New LP coming October 18, 2024!

On Hugging The Cactus, Twin Flames expand dramatically on their contemplative rock-tinged folk style and put paid to the misconception that their music, and indigenous music in general, inhabits a stylistic box.

Nowhere is that clearer than on their opening track and lead single, ‘Hearts on Fire’ – a song the husband and wife duo of Chelsey June and Jaaji (Yaa Yee) were commissioned to write for a documentary about violence against women - a song intended to instill hope in those who hear it and remind listeners that, however dark their lives are, they can find refuge, overcome trauma, and heal if offered love, support and the opportunity to do so.

“For me, that song came from my heart being heavy. I reflected on the difficult relationships I have had and put myself in the shoes of someone living in a difficult relationship. I think most people who live through unimaginable circumstances have a deep longing for something safer. I know I had to find the strength to get out of a certain relationship before I lost myself completely; the wrong love can sometimes blind you of your worth,” Chelsey June says. "It’s a beautiful thing when you can use the strength and the healing you have done in your own life to advocate for others and be the example that things can get better.

That’s a thread they pick up on their second single, the blues-tinged ‘Bones,’ a haunting, brutally honest, and intensely personal track that anyone facing down challenges - large or small – can take solace and find strength in. It's a song that says, unequivocally and unapologetically, "that it’s okay to not be okay," Jaaji says. “It’s my past,” “where I was, who I was, who was in my life – a mantra to the self in uncertain times,” and a reflection on intergenerational trauma.

Some songs, they explain, came from dreams, notably ‘(Just Like A) Ghost.’ “In my dream. I cut my hand with a knife, touched a photograph on the wall – a photograph from a time in my life that I’ve tried to forget about,” Chelsey June says. “Then I went through the photograph and had to relive that time in order to heal, to process it, and to go even further and write a song about it.”

As the album’s title suggests, the process of creation – the process of life – isn’t always comfortable. “Hugging The Cactus means going to the most bottomless pit of your heart, that place in which you don't want to go, and owning the darkness, allowing someone else into your darkness so that you can leave it behind and move forward,” they explain.

That comes across on every song, but with particular clarity on ‘Be Good Outside’ and album closer, ‘Get What You Get’ – songs that are somehow spare but lush, powerful but intensely intimate; a testament to the collaboration of Twin Flames, long time producer and collaborator Jake Jones, Juno and Grammy Award-winning producer John “Beetle” Bailey, and the A-list players assembled for the recording: guitarist Kevin Breit, bassist David Piltch, and drummer Davide Di Renzo.

Recorded at the National Music Centre’s Studio Bell in Calgary and Toronto’s Noble Street Studios, Hugging The Cactus was a life-changing experience, Chelsey June says. “Working with such hugely experienced people, with no egos, just the music and what they could create has been freeing and enlightening. We found a delicate way of allowing the band to show their personalities and amazing skills, that perfectly compliments and amplifies what we’re doing.”

It’s always been impossible to put Twin Flames into a tidy little box, blending as they do traditional Indigenous instruments and melodies and a huge mix of influences ranging from indie and synth rock to folk-pop and 90s-era hard rock. At the core, Hugging The Cactus is as much a creative mission statement as a jumping-off point for further explorations – a set of beautiful songs that bridge the gaps between cultures, continents, and diverse musical styles.

That’s as evident on their original songs as it is on the pair of covers they’ve included on Hugging The Cactus: ‘(My Mother’s) ‘Savage Daughter (a Karen Kahan-penned track popularized by Sarah Hester Ross’ TikTok), that Twin Flames put a truly unique spin on to tell a story of female and indigenous empowerment.

So, too, with ‘House of the Rising Sun – a decidedly more introspective but no less powerful take on the classic than other versions, but one that, because of that treatment, throws the intrinsic sorrow of the lyrics, the references to what seem to be unbreakable intergenerational "curses" into sharper relief.

The result is a record that will leave a lasting impression on the hearts and souls of listeners, with a sound so immediate, live, and pure it seems as if the songs were created in the moment of performance; mournful yet celebratory, intensely personal but universal, and timeless and timely in equal measure.

“Hugging The Cactus,” Chelsey June concludes, “it’s very painful, but sometimes the hardest pain we go through, the times in which we think we can’t take another step or even take another breathe that’s when we find our inner strength – I know when I look back now years later, I use my pain to better myself and better my life, that way the pain didn’t win and it wasn’t for nothing.”

About Twin Flames

Since Twin Flames began making music together in 2014, they’ve released four full-length albums and amassed an impressive collection of 44 music awards and nominations. Among them, four Canadian Folk Music Awards, three Native American Music Awards, and the 2022 Capital Music Award (Group of the Year).

Twin Flames were also selected as artist-in-residence for the 2019 Folk Alliance International conference and partnered with UNESCO to write ‘Human,’ the official song to celebrate the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages and a track that reached #1 on CBC’s Indigenous music countdown.

Twin Flames have toured extensively; playing over 2,500 shows in Canada, Greenland, the United States, Australia, France, and the Cayman Islands, while also spending substantial amounts of time in Canada’s Northern and Arctic communities.

Originally from the Arctic Jaaji (Inuk from Nunavik and Mohawk from Kahnawake) was raised by his grandparents in traditional Inuit ways. He later served as a police officer for twelve years in Quaqtaq, QC, and Kuujjuaq in the Nunavik region of Quebec and worked as a behavioural tech at the Quaqtaq high school before moving south fifteen years ago. Chelsey June (Settler with Algonquin, Métis, and Cree heritage), by contrast, grew up in Ottawa and Gatineau with her mother, who originated from Maniwaki, QC, and left a steady job in the civil service to pursue music exclusively.

Both had an early aptitude and passion for music. Chelsey June recalls sitting on a plush carpet listening to vinyl records on her parent’s old school stereo and later, literally shocking a room into silence when singing a boisterous happy birthday to her grandmother as a child. Jaaji, by comparison, speaks of his desperate long-time desire to play music, his first halting steps as a guitarist and singer, abandoning music for a time, but ultimately deciding to honour his late cousin’s memory (a guitar player himself) by seriously committing to music in 2014.

Having reached a point where the love of music and song writing prompted them to eschew their straight jobs and embrace an uncertain future as creators, after crossing paths on the set of APTN's Talents Autochtones Musicaux in 2014, each recognized the other as a kindred spirit and soon found themselves touring extensively in Northern Canada.

In addition to their substantial chops as songwriters, singers, and instrumentalists, Chelsey June and Jaaji share a sense of adventure and a love of travel, which made their near-constant touring during the first year and a half of the band’s existence more a pleasure than a hardship. Although it was still an eye-opener, Jaaji says, laughing at the recollection of duct-taping a lamppost and a broken hockey stick in a venue without mic stands.

“I think, rather than hard touring, we see adventure,” Chelsey June says, “and we don’t tour like a normal band. It’s Vancouver one day, Nunavut the next, or down to the desert in California – all over the map. But it makes us feel alive, and we both feel extremely privileged that we get to go to places that many people will never see in their lifetimes and the beauty and the resilience that exist in the tiniest places.”