Something very special happened one day, two years ago in the kitchen of Vancouver’s St. James Music Academy, a non-profit that nurtures the musical souls and tummies of neighboring inner city kids. Academy cook Hannah Walker was frazzled trying to prepare and serve a hundred quesadillas before the mad rush of children, and deal with a well-meaning, but untrained, volunteer. In a strange moment of serenity, she discovered that the greenhorn in question, Jamie Elliott, was her musical soulmate and would be her future counterpart in thefolk-Americana duo, Twin Bandit.
On that day, Hannah and Jamie harmonized against the fevered pitch of stress and imminent chaos. With a few stolen moments, Hannah and Jamie began the adventure that would lead to their all-original folk-Americana duo, Twin Bandit. Now, they release their debut, For You(Nettwerk Music), resplendent with poignant lyrics and achingly gorgeous vocal harmonies.
“It’s a profound and confusing time being a young adult, and there is something universal and timeless about folk music because it’s about life lessons likeforgiveness,having your heart broken or finally falling in love,” Hannah explains. “Telling and sharing stories is therapeutic.”
At the core of the East Vancouver, British Columbia-based band’s aesthetic is the vocal harmony and spare instrumental accompaniment evocative of traditional American roots music. The day they met they sang almost every old chestnut they knew and excitedly rattled off favorite songs and artists from bygone eras. And yet if you listen closely, there are textures and nuances conjuring up contemporarysoundscapes and the weeping of pedal steel straight from traditional country.
Both Jamie and Hannah grew up immersed in the rich heritage of American roots music. Prior to joining forces, Jamie had been playing in country and bluegrass bands for seven years, harmonizing with other female vocalists. Hannah grew up with five sisters, and has been singing with her siblings since before she can remember. Upon meeting, their connection was instant—like sisters and perfect creative counterparts—as both are equally strong instrumentalists, singers, songwriters, and co-songwriters. They’re twin creative souls with a compelling underpinning of darkness to their work, hence the name Twin Bandit.
Within two months of their initial meeting, Hannah and Jamie were sitting
around a kitchen table piecing together the song that would become the stunning album track, “The Waltz.” They worked feverishly but quietly, keeping their burgeoning band private. In five months, they played their first show. A month later they played their record label audition and wowed Nettwerk Music with their stately sincerity and freshly reimagined take on well-worn but beloved musical traditions.
For You is a gracefully intimate album with raw emotionality, elegantly sparse musicianship, and mesmerizing vocal harmonies. Repeated listening sessions are rewarding as the listener hears such subtle touches as winsome pedal steel, Spaghetti Western-style atmospherics, and dreamy gospel organs.
Hannah and Jamie are equal talents, and there is an uncanny cohesion toFor You. However, there are intriguing differences in the perspective of each writer’s lyrics. “I write from an inner struggle ordarkness, and Jamie writes from a sense of peace and optimism, even in difficult times,” Hannah explains.
The breathtakingly bucolic “Tides” is an emotionally centered look into a tumultuous relationship. “It’s about love coming and going like tides and finding acceptance in that—like ‘if you love someone set them free,’” Jamie says. The graceful gait of “Rosalyn” belies the haunted quality of the lyrics with lines like—the tracks on your skin tell me how far you’ve been. “I wrote that for a dear friend who was older than me and struggled with addiction. I grew up hearing her stories and was touched by her as a person because she was so kind. It surprised me that someone with such a difficult life had so much love to offer,” Hannah reveals. Other album highlights include the high lonesome beauty of “The Waltz,” and the moony, “For You.” The album was produced by John Anderson, their good friend and in-demand pedal steel virtuoso, who intuitively understood their reach as traditionalists who want to keep the heritage alive.
Up next, Twin Bandit plan to continue to support the St. James Music Academy—where their generous spirits met—as well as the Carnegie Community Centre, a facility that offersvarious social programs to one of the most in-need neighborhoods, the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, British Columbia. “Music is a tool to create social change. We strongly believe in the power of that message and want to play our part,” Hannah says.