Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

Ghost Twin Talks Scary Tech and Moody Synth Pop at SXSW

Ghost Twin, made up of Karen and Jaimz Asmundson, originally got rejected when placing a bid to play at this year’s iteration of SXSW. That is, until they were booked for a show, and then another, and another. And now that they’re here in Austin, the synth pop duo from Winnipeg, Canada has taken in multiple shows and even had a chance to catch some of the festival’s tech showcases. We had a chance to catch up with them in the back of the very crowded Swan Dive on March 15 to talk about all things SXSW.

On Tap: Have you played at SXSW before? 
Jaimz Asmundson: No, this was our second show outside of Canada – like, today.

OT: Well, they say Canadians are typically polite. How have Americans been so far? 
JA: Mostly quite nice.
Karen Asumundson: The guy at Starbucks today seemed really tired, but I don’t think he was rude.

OT: How did you guys get involved in SXSW? 
JA: I really have no idea how this festival works, actually. First of all, we didn’t get into the festival; we got rejected, but then we got into the festival and people just started asking us to play shows.
KA: It somehow comes together. It seems there are all these different groups that are organizing all these showcases.

OT: You guys bring a darker edge to synth pop, with your name and thematics. I feel like most of that genre is upbeat and bright, and you two are sort of an alternative side of that.
JA: You’re 100 percent right. Personally, I gravitate toward songs that are dark and mysterious, [in] minor keys. Whenever we try writing music, it just comes out that way.
KA: I’ve always written dark stuff too.
JA: Even our songs in major keys are still dark somehow, and we’re not sure how that works exactly.

OT: How are people responding to your music here so far? 
JA: I feel like we’re connecting with people here. Sometimes you play to a room, and people are talking and drinking or whatever, but here people have just been stopping and watching.
KA: People are here to listen to music. They’re not here to simply drink and eat tacos.

OT: You can do both.
KA: You can do both [laughs]. The music seems very important to everyone, and that’s very powerful.

OT: What has been the most challenging part so far? 
KA: I don’t know.
JA: It hasn’t really been.
KA: Last night the DIs [direct inputs] died, and that’s something that no one can predict.
JA: They just replaced them and we kept playing, so it wasn’t that bad.

OT: What are you hopes for after the festival? 
KA: We’ve wanted to participate in this festival for a long time, and it’s been very exciting for us to have done this. We’d like to do more performances in the United States. It’s quite the process for us to play in the States for money.
JA: Before we started this band, I was more of a filmmaker. I was always trying to get my films into this festival and I never did. I feel like in some stupid way, as an artist, [I’ve] been legitimized.

OT: Has it lived up to those expectations? 
JA: I’ve tried for the last couple of years to have no expectations in life; that way I can’t really be disappointed in anything. If I expect no one at my shows, and two people are there, I get all excited. I try never to expect those things.
KA: I like to keep an open mind and see what the experiences end up being. I don’t know what the meaning of life is, but I just try to collect experiences.

OT: Have you taken in any other experiences from the festival outside of music? 
JA: We wandered into a few of the tech conferences, and there’s a lot of really strange ideas of what the future holds – just artificial intelligence curating your life for you, and blocking out things that upset you. It decides what you like and pushes you toward that direction, and it’s terrifying.
KA: If that was the case, you’d never be able to have the experiences that shake you up.
JA: Nobody would hear us, because they’d be all, “Oh, I don’t wanna go down that road.” It was really fascinating, but I got angry [laughs]. I wanted to yell at those people.

OT: How did you come up with your band name?
KA: Because Jaimz sees ghosts.

OT: Like Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense?
JA: No, not like that. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with ghosts because we lived in my great grannie’s place. Lots of weird stuff [happened], like the door would open and we would close it and it would open again with the lights on. I got obsessed with ghosts, and I saw this weird green blob come into my room when I was a kid. I also had this book, and in that book, there was a whole chapter on doppelgängers. And the meaning of the word is not someone who looks like you, but a ghost of you from the future coming to warn you when you die. I got obsessed with the idea of waking up and my ghost from the future telling me, “Don’t go to school today.”

OT: Wait, you wanted it to happen? Most people want that not to happen. 
JA: Yeah, I always hope for weird things. I hope for weird things to happen, and they do.

For more information about Ghost Twin, check them out here