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Twin Peaks Frontman Cadien James Talks Chicago Roots, Basement Beginnings

By Benjamin Woodard | February 17, 2014 10:33am
 Twin Peaks frontman Cadien Lake James, 19, at the Heartland Cafe, which his dad founded.
Twin Peaks frontman Cadien Lake James, 19, at the Heartland Cafe, which his dad founded.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

ROGERS PARK — Twin Peaks frontman and guitarist Cadien Lake James has a thing or two to say about the retooled menu at the Heartland Cafe, the neighborhood institution his dad co-founded 36 years ago and recently sold.

"Eggs and fritters is dope," he said, hovering over his breakfast at the Heartland's Buffalo Bar about noon on a cold winter day, nursing a cup of black coffee.

But the 19-year-old who grew up a block away up Lunt Avenue does miss certain dishes, especially the well-loved, Mexican-inspired ones that have been cleared from the menu.

"There's no salsa here anymore. It's really [messed] up," he said. "It was the dopest salsa, too."

James' love for the Heartland's traditions prove at least one thing: He's a Rogers Park kid, through and through.

 Twin Peaks band members Cadien Lake James, Clay Frankel, Connor Brodner and Jack Dolan
Twin Peaks band members Cadien Lake James, Clay Frankel, Connor Brodner and Jack Dolan
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Ryan Ohm

"I feel so extremely grateful to have grown up in the environment that I've grown up in, especially around the Heartland," James said. "Just because this neighborhood is so extremely diverse and at the same time community-oriented."

His music career began nearby with piano lessons at Flatts and Sharpe Music Co.

And before his teens, he started to show a musical prowess, said his dad, Michael James.

"There is a story that I tell — he doesn't necessarily like it — but when he was 10, he said, 'Hey, dad, check this out,' and he ... played burning 'Ring of Fire' by Johnny Cash," said the elder James. "And it was then I knew he had something going."

His sophomore year at Jones College Prep, he and three of his friends — Clay Frankel, Connor Brodner and Jack Dolan — formed their band, first calling the group Friend before settling on Twin Peaks.

They played at a few venues around the neighborhood, once at the Heartland and a few times at the No Exit Cafe just down the street, but mostly played where it all began, in basements.

After the group graduated, they planned a self-booked basement tour in the summer of 2012.

Before leaving — and after realizing they didn't have anything to sell to fans while on the road — the band recorded its debut album, "Sunken," in James' basement, where they still rehearse from time to time.

Since the tour, the band's popularity has been growing.

With prior commitments made, however, James, Brodner and Dolan moved to Olympia, Wash., to attend Evergreen State College, a school known for its nature-loving, liberal atmosphere.

But to keep the band alive the trio dropped out after a semester and joined Frankel back in Chicago.

Twin Peaks just wrapped up recording its yet-to-be-named sophomore album. On March 4, the group kicks off another tour in Boston with The Orwells, another up-and-coming young rock band.

"I think it's going to be a pretty exciting year once the ball gets rolling," James said.

He said when the monthlong tour ends in April the band would finish its album and release it with Grand Jury Music.

After that?

"And then, you know, world domination," he said.

But James does know one thing for certain: Rogers Park will always be home.

"I love this neighborhood," he said. "It's just very cozy for me."