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Interview @Cargo with The Twilight Sad
I was lucky enough to have some time last week with James Graham, the vocalist from The Twilight Sad to discuss the bands preference for Buckfast, prospects of some fist pumping action in their upcoming U.S tour and the news of a collaboration in the second part of the year..
There seems to be an insistent need to focus largely on the groups melancholic lyrics and draw more broad conclusions that these Scottish lads are a rather despairing lot. I’m fairly certain this assumption is way off the mark. As James explains “people say to me, is it like therapy? And I was like fuck, is it?..I don’t think I need therapy I just enjoy that side of life I think it’s kind of interesting. Like I’m genuinely quite a happy guy but it’s just that I get that side out of me that way”. Music and more importantly writing lyrics for him seem to be both cathartic and energising.
The bands insistence to innovate their sound, moving from booming guitar riffs to moody synths with ease means they are now lurking down an entirely different post punk alley. There is contrast between Graham’s nostalgic lyrics and his sense that their music should constantly evolve from past material. Referring to the move away from the big guitar sound that was so prevalent in the last album Graham says “we set the big guitars over it and they’re kind of not there anymore, we’ve been and done that so there’s no point in us doing that again”.
It is refreshing to hear a ‘The’ band who seem to retain a sense of what they want their music to be about. Rather than falling into the trap of reeling out various songs with repetitive but annoyingly catchy choruses Graham wants his music to reflect their perspective of something real, an experience, a moment and the emotion that is attached to that. As he notes “every song is personal and every song is written because I want to write about that, we never just write a song for the sake of it”. He trusts their music and its integrity and this is why I think these lads are going to be here for the long haul, as he remarks “I can say like everything that we’ve done, I can look back when I’m old and grey that and think, we did it right , yea I’m really happy with it”.
Now embarking on a U.S tour, where their new album ‘No one can ever know’ has received critical acclaim and which will see them headlining as opposed to supporting for the first time over there I can’t help but sense the momentum is building for this small Scottish band. Despite this Graham still retains a humble sense of where their roots lie “It’s still pretty strange for a small band from Scotland, I’m still pretty blown away by it, by the reaction over there”. Graham holds no bravado and despite his penchant for dark lyrics his demeanour is upbeat and we ease into discussion of him recovering from a hangover, and that he has decided ‘getting back on it’ (he sips on a glass of red) was probably the best way to push through it. I agree this is generally the cure I opt for and we move on.
As I mention the absence of his band mates for the interview , he explains “Andy doesn’t really say much when he’s being interviewed, he kinda goes mute, but he’s not like that otherwise, whereas me, I’m a talker”. Probably best then, silence never bodes well for gritty interview content.
So what’s happened over the last year leading up to the release of the new album?
It’s been a long time since, think it was this time last year we were recording it, did it down in London. We’ve just been working away mixing it and stuff and it was finished ages ago just been sitting on it for so long, you know in one way I find it kinda frustrating because you wanted to get it out there but at the same time it was quite nice coz it was just ours, nobody had heard it
You had your own little creation..
Yea totally, yea. I mean now that it’s out and it came out last Monday now, I won’t listen to it anymore. I’ve done that with every single album, once it’s out it’s not really ours anymore. It’s more important to then kinda focus on the live kind of sound, yea so I’m kind of finished with it now
No I understand, once I’ve done an article or a review, I’ll read it obsessively again and again and then you kind of get sick of your own words…
Yea it’s kind of like you’ve got everything you want from it, if you kind of went through it and you went ‘yes that’s it’ , then it kind of doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks because ultimately I’m happy with it. I know in the long run it matters what people think about our music but I can say like everything that we’ve done, I can look back when I’m old and grey and that and think ‘we did it right , yea I’m really happy with it’
We take a pause as the monotonous background dance music in the club is notched up a level..
Jesus, I feel like I might be getting high from this..
Yea, I know what ya mean I think I’ve started to give answers in time with the beats
Music is turned down again to a relatively normal level and we resume.
I’ve read that you make quite a big distinction between production in the studio and your live performances, is it because you’ve got a live audience in front of you, is it that interaction?
I don’t know about interaction but for me personally I don’t really interact with the crowd that much apart from saying thank you! I kinda of just enjoy it more for myself , I know it sounds quite strange but I get lost in my own wee world and I suppose if that happens then it can come across that I’m getting into what we’re doing, like instead of pointing to people in the crowd..
You’re not one of them?
No, people say they think I’m a bit of a maniac, people actually say so, there was a review about a Glasgow gig the other day, saying they’re genuinely scared of me. Apparently on stage I look a bit menacing but that’s just what comes out, but I like the interaction with people after the show and seeing people liking our music is amazing and going out and talking to them is great, I enjoy that kind of side of things. I think people are kinda running away from me after the shows sometimes though!
Well if you look menacing then there might not be that many people wanting to talk to you afterwards..
Right yea they’re probably thinking ‘let’s go for fucks sake!’
What do you think is the biggest difference between the last album and this one for you and for the rest of the band?
The main difference for me is that the songs have got more space in them and there is more room within the songs. The second album was pretty full on, filled with loads of things but these songs have got a lot more room to breathe. I think obviously now the synths are there it marks that our styles changed a little bit but apart from that it’s just another. The second album was a really hard one because of what it was about for me, coz there was like a two month period where I went a bit crazy and I lost someone quite close to me and I wrote about it because like I thought it was the only way to deal with it so like that was very heavy on me but the lyrics were all about where I was at, the way I was feeling but previously , the album before that was more about observational kind of things. They’re all very, every song is personal and every song is written because I want to write about that, we never just write a song for the sake of it, so with this album I think we went back to the more observational thing, I’m not being a dickhead anymore! So it was back to that but every song is about me, people I know, my friends, my family and where we live so, every song is personal. Maybe it was just the style, the way that I was writing has changed in this as well but apart from that I think we set the big guitars over it and they’re kind of not there anymore, we’ve been and done that so there’s no point in us doing that again and so those are probably the main differences
And so song wise, I know it’s probably difficult to say because like you said each one does mean something to you and it’s about something that is related to your life but is there one that when you perform really stands out?
The fifth song on the album is, it’s just one of those ones, I wrote it in an afternoon and, two hours I wrote it in and it was like once I’d done it was done. There’s a lot of songs like I was saying, that I record things on my phone and I’ll go away and come up with a wee melody for it and then I’ll leave it and I’ll come back again and then I’ll put together a song out of it but that one it just seems like, I was just singing and it was just coming and coming and it just happened and it was like that song on the first album ‘Cold Days from the Birdhouse’ and that happened like that. There’s a lyric in ‘Nil’ and I mean I wrote the song and I didn’t think about something and I was sitting watching telly with my dad and my dad said ‘you know where you get that line from?’ and I was like ‘what line?’ and I was like ‘oh I just wrote it’ and he said ‘this is where you got it from’, and he told me and I was like ‘fucking hell like’ totally subconsciously I must of just put it in, basically like someone I lost I used to go round their house and they used to say ‘is that you son?’ like as soon as I came through the door and like I didn’t know that id put that in the song, and then I was like oh for fucks sake that’s now gonna kill me every time I sing it, but like it was amazing that he picked up on that, it’s just really strange that it must have been a subconscious thing
So I suppose you must connect with that when you perform?
I don’t think it was genuinely about that but that phrase must of just been in my head and it came out that way and I think that’s really cool like, I was genuinely blown away by that, I sat there for the rest of the night thinking fucking hell!
That’s the way that songs are cathartic though isn’t it? Like you were saying something happened to you on the second album… It’s like anything creative, it’s that outpouring of what’s inside..
Yea people say to me ‘is it like therapy?’ And I was like ‘fuck, is it?’
No that’s the alcohol…
Ha! Yea but yea I don’t think I need therapy I just enjoy that side of life I think it’s kind of interesting. Like I’m genuinely quite a happy guy but just that I get that side out of me that way
Oh god I think everyone’s got things they need to express doesn’t mean we all need to go into therapy..
Yea and luckily I’ve got this outlet to do that..
So you’ve got a few more UK dates and then you’re heading to the U.S?
Yea we’ve got two more after this, one more week till we go to America, and they seemed to like us over there so, yea we are headlining there. We have supported a lot of bands so I’m looking forward to seeing where we are now, like at the venues if we’re going to sell out. I’m looking forward to getting out there and headlining and coz when you’re supporting you go and there’s like always some people that come to the gig because they like you but now we’ll be in front of our crowds I suppose, and my friend Micah Hinson is supporting us and he’s from Texas so it’s going to be amazing to tour around with him, really looking forward to it
So it will be a different experience from before?
Well I’m still gonna be drunk a lot. But the same experiences with different people I’m really looking forward to it
Do you get different reactions from American fans to the UK?
They are very enthusiastic, very enthusiastic like in a good way, like I’m not saying in that in a bad way there’s a lot of arms in the air..
Bit of fist pumping?
Yea..Whilst over here it’s more subdued than there, it isn’t in Scotland though, there’s a lot of fist pumping there too! Yea its more they’re just really up for it there. The thing that is weird is in America people will travel like three or four hours to come and see your band and well , I include myself in this when I say that some people won’t travel half an hour to go and see a gig so there’s like that real enthusiasm and we do like have really dedicated fans over there and there’s people that will come to like four or five of our gigs in different cities and like I said it’s not like half an hour’s drive down the road it’s like they’ve planned a trip around to see us
I guess they’re more used to that in the states though as it’s like a ridiculous amount of time from one end to other..
Yea it’s still pretty strange for a small band from Scotland, I’m still pretty blown away by it, by the reaction over there and the albums doing fantastic over there, the reception has been really amazing. It’s actually all over the place and the other ones were pretty well received as well, yea but it’s like not a lot of people come to the shows but they’re critically acclaimed?!
It’s like plain clothed detectives, you don’t know who they are..
Yea, yea maybe! I don’t know, I think that our live sets better than it’s ever been so.. But we’ve not played the new stuff over in America yet so it will be interesting to see what songs get a reaction
Ok, and collaboration wise is there someone artistically that you’d like to work with?
There’s people that we are going to be working with but I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about it actually but there’s a release coming out in the second half of the year that’s us collaborating with people, it’s mainly them doing stuff to our songs that kind of thing yea. I’m dying to collaborate with the guy I’m touring with Micah Hinson and we’ve been talking about doing something. There’s certain people yea I’d love to try things with, mainly friends and other bands but just try to get this band to do as well as it can just now. But now with this album I have no expectations for it in the sense that I don’t like to get expectations coz then you can be let down if they don’t come into fruition or whatever and so the only expectation I had was that it would do well enough for us to do another album. So that’s all I’m thinking about just now but if there’s someone that wants to work with us.. Oh shit there is someone I’m meant to be working with, Adam Moffat a good friend and we were talking about something but he’s really busy just now because his last album was amazing and he’s touring a lot so he’s writing a new one as well and so id like to do it with him plus I’m pals with Malcolm Middleton so I would like to do something with him as well. So yea in the future yea but just for the moment were just trying to get this band off to a sell out venue
Umm so last question as I’m sure you need to get back to drinking, but have you guys got any plans for UK festivals?
It’s pretty much up in the air, as if we get asked then we’ll play them, we’ve never really been a big festival band but that’s not because we don’t want to do it it’s because we haven’t been asked. We’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of festivals like T in the Park, we’ve done Pitchfork Festival in America and we want to play everywhere it’s just if we get asked we’ll play you know, I mean I think our music is good in a tent but I don’t think we are an outdoors kinda summer festival kind of band , the suns shining and you come see us and we’ll bring your fucking day down! We’re more of an end of the night kinda band when the suns going down, that would be amazing to do some festivals like that and I’m sure we’ll get asked to do some, we got asked to do some last year and we had nothing out and so you’d think with the album out now.. Yea it’s like we’ve got that allocation, then were doing Europe, three and a half weeks around Europe and so after that we’ve got time..So if anyone’s reading this..Book us and we’ll come!
Thank you very much
No cheers for asking us to do it
A short discussion of Buckfast ensues..in which James firstly informs me that Andy is currently out on the hunt for some, I tell him it’s like gold dust down here in London town so he might have a bit of a trial on his hands..
‘Na na, Andy he’ll find some, he’s got a nose for it!’
Here’s hoping he’s as lucky over in the U.S in finding their drink of choice..
The band’s new album ‘No One Can Ever Know’ is out now.
For more information on the band you can visit their official site below or follow them on Twitter!