Interview: The Twilight Sad

The story of The Twilight Sad’s rise must stand out like an oasis for anyone left jaded by the ‘MySpace age’. In 2005 they recorded a short demo and sent it to Fat Cat records, who drew up a contract, before sending them to America to record their debut. Last October they released their second album, Forget the Night Ahead, drawing great critical acclaim and leading to tours with acts such as Biffy Clyro, Mogwai and Frightened Rabbit.

Despite these successes, the band I meet perched on a ledge outside their gig at London’s XOYO seems determinedly grounded. Front man James Graham queries: “What’s the phrase…illusions of grandeur? Yeah, we don’t have any of them. We just want to make enough money to make another record and keep touring with our friends.”

Although they tell of how sound reflects their Glaswegian roots, the band seems wary of the semantics of describing this as their ‘scene’. In their early days they avoided gigging too much in Glasgow, preferring to experiment with their sound away from the claustrophobia of their home city. Their sound is innovative to say the least; Forget the Night Ahead includes samples of clashing fire-extinguishers amongst a multitude of obscurities.

However, from the outset a core of unpretentious, cathartic songwriting has run through their music. Their creative process seems to revolve around this core – Graham understatedly telling of how he just writes about “where I’m from, people I know and obviously bad things that have happened to these people”. Indeed whilst the title of a track off their latest E.P. (‘Throw Yourself in the Water Again’) draws inspiration from Camus’s The Fall, when questioned on this he becomes almost apologetic, assuring us that this was their guitarists’ business before reiterating that he writes about “what he knows”.
They seem to be on the cusp of many genres, treading a ground somewhere between post-punk and post-rock with a sound that manages to be anthemic without being contrived. The band seem sequally stuck when pushed for a definition, only offering that a recent gig saw their first mosh-pit, before withdrawing this offering upon the realisation that “that’s Dundee for you”.

Whilst their latest recordings exude a new and more assured sound, it is as a live act that The Twilight Sad stand out as truly exceptional. On stage they actively try and create a more visceral ‘wall of noise’ that stands at odds with their records. This emphasis on the importance of their live sound is evidently drawn from growing up around prolific live acts such as Mogwai, a band they claim to have seen over a 100 times without ever tiring of them.

As they take to the stage they become instantly animated; the tumultuous crescendos of their new track ‘The Wrong Car’ creates a real fervour in the crowd. Observing the sheer physicality of their performance illustrates their conviction that they have written a collection of songs that tell a story. It becomes clear why they feel live music is a distinct craft from the creation of a record. Graham reveals that: “I went to a lot of gigs where bands would just replicate their sound note-for-note when they played live and instead of spending £15 on a ticket you could have just stayed at home and listened to the record. We always want to create a different experience to the album, both for us and for our fans.”

The Twilight Sad are one of those bands that seem to refuse to sit on their laurels. Forget the Night Ahead reaped their greatest rewards to date, yet they promise a “completely different” sound on the coming album. Their reasons for this seem to typify their ethos on creating music; listening to them outline these, it is hard not to feel heartened.

“Who knows how long we’re going to be in a band?” James reflects. “We just want to keep experimenting with our sound, and more than anything keep gigging with our friends. Looking back to 2005 and our signing, honestly, I think we were the luckiest people in the world.”