Scottish indie-rock band, The Twilight Sad, kick off their US/Canadian tour in support of their new album, It Won/t Be Like This All The Time. They’ll hit California at the end of the month. ListenSD had the chance to ask lead-singer, James Graham, a few questions.
James, what was the writing process for your fifth studio album, the eagerly anticipated It Won/t Be Like This All The Time?
The writing process wasn’t so dissimilar to previous albums for me. I’ve always said that I don’t/won’t write music unless I have something to write about. I use writing music as a sort of therapy to help me talk about things that I find hard to talk about in everyday life. Andy will send me some music he’s been working on, usually two or three tracks at a time and I’ll pick whatever track stands out or instantly makes me feel something as soon as I hear it. Then I’ll record my vocal melodies in my house with a rough set of lyrics. Andy will then get to work on making a demo, he’ll send it over and we’ll discuss the structure of the song and then I’ll get to work on finishing my lyrics. The difference this time was that we went up to a studio next to Loch Fyne to work on the songs and do some pre-production before we went into the studio. Brendan & Johnny were able to put their stamp on the songs and together we worked on how to improve the songs before we went in to properly record the record. That made a real difference to the album, having four friends with a singular vision of making the best album we possibly could and not being afraid to tell each other when something wasn’t right really brought us all closer together and ultimately benefited the music. As far as lyrics go, it was the easiest album to write words for because it was also the hardest, words just came out because of how I was feeling.
You’ve said before that you and all of the band members create songs and records to satisfy your own sensibilities. It Won/t Be Like This All The Time, reached #1 in the Scottish charts and #17 in the UK charts. Clearly, you have built a strong fan base and reached a very wide audience who strongly appreciate your musical vision. Thoughts?
I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved. We haven’t ever tried to be anything else other than who we are and we haven’t ever created our sound to sound like anything that’s in fashion at the time to try and gain popularity. You are right in what you say, first and foremost we create music for ourselves, music that excites us. If people like it, then great, if not we can be proud that we have been true to ourselves. I think people really appreciate that in this day and age where people seem to be canvassing for likes, followers, or retweets. I hope that people can see that we are genuine in what we do and won’t ever sell ourselves out for five minutes of fame (we’re not good looking enough to be famous anyway). Our music is the most important thing to us. Each album represents who we are at this point in our lives, they are like documentation of who we are as we get older…….hopefully wiser. I feel so lucky to be doing this and without the support of people who believe in us and like what we do, we wouldn’t have got this far. I’ll be forever grateful. There was one point I thought we were down and out but fans of our music kept us fighting. I’ll be honest it has always felt like we’re fighting to be able to keep doing what we love and maybe that’s a driving force. I definitely think its a bit like the tortoise and the hare, we’ve seen so many bands come and go after being hyped up to be the next big thing. That’ll keep happening but we’ll be in the background slowly working away, doing what we do. I think a reason that people are connecting with what we do is that I’m talking about things that we’re all going through in life……love, death, hope, family, loss, friendship. Yes, I may focus on the darker side of life but I think its good to hear someone else going through similar hardships and we can share the burden together and get through it as in the end, we are all in this together.
Your lyrics in the past have been somewhat general and metaphoric, they allow a listener some room for interpretation. On this album, however, your lyrics seem to be a bit more direct. Was this a conscious decision or simply a shift in your songwriting?
It was both conscious and subconscious, I think. I started writing this album and what came out was how I was feeling, the words were the exact emotions I was going through, the exact phrases I was saying to myself, I struggle with my place in the world and [wonder] if my best is good enough for my family & friends, trying to be a good person, and sometimes, feel like I’m failing. These feelings/emotions just came out within my lyrics and I saw that and said to myself, “This is how I have to carry on, I have to be as honest, as frank as I can for this to work and for my words to truly mean something. Don’t get me wrong there are still a few metaphors in there as that’s just the way I work sometimes, plus there are some things I wasn’t ready to talk about publicly but needed to get off my chest. I want to grow and develop as a songwriter. With this record, I felt this is how I could grow and become better. I constantly want to be a better person for my family.
You have a very rigorous tour schedule in 2019, several weeks in the US and Canada, a bunch of summer festivals, and finishing up the year with a month of touring all over Europe. How do you keep healthy?
There’s a question…..keeping healthy. I try to eat well on tour but that’s quite hard sometimes (pizza). I’m getting older and we’re playing for longer. My vocal range goes from very low to very high and shouty, so my voice can get strained pretty easily. In the past I could go out and have a few drinks after the gig, now that’s not really possible and I’ve got to pick my battles on a long tour. People pay hard-earned money to come and see us, they are now traveling far and wide, so I need to make sure we’re able to put on the best gig possible. I don’t remember a lot of gigs from the first few years of our career because I was drunk. I want to remember, I don’t want to dull any of those emotions or feelings, its all got to come out. Don’t get me wrong though, I still enjoy a good drink to unwind after we play as the stress of whether I’ve been good enough really gets to me. We all like searching out good food on tour, we have our favorite places in every city.
Speaking of touring, what three items can you absolutely not live without while out on the road?
My iPad to watch films, tv shows. Adidas tracksuit for comfort for traveling. Polaroid camera for memories. My phone for Facetiming the family. Edibles. Emergency C, Vocal Zones, Throat Coat. Ear Phones to block out JP.
You are playing several big festivals this summer. If you were to put together your own festival who would you book? The Cure, Mogwai, Arab Strap, Kathryn Joseph, The Walkmen, Sufjan Stevens, Micah P Hinson, Fontaines DC, Low, Young FathersYou’re a big movie watcher. What’s the last movie you watched that’d you’d wholeheartedly recommend?
I’m a geek sorry……the last film I saw and loved was Avengers Endgame…….you might have heard of it. I really loved Stan & Ollie as well.
Flash forward 20 years from now, what advice would you give your current self?
Don’t give up. If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all. Be nice to people. Tell your loved ones you love them as much as possible. Get off your phone and experience the real world…it’s far more interesting and fulfilling.
Kathryn Joseph will be the supporting artist on all tour dates.
10 MAY 2019 THE FOUNDRY PHILADELPHIA, Philadelphia, PA TICKETS11 MAY 2019 ELSEWHERE, Brooklyn, NY TICKETS12 MAY 2019 U STREET MUSIC HALL, Washington, DC TICKETS14 MAY 2019 SONIA, Cambridge, MA TICKETS16 MAY 2019 VELVET UNDERGROUND, Toronto, ON TICKETS17 MAY 2019 EL CLUB Detroit, MI TICKETS18 MAY 2019 SLEEPING VILLAGE, Chicago, IL
21 MAY 2019 LARIMER LOUNGE, Denver, CO, TICKETS22 MAY 2019 URBAN LOUNGE, Salt Lake City, UT TICKETS24 MAY 2019 WISE HALL, Vancouver, BC TICKETS25 MAY 2019 FAWCETT HALL AT ALMA MATER, Tacoma, WA TICKETS26 MAY 2019 THE CROCODILE, Seattle, WA TICKETS27 MAY 2019 DOUG FIR LOUNGE, Portland, OR TICKETS29 MAY 2019 THE INDEPENDENT, San Francisco, CA TICKETS30 MAY 2019 TERAGRAM BALLROOM, Los Angeles, CA TICKETS