Interview: The Twilight Sad

Having been a fan of the Twilight Sad for some time, it was nice to be offered the chance to have a chat with James from the band about the ins and outs of their new remix release (based on tracks from their most recent album No One Can Ever Know), and also what he has been up to and listening to over the last year or so.  Here is what he had to say.

What made you decide to do a remix release? How did you decide who to approach for it?
We always like to release something at the end of an album campaign which brings something new to the record but also points back to the original release. This time we wanted to do a full-on remix album because the songs on this album lend themselves to being remix and reworked. It's something we hadn't done before and we also want to try something new all the time. Some of our favourite bands have had remix records and we thought it would be an interesting project. We made a list of our favourite bands and artists and approached them. Luckily enough most of them were up for it.

I would imagine it must feel pretty exciting for someone of whom you are a fan remixing and interpreting your song. However, was there ever any feeling of dread that you may not like what comes back?
We were on tour in America when most of the remixes were being delivered so we'd download them, but have to wait until the morning to listen to them because of the shitty Wi-Fi in hotels due to business men downloading hardcore porn. To be honest I wasn't nervous about any of the remixes as we were a fan of every remixer. I knew I'd probably like it anyway and it was just exciting to hear their interpretation. It's probably the most relaxed I've ever been over a release; I mean, it's not for everybody, some people aren't interested in remixes, but it's been an experiment that's really worked out in the end. I think it's a really interesting listen as some people have completely changed the originals into something you would never expect.

I really like the Com Truise remix of Sick but it’s a close call to pick a favourite for me. Do you have a particular personal favourite remix on the release?
I'd say my personal favourites would be the Liars remix of Nil, Com Truise's remix of Sick, Tom Furse of The Horrors's remix of Not Sleeping and the two remixes of Sick by Brokenchord. The Liars and Com Truise remixes are quite noticeably interpretations of the original songs and I really like the way they've worked with the vocals and certain important elements of the song. The remixes by Tom Furse and Brockenchord sound like completely new songs and on first or even second listen you probably wouldn't be able to tell what song they'd remixed, which I think is very cool.

It's probably fair to say that dance/electronic music isn't something people would maybe connect to the Twilight Sad if you spoke to them after your first release. However, it was actually hinted at on your previous collaboration with Errors (the cracking remix of Reflection Of The Television). Plus, the overall feel of the last album certainly showed a more electronic influence coming to the fore. Was there ever any fear of how such a change in direction would be received by your fans? Or did you feel it was time to try something different either way?
We needed to move on. I'm pretty sure nobody wants to hear us make another Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters or Forget The Night Ahead again, just as nobody wants to hear us repeat ourselves on our next album. There's bands out there who constantly make the same sounding records and are happy doing that. We're not that kind of band and the day feel we feel we're repeating ourselves will be our last. I like to think that even if fans of our previous efforts aren't as into our new stuff that they respect our creative process and that we are a band that takes risks. I'm always nervous putting out any new music. Luckily for us I think we made a really good third record that moves the band forward whilst still staying true to what made people like our band in the first place. Although we haven't gained any real commercial success or accolades, the reaction to No One Can Ever Know was overwhelmingly positive. Although, you can't please everyone. You’re dammed if you do and you're dammed if you don't.

One very big name in dance/electronic music circles would be Andrew Weatherall. What was it like working with him? Were you a fan of his productions before you met for your sessions? I like the fact he is listed on the album as "anti-producer".
When we had finished demo-ing the album we had a list of people we wanted to work with and Andrew Wetherall was up at the top of the list, with a couple others. We are fans of his previous work so when he said he wanted to be involved we were really excited. We had a few meetings and he was on the same wave length as us when it came to our new songs/sound/direction. We did a lot of pre-production on the album at home to save time and money before heading down to London. Then when we got down there and got started without Andrew, we laid down most of the basic tracks. When he heard what we had done at home and in the studio, he said we'd pretty much done everything he would have said to do. He said that he couldn't take credit for our work but still wanted to be involved as he loved what he was hearing and had a few ideas that he thought would help the record's sound. His music knowledge was amazing and to have a guy like that in the studio telling you you’re doing the right things and that he liked it was the biggest confidence boost, especially when you’re trying new things like we were.

On record it sounds like a natural shift in direction as opposed to a deliberate change in sound, and the album was received warmly by both fans and critics (rightly so). Do you think there will be a further shift in sound on your next release?
We started writing immediately after No One Can Ever Know was finished. We've got a lot of songs written and have started to develop some of them. I think you have to start writing and then see where the songs naturally progress, and what style of production they veer towards. Andy and I have spoken a lot about what we want from our next record; I think there'll be elements from the last record but we'll move the sound forward even more. I think it will be a big sounding record. It's a very important record for us as it will decide the future of the band.

You guys have always frequently toured America and often been to Europe. How does playing abroad compare to playing in the UK? And do you have a favourite non-UK place to play?
There are always similarities in touring no matter what country or continent you're on. The boredom of motorways and highways; never really getting to see a city unless you have a day off in it; the constant search for Wi-Fi to check the internet for things that don't really improve your life; sleeping awkwardly in the back of a van. I have to say that venues in mainland Europe generally have a better all round attitude with touring bands, as in the way you’re treated with food, alcohol and general hospitality. That's not to say that the UK and USA don’t have some amazing venues with great attitudes - I just find there’s more in mainland Europe. For instance we recently played in Istanbul and got a four star hotel room each and there was constantly someone there to make sure we were comfortable and all our needs were catered for. If I compare that to a British festival we played this year where we each got a warm can of Carling and that was it, then you see what I mean. I'll stop moaning for a moment. My favourite cities to play outside the UK are Prague, Istanbul, Brussels, Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Toronto, Bergen, Copenhagen, and Stockholm.  

One highlight for me from your back catalogue is the acoustic EP which you gave away some time ago; the acoustic shows are also really special. For such a loud live band, was it a scary thought to play the songs in such an exposed fashion? Any plans for any more acoustic releases?
I love the acoustic gigs we do as it gives me the opportunity to prove that I can actually sing. I like having nothing to hide behind because I have nothing to hide. It's actually harder to sing the songs against the wall of sound on stage as it’s harder to find reference points to pitch to. When we are writing we always make sure there is a song there to begin with before moving forward with it and adding the layers of production and instruments, so most of our songs work really well when we strip them back. I think we'll always do stripped back versions of old and new songs at acoustic gigs and maybe record them for b-sides or to give away to fans of the band, but I don't think we'll do a full scale acoustic album release.    

You must be looking forward to the Glasgow Barrowlands show in December. It’s a cracking line up and must be a really special way to end a great year for you guys. What kind of thing can an attending fan expect?
It's a massive gig for us. For a band that's based near Glasgow, headlining a gig at The Barrowlands is pretty much the ultimate dream, I think. I grew up going to see my favourite bands there and have so many great memories from that venue. Our biggest ever gig was at The ABC in Glasgow when we were promoting Forget The Night Ahead and it sold out on the night which was pretty mind blowing for a band of our size. We're a band that doesn't really like to repeat ourselves if we can help it and doing an even bigger gig at The Barrowlands is a risk, but it's a risk that we both wanted and needed to take. Our home town has supported us so much and we wanted to play for people who like our band in the best venue in Glasgow so we could all experience our songs together in that room. I think people can expect songs for every one of our albums, two amazing support bands in We Were Promised Jetpacks and Holy Mountain, we'll get some fancy lights, and I hope to hear the biggest chorus of Glaswegians singing Cold Days From The Birdhouse together in one room.

Finally, what albums have you guys been listening to/ would you recommend to any readers?
We're currently on tour with Errors in North America and getting to see them play every night is amazing as they are one of my favourite bands. Their recent album Have Some Faith In Magic is one of my favourite LP's this year. 

Here's a list of my favourite albums of 2012:

Liars - Wixiw
Beak's new record
RM Hubbert - 13 Lost And Found
Errors - Have Some Faith In Magic
The Walkmen - Heaven
Bat for Lashes - The Haunted Man
Human Don't be Angry - Human Don't Be Angry
Beach House - Bloom
Flying Lotus's new record
Frightened Rabbit - The State Hospital EP
The Unwinding Hours - Afterlifes
I Like Trains - The Shallows
Twin Shadow - Confess

There are actually a lot of albums I've not heard this year because I've not had enough money to buy them and I don't illegally download.

Thanks for your time!
No......No......No......Thank you for asking your questions and taking an interest in our band and aw ra best.

Check out the review of The Twilight Sad No-one Can Ever Know remix album here.


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