An Interview With: The Twilight Sad

Posted: Friday 26 July 2019

Six months on from the release of their fifth album, IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME and things are going pretty well for The Twilight Sad. We caught up with singer, James Graham at Latitude Festival to get the background on the record and what it was like touring with The Cure.

It’s been seven months now since your album, IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME, was released – how’s life been since? You’ve been on the road a lot and getting the new material out there, has it all been going well?

Aye, it’s probably been some of the best gigs we’ve ever done. It’s quite weird for me, being overly positive to be honest haha. With any kind of record that you put out you just become a mess, because you put so much work in to it and it’s so subjective, so it’s like… are people going to hate it? Are they going to like it? But, the reaction has been ridiculous and I think we as a band have probably played the best gigs we’ve ever played, so aye, everything’s a bit too positive right now, I’m one of these people that’s constantly waiting for the fall. The second half of the year we’ve got some big gigs coming up as well, so we’re busy and the fact that we’re busy means that it’s going alright. People have been really kind and we’ve been very lucky over the years with people being very nice to us, but this just feels like it’s really connected with people, it feels like it’s the right time and right place, and everything’s just come together.

It’s your first album in five years, was that intentional, did you need a break, or was it more due to clashing schedules?

Nah, we’re just lazy! There were a few reasons, the first one was that in 2016 we were coming to the end of the last album touring cycle and then we got offered six months on the road with The Cure, which you’re not gonna turn down, so that added another six months. That was probably the best six months of my life to be honest, but, to experience that, it completely changed our headspace as well. We came back and I just needed a bit of time to go, “What the f**k just happened?” I needed time to process it, it’s quite hard coming off most tours and trying to process what you’ve just done. You come off and then you’re sitting in your house looking at four walls going, “Well what do I do now?”

We got a new drummer as well, Andy deleted all the music from the new songs, which meant he had to start again. I didn’t, all my stuff was fine, but he had to start again and like anything, we just like to take our time. A lot of people said after The Cure tour that we needed to get back on the road and take advantage of the people we’d just been in front of and we thought we’d kinda be doing a disservice to the people that have just heard about us and that experience, if we just rushed anything. We just take our time and so far it’s working out for us.

Obviously deleting all the music is a bit of a setback, but did you have any specific plans or ideas that you wanted to try out with this record, or was it a lot of back and forth?

[Andy] didn’t tell me he’d deleted all the music until he’d written the new stuff haha! Usually what happens is he writes the music and then I write my lyrics and melodies to it, but with him deleting it, he then had to write the music to my words, so it was a bit of a role reversal really. We decided we wanted to have a really live sounding record, so we went up to a little cottage just beside Loch Fyne and we spent a couple of weekends up there, in the middle of nowhere, making sure that we played the songs over and over and over. That was good, because when we went into the studio we knew exactly what we were doing, we went down to a place called Middle Farm Studios, which is near Buckfast Abbey, that’s all I remember haha.

Of course that’s the one thing you remember about it!

I know, I know haha. That was really nice too though, also in the middle of nowhere so we were really isolated, which is good. Most albums we’ve kinda went home each day after recording, so it was nice (and a bit stressful) when that’s all your doing, you’re just in there, but I think we benefited from that. It then took a wee while to get it mixed, because we just wanted to find the right person and it ended up being mixed at Sunset Sound in LA, which was mental. We didn’t go, we didn’t actually get to go, we were still in Glasgow in the rain whilst somebody was having a nice time with our record. I did find out that my vocals went through Prince’s tape delay that he used on ‘Purple Rain’, so that’s something I can take away from it… not that anybody would notice.

That’s still a pretty impressive accolade to have though! And, without sounding too cliché, do you think that this is your best work yet?

It’s difficult, I don’t really look at it that way. It’s more that this is who I am and this is who we are at this time in our lives. I look back to the second or the first record and I think that’s the best we could have done at that point in our lives, and I think this is as well. I think it’s definitely the most melodic thing we’ve ever done, but it’s also pretty grim… they’re all pretty grim to be honest. I think it’s the one record that has a bit of hope within it, even with the title, it can be taken two ways and I think that that’s something that everybody kinda needs these days, a little bit of hope.

After your tour with The Cure, you also had a bit of help from the man himself, Robert Smith, with him giving you feedback on the new songs. Did having him around shape the outcome of the record at all?

The songs were kinda mapped already when we sent them to him and he only ever just said, “Try this, try that”, which was really good, because then when you’re in the rehearsal studio you’re like, “Oh right, f**k, no wonder he’s one of the biggest songwriters of all time!” haha. It’s probably one of the most nerve-wracking things we’ve ever done, is sending our unfinished songs to one of the best songwriters of all time. He came back and he’d rated them all out of 10, so he’d be like, “This is an 8, could be a 9” and it was just like, “That’s fine, an 8 from you is f**king great!”

He was just really kind, I sent him my lyrics and he said he didn’t want to encroach on them, which was pretty cool, but I still kinda wanted him to say that they weren’t s**t haha. To have that opportunity though, to send your songs to Robert, it’s just an amazing thing and he’s helped us so much, he’s the nicest guy, I can’t believe what he’s done for us.

Do you think you’d ever end up in the studio together?

He’s talked about it a few times, he actually said on a song called, ‘The Arbor’, he said he’d do the remix on a six-string bass and we were just like, cool! It’d be great to do something with him, I don’t know if he’d want to produce or anything like that, but even just to come and play on a song. He’s already covered one of our songs, which is just mind-blowing, but to be in the studio with him, it’d be really interesting to see how he works. He’s already done so much for us though, more than enough, but I guess it’s not out of the possibilities, all the other stuff I thought was not going to happen so nothing surprises me now!

You’ve also been involved with the re-working of Frightened Rabbit’s Midnight Organ Fight, was that hard? Did you put a lot of pressure on yourself to do that song justice?

Well that was done at the same time as we were in the studio and we were in constant contact with Scott. The song we chose, I actually hate that we’ve chosen that song because, well, everybody knows what happened. But, as I’ve said a few times, if anybody’s gonna do that song, I think we had to take that on because we were the closest to each other. I’ve been really nervous about that to be honest, I’ve been really nervous about the record coming out and mainly just our song, seeing how people react to it, because it’s not a nice song. The reaction’s been amazing though, everyone’s been really kind to us and it’s been amazing just seeing people talking about his music and not anything else. I was talking to Dave, who does our artwork and he worked with Scott on the Frightened Rabbit's stuff, and he was saying that it’s really nice to see that it’s been a gateway for fans of Frightened Rabbit to get back listening to their music, because they’ve maybe found it quite hard to do that. Through these cover songs, fans can get back into the music and hopefully start listening again.

We’ve been playing ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ by Frightened Rabbit since we’ve been back playing live again and it’s a really hard thing to do, but it’s also a really important thing to do, to keep sharing it. If there are 10 people that see us live who haven’t heard of Frightened Rabbit before, but they like the song and they discover them, that’s why we’re doing it, to keep spreading the music. Also, if there’s fans of Frightened Rabbit watching us, it’s a chance for them to have a bit of release, for me it’s a release every night. I think it’s been a beautiful thing and it’s amazing to see people come together. It shows how much that album meant to so many people.

Definitely, you did an amazing job! You’ve got some live shows coming up at the end of the year, have you started floating ideas around for what you want to do?

Aye, not be rubbish!

Playing well is all you can hope for haha.

It’s a bit of a step up this year for us and when you get to play bigger stages you get to see how your music will fill a room and what to do. We’re pretty much still just a band that goes and plays y’know? We’re not going to have confetti cannons or anything like that, that would be the most anti climatic thing ever.

When you play these shows, it pretty much wraps up a year of the record, so looking back, what will be your favourite moments?

There literally, even in the first six months, there have been so many. We played with The Cure in Ireland next to a big castle and my gran was from Ireland so that was quite a special thing for me. My dad was out and he visited the street she was born on, so that was nice. We’ve played a lot of festivals as well, where I wasn’t expecting anyone to turn up to see us, but they did, which is always cool. We’re going to Asia as well for the first time, which is a bucket list item, so just knowing that this record is taking us to places we’ve never been before, that shows that something is going right. Aye, just still doing this is quite a highlight to be honest, after five albums and 12 years, there’s not that many bands that get to make five albums. We say we’re like the tortoise and the hare, we’re the tortoise and we’re slowly getting there, but we also say we’re the cockroaches of Scottish music because we won’t go away haha. But, everything has been quite good.

It’s been a pretty good year for you hasn’t it?

Yeah it has, I’m not used to it! I’m waiting for something to go really bad haha.

Well for your sake, we hope it doesn’t!

If you want to experience The Twilight Sad in all their glory, then grab your tickets to their headline shows now:

O2 Forum Kentish Town: Saturday 23 November Buy Tickets

O2 Ritz Manchester: Sunday 24 November Buy Tickets

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