not even in the piece, and their absence is even more apparent than that description allows. The film casts three archetypes of urban dwellers from an elderly person to a twentysomething service worker to an office employee.
All of the characters are “going about their day” but feeling isolated from the rest of the world in a workaday existence. The piece explores the question of “What does it mean to be successful in America in 2014?” as for each of the characters, the piece shows how their work is commodified. The spectators of the piece were able to pick which character they wanted to follow, as it worked in a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style.
“It was cool that instead of just being passive observers of media, it’s about making a choice. We could try to give people a choice of what they wanna see beyond just what we’re presenting to them.”
Choose your own adventure with Future Twin by clicking here.
Check out Future Twin’s music and interview on the latest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.