TWO, the new duo of Aja Volkman and Dan Epand — formerly of LA indie rock outfit Nico Vega — recently released their debut EP, Pull The Knife Out, on their own TWENTYTWO RECORDS label.
The band is self-made, self-produced, and brought Volkman and Epand back together at a sacred threshold in their lives where everything else was coming undone.
“I was on a ski lift in Big Bear when Aja called. Her voice was different. She asked if I struggled in my marriage. It was her way of letting me know that something wasn’t right. She had twin one-year-old girls and a six-year-old, and she was suddenly faced with the idea of being a single mother. She was crushed, broken… and she was mad,” Epand said. “What followed was a torrent of songs, a cathartic stream of music. Every day. Sometimes two a day. She bombarded me with hauntingly brilliant voice memos, ideas for more and more songs.”
You can stream the EP on your choice of music services through this smartlink.
Volkman and Epand dropped by American Songwriter with a track-by-track explanation of the songs on the album.
LIVE FOREVER MORE
Aja: This is one of the most revealing songs on our record. It’s about the loss of innocence and a woman’s trying to navigate life after a sexual violation. It is a really vulnerable song that leaves me feeling exposed but at the same time invincible.
Dan: We had this iPhone voice memo demo of the song… it was recorded in Aja’s backyard and you could hear birds chirping and cars driving by. We loved the simplicity and authenticity of this recording so much that until a few weeks ago, that was the version that was going to be on the record. But at the last minute, we decided to record it properly, but made a concerted effort to maintain the flavor of the demo by keeping the production minimal. We also recorded the guitar with the window open so you can hear some of the street noise coming through.
Aja: It is a fiery song. It’s the summoning of inner strength that calls up the ability to get through hard times. This song gets me fired up in the same way that some of Nico Vega’s songs used to. The bridge is my favorite part. It’s about learning to cultivate confidence and power, but not needing to prove it to anyone. Owning your energy and strength.
Dan: I had this idea completely produced out when I went to Las Vegas for a writing session with Aja. It had horns and a ton of elements… in my head it was going to be this James Bond anthemic production. Aja asked me to mute almost everything except the guitar riff. Then she wrote the top line in about 5 minutes and ripped a single vocal take. The vocals on the song now are exactly the same as from the writing session. It was one take and we never changed a thing. I think in a way, we wrote this song for Nico Vega fans.
IN THIS ROUGH
Aja: This record is essentially a break up record. My husband and I were going through a split at the time and writing music basically got me through that period. This song was the turning point for my pain. Where I stopped victimizing myself and started to forgive and own my experiences. It is the release. The freeing of all my emotion.
Dan: This is kind of funny, but I imagined this song in a way like an alternative rock Kygo song or something. Structurally the chorus has a build-up/a drop/ & rinse. I kept getting chills when I was producing out the track, that has definitely never happened before… I felt like we were onto something.
Aja: Phoenix was the first song written in this collection. It came from the lowest point in my life. I needed to pick myself up, and that is exactly what ended up happening. It’s about rising from the ashes to be born again.
Dan: Aja and I have a lot of history working together… So when we started this new band, we didn’t really know what it was going to be… which is the best place to start! With “Phoenix”, it seemed to naturally bridge the acoustic, singer/songwriter vibe of some of Aja’s solo music, with some big drums and the bombastic intensity of Nico Vega. It felt like a step in a new direction. It was the launching off point for this new collaboration… so it seems like a natural way for us to launch this new band! The verse vocals on this recording are also one take, from the original writing session. The same day as Cage Fighter if I remember correctly.
Aja: Faces is written about the many different phases of my life. Feeling hypocritical yet constantly changing direction, constantly growing and never wanting to return to who I have been in the past.
Dan: this was the last song written in this collection. I had just taken an online singing class, so Aja dared me to try out some vocals on this one. Hopefully I won’t regret that decision.
Aja: This song represents the point of hope of the record. The willingness to be a mess while the world watches. Through all of the pain, there is still love and a willingness to work, to fight, to grow. Its the kind of song that lets you know there is more to come from TWO.