During RiFF RAFF’s interview for Dazed in our January issue, the outlandish rapper insisted that Harmony Korine had based a character on him for the forthcoming film Spring Breakers. Part of the posse that night was cult celebrity Sidney Sewell, one half of the ATL Twins and one of the few people in the world on a par with RiFF RAFF as a shock-factor viral sensation.
“The movie’s not what it looks like in the trailer,” Sidney said, the grills on his teeth blinking. “People will go to the theatres thinking it’s something else,” agreed Thurman, the other twin, appearing out of nowhere, gold teeth shining.
“People have no idea what they’re in for,” Sidney confirmed, before Thurman had even finished his sentence. Thurman passed his half-smoked cigarette to Sidney, who took a pull.
Uncannily identical, the Atlantans were dressed in complementary outfits with a parallel colour scheme, both slouching a loose beanie perfectly atop their shaved heads. They can be differentiated solely by their ears (Sidney has diamonds in both lobes) and tattoos, which are exactly the same, in the exact same place, but mirrored. Thurman’s tattoos are on the left side of his body, and Sidney’s are on the right, to match their respective opposite handedness.
The ATL Twins appear in Harmony Korine’s polarising movie, which hits unsuspecting theatres this month. Alongside James Franco (as Alien, the character allegedly based on RiFF RAFF) and Gucci Mane, Sidney and Thurman play identical drug dealers who bring a group of college girls on spring break – including US teen icons Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson – into a bleak, dark world. Beyond the film, the Sewells have extra street cred for being good friends with Korine; the twins know his filmography almost as well as they know one another.
Well, not quite. Watching the ATL Twins converse and interact is a bit like watching two jazz musicians that know each other inside out. They never miss a beat and often start freestyling into a new thought at the same time. The duo know each other’s every move, and in the freakiest, most literal sense imaginable.
The ATL Twins first stepped into a blinding limelight when an online article surfaced featuring the 5’9” twins talking, with no filter, about sharing everything, from their Atlanta penthouse to their bed to their women. The clincher: they sleep with the same girl, at the same time. Always. At the age of 13, they lost their virginity to a 21-year-old woman who requested them both simultaneously, and the pair never looked back. At one point they were even engaged to the same girl, a stripper turned Penthouse Pet.
Talking the talk is what they do best. With southern charm, the twins are funny, well spoken and unexpectedly clued-up. In conversation, they wax lyrical about Frankie Lymon (“We get really wasted a lot of times and put on 50s and 60s oldies, like ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love’”), Todd Solondz, obscure European fashion magazines and cult punk bands. They tell stories about DJing for their first time at Cat Power’s afterparty in New York (she’d personally flown them over). They get hyped about their shared tattoo that’s a personal collaboration between their three favourite idols: Korine, artist and tattooist Scott Campbell and skateboarder Mark Gonzales. They discuss their music-video cameos (like The Black Keys’ Korine-directed “Gold On The Ceiling” and Gucci Mane’s “In Love With a White Girl”) and lookbooks for underground fashion labels (aNYthing, WeSC), in the same breath mentioning that they’ll star in a Gucci campaign with James Franco in the autumn.
Up until a year ago, the ATL Twins had never acted or modelled. They don’t rap, they don’t have a reality TV show. Their stardom comes from just being themselves, unapologetically.
“To me, they are representative of the American dream,” Korine says from his Nashville home. “They are next-level freaks. If there was even just one of them it would still be freaky. They’re almost like aliens. They’ve got these huge dicks and they kinda look like pterodactyls. And they’re just gnarly and turnt up and trill. They are the super gangsters, the gangster id, the mystic, the delinquent dream. They drink syrup all day; they only drink one glass of water a week between the two of them. And every night they’re up in the strip clubs, double-penetrating another beautiful girl, one after the other.” He laughs. “Drugs all day long, girls all day long, riding spinners till the end of their lives.” “All we do is take Xanax all day when we’re hungover,” the twins say now. “We used to be addicted to pain pills forever – Percocets, hydros. For years we took 30 pills each a day. We stopped at the point that we realised we spent $6,000 a month.”
The ATL Twins grew up in the projects in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and have never been apart for more than six hours, only taking jobs that allow them to work the same hours together. They still hold down their shared job at a personal-injury attorney, racking in 50 hours a week to balance their high life. They’re “like Siamese twins that are separated,” they claim.
“We have an advantage over most people, because most people are alone in the world,” Sidney and Thurman say, filling each other’s sentences to the point that it sounds like one voice echoing. “Even if they have a husband or wife, people still are ultimately by themselves in life, at all times. We’re never apart, ever, so we always have each other. It’s not like a romantic relationship, and it’s not like having a best friend. Our whole lives we’ve always had two brains, four hands and four eyes – we could always hustle and figure out anything together. If we had problems, we could just talk to each other about it. We’ve known other twins but they’re not like us at all; they fight with each other and do their own thing. We always see eye to eye on everything and we always compromise on everything, too. So we just make a good-ass team.”
From the outset, the ATL Twins’ story gripped the mind of Korine. He invited them to his home towards the end of 2011. “I’d actually heard of them years before from my friend Nathan, who’s from Nashville but lived in Atlanta,” he explains.
“He used to tell me stories about them, so I’d known about them for a while. But when I saw a picture of them, that’s when I was like, ‘Whoa.’”
“Spring Breakers was an amazing experience, but it was just a bonus,” the twins continue, in looped dialogues. “There’s much more to come from the three of us. We just get along so great, the chemistry is perfect. If we want to put ourselves out there to the masses, Harmony knows how to do it. He grew up in the same way we did. Maybe not financially, but he grew up skateboarding in the south. He understands street culture, he captures things for what they are. With Kids, he nailed it. Kids was our lifestyle our whole lives.
“We grew up super poor in the ghetto. We stopped going to school in eighth grade – we never set a foot in high school. All we cared about was skateboarding, and nobody could tell us anything else. We were fucking hard-headed and against the world; we were just punks. We’d be in the city skating when we were 15 years old, at 3am on a Monday night – drinking 40s, smoking cigarettes, doing acid, vandalising shit, running from the cops. We caused a lot of trouble.” Growing up in Tennessee was, they say, “a lot like (Korine’s unsettling 1997 masterpiece) Gummo. Coming out of our neighbourhood, a lot of people have alcoholic fathers or the mom is on crack and a prostitute. Our parents weren’t on drugs, they weren’t bad people. They got married really young, had four kids, and they were broke: that was just the reality of it. We grew up on food stamps and welfare. The power would always be out. And we had the gnarliest roach problem. We got into skateboarding through the kind of music we were listening to, and that really saved our lives. It kept us from going down some other roads.”
The ATL Twins are a tale of success in the traditional sense, but achieved in the most unconventional way: from rags to bitches to riches, from cockroaches to cock broaches in revered magazines around the world. Flash forward to now, and the twins are on their joint phone in a penthouse that overlooks Atlanta, with their shared white Range Rover (with decked-out white rims) sitting out front.
“We got so fucking faded last night,” they divulge. “We had these chicks here that were stripping down. Harmony ended up FaceTiming us with his agent and all these LA industry people. We gave them a tour of what we were up to. It was pretty raw.” In January, the twins flew to Nashville for Korine’s surprise 40th birthday party. After the three of them tore the house down with a karaoke rendition of Lionel Richie’s “Hello”, (in front of guests including David Blaine and Kate Moss), Korine shot a few videos and photos. An envelope of Polaroids showed up in the twins’ mailbox a couple weeks later, a few covered with the personalised drawings he has created for Dazed. “Harmony did some gnarly art for you guys,” Sidney says. “He never does this sort of thing,” Thurman adds. “We got tattoos of the hooded character.” “Harmony’s really into jokes,” they say together, before pointing to another tattoo he drew for them of two hugging, smiling figures next to the legend “HEAVAN CRies For tHE BABY TwiNZ”. “We think he should be a stand-up comedian. He’s a really amazing storyteller. No matter who he’s around, he knows how to deal with everybody in every situation.
He could be in the gnarliest ghetto and all these thugs will come up and he’ll just start tripping them out. He’s very magical in his own way.” Korine sees just as much magic, meanwhile. “They’re something else,” he laughs. “What makes the twins interesting is that they’ve never ever read a book. The other day we passed a temple and they asked me if that was a Jewish church. They said they’d never heard of a Muslim before. They’re incredible. They couldn’t name one president. It’s amazing to be able to go through life like that, and still be as great as they are. They’re special, those guys.”
True to their punk, death metal and guerilla skateboard roots, the ATL Twins are coming up against every convention possible, aiming to make it to the top without any compromises. “We’re just being ourselves,” they emphasise. “When we first asked people how we could get into magazines, everyone said we needed to get a publicist. But we thought, fuck that!” They laugh. “We went to LA, started networking and didn’t take no for an answer. You can do whatever you want to do, if you really want it.”
The sound of giggling girls is audible in the background. “For us,” Sidney and Thurman say at once, “we like this Hollywood game.”
Spring Breakers is out today