Monday, 26 January 2015

BAMS Award 2014 - Full Interview with James Graham


Ahead of the official announcement of the Scottish BAMS Award 2014 winner (full BAMS Award post here), I caught up with James Graham from The Twilight Sad in Mono, Glasgow to present the band's award and chat about the year the band have just had.   Here is that interview in full.

Congratulations, Nobody Wants To Be Here, Nobody Wants To Leave  is this years' winners of the Scottish BAMS award!  How does it feel?

James – Really good. I think I found out last week, and I told my Dad right away.  He was like, “well done son!”

No it’s great.  I’ve said a few times that last year was a big year for us, and to have released the record that we’ve released and to have got the reception that it’s got has been a massive thing for us.   I don’t want to be melodramatic and say it’s saved the band, but it kind of has in a way.  When you release something you don’t really know [how it will be received].  You can like it as much as you want, but ultimately in the long run, people have got to like it to have any sort of success or be able to make another one.  So to be voted number one for the BAMS is pretty mental for a miserable bunch of guys from Kilsyth.  It’s great though.  We really appreciate it, and things like this don’t happen to us all the time, so it’s really cool.

Previous winners of course include The National, The Phantom Band, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat, and last year CHVRCHES. Good company to be amongst?

James – Aye I’m a fan of every single one of those bands and the records that won.  Bill and Aidan’s record [Everything’s Getting Older] is one of my favourite albums of all time.  I’ve actually heard the new one.  It could be, I don’t want to say but, it might be as good if not better.  He’s a dick.  I text him when I was listening to it, and I was like, “it’s amazing, you’re a prick, I hate you, you’re a genius.”

It’s great though, those bands are bands we aspire to be like.  And to be in that company is phenomenal.  To be in the position where we are mentioned in the same breath as those artists; 16-year old James would have told you to fuck off!  So aye it’s nice.  It’s been a good year for once.  Don’t worry we’re not going to write a happy album after it!

2014 seems to have been a pretty exciting year for the band, what's been your personal highlights of the year?

James – The first thing would be in January, we put out The Twilight Sad Live at Paisley Abbey with The Royal Scottish National Orchestra.   We released that for free in January whilst we were recording, and it showed the band in a different light.  I don’t think anyone ever expected to hear any of our songs with an 80-piece orchestra.   The complaint that we got from that was that people didn’t have to pay for it!   It would be really nice if we could release it [as a physical release] at some point, but as far as royalties go, if you are selling a record and having to pay 83 musicians, it is pretty impossible!

And then we re-issued our first record [Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters], and we toured that as well.   Just because it wasn’t available on vinyl anymore, and we had the demos as well.  We just wanted to make a package of that.  I think it was a nice way to remind people about the band and that record, maybe reintroduce the band to people and introduce that record to people who had never heard it before.  I think it’s still a pretty special record.

And then there was Primavera, which was probably one of the best weekend we’ve ever had as a band.  We played two gigs.  One at the festival as the sun was going down looking over the sea.   And then one at the park in Barcalona the next day, which was maybe just as good if not better.  It was a free gig and we played a stripped back set.  And there were rainclouds above us, and it looked like it was going to rain, and there was no cover over the stage so we couldn’t have played if it rained.  But it just held off and the park was full of people. That will be a thing we’ll never forget.  It was a great moment for the band.  And T in the Park was really good for us this year.

And then it was the record release and touring America.   Then the ABC show at the end of the year. That was a big highlight.   Just seeing that many people in the one room that wanted to see us.   I never expected those kind of things to happen for our band, so for it to happen, that’s twice now we’ve done it, I think it was a pretty overwhelming at points.  Oh aye and Hogmanay.  That was a good way to end off the year, playing with fireworks going off in the background.

So it’s been busy.  And if you are busy then things are going alright.  We are a band that works, and as a band we want to work as long as we can.  So they were the highlights, but there was loads of wee things that happened in between that were great as well.  I think just getting to release our fourth record. I never thought we’d get to four records, so that is an accomplishment in itself.

When you'd finished recording the album, how did it match up to your expectations?

James - It’s just another stage, it’s who we were in our lives, that’s what it was.  I’m enjoying playing them [the new songs] live.  It’s now a case of what do we leave out, instead of in the past we’ve not got enough songs.  Now we have to leave songs out and we want to play the full record, which shows you how much we like the record.  I think we can all look back on it and say we did a good job.

Are you now looking at how you can re-interpret the new songs for live shows?


James – We perform the songs differently and there’s different ways of doing it.  I mean you’ve got the live full band which is the main focus of what we do.  And that will be like the album in some ways, but I think it’s a little more intense, and a bit noisier than it is on records.  But that’s been the same with all of our albums to be honest.  As far as Andy, Mark and I, playing the acoustic, stripped back, three piece sets, we’ve adapted most of the songs on the record to be played like that as well.  We had a Tour EP  out last year which was only available on tour, and that’s songs from the new record, just stripped completely back.  And I think for anyone who likes the record it’s a nice side release to see how the songs started out to going to what they are after that.  And we are possibly looking to put that together in some sort of package with the record as well.  We like to show different sides to the songs, but even though we are about to do an acoustic in-store tour, the main focus at this point is the five piece full band.

How important do you feel that the support of music blogs has been to the band?

James – I think it’s been, and I’m not just saying this, it’s probably been one of the most important things for our band.  When we started out, it was blogs and things like that that helped spread the word about our music.  And through every release we’ve had we’ve constantly had that support.  We’re not a band that is on the front of magazines or in big features, and in some ways I like that.  I mean if that comes along, then that comes along and that’s great.  But the best thing about it, is that it’s the actual real genuine people who are writing about music because they give a fuck about it, that are actually writing about our band and spreading the word about our band.  And I think that’s a pretty cool thing to have that kind of support.

And it’s something that I hope people see that we appreciate and don’t take for granted, because I’d like to keep that relationship going.   If people keep liking our music, then we’d like to move forward with everyone and at the same time promote the blogs.  And if we do that then maybe someone discovers a blog through our music.  It’s a two way thing.  If we promote the blogs, you get more readers who will then can discover another new band who you are promoting.  And it’s all about getting people to listen to new music and music that’s good instead of the usual shite.  We are really appreciative that we have that support, because the main goal for us is to reach as many people as we can and without that support we wouldn’t have reached as many people as we have at this point.

And finally, what has been your favourite album of 2014?

James – I had quite a few actually.  I’m obviously a massive Mogwai fan, so Rave Tapes  was always going to be on that list.   I really liked Perfume Genius’ album, Too Bright, I found that really interesting.  Angel Olson, her record with the long song title [Burn Your Fire for No Witness], which is ironic because I can’t slag anyone for that as we have the longest going.  I liked Alvvays.   I only got into the Alvvays record at the end of the year.   It was one of those ones where people had been talking about it, and I saw their name about, but I purposely avoided it, but then I listened to it and it was great.

The Phantom Band’s record [Strange Friend] was really good.  Remember Remember’s record, Forgetting The Present, that was really good record.  There was quite a lot last year.  I saw a few people saying it wasn’t that great a year for music, but I probably listened to more than I had in a while.  I listened to The War on Drugs [Lost In the Dream] that was great record. Sharon Van Etten, I like that.

As for the rest of the band, Andy doesn’t listen to new music at all!   He’s going back the way.  He’s listening to old ‘60’s bands and stuff like that.  Which is pretty cool, it’s a good contrast.   He still does listen out for the new stuff, but he is neither here nor there about it.  Although Andy really liked the Shellac record [Dude Incredible].  He’s really likes going back the way and finding old songs.  We meet in the middle and he always recommends stuff and I usually like what he likes.  That’s how I got introduced to most of the bands I like.   I went to school with Andy and he kept on giving me albums, and that’s how we’re pals and that’s how I am where I am.  Thanks to that prick!   He’s got much better taste in music than I have, I fully admit that.

Devine listens to Britpop I’m pretty sure all the time!  If there was a quiz subject and Britpop came up, Devine would win it hands down.   But Devine does have good taste in music as well.  I actually don’t know what he listened to last year.  Think we were too busy having our headphones on and not talking to each other!

Johnny,who plays bass, he’s into some of the same stuff as I’m into it.  But then I can hear him in the van and it just sounds like it’s pure death metal that’s just coming through his headphones.  He’s one of these guys who looks so chilled out, but it’s like ‘drrrrrrrrrrr’ double kicks going in his head, and he’s just staring out the window.  And Brendan, who plays keys, he’s kind of the same as me.  He and I talk about new releases more than probably anyone in the band.


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