Scottish quartet The Twilight Sad are currently in the studio, working on the follow-up to their excellent 2007 Fat Cat debut, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters. The explosive muscularity and emotional weight of that record have us on the edge of our seats for new material. We had the opportunity to bounce a few questions off vocalist and songwriter James Graham; we’d assumed he’d be a sharp dude, and he hasn’t disappointed. It’s our distinct pleasure to present that conversation to you. Not to spoil anything, but the most exciting new bit is that The Twilight Sad appear to be using fire extinguishers as musical intruments on the forthcoming release. That’s something we can all get behind.
Look for the as yet untitled sophomore LP from The Twilight Sad in October. In the meantime, to both satisfy your craving for Scottish rock and to whet your appetite for the future, check out the tremendous odd and sods collection, Killed My Parents and Hit the Road, available here.
Citizen Dick: You wrote in The Skinny that the lyrical content of the new record will be a bit dark. Will that also affect the music itself? 14 Autumns, 15 Winters worked, we’d argue in a primarily anthemic mode; do dark lyrics imply less soaring sonics?
James Graham: Andy [MacFarlane, guitar/accordion/noise] and I write separately, so the lyrics won’t ever effect what direction the music goes. Andy likes making noise too much, so we won’t ever compromise the soaring sonics.
CD: How’s the recording going? Any big stylistic left-turns to expect?
JG: I have just finished my vocals and this is the last day we are tracking. Everything is sounding really big and noisy and we are really happy so far. The only problem we have had is that Orzel [Craig Orzel, bass] has blown up three bass amps. We expect this record to be a lot noisier and a lot more intense.
CD: Any insider info on the new album we can share with our readers? Album title, songs to be included, things of that nature?
JG: No album title as of yet, but there are a few ideas floating about. The song titles aren’t going to be as long, I think. We have used fire extinguishers on a few songs!
CD: “Half a Person” is my favorite Smiths song. (I’m not saying that to try and impress anyone; that’s totally true, you can ask my wife, as I put it on about a million mix tapes when we were dating.) It was thrilling to hear your cover on Killed My Parents and Hit the Road, as it shows that there’s somebody out there who loves that track as much as me. Further, it’s a perfect cover, in that it’s recognizably both yours and theirs. When approaching covers, how do you manage the line between faithful and blasphemous? Is it fun to play covers, or would you rather skip them in favor of your own material? Are there songs that you wish you’d written?
JG: First of all, I am glad you like the cover. To be honest, I don’t really like doing covers unless its a song that we feel that we can do justice to and relates back to us. I am big fan of The Smiths and that song seemed to fit with the band lyrically. When we do a cover, we just try to make it as much as our own as it was for the artist who wrote it. I wish we had written a few Abba classics, “Lies” by Fleetwood Mac and a number of Leonard Cohen songs. Lady Gaga’s new song is pretty good, but I don’t think it would translate well in a Scottish accent.
CD: Did the tour with Mogwai influence your sound? Or vice versa? When touring, in general, do you find that you get a bit of interplay of ideas with your tour mates? Or is it more, they play, you play, end of story?
JG: The tour with Mogwai was great! To be asked to go on tour with one of your favourite bands is a great feeling. We knew Stuart and Barry but we didn’t realise that they were really into the band. The shows were great, probably the best we have ever played. We all came off the tour feeling that we had made some great friends and we had really accomplished something, with some stories that can’t be repeated. We have really improved as a live band over the past six months thanks to that tour. To be able to watch Mogwai every night for a month was something I will never forget. Usually, we just play the shows and get drunk after, so that doesn’t really leave anytime for messing about with ideas. When we were on tour with Beirut, I sang three songs with them in Copenhagen, which was great cause I really like what they do. That’s the probably the closest to a collaboration.
CD: After the record’s in the can, are the any plans to tour these United States or the broader world?
JG: We will be back on the road as soon as everything is done. There is a big US tour getting planned for September, I think. It will be a support tour. Then we will be back for a headline tour, depending if we are allowed back in and if you like the record. We will be very busy over the next year. We are already planning another EP after the album is out. We have recorded a lot of songs that we are really happy with and want to get them out into the internets, shops and illegal downloading sites.
CD: We often hear the influence of location on bands from this side of the ocean; New York bands sound like New York, southern bands sound southern and so on. How does Scotland influence your sound? Quick follow-up: Do you have any cool Scottish slang we can appropriate?
JG: All the songs are about where we live, people we have known and things that have happened in our local area. It’s where we are from, so it’s going to have some kind of influence, but we don’t think about it too much. It’s not as if I go up the nearest mountain with a bottle of whiskey and my kilt on and start to write songs. I sing in my accent because it’s who I am and it would be stupid to do otherwise.
As for some Scottish slang, try these on for size…
battered a dug = kicked a dog
shat a brick and built the bennet estate = got scared
what you lookin at, am no fuckin porno = what’s your problem
delt wae = slept with
airchie = ass
guys oot = tits out
walaper, doober = dick
dobber supper = sausage and chips
am oan a pure mad whitey by the way = when you drink too much and you go pale and spew
whitemare = nightmare
CD: We found your advice to students, also from The Skinny, to be pretty useful, notably the admonitions to “stay away from dickheads and try not to look like a complete fanny.” Any other advice we could pass on to our readers?
JG: You booze, you lose!
CD: Where are your manners? (editor’s note: We were trying to be clever in our last question, asking the same question that we thought Graham was repeating at the end of “Cold Days From the Birdhouse.” In his response, Graham points out that we misheard the lyric. We could have done the snobby blogger thing and deleted the question, so as not to look like asses, but we respect you, dear reader. Laugh at our question and Graham’s response, then enjoy the tune to see how totally off-base we were.)
JG: It’s actually mirrors!
Big thanks to James Graham of The Twilight Sad for giving us killer answers to our queries. Look for more Citizen Dick Interviews in the future.