The artist formerly known as Roy English, now known as Jagwar Twin, addresses some of his most transformative years as an artist during an exclusive interview with AXS.
Some of these themes include finding structure as a producer/songwriter with mentor Jeff Bhasker, mental and health-consciousness, the recording of his debut LP Subject To Flooding (2018), and his current tour with pop-rock queen, Avril Lavigne (Tickets). While Brandon Roy Wronski might be considered the face of Jagwar Twin, his artistry is curated as a collective. His in-studio instrumentalists, traveling bandmates, producers, and supporters have all become a part of this musical experience that has propelled him into his recently obtained abundance.
Jagwar Twin has the opportunity and ability to become one of the biggest entertainers of this generation, utilizing well-crafted music to instill awareness into the masses for the betterment of not only society but humankind in general.
AXS: You're currently on tour with the extremely talented Avril Lavigne. How is the tour so far? And what have you learned from her while on the road?
Jagwar Twin (JT): Avril's been so warm and kind to me and really to all of us on this tour. She's been giving me some really good advice actually because this touring life is new to me. She's really helped me to kind of put things into perspective as an artist, as a musician. [She] kind of has this role to help guide and push culture forward.
I don't think a lot of artists understand that responsibility because you can push things forward in a positive way or you can push things forward in a negative way without even necessarily being aware of where you're pushing it. And so, looking into yourself and asking yourself, 'where is this music coming from? Where is this performance coming from?' You know? If you just go out on stage and you do the rock star moves, you sing, you do this... What are you really doing?
You're not doing much. But if you go on stage with the intention of 'let me connect with these people in this audience, let me connect with the people I'm playing with, let me connect with the universe or higher power and let's bring some positive light into the world through that.'
Avril has really, since day one, since she was a young teenager, she's been an example of how you can do things your own way, you can write your own songs, you don't have to take this song from this big pop producer and sing these songs with these words. Be authentic to yourself, find what makes you unique, live that, be that, breathe that. So, she's been such an inspiration to me in that way and just really leading by example. And that's really what we all should be doing as a human collective whether or not you're artists or not, bring some positivity into the world.
AXS: You've taken many creative turns within your career as an artist. Whether it be as a member of Dead Letter Diaries or founding member of bands like Canary Dynasty or Eye Alaska, you made a lane for yourself in bands or groups. How did you find comfortability in becoming a solo artist?
JT: It was kind of a step. I started out playing with bands and collective groups, and even some of the early bands we were so bad, but (those experiences) were steps that I needed to learn. I needed to learn how to be a musician, how to play and how to interact with people on stage and collaborate. Those formational years were so important to me.
It kind of went full-circle because I went on to do more solo stuff just as Roy English, which was another learning experience of how to do it on your own. And now, it's Jagwar Twin. It's kind of full circle where it's me, but it also isn't. To me Jagwar Twin is not a solo project, to me, Jagwar Twin is more of a collective universal consciousness. And there are the guys that play with me live and the guys that play in the studio with me that have become my brothers and they are the band, they are just as much Jagwar Twin as I am.
Also, the fans have become a part of Jagwar Twin in the creative process and I draw so much inspiration from them and seeing how our fans talk to each other online and embrace each other with love and respect. We have these group chats where we interact. The other day this young girl was in one of our group chats and was like, 'Hey, I need to come out to my parents and my family, but I'm so scared. They're not supportive and I think they're gonna freak out.'
Having a community and a platform and all the Jagwar Twin fans were like, 'You got this, you're special, you're unique.' They were so supportive and loving, you know? That to me is so powerful. When you go on so many other artists' or people's pages, their comments are filled with negativity and hate and all sorts of things, but really I feel like we're cultivating this world of positivity but it's so much beyond that. It's so much further beyond what language can express.
To me, Jagwar Twin is now this collective consciousness, this collective project and that feels really special.
AXS: After contributing to Lana Del Rey's single "I Can Fly" and witnessing the song's success, did you consider playing more of a role as a producer/writer at that point in your career?
JT: I did. I think if I really looked deep down, I think I always knew that I would end up doing it for myself. But, as a producer... It's an interesting role that a producer has. Yes, they make tracks, yes, they make things sound good, they play instruments, but what a real producer's job is, is to see something in an artist and bring that out [of them] and master that. So, every artist is different, every production is different.
We live in an era where it's pretty easy to make a song sound good. There are things like Splice, Pro-Tools, and Logic so, it's really easy to make things sound good but to bring something into the world that is special and unique and give an artist perspective is really hard. And to do that there would have to be a really special human connection between the producer and the artist.
So, I always found that really fascinating and starting out more as a producer helped me to understand the dynamics of working with a producer like Linus or S1 or Jeff Bhasker where I can see that they're seeing those things in me and we're drawing things out of each other. That's when I think we're really creating something special and that's what we tried to do with Subject To Flooding. We weren't just gonna make songs that sounded good and were catchy. Yes, we wanted to make music that sounded good and was catchy, but the most important element in that is bringing out this experience that we're having here. You know?
We traveled. We went to Italy, we went to Haiti, we went to Joshua Tree, we went to the coast of Ireland, and all these places where we captured those feelings and those moments that we were feeling in ourselves that I think helped create what the album became and that's really what we do with all of our music now. It comes from a place of understanding what a producer really is.
AXS: You brought up a name I was going to ask you about. Can you speak on the influence that Jeff Bhasker has had on your career? I know he's been a pretty influential piece to your puzzle.
JT: Yeah. Jeff Bhasker changed my life, man. Before I met Jeff, I had been trying to make it as something in music. Whether it was as an artist, a producer, or a songwriter, I was trying to do that in LA, but nothing was panning out. So, my plan was to move to Idaho, there was a job opening at Pizza Hut so, I was gonna go do that and literally the day before I was gonna fly out and work at Pizza Hut I got a call from Jeff Bhasker, whom I have never met before.
But this photographer friend that we shared in common happened to be in the studio with Jeff and played him something of me freestyle singing over this orchestral Harry Gregson-Williams score. I guess he told him, 'this kid has something special, get him on the phone.' So, I was like 'alright, if that's not a sign, then I don't know what is.' I didn't go to Idaho and opted to go to the studio and he saw something in me that I didn't see in myself.
He allowed me to be kind of a fly on the wall and show me things that he was doing as a producer and a songwriter. For the first time, I started thinking about music as it relates to classical art, architecture, and Greek and Roman philosophy and mythology and how all of these things are actually connected. It's not about just writing songs or singing songs, everything is just so connected in a mythological sense that applying all of these universal principles to what you do as an artist opens you up to so much more.
(Bhasker) really set me on that path by pointing me in the right direction, but he let me figure out everything out on my own, which I think that's what a great teacher does. A great teacher doesn't just give you the answers. Jeff told me to study "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" for eight hours. At the time I was like, 'What are you talking about? That song's so simple,' but then you see how complex it really is and why it's so catchy. He sent me down that path in such a big way, he really really changed my life.
AXS: One of your earlier works that stands out to me is the track "Oxy." To me, the song is reminiscent of an extremely suffocating relationship. One of those learning experiences we need to experience in order to discover self. Was this song inspired by a real-life experience?
JT: Yeah, it absolutely was. You can't know goodness and you can't know light without becoming aware of the opposite. That song was about a relationship that, of course, had its good parts, but in the end, it wasn't right for me as a person.
In realizing that and coming to this conclusion that was suffocating who I am and wasn't allowing me to be who I am. And not that it was the other person holding me back, it was me allowing myself to be who I knew I was but hadn't seen yet. You always know when something isn't quite right even if you're too scared to make the decision then. That song is one that still is really special to me because it was such a transformational period in my life.
AXS: You can tell. You did a really good job of translating pain into vibrations and into actual music.
JT: Even as a kid, I've had an easier time translating pain and those types of experiences into music. Especially with the state of the world is right now, there is so much darkness and negativity. But with that means that there is so much light available at this nexus in culture and time, those positive things sometimes are harder to translate into a real emotion that doesn't feel cheesy.
Which is why being conscious of both the dark and the light are necessary elements in a song like "Loser," in a song like "Shine," which are positive and uplifting, but you can sense that there's an awareness of the darkness in both of those songs. And that's what Jagwar Twin really is, it's pushing towards the positivity, but not in a blind way. Being aware of the negativity, but moving towards the positive as a collective group.
AXS: From the release of your EP, I'm Not Here Pt. 1 to the release of your debut album, Subject To Flooding, your creative process has drastically changed. Your entire lifestyle while creating this project has shifted. From fasting to meditation to saunas to implementing Himalayan Shilajit tar into your daily routine/diet, how did this lifestyle change help you throughout your process of making music? Not only in music but your life... you as a person?
JT: Throughout the process of making Subject To Flooding really everything did change. Whether it was starting a meditation practice and really diving into that which led me into knowing myself more. Which later led to the realization that everyone is a fraction to a whole. Everyone is a fraction, I could look at somebody else and look at them as I would look at myself. When you know yourself, you can understand the way that the universe works more.
That helps me with music as well as changing my diet into a conscious way of eating. I don't claim a vegan, vegetarian, or paleo or whatever type of diet. I don't put labels on it, but what I call it is conscious eating and it is predominantly vegan. The food that you put into your body (is important), no GMOs, all organic... I started doing Himalayan Shilajit tar and taking certain supplements that have helped bring us back to the way that we should be feeling. And I found my thought process and view of the world shift even just from diet alone.
When I would eat just whatever normal foods, I found myself the next day going towards negative thought patterns. I used to really struggle with depression and anxiety and panic attacks when I was younger and I do believe that our food chain has been so weaponized against us. It changes the way people think, or it can. So, that opened me up to a lot of things.
It was a very transformational process, to say the least. You can tell in the music from then and now where Jagwar Twin's going. I've just been continuing to dive in and I'm so excited about the new music coming too. Linus brought out some of me during the process. We would do ice baths and saunas and just healthy living, man, changes everything.
AXS: This strictly wasn't for your music, but this process was for you as a person and it really helped out, I assume.
JT: You really can't think of things as just for music or art because everything comes down to you being an artist. You have to be good in yourself or else you're not going to make things that are good for the world.
AXS: You mentioned earlier that you took the production process on a physical journey as well. Traveling to a plethora of different environments from Florence to Joshua Tree to Haiti to Ireland. When you were in these places, you're taking in all these different cultures, seeing all these different faces, experiencing all of these different climates - did you notice any similarities in these experiences despite them being thousands of miles apart from each other?
JT: That's a really great question and I think that it's so important for people to travel. People need to see that, yes, there are a lot of differences, but the craziest thing is that everywhere you go around the world, really everyone is the same. Yes, there are cultural differences, there are things that are externally different, but the heart of human beings is the same. You don't even have to speak the same language, you can be in front of somebody and you can feel their heart, you can feel their spirit, you can feel their vibe. We're so much more similar than we know that you get past the extraneous things.
AXS: Your sound has definitely blossomed, it's larger, more polished, and your content has definitely shifted to a higher vibrating plane. Your ability to intertwine the acknowledgment of destructive social constructs (like you did on "Long Time Coming"), maintain social awareness within the lyrics but still keep the aspects of popular music in your sound to drive the point home to casual music fans is uncanny. How were you able to pull off both without coming off too preachy or condescending?
JT: My approach to it is not telling people what to think or believe, but it's almost saying less. It's like letting the listener/viewer decide for themselves what [my artistry] means for them and to see in themselves these kinds of universal principles I instill in my music. I think as soon as you start telling people what's good and what's bad, things get complicated. It doesn't matter what I believe, it doesn't matter what I think or what's positive or negative, but every person in themselves can feel it.
And so, with Jagwar Twin, the goal with every song is to point in the right direction, but not tell people what the answer is.
AXS: We definitely gotta take accountability for our own thoughts and actions.
JT: Absolutely. No one wants to be told what to do or what to think. Some people do, but I don't think that's healthy. A great teacher, people who move culture... It all has to come from inside.
AXS: "Loser" came out officially a year ago and still is garnering a lot of attention. Would you consider this record one of those slow burn records despite its initial instantaneous success?
JT: It's been over a year and it's just getting started, man. It's interesting because when it was dropped a year ago, we all felt that this was gonna be one of those ones. We dropped it independently. Even the way we made the album was just totally like, favors from friends, no record label, no anything. In this day and age, everything is so saturated that it's hard to get anything heard.
So, it has been a slower build, but it's really cool because it's building in such an organic way where every day it's getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And even though it's been a year later, it's still like we're just getting started. We recently signed to Atlantic Records and now we're starting to get some promotion on the song. Also, sonically, with the playlists thing and the way that music works now, there wasn't just a place for us to drop in. ("Loser") isn't hip-hop, it isn't electronic, it isn't just straight-ahead pop, so it's really building organically like it used to be in the days of punk rock.
I think that's cool, there's no timeline on things. We're just letting it do its thing and still cooking up new music and I still know that "Loser" is gonna be a household song. Everybody's gonna know that song, even in a year from now. I just think this one in particular, because of the message, needs to happen slowly. I'm glad that it has happened at a steady growth rate.
AXS: The record is dope. You're on your way to becoming one of the most influential artists on the pop scene. What do you have in the works following the tour and in the foreseeable future? Do you have anything that you want to accomplish? Or any particular goal in the next three to four years?
JT: In three to four years, a lot is gonna change. In the immediate future, cooking on so much new music. [I have] so many great songs that I'm ready for the world to hear when the timing is right. Right now, it's all "Loser" and Subject To Flooding and getting that out to the world. I'm definitely going to be doing a lot more touring and connecting with people and connecting with the global consciousness in that way.
We're just appreciating every moment along this path. We already know the end goal of Jagwar Twin in raising global consciousness through this platform. I'm excited. I'm very, very excited.