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By: Kevin Scott
The Twilight Sad release their 4th album, Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave on Monday (27th Oct) and it might just be some of their best work yet. Ahead of its release, we sent Kevin Scott to have a chat with the band.
(((o))): Congrats on the new album. The direction of the band has changed again – merging the synth-driven sound of No One Can Ever Know with more of a return to your earlier guitar-driven form: how would you describe the sound of Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave?
I think you’ve kind of hit the nail on the head with your description there, to be honest. When we write music we don’t make a conscious decision like “it needs to sound like this”, we just write the songs and let the songs naturally take their own form. A lot of the sounds will come from what Andy’s listening to as well, a lot of it is subconscious as well, I think. We’d been playing a lot of different types of gigs whilst we were writing the record. We played our usual five-piece noisy full band sets and Andy and I would perform acoustically. We played stripped back three-piece sets and we even played with an 80-piece orchestra in an old Abbey in Paisley. I think subconsciously those gigs influenced the types of songs we were writing and I think you can see that with the variety of songs that are on the record. We have full-on big songs like “In Nowheres” and then we stripped it right back on songs like “Sometimes I Wish I Could Fall Asleep” where it’s mainly just my vocal and a piano. The record is big when it needs to be big and small when it needs to be small if that makes sense? I think it’s the most dynamic sounding record we’ve ever made.
(((o))): There seems to be more of an approachable sound to tracks like ‘Last January’ and ‘It Was Never the Same’ – coincidence or part of a devious plan to get on the Radio 1 breakfast show?
We don’t ever approach any of our songs in that way. We make music for ourselves to begin with and make music that interests us. After that, if people want to play our songs on the radio then that’s cool. The day that we compromise our sound to fit in with what’s cool or what can get us on the radio or in magazines will be the day I cut my vocal chords out. To me songs such as “That Summer At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy”, “I Became A Prostitute”, “Seven Years Of Letters” and “Another Bed” from our previous records are just as approachable as the songs you’ve mentioned. I believe you can have a powerful song and make the song big without flooding it with noisy guitars and that’s what we’ve done on those songs. I still think the guitars sound pretty big on those songs though.
(((o))): How did the recording process work for this album? Do you tend to seek new surroundings or familiarity?
We wanted to be close to home this time so it was an easy decision to record at Mogwai’s Castle of Doom in Glasgow. We’ve been friends with Mogwai for a long time and I was lucky enough to go visit the studio while they were recording Rave Tapes and I suggested recording there to the rest of the band. We wanted to record with our live sound engineer Andy Bush and he lives in Glasgow as well, so it just made sense to record at home. It was nice to be able to go home to your own bed every night and clear your head after what was sometimes a 12-hour day in the studio. It also gave Andy Bush and whoever was recording their part that day some space and time in the studio to work on things on their own, as sometime there can be too many cooks in the kitchen – If you know what I mean. We had everything mapped out before we went into the studio so it was a case of going in and concentrating on giving the best performance. Mogwai were also very kind to us as they gave us a loan of a few of their guitars.
(((o))): What was it like working with Peter Katis again? And how did his work with bands like The National and Frightened Rabbit influenced the album?
You’d have to ask Peter. We told Peter what we wanted the record to sound like and left him to get on with it. Then we worked together once he sent the first mix over. We then tweaked it until we were both happy with it. When we were writing Andy and I said to each other that we thought Peter would be perfect to mix this record. It was great to work with him again and when he agreed to do it we were really happy. He said to Andy that he was really excited to work with us again which was nice. We feel very lucky and privileged to work with a guy with such an amazing track record. He’s worked on some of our favourite albums by The National, Interpol, Frightened Rabbit and many more.
(((o))): Which bands in particular would you cite as influence Nobody Wants to be Here…?
Andy’s answered this question
Around the time I was writing this record I was listening to a lot of things like Lee Hazlewood, a lot of Motown releases particularly The Marvelettes, The Monks, The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Sound, the list could go on and on, but I don’t think there was anything I’d cite as an influence that you can really hear coming through on the record. With this album we were trying to look back over all the different arrangements we’ve played as a band in the past, and tried in some way, to combine all of them to build the sound on the record.
(((o))): The release of this album follows from the Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters tour – what was it like going back to your first album, and is this in part why the new album is more of a ‘noise’ record?
All the songs were written before we performed and reissued our first record so us doing that didn’t really have much influence on the new record. We performed the record twice in Glasgow at Xmas before we went into the studio to record the new record in January. As I said, the songs were mapped out before those gigs but it was a nice thing to do before going into the studio, it put me in a really good head space before recording my vocal parts. I really enjoyed looking back at our 1st record, it was nice to look back before we moved forward. We weren’t planning on reissuing the album, we were asked to perform it at those Xmas gigs and we realised it hadn’t been available on Vinyl for about 5 years so we wanted to get it back out there for people who hadn’t been able to buy it. We thought we’d make it a nice package and include our early demos. I didn’t realise how much that record meant to people, it was amazing to see people travel from all over the world to see us play it.
(((o))): You’re about to embark on a US tour, a country that has always welcomed the band – what do you enjoy about playing in America, and how will you pass the hours on the road with touring partners We Were Promised Jetpacks?
I love touring in America for a lot of reasons. The people in America are amazing. We’ve toured America 15 times now and a big reason why we’ve been able to do that is the generosity shown by a lot of people with things like helping us out with places to stay, recommending places to go, having a drink with us after the gigs and mainly just being there and being an amazing crowd at a gig. So the main reason I love it is the people that live there and getting to meet people who like our music from different walks of life. We usually spend about six weeks in North America when we’re touring there, it’s a long time to be away from home but getting to see the whole country is an amazing experience and i feel really privileged to be able to do that every time we’re over. To pass the time i usually download lots of films/TV shows and bring some comics to read.
(((o))): Four albums and a host of EPs deep – how does it feel to know how far you’ve come since starting out?
I’m really proud that we’ve managed to get this far. We’ve got this far due to hard work and not because we’ve had a pile of cash thrown at us and been rammed down the throats and ears of people. It’s been seven years that we’ve been properly touring and releasing albums and we’ve seen so many other bands come and go over the years, bands that if I’m honest have been given a lot more opportunities than we have. One thing I’m really proud of is that we’ve achieved a lot of things that money can’t buy and I like to think we’ve got that on the strength of our music. A lot of the bands that we grew up listening to and who are the reason I wanted to be in a band are fans of our band. Mogwai and Arab Strap have had a huge influence on my life and they are all really good friends now. We’ve been lucky enough to tour with Mogwai three times now, Aidan and Malcolm asked us to support them when they got back together for a special gig a couple of years ago. To get that seal of approval from them was amazing. We also found out that Robert Smith was a fan of the band – that blew my mind. I’m also really proud of us getting this far because it’s not all been fun and games or a really easy ride. It’s been really hard at times, especially as you get older. As I said we don’t have a ton of cash behind the band, most years we scrape by. I think its testament to our belief in what we do that we’ve got this far. Also if it wasn’t for the people back home and the people who like our music supporting us as much as they do we wouldn’t have got this far. We’re not in this to make money and if we were we would have been finished a long time ago. My goal is to make enough money so we can keep writing music and afford to be in this band. I love doing this, it’s everything to me. I hope that we can keep doing it after this record for many records to come.
(((o))): Your live gig with RNSO in Paisley was a big success – are there plans to introduce more classical instruments on live dates, or in the studio?
I never thought we’d ever perform with an 80-piece orchestra. I just didn’t think things like that happen to bands like us. It was an amazing experience but I think it was the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life. We met with the arranger John Logan a couple of time to talk about the arrangements of the songs but we only actually had one hour to practise with the Orchestra on the morning of the gig. I don’t think we’ll do something like that again if I’m honest. It’s done now and we have it recorded and we filmed it for everyone to see. We try not to repeat ourselves. I’m not against using classical instruments on our recordings though – we actually used some brass at the end of the title track off our new record.
(((o))): James, at that afore-mentioned gig, you dropped the C-bomb, very loudly, in an house of worship – what do you think the lasting repercussions of such a heinous sin will be?
I’m going to hell, I came to that conclusion a long time ago even before I said that in a Church.
(((o))): It’s getting towards the business end of the year – so what have been your stand out album(s) of the year?
Perfume Genius – Too Bright
The War On Drugs – Lost in a Dream
Remember Remember – Forgetting the Present
Mogwai – Rave Tapes
Owl John – Owl John
Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Lykke Li – I Never Learn
St Vincent – Digital Witness
The Phantom Band – Strange Friend
Sharon Van Ettan – Are We There Yet
Aphex Twin – Syco
Future Islands – Singles
Caribou – Our Love
The Antlers – Familiars