By Bethany Lumsdaine and Jessie Grubb of Shut Up and Listen
Photos by Zev Starr-Tambor in collaboration with Aelfie
Makeup by Emily Keough
After 20 years of on-and-off involvement with music, drummer Rosana Cabán, 31, is currently committed to her role as one half of the Brooklyn-based, dreamy, electro-pop duo Psychic Twin. Her “twin” is singer, songwriter, and group founder Erin Fein. The two have been touring for four months, playing a whopping 88 shows. Night after night of driving, loading in, setting up, sound-checking, performing, loading out, and being away from loved ones is brutal. But Cabán finds motivation in sharing Psychic Twin’s music.
“I don’t know why anyone would do this if they didn’t love it,” she wondered aloud backstage at the band’s recent Bloomington, Indiana, show. Cabán began her musical endeavors when she chose music as an elective in middle school. Although she has played other instruments for various projects, drums stuck with her the longest. Through high school, she played with an indoor drumline after being attracted to the competitive aspects of this type of percussive ensemble. “Competition inspires me,” Cabán said, “and wanting to be taken seriously in what I do.”
Cabán was born in Puerto Rico, but grew up in South Florida. Her father was a musician, so she had support when she decided to pursue a degree in music. She received a bachelor’s in music from Berklee College in Boston, Massachusetts. After a brief time working with the recording studio Circle House in Miami, Cabán moved to New York in search of a music scene with fresh opportunities.
She found herself bored after several years of corporate jobs in the City and ended up moving back home to Florida. But Cabán was only there for six months before returning to Brooklyn. She was hoping to find a career where she could actually use her musical skills and knowledge.
An internship with Tom Tom magazine turned into a job, and Cabán was feeling good about her choice to move back to the Big Apple. It was then that she met her bandmate Fein. Her first big project for the magazine was the 2014 Roto Hotel event at the Ace Hotel. The performance featured 19 female drummers, including herself, playing throughout the lobby simultaneously for 44 minutes. She worked as the “operations wizard,” which she described as “doing everything from meeting with marketing reps at the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show to producing and performing in events.”
When she started working with Fein, the singer had already written music for the outfit. But Cabán says she was able to add a new dimension to Psychic Twin’s production process and live shows. The name Psychic Twin also existed before Cabán joined the band. Fein saw the name as a representation of the connection one has with an inner self while playing music. However, Cabán’s addition added a new meaning. Psychic Twin is now a description of the connection between the two individuals.
“Competition inspires me,” Cabán said, “and wanting to be taken seriously in what I do.”
While performing, Cabán and Fein stand across from each other, as if they are each other’s reflections. Since Fein wanted them both center stage, Cabán suggested standing while drumming in order to add symmetry. With Fein’s mind open to experimentation, they tried it and never looked back.
Cabán taught herself to use the ProTools digital audio workstation and has done much of the recording and mixing for the band. She wants to make sure their music sounds clean and professional. “I’m trying to do that without taking away the beautiful warmth of analog sound,” she said. “So, not too digital. I’m trying to marry the two.”
Cabán’s experiences working with various recording studios inspired her to start recording on her own. She was also able to learn the importance of getting a second opinion and collaborating with others to improve projects. In joining Psychic Twin, Cabán began playing primarily with electronic and analog equipment. She currently uses a Roland SPD-SX sampling pad in combination with vintage Simmons drum triggers, ProTools, and Vic Firth drumsticks. “I thought I might miss acoustic drums,” Cabán said, “but I love how easy it is to set up and control the variables that you deal with in live sound.”
Over the years, Cabán created her own collection of sounds and samples, in addition to using the Native Instruments Maschine library. Throughout their time working together, Cabán and Fein have also gathered drum samples from vintage synthesizers.
Before Psychic Twin, Cabán mostly used computer synths, but with Fein’s influence, she began tinkering with analog and outboard gear. “I like the imperfection of analog equipment,” Cabán notes. But really, throughout her years drumming and doing production, Cabán has learned that she is inspired primarily by the human experience.
Psychic Twin’s work is never complete. Even after following back-to-back tours with STRFKR/Generationals, Cabrán and Fein will be getting back to the process of planning, writing, and recording Psychic Twin’s second album. These “twins” will continue to draw from their human experiences to craft songs in which their fans will certainly see reflections of themselves.
This article was featured in the Nepotism issue of Tom Tom. Purchase it online.