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The Twilight Sad - Interview

Feature Posted by Graham McCusker
Posted on 2014-10-28 19:36:04

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Glaswegian post-rockers The Twilight Sad released their fourth album ‘Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave’ this week. Their first since 2012’s ‘No One Can Ever Know’, it sees the band depart from the electronic sound they experimented with, to something which combines elements from all their material thus far. After touring for the last year and a half playing their debut album ‘Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters’ in full, as well as playing a number of stripped-back gigs, it is refreshing to hear new material from the Glaswegian three-piece. The band themselves have been talking up how proud they are of this new record for a long time, and now that it has finally arrived, it’s easy to hear why.

‘Nobody Wants To Be Here…’ may well be their masterpiece. There is an obvious progression and development in this new set of songs from their previous efforts, and is the sound of a band who seem to have now truly found what they do best. Songs like ‘Last January’ and ‘I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want’ are classic Twilight Sad anthems, while ‘Sometimes I Wished I Could Fall Asleep’ shows a completely different element to the band. A hauntingly beautiful ballad, featuring James Graham’s vocal accompanied by only a piano.

Glasgowmusic.co.uk spoke to singer James Graham upon the release of ‘Nobody Wants To Be Here…’ about what to expect from the new album as well as the experiences of the stripped-back and ‘Fourteen Autumns…’ gigs.


Glasgowmusic: The two songs released from the new album thus far (‘There’s A Girl In The Corner’ and ‘Last January’), seem to show a sound which combines elements from the first two records with the last album’s more electronic feel. Is that what people can expect from ‘Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave’?

James Graham (The Twilight Sad): Yeah I’d say so. I’ve said since day one of the band that we always want to move forward and progress our sound. I think we’ve done that again while keeping the same elements that make us…us, if you know what I mean? We’ve used instrumentation that we’ve never used before on this record and we’ve approached songs in ways that we may have never done before as well. For example, on the title track there’s brass at the end of the song. I never thought we’d use that kind of instrumentation within our music but I’m really glad we did. I think it adds something really special to that song. There are songs on the record where we’ve not been afraid to completely strip the song back to its bare bones, especially the last song on the record. Sometimes I Wish I Could Fall Asleep is basically just my voice, a piano and a small sample that comes in half way through, I’m extremely proud of that song and direction we went with it. It’s the perfect end to the album in my opinion.

GM: You’ve made no secret of the influence that Mogwai have had on the band. Was it at all daunting to go and record the album in their Castle Of Doom studios?

JG: Mogwai are good friends and have helped the band out in many ways over the years. I didn’t find it daunting at all. I’d been lucky enough to visit the studio while Mogwai were recording Rave Tapes so I knew what the studio was like before we went in. We were working with our live sound engineer Andy Bush in the studio so we were all really comfortable and just got on with it. It was a pretty quick process, we had everything mapped out before we went into the studio so it was a case of getting in there and making sure the takes were the best they could be. Mogwai gave us a loan of some of their guitars which was really nice of them. They mainly feature on the song In Nowheres.

GM: Has revisiting and touring ‘Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters’ have an effect on the way you approached new album at all?

JG: All the songs were written for the new record before we decided to re-issue and play our debut album. We played the two Glasgow Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters gigs in December of last year and went into the studio in January of this year. I think playing those two shows before we went into the studio helped me. I think it helped me know that there were people out there that really cared about what we do and to go into the studio with the confidence that we could produce something really special.

GM: Did any of you realise how much of an impact that album had on people prior to the first hometown shows at King Tuts?

JG: I knew that the album meant a lot to the people that discovered it but I didn’t realise just how much it meant to them. I’m really glad that we did those shows and then the tour in the spring. People travelled from all over the world to come see us play those gigs, I spoke to people who had travelled from America, Italy, Belgium, Norway, Germany, France, Israel, Ireland to name just a few. It’s an amazing feeling to know the first songs you ever wrote with your friends has made such an impact on people’s lives from so many different cultures, countries, religions. We just played the record in full in NY and that was an amazing experience. We are playing the record one last time in Chicago at the end of our US tour. I’m glad we did it but it’s time to draw a line under it and concentrate on our new album and the band’s future.

GM: James, your lyrics have always given off themes which primarily centre around things like loneliness and desolation, and have always been intriguing as a result of this. Could you give us an idea of the songwriting process for the new album?

JG: I was spending a lot of time back home at my parents’ house while I was writing the new record. We weren’t touring as much so it was nice to write the songs at home and really focus on nothing else than just writing the best songs possible. The vocal on the title track is the vocal from the demo of that song, which I recorded in my bedroom while everyone was in the house. Andy Bush said he felt that the vocal was perfect on the demo so he wanted to keep it on the actual record. As far as the song-writing process goes it was done in the same way that we’ve always been writing. Andy sends me some music and I write and record my melodies and a rough set of lyrics. Then I send them back to Andy. We work on the song structure then he makes a demo. We then go into the rehearsal studio to work on the drum and bass parts with the rest of the band. The lyrics in this album are about love, loss, the break-down of relationships, living in a small town, leaving and coming back to that town. The title Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave doesn’t just relate to a place, it can be a relationship, a bad situation, a job etc.

GM: Your Twitter bio describes yourselves as a band who “enjoy making miserable music”. Have you ever thought “Fuck it, let’s write an all-out pop song” to see how it ends up?

JG: I never approach a song within any idea of what I want the song to be. I just do what comes naturally and what comes out….comes out. If one day a “Pop Song” comes out then cool, that’s the way that song is meant to be. I only write songs if I have something to write about, I never just write a song for the sake of writing a song. I use my song writing as a weird kind of therapy. I can get things off my chest that I might not be able to talk about in everyday life. I love pop songs. I think writing a really clever pop song is probably one of the hardest things to do in music.

GM: You have been playing a number of stripped back gigs, which have shown a different dimension to songs which are usually built up around layers upon layers of sound. Was this a side to the songs that you always knew they had, and were you surprised at the overwhelmingly positive reaction these gigs got?

JG: When we’re writing we always make sure we have a good song before we move forward and build the layers of sound within the song. We’ve approached our song writing in that way since day one. We knew the songs worked that way and people would appreciate hearing them in that way but again I didn’t know that people would react the way to those songs and gigs the way they have. I love doing the stripped back gigs. It’s nice to mix it up and do a mixture of the full band gigs and acoustic gigs. Variety and all that. I think it shows we’re not a one dimensional band and we have many different sides to us and our songwriting.

GM: You’re touring extensively, mainly in the US, culminating in a now-traditional Christmas show at Glasgow’s ABC. Are the big hometown shows always at the back of your mind when you’re sitting on the tourbus?

JG: Tour bus? We should be so lucky. It’s six of us in a van packed full of gear and merchandise. I’m not complaining though, it’s a lot of fun. We’re having the time of our lives, I like to take each gig at a time but when you’ve got a big gig like that in the near future it’s never that far away from your mind. I love playing in Glasgow, I love Glasgow. I’m really excited to play these new songs in front of our home crowd.

GM: The band have already achieved so much in a relatively short space of time, do you have any other aspirations that youre hoping to achieve with this record?

JG: I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved but there’s so much more I want for this band. We’ve been to places and done things that I never thought was possible but once you’ve achieved those things it just make you thirsty for more. My main goal is to be able to do this for as long as we can, I love being in this band. Writing and performing these songs means everything to me. I love travelling around the world with my best friends and meeting new people who like our music. I want our music to reach as many people as it possibly can. I’d like to be able to play in some countries we haven’t been to before. The future of the band rests in the success of this record. We’ve made the record we wanted to make. It will be a success if it allows us to be able to make another record.

GM: You’re very vocal on social media about the music you like and are listening to. What have you been listening to recently, and what stuff do you recommend readers should check out?

JG: I’m in the back of the van travelling to Cincinnati as I answer your questions and I’m listening to “Boxer” by The National. Here’s what albums I’ve enjoyed this year:
Perfume Genius - Too Bright,
Caribou - Our Love,
Remember Remember - Forgetting The Present,
Mogwai - Rave Tapes,
Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness,
Lykke Li - I Will Never Learn,
Aphex Twin - Syco,
Sharon Van Ettan - Are We There Yet,
The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream,
The Phantom Band - Strange Friend,
St Vincent - Digital Witness,
Owl John - Owl John,
The Antlers – Familiars,
Future Islands – Singles.

GM: Finally, which of the band’s songs are you most proud of to date, and why?

JG: All of them. Every song I’ve written means something special to me in a different way.

Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave is out now and is available from all good record shops, as well as digitally.

The Twilight Sad play the ABC in Glasgow on 19th December.


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