There are two sides to every story that ebb and flow on a continuum moving ever closer to equilibrium. Light changes to dark, failure into success … we are at war with the world; we are at war with ourselves. It is in the ever-present pull between opposite ends of the spectrum that art and creativity flourish. In letting go, we often find ourselves; this is Jagwar Twin.
Drawn magnetically to a shared human spirit, Jagwar Twin melds a worldly-ensemble of alternative sounds on the debut album Subject to Flooding. Roy English, the driving force behind Jagwar Twin, emerges as a spiritual monk warrior with a powerful voice and prophet-like poetry paired against a landscape of 60’s style guitars, gritty hip-hop break beats, and flipped MPC samples reminiscent of Dark Fantasy-era Kanye West. The album will have you seeing the world through a new lens while feeling the beginning of a new alternative movement.
"Everything around us is filled with duality and choice” says English. "Just as one can be flooded with love and emotion, flooding can also bring destruction.” The search for balance and self-discovery is what powers Jagwar Twin. As a self-taught singer in high school, bullying was a common occurrence. Roy’s vocal tone was often the center of jokes, with blogs devoted to how “bad” it was, but early on he realized that he could channel that negative energy into art and dove deeper into self-exploration through songwriting and production.
After high school Roy cut his teeth touring with a few rock bands while seeing firsthand the ups and downs of the industry. Trying to make it as an artist wasn’t panning out, which led to thoughts of giving up music for good. The day before he was to move to Idaho to work at Pizza Hut, life came back around with other plans that would alter his path forever with a chance introduction to GRAMMY Award-winning producer Jeff Bhasker [Kanye West, Harry Style]. Through Jeff, Roy began to explore the world and art in all forms from architecture and travel to Picasso and Mozart which led to a new understanding of how to translate everything around him directly into the creation of music. This exploration culminated with a huge opportunity to create the album he always dreamed of making, but in the middle of recording, the industry showed its dark side and brought it all crashing down to the floor.
They say when you’re squeezed, what comes out of you is what’s inside and one night close to dawn roaming the walk of fame to pass time without a bed to sleep in, Roy scribbled down “I saw stars on the pavement, California Dreams. Looked up at the bright lights, no stars did I see.” Not knowing it at the time, those lyrics and song would soon power an Alesso single that would ultimately prove to be the charge that kept his musical journey moving. Along the way, Roy was able to sharpen production and songwriting chops with a new spirit, working with some of the industry’s most sought-after artists and producers, including lending his production skills for Lana Del Rey’s “I Can Fly” for Big Eyes by filmmaker Tim Burton.
One of the producers Roy became close with during this time was S1 [Kanye West, Lorde]. Talks about humanity, the world, and art on trips to S1’s house in Texas led to a bond filled with trust and openness, so naturally he was the first person Roy showed a few new demos to. The magnetism to the songs was immediate for S1 and he flew out to LA to begin tracking. Roy then invited friend and rock producer Linus to the studio and as soon as he started riffing on an idea, everyone knew the project had changed for good.
“We all had this sense of alienation from the prevailing music scene, and to be honest the current state of the world.” Roy said. “Everything around us felt fake and manufactured like music isn’t being crafted from the inside anymore … people just want to be famous”
Linus was so inspired by the songs and energy that he quit his full-time studio job to focus 100% on the album. Aside from bringing the old school rock element to the table, he also brought a lifestyle and diet that consisted of Himalayan shillijit tar, fasting, saunas, ice baths and meditation during studio sessions all with the goal of removing ego from the process. This creative and free environment led to a democratic production process which ultimately welcomed contributions from Twenty One Pilots drummer Josh Dun, Travis Barker of blink-182, children’s choirs and more at sessions everywhere from Joshua Tree and Haiti to Ireland’s coast and Florence, Italy. To put the music in focus, Fabien Montique—renowned for work with Kanye West and Louis Vuitton—flew out from Paris to shoot album visuals.
“You never know how what you put out into the world will come back to you” Roy said, but in letting go he discovered that the world is more powerful and inspirational as “we”. With this newfound awareness it became clear that going forward would continue to be a battle of self and out of necessity, Jagwar Twin was born. “Nobody feels like we created this album. It was a gift that we were able to receive and give back. I’m happy I get to be the artist” said Roy … and give back it does.
The album’s opening track “Long Time Coming” starts out with a worldly sound that quickly moves into a hard hitting, eye opening verse featuring Travis Barker on drums that sets the emotional tone for the whole album. “We have spent our entire existence as humans fighting one another, tearing each other down, working to get ahead by holding others back.” Roy said. “It’s time to come together … it’s been a long time coming.”
The first single “Loser” featuring Twenty One Pilots drummer Josh Dunis a song about breaking down the walls that separate us. “We all walk around with masks on, disguised as what we think the world wants to see” Roy said. “But if everyone was to remove their masks they would come to find that we are all just human underneath; that we are all losers.” By the time the first chorus ends, you’ll be singing along with a gleefully off-key children’s choir “Baby, I’m a loser just like you!”
With a soul-spiked cry for freedom, a cheerleader chant sample, and a hypnotic backbeat. “Dream” confronts the reality that so many people in the world don’t have the same opportunities. “No matter who you are, what color your skin is, what side of the imaginary line in the sand you were born, what circumstances you’ve experienced in the past, we should all be able to pursue our dreams equally,” Roy explains.
“Superhuman”, a track that emerged from the original Jeff Bhasker jam sessions, is built around the notion that we all have the ability to channel inner strength to be untouchable and in those rare moments super human. The song will have you cheering for an imaginary team as if you’re watching them push themselves through the blood, sweat and tears of practice, through the season and culminating with a game-winning shot to win the NBA Finals. “Everyone is afraid of failure but it’s actually in failure that we become who we are, that we learn, that we progress and that we truly become super human” said Roy.
“Helluva Night Pt. 1” is a story about how easy it is to get caught up in the highs, the partying, the glitz and the glam, while “Pt. 2” reflects on the dark side that can come from allowing ourselves to get in too deep. Together, they tell a cautionary tale about what happens when we don’t find equilibrium. He elaborates, “That war with self to find balance is what Jagwar Twin is all about.”
In the end, Jagwar Twin is writing to incite change—and has the power to actually do so.
“With the fragile state of the world emotionally, physically, environmentally, and politically we should all let go of ego” Roy said. “I hope through this music that people will take a deeper look inside themselves and others and find energy and spirit in our shared humanity. After all, we are all Subject to Flooding.”