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Big Rig

Big Rig’s Road Trip Playlist

Jenn Twynn Payne shares her highway hits ahead of big-wheelin' debut. 

by Gregory Adams

Photo by Jerry Clement

They say timing is everything, something Big Rig vocalist-guitarist Jen Twynn Payne has learned all too well. Though the Vancouver-based drummer for indie-rock trio the Courtneys banked her latest project’s band name roughly seven years ago, it wasn’t until an impromptu, banjo-fied jam session while visiting family in Calgary in 2019 that Payne fully threw herself into learning guitar and crafting the thistle-chewing tearjerkers that make up their seven-song debut.

Recorded last year, Big Rig bolsters a sound Payne calls “twangmo” (twangy emo). Open-tuning wreckers like “Crying in a Corn Maze” answer the ages-old question: “What if Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted were recorded deep within a field of tall, Kentucky bluegrass?” Lyrically, it finds Payne exploring the plight of dating show contestants (“Bachelorette”), Tinder exhaustion (“Clozer”), and her propensity for crafting blue-mood music (the ironically-titled “Happy Song”). Naturally, Big Rig’s overall vibe has also been inspired by Payne’s love of 18-wheelers and truck stop aesthetics. 

Though the collection was due to be released last January, the production was bottlenecked over artwork decisions. Considering its original ETA would’ve lined-up up around the time the controversial trucker convoy rolled into Ottawa, Big Rig mercifully managed to avoid becoming the accidental soundtrack of the anti-vax movement. “I’m a big procrastinator,” Payne explains. “I was taking forever to finish the art. Then the whole Freedom Convoy happened, and I was like, ‘Oh god…this is the worst time to be named Big Rig.’

She continues: “It’s actually good that I procrastinated, but, also, I think that’s such bullshit [the movement]. I think most truckers [were] not actually involved in that. There are a lot of truckers out there, and they’re getting a bad rap. Anyways, I love trucks.”

Payne isn’t considering copping a Class 1 license any time soon (“I do love driving, but I don’t think I would want it as a job”), but with Big Rig’s live band — currently comprised of members from Woolworm, Tough Age, and Payne’s cousin-in-law Geoffo Reith on banjo — primed to hit the road in support of their seven-song debut on Peaceful Tapes, these are just a few songs Payne’s itching to pump through the van stereo.

Filter – “Hey Man, Nice Shot

We bought this tape when the Courtneys were on tour; I remember we were listening to it somewhere in California. I got my license really late in life, so this was probably before I had my full license, but I would drive the tour van when I had my “L” [learners permit].

I think this is the first song on the album [1995’s Short Bus]. I only knew Filter from that Airplane song [“Take a Picture”], so Courtney [Garvin, guitarist] puts this tape on, and I was like “Oh my god, this is the best driving song.” I just felt so cool driving to it—I think I really like driving bass while driving. I always revisit this one when I’m driving, even by myself.

Florida Georgia Line – “Cruise”

It’s a contemporary country banger. I remember driving through Tennessee, or somewhere else in the South—it was very lush—and listening to this song. It’s literally a song about driving! It’s just like, “Roll the windows down. It’s summer and we’re cruising.” It’s just this big, positive song. I have very fond memories of it.

Sinead O’Connor – “Jump in The River”

I am one of those people that will murder a song, I will just listen to it over and over. Courtney and Sydney [Koke, Courtneys bassist] cannot stand that, so they came up with this rule where you can only listen to a song in the tour van once a day. I hated that! I think the reason they came up with that rule was because we got this Sinead O’Connor tape [1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got] and we played it to death. If I had to pick one song that reminds me of that whole tour, it’s probably “Jump in the River.” I wasn’t that familiar with Sinead before we got that tape, and this was one of the songs I latched onto.

Cloud Nothings – “I’m Not Part of Me”

This was another song that I wasn’t allowed to overplay, but I got hooked on it. One day we were driving and joking about how we should tweet to them, so I had tweeted—kind of like a joke tweet— “you’re on repeat in the van, boys,” or something. They never responded, but years later the Courtneys played at a festival in the Netherlands, where they played too. I saw them eating lunch at a table near us, so I went over and was having this embarrassing fan moment where I was like, “Oh, I’m a big fan. I would love it if you would come and watch our set.” But they were like, “We’re doing this thing at the same time, so we can’t.” They were being aloof, so I was like, ‘whatever.’

Later on, back at the food area backstage, they were there again while I was eating dinner. This time, Dylan [Baldi], their singer, came up to me and was like, “listen…I was being totally weird earlier, but I’m a huge fan of the Courtneys…I did come to watch your set.” We ended up hanging out all night, and then we toured with them! It was this big thing that started with being obsessed with that song on tour.

Machine Gun Kelly “My Ex’s Best Friend”

My current band, Big Rig, have this semi-joke/semi-real obsession with Machine Gun Kelly. If you look at our band chat, its 95 per cent MGK talk. We haven’t done a tour yet, but I pretty much guarantee that he’ll be listened to in the van. Actually, we’re going to Sled Island next week, so I’ll find out if this theory is true. I put “My Ex’s Best Friend” on here, which I legitimately think is a great song. It’s so catchy. I don’t know what I think about Machine Gun Kelly as a person, but his music is fun to listen to.

You can read more about Big Rig’s guitar rig and the birth of twangmo over at Gregory Adams’s Gut Feeling newsletter Catch Big Rig at Sled Island on June 24 at the Palomino and June 25 at the Ramsay Block Party | MORE INFO