ARTICLE BY CHERYL CHENG
Scotland’s The Twilight Sad is currently on tour with fellow FatCat label mates We Were Promised Jetpacks, performing at the Fonda Theatre tonight, Nov. 7, to promote new album Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave. On a break in between shows, singer James Graham took some time to chat with The Scenestar about the new album, politics, and what’s next for the band.
SS: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me. How’s the tour going?
James Graham: It’s going really well. I think we’re about three weeks in now, and it’s been great. We started off in New York and that was our own show playing our first album [Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters] in full. I’m having a really good time; the shows have been great. Everyone seems to be reacting really well to the new record.
SS: Could you talk about the new album? What was your direction with this one and how is it different from your past albums?
JG: With this one, when we were coming to an end of touring our last record, things weren’t going so great for the band. I think we needed a little bit of time back home. We’ve been touring for seven years solid, so it was good to go home and spend time with friends and family. Kind of reflect on what we’ve achieved as a band and really what we haven’t achieved yet. And it helped clear my head, and connect, and focus on writing these new songs and making them the best we could. Every record we’ve done is always influenced by where we’re from, people we know, and things like that. But this time, we were able to be at home and write there. We decided we wanted to record in Glasgow as well. We recorded in Mogwai’s studio called the Castle of Doom. It’s a pretty apt name for a band.
SS: What’s the creative process like? Do you write the lyrics on your own or does that come later?
JG: The writing process was nearly the same [as before]. [Guitarist] Andy [MacFarlane] would send me the music, and I would write my rough lyrics and melodies, and then we’d work on the song structure.
SS: The new album is called Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave. How did you come up with that album title?
JG: The title kind of explains what [the record] is all about. It’s not just a place. It can be a place you’re in, but it also can be a relationship, a job. It could be a lot of different things in life, and not just a town or a city or anything like that. The other thing is, we’re from a really small town back home, and when you’re growing up, you always want to get out of the small town you live in and go and see the world. But as you get older, you seem to get drawn back to that place. You appreciate it a lot more than when you’re younger. There’s still that small-town mentality, which is a great thing sometimes. I suppose that kind of refers to the title as well.
SS: When I first heard the title, it made me think of the Luis Bunuel film The Exterminating Angel. It takes place at a dinner party, and none of the guests can leave. Something psychological is holding them back, and as a result, all the social norms fall apart. It made me think of the album title, because nobody in the film wants to be there, yet nobody can leave.
JG: Oh, I’ve not seen that film, but I’ll definitely check it out.
SS: How has the critical response been to the new album? Do you follow reviews and press closely?
JG: When we’re writing and things like that, we kind of go in our own wee bubble and try to have no contact with the outside world. When we’re writing and recording, we take no notice of anybody because we’re just writing music for ourselves. And after that, you hope that people like it. We make the music for ourselves, but ultimately for the band, you hope it’s a success and people like what you do. When the record comes out, I’ve tried to stay away from reviews, but these days, it’s pretty hard; anyone can write to you and tell you what they think about your record. I’ve learned to get thicker skin. It’s kind of a hard thing when people are judging you about something that you’ve put so much into. But fortunately enough, over the years, people have been really kind to us with reviews and things. This new record is the best-reviewed thing we’ve ever done so far. You can’t please everybody. You just got to accept that. But at the moment, the reaction has been phenomenal. And I’ve been overwhelmed by it to be honest.
SS: I just read on the Twilight Sad Facebook that the record is sold out in the U.K./EU and will need to be repressed. It definitely sounds like a very warm reception.
JG: Yeah, it’s great. And so far the record has sold more than anything we’ve ever sold before. And that’s amazing because the fact is, less people are buying music, but more people are buying our music. (Laughs) It’s really cool. We’re all in a really good place with that. We’re all really chuffed. It’s just kind of blowing our minds. We’ve been doing this for seven years, so it’s really nice to see progression in what you’re doing and things moving forward. We’ve worked hard, and I’m glad we’ve had to work hard to get any sort of success because it makes you appreciate it a lot more.
SS: On the topic of record sales, Taylor Swift recently made headlines when she took all her songs off of Spotify. What is your view of streaming services? Do you think it hurts record sales?
JG: I use streaming services as a “try before you buy” thing. I spend any money I make—which is not a lot—on music and vinyl. I’m a vinyl collector and I love having the physical product of a record. But there’s so much music out there. To be able to stream as “try before you buy,” I quite like that. I’m fine with that. That’s how I use it, but I know a lot of people don’t use it that way. That’s how they listen to music. And if that’s the case, it’d be nice to find a way to benefit the band and the artist a little bit more because making music costs a lot of money to do. These past seven years, we’ve really just scraped by. And it’s never been about making money to buy fancy things. It’s about making enough money to make another record. And if we can keep that going, and [streaming] services like [Spotify] can help us a bit more, we can make more music, which is ultimately our goal.
SS: I also wanted to talk about another recent headline, which was the Scottish independence vote. A lot of bands took a stance on the issue, including Idlewild, Belle & Sebastian, and Frightened Rabbit. I noticed that The Twilight Sad did not take to social media to voice their opinion on the issue. Why is that?
JG: Where I grew up, politics was quite a private thing. I’m just a singer in a band. There was so much activity on social media, and I really didn’t want to influence anyone’s decision, because it was such an important decision. I don’t think that the platform that I’ve got was the right platform to try and influence people and tell them what we’re voting for. Friends in bands were very vocal about it, and I really respect that. But they were also probably more knowledgeable on the subject than me. They were really campaigning for it and knew the ins and outs. And I felt it wasn’t my place personally.
SS: As this tour wraps up, what’s next for the band? Will there be a U.S. headlining tour next year for the new album?
JG: Yeah, I’m pretty sure. That’s getting arranged at the moment. It should be arranged by the time this tour finishes. In late February to March, we’ll do a headlining tour, which I’m really looking forward to. It’ll be really nice to get out and play for an hour and a half every night. We’ve got that many songs now that we’re struggling every night to do a set list. We’ve got 45 minutes on this tour, and we’ve been in a wee bit of a quibble about the songs. It’ll be nice to come back and play a full set.
Before then, you can see The Twilight Sad at Origami Vinyl today at 3:00 p.m. The Scots also will perform with We Were Promised Jetpacks (whom we interviewed earlier this year) at the Fonda Theatre tonight, and tickets are on sale now via AXS.
INFO: November 7th: The Twilight Sad at Origami Vinyl (FREE, 3:00 p.m.)
BUY TICKETS: November 7th: We Were Promised Jetpacks w/ Twilight Sad at Fonda Theatre