Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Twilight Sad - James Graham Interview and Ticket Giveaway - Brillobox - February 27, 2015

You sad, bro?
UPDATE: Scroll down for our interview with Twilight Sad lead singer James Graham.

On Friday, Scotland's The Twilight Sad make their first stop in Pittsburgh since 2010. Hailing from Glasgow, The Twilight Sad released their first album, Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, in 2007, on the excellent Fat Cat Records label (whose alumni include Sigur Ros, Animal Collective and Frightened Rabbit). The album wowed the music press in the US and the UK, who praised the band's heavy, shoegaze-level guitar distortion and bleak, gloomy lyrics – not to mention lead singer James Graham's heavy Scottish brogue. Future albums were equally morose, in the best way possible. (The band's twitter bio says they enjoy drinking & making miserable music.)

The band played Gooski's back in 2007 in support of their debut album. A City Paper review at the time said they played “perhaps five songs” and declined an encore. They visited again in 2010, this time at Brillobox, as the first half of an ear-splitting double bill with Japanese post-rock band Mono. We reviewed that show, calling it “a furious set” that was played with “which such force and intensity” that it had our reviewer in awe. Here's a super high-quality video we took at that performance:

The band is back at Brillobox in support of their fourth full-length album, Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave. The album, voted as the best of 2014 by some in the UK music press, sees the band dial down their sonic assault just a bit, leaving space for Joy Division-style gloom to seep through. Here's the lead single from that album, "Last January."

PMR: Can I start by saying that that you've visited Pittsburgh twice, once at Gooski's in 2007 when you played maybe 5 or 6 songs, and again in 2010 opening for Mono at Brillobox, where your upcoming gig will be. So we are very excited to have you play your first proper headlining show. Do you have any memories from your brief times in town all those years ago?

James Graham: I have good memories of our time in Pittsburgh. I remember the crowd being one of the best on the tour we did with Mono. I think we've played 3 times, twice at Gooski's. The second time they played the trailer for "Control" the Anton Corbijn after we played I think. I haven't had the chance to look around the town to be honest, because we turned up to the venue played the gig then had to leave early the next day. I remember talking to a lot of people outside the gig the last time and them being really cool to us. They really appreciated that we were in town, so I'm glad we're able to come back and headline this time.

PMR: Each of your first three albums were reviewed favorably, but the new album was considered by many to be your best so far, with more than a few perfect scores and even a couple “album of the year” designations. Were you surprised by this, considering it was something of a departure from what your earlier albums?

JG: We made the record that we wanted to make and we're extremely proud of it. That's the most important thing, we are our biggest critics I think. We want to make music that interests us and excites us and after that if other people like it then that's amazing. We're really happy that people who have supported the band over the years really like/love the record. 
It's also amazing to see how many new people have are getting into the band through this record. I think we learned a lot from our previous records. We're a band that constantly wants to push ourselves. I feel that our new record has elements from each of our previous albums whilst pushing our sound forward. We used a lot of electronic instrumentation on our 3rd record and on this one I feel we've taken what we've learned and opened up that sound whilst returning to some of the big epic sounds/more bandy stuff if that makes any sense.  

PMR: Do you pay much attention to what is said about the band in the music press?

JG: I try to stay away from it but its pretty hard with social media and people sending you reviews when they come in. We've fortunate over the years in that critics have been pretty kind to us. I think its important not to listen to much to good or bad reviews, if you did I think you'd drive yourself crazy. Don't get me wrong you want people to like your music and its better to get good reviews. I have to admit that i'm one of those people that focuses in on the one bad or mediocre review even though you get 10 other great ones that day. I have to try and develop a thicker skin. I have to realise that we're all different and like different things but it's hard to not let it affect you if someone doesn't like what you do after putting so much time an effort into it. Different horses for different courses and all that. 

PMR: You were kind enough to answer some questions for us before your show here in 2010. Back then you said that the main goal of the band was to make albums that you are proud of and to play live all around the world. Is that still the case?

JG: Aye that's still the goal. I want to play in countries we've been to before and ultimately we want to see the band progress. We want to reach as many people as possible. If there's a room full of people that are passionate about what we do, no matter how big or small that room is we want to be there playing our music. 

PMR: I read a recent interview where you mentioned bands that have taken you on tour several times, like Mogwai, and you said that you wanted to repay them by having the band show “progress,” to show them that their faith in you wasn't misplaced. How do you define progress?

JG: I think we are a band who constantly need to challenge ourselves and push ourselves to make the best music we can. We need to try new things and not settle for things. We need to work hard and tour as much as we can. To keep doing full time you also need to see a progression as far as people to coming to the show and awareness of the band. We're definitely not in it for the money, if we were we wouldn't have made it this far but you've got to make a living somehow if you're going to put as much in to it as much as we do. We're not getting any younger but we've seen so many bands come and go over the years so must be doing something right. We love doing this it means everything to us, so as long as we see the band progressing and we still have something to say within our music we'll keep doing what we do.

PMR: Speaking of fellow Scots, what are some up and coming Scottish bands that we should know about?

JG: There's a lot of great bands on Rock Action Records (Mogwai's label). This year they have a few releases coming out. There's good friend Errors who will be releasing their new record Lease of Life this spring. I've heard the record and its brilliant. There's Sacred Paws who are releasing an EP this year, and Remember Remember released a great album called "Forgetting The Present" last year. We've taken a couple of great young Scottish bands on the road back in the UK recently, Vladimir from Dundee and Man Of Moon are supporting us on our UK tour in April.

PMR: People love the intensity of your live performance. Have you given any consideration to releasing a full-length live album?

JG: Yeah we have, we have something special in mind that we're talking about at the moment. I'm not allowed to say yet though but I'm excited about it. 

PMR: Lastly, what are some things you like to do in your free time that people maybe wouldn't expect from a purveyor of “miserable” music.

JG: I'm a big comic book fan. I recently got to visit the Marvel Comics office in NY when we were there. That was amazing. I love football or soccer as you guys call it over here. I support Aberdeen football club and go to the games with my dad. I wasn't allowed to support Rangers or Celtic when i was younger in case I got beaten up and my mother's family are from Aberdeen so that's why I support them. I love the cinema, I go at least twice a week when I'm at home.

Thank you so much to James for taking the time to answer our questions. We have a pair of tickets to giveaway to see James and the rest of the band at Brillobox Friday night. To enter, email your name to, and put “twilight sad” in the subject line. We'll announce a winner Thursday night.  Port St. Willow, AKA ambient pop artist Nick Principle, opens.

-- B. Conway