Hurry on Sundown: The Twilight Sad interview
With a fourth studio album imminent, The Twilight Sad are primed to set the naysayers straight after a couple of divisive records. A small UK tour proved to be the perfect testing ground for the new material, and allowed us to catch up with up with frontman James Graham ahead of their sold out Manchester show.
How do you think this album differs from your previous work?
I think it’s the work of a band that have been going for seven years and have learnt a lot of lessons in that time. I think we’ve all said with every album we wanted to progress and the sound to evolve as we go along. We’ve done that, but at the same time this record feels like we’ve taken the elements that we feel are our strong points and we’ve brought that into that record while still trying to push ourselves forward. I think it’s quite a big sounding record but at the same time it can be really minimalistic. I think it’s the most melodic record we’ve wrote and its miserable, as usual. It's got everything that I think people like about our band whilst were still trying new things and keeping ourselves excited.
The new album is called 'Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave' - did you have a place in mind when you wrote that?
The record was named after the songs were written. It doesn’t just need to be a place, it can be a relationship, or even a job, or a town, or anywhere. I suppose when you’re younger if you’re from a small town you want to leave that town and go out and experience the whole world, and then as you get older you realise the things about back home that you maybe thought were rubbish are actually kind of cool and really good.
All the songs since I started writing are about where I’m from, people I know, things that have happened to me as I’ve grown up but I wouldn’t say the title just reflects on that I’d say its about other things in life as well.
What’s your favourite new song?
I don’t really have one but that’ll change when we play it live more and more. It’ll change from night to night. The album’s meant to work as a whole so each song is like a chapter in an overall story. But it changes and I suppose I think that’s a sign of a fact that I like the album; if I only liked one song off it it’d be shit!
I’ve always got a soft spot for the last song on the record, that’s just a piano and me singing. It's one of the first songs I wrote for the record, and once I wrote that, everything else kind of happened after that.
Tell me about the production side.
The producer is actually Andy, our guitarist; he’s produced every record. It was written in the press release in the first one that Peter Katis produced it, but he didn’t, somebody got that wrong. So Andy’s produced them all and he’s produced this record as well but then we’ve worked with Peter mixing it like he mixed the first one. It was nice to go and work with Peter again, we didn’t actually go over and work with him, due to the wonderful internet we could swap things back and forth from America.
After touring the first album, when we were writing the songs we felt that his mixing, would illustrate the overall sound of the record. Andy says himself that they can go quite far with the noise where Peter can kind of reign that in. Whereas if Peter’s not going far enough, Andy can kind of push him that way as well. So it kind of strikes a happy medium. To get to work with him again is amazing, he’s really well established, he’s done some of my favourite records. As soon as we wrote the songs, it was in mind that we wanted to work with him.
The press release for the new album quotes you as saying you ‘had a lot to get off your chest’ when writing this album. Do you think you managed that?
I’ll always have something to moan about but we had a really shit year the year before we started writing. A lot of people were being very negative towards us, and I think people weren’t being as enthusiastic as we wanted them to be. We still had loads of ideas that we wanted to do and we just kept feeling we were shouting against a brick wall all the time, you know? I think I got everything I wanted to get off, but no doubt in the next two years somebody’s going to piss me off and I'll find to that write about.
I think that it is a dark record in that the lyrics are dark and stuff but I think that there’s a wee bit more hope in this record than there was in the last one. The last one was just total misery; this one’s dark as well, but you can maybe say there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
You recently toured you first album again - what lead you to the decision to do that?
We were sitting having dinner with a guy who had just started work with us in Glasgow, his name’s Dave McGeechan; he runs the big promotions company in Glasgow and he said he wanted to do a special Christmas gig with us. He suggested that we so the first album. I was kind of sceptical about it, I was like 'Um… I’m not sure, it's not an anniversary or anything.' But as I say, things weren’t going so great for the band and personally I didn’t know if we’d be doing another record, so I thought, 'Let's do it.' And there was a ridiculous reaction to it.
There was two nights at King Tut's; we started at Glasgow, that’s like 600 tickets I think and it sold out in three hours and I was just like 'What!?' That doesn’t happen to us, that’s crazy! So we went and did it and the gigs were amazing. We realised the records weren’t available on vinyl anymore, and we thought it need to be back out there. It was nice to look back before we looked forward. I think it really helped me as we went to go and record the new album. It refreshed us and it showed that we were doing this for all the right reasons.
Your band name is influenced by a poem. What role does the format have in your work?
Poetry hasn’t actually influenced me at all. Our name does come from a Wilfrid Owen poem, it was one of those things where a young band don’t know what to call each other. But we didn’t know what to call the band and I think Mark came out and just said ‘What about The Twilight Sad?’ Maybe he reads poetry, I dunno! He doesn’t seem like the type, but he does his own thing so maybe he’s quite heavily into it!
But, me personally, a lot of people think I’m quite a big reader. I hardly read at all. I know I write the lyrics and things like that but I think maybe there’s something in the fact that I don’t read and I don’t do all that kind of stuff that helps. This is my only outlet in that kind of way. I read comics, I wouldn’t say I’m inspired by the X-men, I read a lot of that. But it was one of those things where it was, 'Right there’s a name - let's settle on that.' And ever since we’ve got that name. It's just stuck. It's not my favourite name in the world but it's who we are.
You said earlier this year that there’s little money to be made in music. Do you think this has changed at all throughout your career?
I’ve made money. I’ve made enough to stay by in doing this, but we were never doing it for that. You need to make money to be able to make music, you know? To go and tour at length really to be honest. It's getting hard though; you need to get to a certain level, when you get to that level then things start happening for you. More people come to gigs all that kind of stuff. Syncs for TV shows, movies, all that kind of stuff. Bands need that these days to make money because if you were to look at the record sales each week, its depressing for bands that you think will sell thousands upon thousands these days. It's just not happening.
We’re very lucky in that the people who like our music buy our music and we couldn’t do it without them doing that. I think for us, were still at the point where we just need to make enough money to be able to keep on making more music. We’re not getting any younger, there’s things that I want in life that being in a band doesn’t really pay for but I love doing it, I couldn’t do anything else. So I’m going to do this until, I dunno, I have to go back and live with my Ma and Da. It’s a tough one, especially for indie bands like ourselves; we just rely on people coming to the shows and people giving a fuck about the music.
Tonight’s sold out. Last time we were in Manchester it sold out. London gigs have been selling out. Things really seem to be getting better and people really seem to be taking a bit more notice of us now. I think we’ve got a chance, but I’m still in the mind set that we just need to make enough money to make the next record, and I hope we can but its tough. I don’t want to be playing a small violin for myself here but you’ve just got to know what you’re getting yourself in for if you’re going to start a band. I think we might be OK.
You said in a recent interview that you’d decided to stay out of the independence debate but how did you feel about the result?
I went to work the next day. I work for Mogwai’s record label, Rock Action, and I live in Glasgow and I voted in North Lanarkshire - the two places that voted 'Yes'. Well, two of three places that voted that way, so it was a pretty sombre mood after it. Again, I don’t like to be political or anything like that, I keep that kind of stuff to myself, but it was a really strange day after it. There was a lot of hope going about for everybody and everybody was really excited in Glasgow.
And then what happened on the Friday night in George Square - it was nothing to do with what way you voted, it was just a bunch of guys who wanted to start a fight. It was a really horrible feeling that this is the country that we live in. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt a separation, you know? So people are upset and angry, but at the same time there’s a lot of people that have never thought about politics, never even wanted to get involved in it and are now really into it and vocal and are really wanting to see Scotland become as good as it can be. Only time will tell now what will happen.
You’re famous for really loud shows - do you ever worry about ear damage?
Yeah, I don’t want people getting hurt or injured through our gigs! Tonight’s going to be mental I think. I’ve got an ear monitor, so I don’t have to worry about it. But I do worry about it, but I think our music does need volume. If our music was just hitting sound monitors every night it would just feel flat, whereas it’s meant to give you that kick in the chest. But I just think if you know what you’re going to expect you should bring earplugs or the venue should supply earplugs. I think you should give people the option to be able to defend their ears. I mean in certain venues we can get away with more, in a small room, we can’t do anything to help out. If you’re playing a bigger venue and you’ve got more room, it’s maybe a bit easier to cater to the audience and to not hurt them as much. So yeah, I don’t want to see them get injured but at the same time I don’t want to compromise what we do.
Nobody Wants To Be Here & Nobody Wants To Leave is released on 27th October.