Twilight Sad in session from a few days ago to kick off the week. The Twilight Sad are a Scottish post-punk/indie rock band, comprising James Graham (vocals) and Andy MacFarlane (guitar). The band are signed to Rock Action Records and have released four albums, as well as several EPs and singles. Their 2007 debut album, Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, drew widespread acclaim from critics, who noted Graham’s thick Scottish accent and MacFarlane’s dense sonic walls of shoegazing guitar and wheezing accordion. The Twilight Sad’s notoriously loud live performances have been described as “completely ear-splitting”,and the band toured for the album across Europe and the United States throughout 2007 and 2008. Sessions inspired by stripped-down and reworked live performances yielded the 2008 mini-album, Here, It Never Snowed. Afterwards It Did.
When asked to describe their debut album, Graham says the band likes to see their songs as “folk with layers of noise”, as they are based on experiences that have happened to them, around their hometowns or people they know. They often cite the works of Daniel Johnston, Serge Gainsbourg, Phil Spector, Arab Strap, and Leonard Cohen as influences. Graham lists the 2003 Arab Strap album Monday at the Hug & Pint amongst his favourite releases of the 2000s, stating that it was “the first Arab Strap album that I ever listened to… For me it was the first record that I realized it was OK to sing in your own accent. Aidan [Moffat] is one of the best lyricists of the past two decades!”Graham also cites Arcade Fire’s debut album Funeral as a key influence. In a 2015 feature with Clash magazine, he said, “It was around the time that Andy [MacFarlane] had been saying to me that he wanted me to write some songs with him, and it was also around the time that I finally knew what I wanted to write about. Without this record I don’t know if I’d have approached our debut album in the way that I did. Funeral had a massive influence on my songwriting style and the way in which I approach writing songs. The way in which the storytelling within the song develops as the track progresses, the power of repeating the same line within a song and the different ways to deliver the line to give it different meanings… Funeral is an album that will stay with me for the rest of my life and will always influence the music I write.” By the time of their third album, the band began exploring post-punk and krautrock facets of their influences, with MacFarlane citing artists such as PiL, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Can, Cabaret Voltaire and Wire as key inspirations.
In an October 2009 interview with The Fly, they admitted, “We are still at the stage where we don’t really know where we are in this whole music industry thing. We know people like us, but we don’t really know where we fit in or, if we go to certain places, up or not. […] It’s not like we’re a stadium band. We’re not a lads band, like Oasis or something. We’re not a scenestery band, and yet we’re not a pure experimental band either. Obviously we’re noisy and stuff, but we write proper songs as well.”
Where the band’s recorded sound is layered with many melodies, their live sound is a more intense experience with a more visceral wall of noise, something the band wanted to do all along. Graham stated, “We like having the contrast between the record and playing live. There are a lot more instruments on the record. There’s only four of us in the band, so we have to keep it as simple as possible. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like going to see a band that sounds just like their album. That’s what we try not to do.”
In a 2014 interview with Jazz Monroe of The Skinny, James Graham commented on the misconception of the band’s “disturbed reputation” pertaining to his lyrics, as well as designer Dave “DLT” Thomas’ “darkly suggestive” artwork. Monroe wrote, “There’s a misconception that James himself had a difficult childhood; in fact, The Skinny has it on good authority that the Grahams are proud, attendant fans at many of their gigs.” Graham elaborated that, “My mum and dad are actually the biggest supporters of our band. The songs aren’t about me having a really bad childhood; it’s about, from the outside, looking in at other people in my community. And the shite that happened to my family – not in my family. It’s about other dickheads influencing our lives, whether or not they realise. Writing these songs is about making people feel things they wouldn’t usually feel, things they’re scared to feel – loss, anger, depression. To write a love song for somebody would probably be the hardest thing. I’ve never done that.”
Here, ahead of the release of their latest album, and kicking off a tour that will bring them to the States later on this year, a session to get you set up and ready for good times ahead.
Crank it up.