The Twilight Sad - gig review and interview
The Twilight Sad brought their successful 2009 to an end with a show in Edinburgh on Tuesday 15th December. Guest blogger Fiona O'Connor went along to the gig and met up with the band for a chat beforehand.
Space was a scarce commodity at Edinburgh's Voodoo Rooms when The Twilight Sad took to the stage for their first Scottish show in half a year. Whatever nooks and crannies remained in the small sea of eagerly awaiting fans, however, were soon filled by the dense and somber pulsing of "Reflection of a Television," a track that also opens the band's latest album, Forget the Night Ahead. The band were an interesting, and ultimately successful, match for the swank venue's intimate, lounge-y atmosphere, complete with its black velvet walls, gold-painted moldings, and requisite disco ball hovering overhead.
Since the release of their debut album, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters in 2007, The Twilight Sad's rise from virtual anonymity to critical acclaim both at home and abroad has caught many off guard, not the least of them the band's four (sometimes five) laid-back and unassuming members. Discussing their fortuitous career path over a few ciders in a pub along Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile, frontman James Graham explains: "It was the strangest way for a band to start out. I've never heard of any other band that weren't known in their hometown but were known in New York."
Putting aside, for a moment, the question of talent (don't worry- there is plenty), it wouldn't be unfair to say that the Kilsyth natives were up on some seriously rare luck when, in 2005, the then two-year old experimental/noise outfit whimsically decided to try and land a record deal. "It sounds silly but it did happen like that," affirms guitarist Andy MacFarlane. "I couldn't be bothered to do my job anymore so I was like, 'Do you want to just try and get signed then?'" Still seemingly incredulous that his plan materialized, MacFarlane proceeds to tell what is perhaps their happiest story, one which soon dawns on me as being precisely the stuff of which rock-stardom dreams are made. Within a few short days of sending a demo to Brighton-based Fat Cat Records and with a grand total of less than five gigs under their belt, The Twilight Sad were signed and on a plane to America to make and then tour their first full-length record.
While spending the better part of two years on the road opening for the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins, Snow Patrol and Mogwai surely didn't hinder the their musical credibility, it was only upon returning home to make Forget the Night Ahead that the band felt real progress could be made. "We had a lot more time to experiment with different things in the studio," MacFarlane says of the recording process. "With the first album, obviously you need to make it as cheaply as possible...you need to just get in, do your thing and get out. But, this time, we wanted to take more time and spend the time experimenting with different sounds, so we think it paid off anyway."
Life on the road, though not without its high points (take selling out New York's Bowery Ballroom, for example), is not the band's preferred work milieu. Their music provides a distinct reflection of their Scottish homeland, from the expansiveness and topographical extremities of its landscape, to the moodiness of its foreboding skies. While this relationship is, for MacFarlane, "definitely a subconscious thing we cannae help," Graham acknowledges its centrality to the band's creative process. "All the songs are about where we're from, and so to write when you're in that position, when you're home and you're surrounded by that kind of thing, it makes more sense to be there than when you're in [for example] California."
Ruling out the possibility of writing anywhere but home ("It'd be rotten!" responds MacFarlane to Graham's half-serious proposal of songwriting in Hawaii), The Twilight Sad are currently working on what will become their third album, the release of which is tentatively slated for the end of 2010. Until then, fans can look forward to two new tunes: a 12" limited edition single and another, "big song" excluded from Forget the Night..., both to be released this spring.