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Stereoboard Speaks To The Twilight Sad Ahead Of A Big Year For The Scottish Art Rockers (Interview)

Monday, 13 February 2012 Written by Ben Bland
Stereoboard Speaks To The Twilight Sad Ahead Of A Big Year For The Scottish Art Rockers (Interview)

Hi James great to be talking to you. I suppose it would be best to start by talking about your new album, “No One Can Ever Know”. There are a few noticeable changes in style on this record compared to previous efforts by the band, and I was wondering what prompted those…?

Well I think that the main reason it doesn’t sound like our previous records is that we never wanted to be a band that just made record after record that sounded like each other. It’s always been important to us that there’s some sort of distinction. We have tried to move on and progress with each record basically. For us, it has always been a case of experimenting with our sound a wee bit as well. We aren’t a band just content to keep things the same way. We wanted to keep the same kind of…well, tone I suppose as well though. We still wanted it to be a Twilight Sad record. It was a natural way of doing things. We didn’t have to sit down and fight things out, we knew where we wanted to go and so when Andy wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics everything fitted together pretty well. 
I’m trying to think of a way other than “natural progression” to describe it but, clichéd as that may sound, that is the genuine truth behind it! There will be people, of course, who still want to listen to the whole ‘wall of noise’  thing that we have sort of become known for, I guess, but they can always go and listen to the first two records if that is what they want. Not that I thought those two records were the same at all, but they both retained that key characteristic guitar sound I suppose and the most obvious difference between those two albums and this one is probably the change in that.
Were there any songs on the record that were like a eureka moment for you guys? A song that maybe made you certain of what this record was going to be?

It’s difficult to tell really. We sort of recorded the demos in batches so at first we had “Alphabet”,  “Sick and “Don’t Move”. Those three really set the template; I suppose you could say, for this record and where it was going. Out of those I suppose “Sick” was the one that immediately got us excited about where this record was going. Again it was never a spoken thing though. We just got on with it.  

I noticed when I saw you live towards the end of last year that you played quite a lot of new songs in your setlist. Which one would you say went down the best or did you enjoy playing the most?

I got a kick out of playing “Kill It in the Morning” most to be honest. I think that’s because it is so different though. The reactions were pretty cool for the most part but I think some people were pretty shocked because that song is certainly a bit of a departure for us, more so than I think any of the other songs we played. We played it when we were touring in Europe as well around that time and then it got released as a free download so I think some people did know it when we were playing in the UK. Some people really weren’t sure about it at first I don’t think but have learned to love it since I guess. I think it especially makes sense live and in the context of the record as well, with it being this powerful track at the end of the album. We did release it as a free download first though to kinda ruffle a few feathers I suppose!  

I’ve seen you play live quite a few times now and I always leave thinking how involved you are in the music and how draining an experience it must be. How difficult is it to reproduce such a level of performance night after night?

ImageWell I suppose the thing is, when you are on tour you spend so much time before the show just sitting around. You’re driving about on motorway after motorway in a van. Therefore that hour, hour and a half on stage is such a release really. There’s all this penned up energy and that time when you are up there performing is the only time you really get to release it. We always try and put as much into it as possible. I mean, people have paid to come and see us and we’re still blown away by that very fact so even if we’re only playing to fifty people we give it our absolute all. 
I think also by playing the live we can almost try to show people why we wrote the songs in the first place, you know. The way we play them is a sign of what they mean to us, because they do mean a lot to us. I would hope that much is obvious. We’ve been doing this for three albums now and it still means as much to us today as it did on day one.
I remember being very surprised the first time I saw you live because you were so loud! Definitely one of the loudest bands I’d ever seen. Do you play so loudly partly just to try and shock some of your audience?

I think a lot of the music is very loud and very impactful anyway. The songs kinda deserve that sound I suppose. I mean, we can strip things back but we only do that for occasional radio sessions and stuff. You need earplugs when you come and see us live – and we’re not going to get any quieter trust me! I think the visceral nature of a lot of our songs necessitates playing pretty loud. Some of the new ones may be a little quieter but they will only accentuate the big, louder numbers at the same time. Of course, a lot of how loud we are live is down to Andy’s guitar rig, it’s just ridiculously loud! 
You are one of a number of great bands that have come out of Scotland in recent years. Why do you think that Scotland seems to have such a productive music scene at present?

Well, it’s hard to put your finger on one reason…but I think there’s just a certain honesty, I guess, amongst a lot of the bands up here that makes them great bands. These are bands that do what they do purely for the love of the music you know. I mean, a band like Mogwai are a band that just put so much into what they do. I think perhaps as a reaction to some of the more dour aspects of Scotland, like the weather or whatever you want to say, that maybe stuff like music is all the more important to people.  

I know you’re a big fan of bands like Radiohead, Portishead and Mogwai but are there any artists who you like and influence you are perhaps a bit unexpected…?

Unexpected? Well…I guess it depends on what you expect but, erm, I don’t have to be embarrassed about who I pick do I? I really, really love Abba. I mean, Abba are pretty much the greatest pop band ever aren’t they? I just think their songs are really, really good and the harmonies and stuff…top draw. So yeah, we are all massive fans of bands like the ones you mentioned but you should add Abba to the list because Abba are brilliant. 
You’re going out on tour again to promote this release but after that what does the future hold for The Twilight Sad?

Well, we are going out on the road to the US soon as well so that will keep us on our toes. We’ll probably be playing at the odd festival maybe in the summer as well and then after the summertime I guess we’ll be back on the road in the UK again. There’s not going to be any shortage of touring for this record. We will be on the road as much as we feel we need to be to do the record justice before we focus all our energies on the next one.  

The thing is we are just still overwhelmed that we get to do this. I mean, this is what I do now. I’m a professional musician, which just seems so strange and bizarre. That people pay to come and watch us play and pay for our records and our t-shirts and stuff…that really blows me away all the time. We didn’t expect this and we just are grateful for every day more that we get to be a band and to play our music. We don’t know how long it will last for. I mean, it’s obviously a very difficult career financially and so on, but it’s something we all love so much. I hope that we can continue doing it for a long, long time.  
The Twilight Sad are on tour across the UK right now. You should go and see them...and don’t forget to wear your earplugs. If you can’t get to see them this time around, they will be touring the UK again later in the year.

'No One Can Ever Know' is out now via Fat Cat Records.

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