Interview: The Twilight Sad
I’m not too cool to admit that I was nervous about this interview. I am a big fan of this band but as I sit down with self-deprecating frontman James Graham beside a mock Western-style wagon, holding the drink he has given me (that I don't like but am too polite to not drink) it all seems so surreal that I relax and hope that James will open up. And open up he did...
You’re just back from touring Europe – how was it?
I’m not going to lie... it was up and down. The routing wasn’t great; we had long drives every day and it kind of took it out of us, especially having just come off the American tour. There were some amazing nights but we were quite disappointed with some of the German dates – they weren’t as busy as we thought they’d be. But there were places like Zurich where we were sold out so we're just hoping we can build on that again. The last night we played in a fire station in Belgium and a guy had come over from France to see us, and he said something that kept me going. He said; “Just remember when it gets hard and you think about calling it a day that there are people like me who absolutely love what you do.” So I went home with a nice thought in my head. But it was tough - usually I don’t tell anybody if there’s any bad stuff but I’ve got to the point now where I’m not going to sugar-coat it any more. I’ll just tell it like it is.
Do you feel more pressure on stage to ‘perform’ since you are singing without playing an instrument?
Yes and no – I like to think that what I’m doing is natural but at the same time there are some nights when you’re knackered and you’ve been doing it night upon night. But you have to remember that people have paid their money to come and see you, so I just think about what the song is about and why we are doing this in the first place. I hate watching myself back because I do look like a dick but if I just do what comes naturally then hopefully that comes across. I’d hate to be one of those guys who just stands there going “wahwahwah” (deadpan). I do feel pressure but I put it on myself because I feel stupid that I don’t play an instrument. Though I suppose I wouldn’t be the way I am on stage if I had an instrument.
You like to keep the knowledge of what your lyrics are about to yourself but do you ever hear/read other people’s interpretations of them and just think “No you didn’t get it at all!”
All the time! Sometimes people miss the target completely, but that’s cool anyway. If that’s what they think it’s about and they can relate that back to themselves then I’m not going to call them out on it. People think a lot of the songs are about murder and really sinister things. It is dark but most of the things are just metaphors. It’s not like I really went out and set some kids on fire in a bedroom, you know? (laughs) I've read about our songs that I’ve got ‘father issues’ and that couldn’t be further from the truth! I come from the best background ever and I’m pretty sure my Mum and Dad think “Where the fuck have we gone wrong?” but I’m just like “It’s not you – it’s everybody else!” (laughs) I’m not reading anything more about this new record now... I’ve done the whole Google thing and for every nine good things there’ll be one bad thing and that’s the one you focus on. It doesn’t matter how many people tell you to brush it off – when you put so much into something it cuts you up when someone just says “shite!” I understand why some people wouldn’t get what we do - everything’s not for everyone but it’s still not nice so I’ve not read too much about the new album, but I’m pretty sure there’ll be loads of people who got it wrong... again!
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
The plan was to have loads of festivals this year and I’m not going to lie... we haven’t been asked to play. We have a few like The Great Escape but that’s because of our label – it’s a Fat Cat showcase – were also playing Long Division in Wakefield and then Summer Sundae which I’m really looking forward to. We had more festivals last year and we didn’t have an album out. We’ve been told that we’re not a ‘festival band’ and that we're not a new band either so that’s why we’re not getting asked and to be honest we’ve been pretty downhearted about that.
Touring wise we’ll do America, Europe and Britain and then we finish at The Barrowlands so I’m excited about that. A lot of people have said “Oof that’s a big thing!” but we have played to 1300 two years ago and we’ve had a lot more press in Scotland than ever before from this new record and it sold pretty well in Scotland. We also have a great support act. I can't tell you til after August but let’s just say that they’re friends of ours. It would be amazing to think that we could sell out The Barrowlands. That was my aim 5 albums in and we are actually only 3 albums in.
We’ve also got a remix album coming out and a covers EP which is our friends covering songs from the new album. I don’t think I’m allowed to tell anyone who did the remixes yet but it is bands that I’m really surprised we got!
Andy and I will probably write the next record over the summer and we’ll see where it goes from there. I think we have one more album in us anyway but the band does need to get a bit bigger at some point financially. I could do this for the rest of my life if I could scrape by but we just don’t make enough. I’m pretty disillusioned with the music business at this point but on the other hand it gives me shit-tons to write about! There’s a lot of people that I don’t like so they’re’ gonna get it! (laughs) I am excited about writing the new album though because I feel like the last one has opened up a lot more directions we can go with it.
I sound quite downbeat but I’m happy with everything that’s inside our band, and the people who like our band and come to see us. I’ve just grown to hate everything else about the music industry apart from writing, recording and playing live. I’ve always known that it’s going to be a long road for us - we don’t write pop music and we don’t look like The Strokes.
I’m also hoping to do a documentary with a friend of mine in the run up to The Barrowlands gig. I want to show the really shit things about being in a band and how much hard work it is, but also show the rewards. I don’t think there are many other jobs where you’re judged as much as being in a band and that can be really hard. But then you remember things like what that guy said to me in Belgium and it’s all worth it. I could honestly write with Andy forever and I just really hope that we progress enough so that we are able to do that.
I do hope so too.