Q&A: Maryliz Bender, Drummer For Twin Limb



JAMIE DAVISBY JAMES M. DAVIS Twin Limb’s music comes out of some kind of dark ether, haunting and transfixing, with lyrics that encompass interpersonal love as well as celestial bodies. Born and bred in Louisville, Kentucky, Twin Limb’s sound and vision shares common ground with bands like Dark Dark Dark or Bonnie Prince Billy, with an ear for hooks and a healthy amount of gauzy shoe-gaze in the guitar and harmonies. Recently, we had a chance to talk with Maryliz Bender [pictured, above right], drummer for Twin Limb, who are on tour right now serving double duty as both backing band for Jim James of My Morning Jacket fame who has a new solo album called Eternally Even, and as opening act, pimping their excellent debut Haplo and a new EP called Anything Is Possible And Nothing Makes Sense. The Jim James/Twin Limbs tour stops at the Fillmore on Friday. DISCUSSED: The importance of being Slint, seminal Krautrockers Can, bizarre medical anomalies, and the power and the glory of having Jim James as a spiritual leader.

PHAWKER: So, how did the name Twin Limb come about?

MARYLIZ BENDER: So actually it sort of came about pretty quickly when Lacey [Guthrie, Twin Limbs vocalist/accordionist] and I started making music with each other. We honestly had just started playing music together and I’m just such a crazy motivated person and I was like, ‘OK we have to come up with a band name,’ and we basically just at down for an hour or so just spitting out names, and we knew we liked the word ‘twin,’ that we felt almost as if the two of us were almost cosmic twins. So it was like, how did I not know that I had this other person, this twin, and honestly we just started tacking other words onto it. And something we’ve always been really interested in is our perspective of space from the Earth, that we’re always looking up to space to ground ourselves, and there’s this thing, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the lunar limb before, but it’s this beautiful light you can barely see that sort of creates almost this eclipse, this is a long winded answer. . . but we just started googling twin limb and we saw these terrible images, not terrible, terrible is the wrong word, but these people with terrible medical problems or children born with way too many limbs. Some of them were very — it was scary to look at. And people would ask us to, you know, change the name and I would be like no! I’m not going to change the name of my band to prevent you from seeing people who were born this way. And our society isn’t quite set up for them and I think it’s really important to see that everything we do is about shifting perspective, you know our fragile atmosphere and the vastness of space, this tiny earth that we live on and there are humans born with these ailments. So I just feel so strongly about, especially in these times, about paying attention to the meaning we create for ourselves and I’m just going to do what I can every single day, and hopefully someone will notice us.

PHAWKER: Is it possible to be a great band from Louisville and not be influenced by Slint?

MARYLIZ BENDER:Slint is one of my greatest influences and absolutely changed the way I thought about writing music and playing guitar. I moved to Louisville when I was 19, and they’ve been one of my greatest influences ever since, and I know the same goes for Lacey. Kevin [Ratterman, Twin Limbs guitarist] as well but the only difference there being that Kevin actually worked with them quite a bit and was very good friends with them. We first met them a while ago and now it just crazy to see them at our shows, and be supported by your idols. I think everyone would say Slint changed the scene for them, changed the path for Louisville music and changed the way they wrote.

PHAWKER: That cover of Can’s “Yoo Doo Right” you guys do is amazing, is it possible to be a great band from Planet Earth and not be influenced by Can?

MARYLIZ BENDER: So I had heard Can before when I was a teenager, but it had been so long and I owe it all to Kevin for us doing that cover. Kevin is a huge Can fan and he reintroduced Can into our lives when we were on tour, and we listened to that song while we were painting our practice space, we kinda left that on, the long version, and we were like “we totally have to cover this song.” There are a couple reasons why we wanted to put that on that original EP, it has a lot of slow, dark moody songs, those are all the songs that Lacey and I first started laying down together and that Can song was just sort of like a beautiful way for the three of us to learn how to just jam together, not worry about the individual sounds so much and just kind of jam, for hours. But the recording sounds so great and that’s all kind of thanks to Kevin, he’s just such a great sound engineer. Playing that live just became so fun and everyone kind of looks forward to it and it really kind of breaks up the whole vibe of the show and the EP, so yeah, now I’d say we’re terribly influenced by Can forever.

PHAWKER: Tell me something about Jim James that would surprise me.

MARYLIZ BENDER: Oh wow that’s a really good — that’s so good, good question. Let me think for a minute, I have to make sure i don’t get myself in trouble. Did you know he’s such a total goofball, he’s just a goofball. I remember when I first met him, he’s just such a jokester, he’s also just one of the most totally kind-spirited people I have ever met. You always expect people who are so amazing like that at entertaining, just going onstage every night like that, you always expect some kind of ego and he’s simply not that way at all.

PHAWKER: Did you all play on his new album at all?

MARYLIZ BENDER: No, I can’t take credit for any of that. I think Jim did the whole album out in LA with all new people for a whole new perspective.

PHAWKER: Do you have any funny stories about working with him?

MARYLIZ BENDER: Well what definitely is true is that I look up to Jim as this kind of spiritual guide, he’s kind of become my life coach. I don’t think he even knows that unless he reads this. But the greatest thing about him is that he works so hard but he has no fear. You know I always have that fear about “I’m gonna put this album out and people are gonna hate it” or “I’m gonna go onstage and people are gonna boo me,” there’s always all this fear, and we live in such a fear-based society. But the first time I met Jim he just kind of grabbed me by the shoulders and said “You’re a wizard too, you realize that you’re amazing don’t you” and then he would always drop lines like “Don’t you think it’s funny how people think they can’t do things?” He’s always dropping these lessons in your lap that where you’re like “oh thanks Jim I just forgot, I totally forgot how there is just nothing to be afraid of.” I would just say that he became such an important person in my life and I am now trying to pass that on to others. I’ve utterly let go of those fears. It’s all subjective and some people aren’t going to like the music, but some people are going to be touched by it, someone is always going to get touched by it. So I’ve taken that from him. And one other thing, more of a life-coach thing, is he is so good about he been on tour for so many years, and we’re not so well seasoned, and, man, he is just so good about knowing how to ask for a smoothie bar on his tour rider, [laughs] or take time to meditate or just sit still, stop, just to stop. So I’m learning so much from him.

PHAWKER: OK last question, your house is on fire and you can only save one record, what would it be?

MARYLIZ BENDER: Well you’re actually triggering my fire burning records PTSD right now. When I was 13 my dad found my Incesticide CD, and he was really mad about it and took me outside and we burned all my CD’s, yeah. . . But I’m thinking you know, in times when things are really rough, there’s a Neu! album that I use for things like meditation almost. But there’s a Brian Eno album, and it really soothes me, and I think I could listen to it for the rest of my life, and that’s Music For Airports.