Interview The Twilight Sad: ‘I Didn’t Think Our Music Could Get Much Darker…’

Vocalist James Graham tells us about the new sound they’re championing.

Scotland’s The Twilight Sad are set to release their new album in February next year, preceded by the single ‘Sick’, which comes out on 14th November through FatCat Records. We caught up with vocalist James Graham on the eve of the band’s major UK tour and asked him about the new sound they’re championing.

Judging by the track ‘Kill it in the Morning’ from the new record, there’s a much greater emphasis on synths and electronica - why the change?
We want to try new things with each record we release, we always want to challenge ourselves and never replicate what we’ve done before. The sound of this album is different to the last but that album was also different from the first. We just want to keep moving forward and if we just repeated the sound from previous albums, we’d get bored very quickly and probably call it a day. This record still sounds like The Twilight Sad, but at no point did any of us sit down and say: ‘Look we’re trying something new.’ We all just took the songs in the direction that interested us and recorded them in the way we felt that would benefit the actual songs themselves.

How long has this new album been in the making?
We recorded it in February in London although the majority of songs were all written in 2010. We wanted to make an album that had much more of a sparse sound compared to what we had done before, with a harsher, colder, motorik, slightly militant feel.
We thought it would be best to get outside our comfort zone to help us not to fall back into repeating what we’ve done previously and be a lot more spontaneous, so that’s why we moved to London for a month. We recorded in a studio called the Pool and got Andrew Weatherall on board to bounce ideas off and to basically reassure us of the direction we were progressing in.
We borrowed vintage, analogue synths from both Tape Studio in Edinburgh and Ben Hillier, which became the core sounds on the album after endless experimenting. The drums were also recorded separately, which allowed us to easily manipulate, sample and so on. The guitars are also much more reminiscent of maybe John McGeogh or Keith Levene, instead of the ‘wall of sound’ noise from the first records.

Your previous two albums were pretty dark lyrically - why all this darkness?
After the last album I didn’t think it could get much darker but I gave the record to some people whose opinion I really respect and they have both told me that this record is actually darker. As people we’re not really all doom and gloom, I wouldn’t say we’re happy-go-lucky either though.
I’ve always said that no one wants to hear someone harp on about how good their life is and how everything is rosy because that’s just not true and I actually find songs like that more depressing than sad songs. I think dark or sad songs can help you reflect on bad or unhappy moments in your life and help you move on from them and be happy so that you’re not in that situation anymore.

Your work thus far has always garnered such strong praise from across the industry, was there pressure to make this new record even better?
Yeah of course there is, but when you’re writing an album you’ve got to try and block all of that out and just do what comes naturally. If that’s what you’ve done with previous work and that’s got you to this point then it’s working. When we write, we write for ourselves and if the songs are exciting us then that’s all that matters to begin with and then you hope that your fans feel the same way about those songs that you do. I hate it when bands come out with shite like, ‘This is the best fucking album we’ve done,’ but what I will say about this record is that I love it and I’m extremely proud of everyone involved with it. I hope that fans of the band feel the same way because even though we write for ourselves their opinion does mean a lot to me.

What do you guys do to relax when you’re not writing, performing or rehearsing?
I have one of those Cineworld cards so I’m in the cinema at least three times a week. I love movies. I read comic books, I’m really into Marvel comic books but I also love DC comics. I play football twice a week. But if I’m being honest most of my time is spent in front of the television or in the pub. Andy and Mark are like old men, they spend their time between the pub and the bookies.

Who do you listen to these days, and given the choice, what three albums would you bring to a desert island collectively?
I havant been listening to a lot this year to be honest, there’s a select few new albums that I’ve had on repeat, which are: Take A Worm For A Walk Week - Take A Worm For A Walk Week; Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will; Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - Everything’s Getting Older; Remember Remember - The Quickening; Wild Beasts - Smother; The Twilight Sad - No One Can Ever Know. And a few others I’ve forgotten about.
But as far as desert island discs, I’d need four albums and they would be: The Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible; Mogwai - Young Team; Abba - Gold; Arab Strap - Monday Night At The Hug And Pint.

The free acoustic album you gave away not too long ago, should we expect any more of the same anytime soon?
We’ll do acoustic sessions with the new songs because most of them work really well stripped back but we won’t officially release anything like that, I don’t think. We’ve got a few surprises up our sleeves that I can’t really talk about yet but we’re going to try and release as much music with the album next year as we can.

What are the highlights of the year so far for the Twilight Sad?
The tour with Mogwai in March after we recorded the new album was amazing. That was the third time they have taken us on tour, they are one of my favourite bands so getting to see them every night was a privilege and a pleasure. Recording and finishing the album was a highlight. Apart from that, 2011 has been a pretty shite year for many reasons so I’ll be glad to see the back of it and get into 2012 with our new album. Let’s just say this year’s giving me plenty of things to moan about so there’s plenty fuel in the fire for album four!

The Twilight Sad’s new single ‘Sick’ will be released on 14th November via FatCat Records.

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