Twin Temple: On ‘Satanic doo-wop,’ and how the devil’s makin’ them do it

Twin Temple (photo by Skylar Kydd)

Twin Temple’s ‘Satanic doo-wop’ is rooted in classic American music, and the notion that rock ’n’ roll should be dangerous and rebellious. Oh, for the love of … Lucifer?

“We made a pact with each other and Satan,” says Alexandra James of Twin Temple, the band she helms with husband Zachary dedicated to big-band “satanic doo-wop” where Johnny Angel is replaced with Lucifer himself, the original fallen angel, who rules the underworld from the back of his motorcycle.

“You’re a much better kisser than Jesus,” the temptress sings on their latest single, “Lucifer, My Love,” a song that romantically hails Satan because he’s dreamy and can “deliver me from society’s hypocrisy.” When it comes to love, “Church and state don’t seem to know a thang,” she quips while reading a love letter mid-track, dressing a little ideology with sultry delivery in praise of rejecting the status quo (while embracing Satan, literally and figuratively).

||| Stream: “Lucifer, My Love”

Although the band weaves some ritual aspects into performances, holding up a skull and engaging the crowd in “Hail Satan!,” the inclusive experience isn’t so much a recruitment tactic ( … we think?) as much as it celebrates the communal magic of gathering around music. The idea is foremost to enjoy the sounds and Gothic tableaus of this seven-piece band centered around Zachary, a very tall man with a tiny mustache on guitar, and Alexandra, a much smaller woman wearing a veiled funeral crown whose commanding voice completes the band’s haunted mid-century tapestry. Below, she explains just what makes Satan such a dreamboat, and talks about working with producer/analog aficionado Jonny Bell on the band’s new album.

What’s the Satanist point of view on love, according to your own philosophy?

Satanists do not deny the carnal aspect of love, or pleasure. We harness these sexual forces through the Great Rite, working with the ecstasy of Sex Magick in order to express our individual will, exalt and deify the Self, and transcend polarities, such as male/female, good/evil, God/The Devil. Satan is Love.

Who recorded “Lucifer My Love” and your other new tracks?

We recorded with Jonny Bell at Jazz Cats studio. We did it completely live to tape, just played through the songs two or three times and chose the best take. (Except the background vocals, which Zachary and I overdubbed together.) The whole album was done in a day and a half. It was so freeing to work in this manner, rather than slaving over minutiae. We mixed it in mono. We love the golden era of classic American music, and all those musicians were playing live. Jonny is super knowledgeable about vintage recording techniques as well, and captured some great sounds. If things got too clean, he’d be like, ‘How can we fuck this up?’ Something magical happens when you know you only have a take or two, and everyone’s just in a room together, feeding off and reacting to one another.

Who doesn’t love a rebel?

What does Lucifer embody as a romantic ideal/crush/love interest? A rebel angel?

We use Lucifer as a symbol of rebellion, individuality and the equality of all humankind. Lucifer did not want to serve under the oppressive rule of a Patriarchal God; instead declaring “Non Serviam,” or I will not serve. Thus, he was banished from the supposed heavenly kingdom. His exile symbolizes his freedom from Patriarchy, ignorance, dogma and blind subservience. Like Lucifer in exile, we align ourselves with the adversary, the outsider. Besides, who doesn’t love a rebel?

How do you think the naivete of doo-wop and the rebellious quality of Satan coincide? Why do these two forces make sense together for you?

Rock ’n’ roll has always been demonized, because like Satanism, it celebrates the outsider, carnal pleasures, individuality and equality of all humankind. Rock ’n’ roll is the anthemic music of the oppressed, the underdog. At one time, rock ’n’ roll was dangerous, subversive — you had pioneers of the genre like Fats Domino being violently attacked after shows, because his music made white and black kids dance together. Rock ’n’ roll helped shift the paradigm, and reshape cultural consciousness and rid outdated, racist dogma like segregation. We feel it’s only natural to bring Satan, subversion, sex and danger back to it’s rightful place in rock ’n’ roll, and we want to continue the legacy of classic American music and propel it into the current cultural conversation. In our minds, what better vehicle is there, than Satanic doo-wop?

||| Live: Twin Temple perform March 1 at The Echo with Frankie and the Witch Fingers. Tickets