The Twilight Sad talk how Robert Smith and “birth, death, illness, uncertainty and self-hatred” shaped their new album
The band are currently at Number Five in the midweek charts
The Twilight Sad have spoken of how “uncertainty”, the death of friend and Frightened Rabbit Scott Hutchison and the advice of The Cure‘s Robert Smith have led them to where they are now.
The Scottish band are currently at Number Five in the midweek charts with their acclaimed fifth album ‘IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME‘ – released five years after their last record and following a period of nearly calling it quits as a band. During that period they changed their line-up, dealt with personal struggles, gained the blessing and support of The Cure’s Robert Smith (who invited them on their world tour for a number of years) and mourned the loss of their friend Scott Hutchison.
“It’s been a long and pretty hard journey to get to this point of releasing the record,” frontman James Graham told NME. “It’s not been easy. I’m still living a wee bit of what shaped the album. The ups and downs have been crazy. I was talking to Stuart [Braithwaite, of Mogwai and their label Rock Action] in the pub and he was just saying ‘Man, I can’t even comprehend what you guys have been through. The fact that you’ve made something out of it is testament to you’.
“I came home and I thought about all that. At one point I was like ‘Fuck, I don’t know if this is going to happen’.”
Graham continued: “It’s still very fresh and raw. I try not to give too much away about what my lyrics are about and a lot of the stuff is self-explanatory so people can figure that out, but if I look back on the years that we were writing this record we’ve had birth, death, illness, uncertainty, self-hatred.”
Guitarist Andy MacFarlane added: “Before we felt like we knew what was going to happen next, but the past two years have been completely different. Sometimes it didn’t feel like there was going to be another record. It’s still very new.”
Just before Christmas you performed Scott’s songs with the remaining Frightened Rabbit members and Biffy Clyro at Sleep In The Park. How was that experience?
Andy: “For me it was excellent, getting to play their songs. On the whole it seemed to go down really well. It was good for the F’Rabbits boys to be playing those songs again, and we loved being to contribute.”
James: “The fact that Biffy joined in as well was pretty amazing. Having them play was brilliant for the F’Rabbits guys. Because we’ve been playing ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ for so long now, we were used to the emotions that come with playing one of Scott’s songs – then you get on stage and see Billy, Grant and Andy behind you… We were just in awe of them. We couldn’t believe the strength that they had while doing it. I can’t say enough good things about them. It was emotional but everyone was there for each other.”
Do you think it will happen again?
James: “I’ve not heard anybody speak about it, but I think the Rabbits guys want some time to figure out what’s next for themselves. A lot of people would love to see it happen and to hear Scott’s songs again. All they have to do is ask and we’ll be there.”
- READ MORE: Remembering Scott Hutchison – a friend through dark times
The last time you spoke to NME was just before you supported The Cure at Hyde Park, which was a pretty huge show. How was that for you?
James: “We can’t believe how that went. It was pretty eye-opening for us. It was next level. The amount of people watching us was phenomenal. I don’t know what we were expecting. It wasn’t just people going ‘Let’s go see what this miserable Scottish shite is all about’, they were genuinely into it. I’d never really felt an energy like that before, especially for a band like us on a warm day outside. We saw pictures of it afterwards and we were like ‘How did that happen?’ Well, probably because of Robert Smith!
“Most people were talking about the England game, but luckily we started just after you won. Everyone was in a good mood, so we tried to bring you all back down again.”
So do you feel like there’s a different kind of attention directed towards you on this album?
Andy: “Majorly, aye. There does seem to be a completely new approach to us.”
James: “After what happened with the last record with The Cure tours that we did, there are more people who know about our band. There are a lot more people who are pretty dedicated to what we do. The public seem a lot more into it, we’re doing more interviews than we’ve ever done, but I still feel like we’re the underdog. I’ve seen the other albums out the same time as us and it feels like we’re flying under the radar a wee bit. We’re used to that.”
What do you think it is about what you do that makes your fans so intense?
James: “I use this word all the time because I can’t think of anything better, but I think it’s because we’re honest and we’re not bullshitting anybody. People can see that this means a lot to us. Everything down to the artwork has a reason to it, and it’s not just to be seen for just being in a band. This means more to us, even if we weren’t releasing the music. Some bands have this space between them and the fans. The relationship that we have with people who like our music is good because there’s no barrier there. The last tour showed us that something had changed.”
Andy: “Our songs have got a lot more importance to people now. People have got an endless amount of stories about them, which still feels pretty new to us.”
James: “If I thought about the kind of band that I’d want us to be, the top of the list would be having people who gave a fuck and cared about it. They make us know that it means more to them than just us playing a gig.”
And with a sound and stage presence as intense as yours, it’s probably nigh-on impossible to just attract ‘casual’ fans?
James: “Aye, that makes sense. You’re not going to turn up to a Twilight Sad gig and say ‘I just came down for a night on the town and a good night’. When you come to one of our gigs, you’re in for an assault. You’re not just gonna be sipping on a cocktail going ‘Ah, this is nice’.”
You told us last time that Robert Smith had been advising you throughout the making of the record. What did he say when the record was finished?
James: “Ha! He really liked it. He was pretty involved in sharing his opinion through the writing and mixing of the songs. He was saying ‘That’s done, that’s great’.”
Andy: “Well, what he actually said ‘You’ve made a lovely collection of songs – well done’.”
That should have been the album title.
James: “Definitely! Next time.”
Do you feel like it will be another five years until the next record?
James: “I hope not. A lot of stuff is still riding on this one. We’ll continue to write music for the rest of our lives. We chose this. There have times where having it as a job has been the hardest thing about it. It’s got to be successful for us to sustain this. I hope the next record happens and that it doesn’t take as long. We’ve spoken about what we want to do next, and we hope this album gives us the platform to do that.
“I can’t write unless I’ve got something to write about, and right now I know that there’s stuff I want to get off my chest. There are chapters connecting this record and there are more to come.”
That will work out well for the Twilight Sad musical.
James: “Aye! I’m gonna sack Andy and get in Andrew Lloyd Webber or Lin Manuel-Miranda. Christ, I can only imagine how shite that would be!”
‘IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME‘ is out now.
As well as performing at Mad Cool Festival in Spain this July alongside The Cure, The National, The 1975, Mogwai and many many more, The Twilight Sad’s upcoming UK tour dates are below, with tickets available here.
Wednesday February 27 – MANCHESTER Gorilla
Thursday February 28 – LONDON Electric Ballroom
Saturday March 2 – GLASGOW Barrowland