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This article & more photos can be found in Issue 2 (p8) of Vhcle Magazine.
2010: The Twilight Sad
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The Twilight Sad

  Interview by Cassie Lee

The Twilight Sad, for those unfortunate enough to have not yet heard their music, are an indie rock band from Scotland, whose full-length debut album Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters received rave reviews in the States, positioning them to cult status in their genre. It’s Scottish folk at its base, layered with arousing walls of deliciously aggressive noise, and vocals that instantly mesmerize and that strangely comfort – at times gentle, at times wailing. Their just as brilliant second album Forget the Night Ahead was released in September 2009. They’ve toured with the likes of Mogwai, Beirut and Smashing Pumpkins, and are currently touring in the UK, and across the U.S. starting in May. With a filled tour schedule and a new album in the works, we’ve got much to look forward to from the boys from Glasgow.

Vhcle got to chat with vocalist James Graham over the phone. After graciously enduring a surge of gushing from me, we moved on to talk about the band, and also a little bit about James himself.

Vhcle: For the readers who might find this interview to be the first time they’ve heard about The Twilight Sad, please tell me a little bit about who you are – quick history, pertinent info.

James: I went to school with Andy, our guitarist, and Mark, our drummer, lived at the end of Andy’s street. That’s how we all know each other. We started playing music together in our early teens, basically just messing about and nothing too serious – it was just something to do. We started to take it seriously when I was about 21. We played three gigs in three years and recorded a demo, and our label, fatcat, came up to Glasgow and signed us. We were then put into a studio and shipped off to America to tour and mix our first record. It was all a bit of a whirlwind to be honest. Now we find ourselves two records in and countless tours of America and Europe done.

V: How did the name come about?

J: I am not really that sure. Mark came into the studio and said he heard the phrase ‘the twilight sad’ in a Wilfred Owen poem and it just kind of stuck. There wasn’t much thought put into it. It was the best we could come up with and we just got used to it.

V: Influences and inspirations?

J: I am influenced by where I stay. I stay about 45 minutes outside Glasgow in a small farming village called Banton. It’s really small – five streets and a pub (the best pub in the world). I write about the people I know and personal things that have happened to me, my family and friends. I am inspired by lots of music; I grew up listening to bands on the Scottish label Chemikal Underground, such as Arab Strap, Mogwai, etc.

V: You’re quite a loud band, but not in an annoying way or just to be noisy. It’s rather beautiful noise and every sound is a perfect fit to what you want to express. You sound familiar yet completely unlike any other. Thoughts?

J: I think it’s pretty accurate. When we write the songs it’s usually stripped back, like one guitar and vocals, then we layer it up with all the different sounds. We use the noise to complement the song, never the opposite way round.

V: I read a while back that you have a bigger fan base in the U.S. than you do in the UK – is this still true currently? And if so, why is that?

J: To begin with we did have a bigger fan base in America. We released an American-only EP to begin with and toured America before the UK. America just seemed to catch on to us a lot quicker. We would play gigs to a lot of people in America, then go home and play to just our family and friends. These days I think we are just as big in the UK as in the U.S. We haven’t done a headline tour in a while so I am not sure to be honest.

V: I think your music has the potential to appeal to a broader audience. What are your thoughts about that?

J: We just do what we do and if people like it then that’s cool. I have no aspirations to be a huge band playing to thousands of people every night. I would just like to keep making the music and if a broader audience comes then we will take it in stride. To make a living out of playing music is a privilege, and to get to tour the world is amazing, so I am happy with that.

V: What city has been your favorite place to play so far?

J: New York, Glasgow, Chicago, Prague, major cities like that. I really like Chicago, reminds me of Glasgow somehow. We don’t get to see the cities we play too much though. Friends will think how great it must be to visit these different places, but we don’t see much of it. We go from tour bus straight into the venue, and back again, so basically it’s just the venue. I plan to go back and visit some of these places and just look around.

V: You’ve done a few covers – the ones I’m aware of are The Smiths, Joy Division, and Radiohead. Anymore I’m not aware of?

J: We have covered the Yeah Yeah Yeahs song ‘Modern Romance’ and The Wedding Present song ‘Suck’. They are both acoustic covers. We only do covers that we feel we can make our own and do justice to. It’s fun doing them if they work out.

V: Are you currently working on a new album? Same direction as the first two?

J: Yeah, we are currently working on a new record, got quite a lot of songs started already. I am really excited about it, feels like we will be taking a new direction but with all the things that people like about our band still in there. We have a new release coming out this year. It’s a 12-inch single with some remixes by our friends Errors and Mogwai. We are looking to have the new record out in the first half of next year.

V: What do you do for recreation when not busy with band stuff?

J: Going to the cinema, going to pubs, watching rubbish TV. I love watching films. Normal things that everyone does. Nothing unusual like sky-diving or anything like that. Or skiing.

V: Being that fashion is one of the departments in on our magazine, I’ve noticed you are quite stylish. Not in a perfectly coiffed boy band manner, but your personal style is nice. I’ve particularly noticed your cardigans. Is this something you are conscious of, or do you even care?

J: Yeah, I do wear a lot of cardigans. And baseball shoes. That’s nice you’ve noticed. I’m telling my friends you said that [laughs]. But no, I don’t think much of what I’m wearing. I wake up, pick up the first thing that looks clean, and if it smells alright, that’s what I’m wearing for the day.

V: This is one of the common questions we ask during our interviews – favorite drink?

J: Buckfast – it’s a wine from England and Scotland. The caffeine in it has the equivalent of eight cans of Coke. Also, Irn-bru.

V: Finally, can you tell us a miscellaneous fact about yourself?

J: I like to bake. If I wasn’t in a band, I’d probably be a baker. It sort of runs in the family – my uncle has a bakery.