The musical mysticism of Little War Twins

Folk explosion
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  July 24, 2012

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MOUNTAIN TALES “Everybody’s got monsters,” says Patrick McConnell (center). “We just try to give
people enough energy to feel empowered to slay those monsters.””

Now that the phrase “folk” has been shopworn to shit by rock writers and publicists — slapped onto the barely related styles of so many myriad almost-rustics that saying a band plays “folk” is about as useful as saying they play “punk”— let’s just stop talking about “folk.” That is, let’s stop talking about traditional, homespun, populist balladry. Instead, let’s discuss “folk” as in “folklore,” as in “legends,” as in all the epic narratives scorched into our individual and collective consciousness.

At a picnic table situated between a playground and a church in Roxbury, four-fifths of Little War Twins — recovering “folk renegade mystics” in search of a new catchy-sounding sub-genre to inhabit — snack on a vegan-friendly salad-type concoction with a hearty base of chickpeas and a special ingredient of chia seeds. Thought to maximize stamina and shrink appetite to its nadir, chia seeds — legend has it — were ingested by Aztec warriors before extended periods of wanton mayhem, once upon a time.

At the Middle East in Cambridge this Friday, Little War Twins plan to drop a new version of their single, “Shake It Bali Hai,” possibly the closest thing they play to a jangly indie-pop tune. After we get all gakked out on chia seeds, singer Gaetana Brown tells me about how Paula Gunn Allen’s Grandmothers of the Light, an anthology of Native American “goddess stories,” provided the impetus for the band’s name. “There’re these two mountains in Arizona that are right next to each other,” she begins. “These mountains are called either the Monster Slayer Twins or the Little War Twins. The story is that Spider Mother, the Great Creator, birthed White Shell Woman, who I identify with a lot, and she birthed these Little War Twins. Their father is the Sun, and they slay all these monsters in the way of people flourishing on the earth.”

Adds moonstruck drum-kit-adept Patrick McConnell: “Everybody’s got monsters, or whatever you call them. We just try to give people enough energy to feel empowered to slay those monsters. This one group of girls talked to Gaetana after we played this show in Connecticut. They said, ‘Since bands like you guys have been coming to town, it’s really brought a lot of light to what’s otherwise a pretty dark place.’ When she told me that, I was leveled, because that’s the purpose of this band.”

Talk like that can resonate as quite starry-eyed. It could, maybe, even imply that co-founders Brown and McConnell harbor minor-league messiah complexes. (Not in the scary way — in the fun way!) Weeks later, when they headlined an UNregular Radio-hosted show, I realized that they need to be able to talk like that to play music like they do.

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