When you've known some of your bandmates since early childhood, following them out onto a musical limb or two becomes easier. You reach a level of trust that might be possible, perhaps, only when you learn how to write music as a unit, to sing and play instruments in the presence of those same friends. It's a comfortable space, and also one probably equipped with a permanent BS meter.
The 20-something members of Twin Peaks — boyhood friends Cadien Lake James, Clay Frankel, Connor Brodner and Jack Dolan, and newcomer Colin Croom — emerged from Chicago's DIY scene, aided by community elders like Miss Alex White (White Mystery), the Funs and the Smith Westerns. Over the last four years, they've bonded as a rock band through long tours behind two albums: "Sunken," a garage-band debut from 2013, and its sprawling 2014 follow-up, "Wild Onion."
Last week, Twin Peaks released a third album, "Down In Heaven," which was recorded at a friend's home studio in the Berkshires in Massachusetts and mixed by John Agnello (Kurt Vile, Thurston Moore, Dinosaur Jr.).
The band returns for a show at the Pearl Street Clubroom in Northampton, Mass., on Saturday, May 21, with fellow Chicagoans Ne-Hi and Jimmy Whispers opening.
"When I first started hearing some of the demos and ideas that Clay and Cadien had for this record, it struck me that there was a certain sound that was happening," says Dolan, who sings and plays bass. "I tried to base what I was doing around that as well. You want to make your songs sound a little similar and have the same kind of vibe, so you take your cues from others. We've been doing that for so long that it's so natural. We all know where we're going with our stuff."
"Down In Heaven" channels the pastoral feel of late-'60s records by British Invasioners the Rolling Stones (notably on "Wanted You," written by Frankel, which sounds like several sides of "Exile on Main St." and "Some Girls" compressed into a single track), and the Kinks (the jangly "Village Green"-era feel of "My Boys," for example), as well as "Loaded"-era Velvet Underground ("Butterfly," especially).
Certain melodies — "Wanted You," the refrain of "Cold Lips" — are more than memorable; they could stick around with you all day. "Down In Heaven" has FM-ready rock ("Keep It Together," "Holding Roses"), rollicking honky-tonk piano songs ("Getting Better"), country-drenched folk ("Heavenly Showers") and a gorgeous, nostalgic ballad (Frankel's "Stain"). No song lasts longer than four minutes, and they're all good.
Recording in the Berkshires, Dolan says, "was always on the table, because we'd go visit [our friend] anytime we were in that area, in New York or Boston or somewhere in between. ... It ended up being a really ideal situation for us."
Arriving in August, Twin Peaks' three main writers (Frankel, James and Dolan) were quickly inspired by the natural beauty of their surroundings. "There weren't many distractions — OK, there were plenty of distractions — but we were always in this isolated little environment," Dolan says. "When we wanted to work, it was really easy to record a bunch of songs."
Before joining Twin Peaks, Croom played in a Chicago band with Lauren Whitacre called Sister Crystals. The band met him at Field Trip, a Chicago-area warehouse-apartment space; eventually, Croom worked on "Wild Onion" as an engineer.
"We were always buddies, certainly in a musical sense, and then became much closer as time when on," Dolan says. "He fits right in. Sometimes I forget he wasn't in the band a year ago."
Although some bands never escape regional DIY scenes, Twin Peaks broke out through hard work and resilience, "being able to take the absolute worst scenario that can happen on the road and run with it, to brush it off and keep going," Dolan says. "For certain bands, that can really break you down and ruin you. If you can get through it and deal with it, everything else becomes super easy."
The band now travels with greater ease and comfort than on previous tours.
"We've learned how to behave on tour and make things go well and play good shows," Dolan says. "Gaining experience all the time and just working your ass off has a lot to do with it."
And while it's always tempting to leave Chicago winters behind for good, it likely won't happen for awhile. Maybe never.
"You always think about it, and since we travel all the time we get to see the coolest cities and experience them in the perfect atmosphere, at one of our shows," Dolan says. "It can be deceiving. But at this point we have no true plan to leave Chicago anytime soon. If I did, I know I'd come back. I can't stay away for too long."
TWIN PEAKS plays the Pearl Street Clubroom in Northampton on May 21 at 8:30 p.m., with Ne-Hi and Jimmy Whispers opening. Tickets are $12-$14. Iheg.com.