Scottish indie rockers The Twilight Sad come to Japan for their first time to play at Shimokitazawa’s Fever venue. The band, from the Glasgow area of Scotland, have made a name for themselves for noisy guitar-driven rock sung in frontman James Graham’s distinctive Scottish brogue. It’s being billed as one of the most anticipated gigs of the year.
Metropolis: You’re coming to Tokyo in September. Have you played in Japan before?
James Graham: No, we haven’t. We have dreamed of playing in Japan since we released our first record. We thought it might never happen but we are so happy we are finally coming to Tokyo and we hope this is the first of many trips to Japan.
M: Are you fans of Japanese music and culture — food, art, animation etc…?
JG: We toured America with a Japanese band called Mono in 2009. They were lovely people and phenomenal musicians. We all love Japanese food, it is our favorite cuisine when we are on tour and we can’t wait to try some in Japan. I love films made by Studio Ghibli, Spirited Away is one of my favorite films.
M: You released your latest album earlier this year. Is there a theme or a backstory to the songs on It Won’t Be Like This All the Time?
JG: The title of our new album can be taken as both a positive or a negative thing. In the positive sense It Won’t Be Like This All The Time means that if you are in a good place or good things are happening for you, you should cherish these moments and enjoy them, as life can be hard so we have to enjoy these moments. Actually live these moments instead of thinking about tomorrow or what is next. In the negative sense, if you are going through a hard time in life, you have to remember that It Won’t Be Like This All The Time and tomorrow is a new day, good things may be round the corner. Even though life can be very hard it can also be beautiful. When I was writing the songs for our new album I experienced some of the best moments in my life, but also the worst and I was reminded that It Won’t Be Like This All The Time in both the positive and negative many times over the two years of writing. I think it can be a very dark album but there is also a lot of hope within it.
M: You’ve been together as a band for about 16 years. Do you think the ethos of the band has changed over the years?
JG: I don’t think it has. We write music for ourselves. It has to still excite us and we have to feel like we are progressing within our music, trying new things and we are trying to become a better band throughout our lives. If we were not doing that, there would be no point in doing it any more. I have been writing music over the past 16 or so years to help me talk about things I find in everyday life. I use it as a type of therapy. Each album is like a snapshot of who we are at that time of our lives. I like to think that when I am old I’ll be able to look back on my life through our music. I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved in our career so far. So many bands that have had lots of money invested in them and hype has come and gone yet we’re still here. I think we’re still here because of our ethos and people can see that we are honest and we’re not trying to be anything other than ourselves. People relate to us because we speak about things within our music that happens to all of us. Love, death, loss, friendship, depression, anxiety, hope, all these emotions that make us who we are.
M: You recently signed to Rock Action Records. Why did you choose them? Are they supportive of the band and the direction you want to go in?
JG: We are good friends with Mogwai and when our record deal with Fat Cat came to an end we knew that we wanted to work with Rock Action. I had also worked for Rock Action when the band wasn’t touring, so I knew the label inside and out. I wanted our band to be part of that family. They really care about their artists and it is about realizing the artists’ vision with every album release. I have always looked up to Mogwai and I look at their career and hugely admire them as people and musicians. They have done so much for us, they are one of my favorite bands so it is an honor to be on their record label.
M: You’re from near Glasgow. It’s famous for the number of amazing bands that come from there. Are you close to any other Glasgow bands and why do you think Glasgow has such a diverse and creative music culture?
JG: Once you know one person in a band you, in time, will get to know everyone. It is a very small community but a community that really cares about each other. We try to help each other out as much as possible, as we realize that so much good music is produced by such a small country and we want to spread the word about each other’s music because we are very proud of it. I can’t quite put my finger on why so much music comes out of Scotland, to be honest. Our weather is pretty terrible so we’re indoors a lot so we have to find something to do so we write music. We’re very close with Arab Strap, Aidan Moffat is a really good friend, Mogwai, of course, are our friends, Kathryn Joseph is a friend and an amazing artist, Frightened Rabbit is a very important band to us, we grew up together throughout our musical career. We miss Scott every day.
M: You’ve been labelled as “miserablists” and “perennially unhappy.” Do you think that’s a fair description of the band?
JG: I think we write music that mostly focuses on the darker side of life and we get that side of us out through our music. When we’re not performing or writing music I like to think we are very approachable people. I still think there is a lot of hope within our music and I think it is important to talk about the darker side of life within our music so that we can show people that it is okay to feel low or down. I think it is important that we all know we are in this together and by talking about depression, anxiety, love and loss we can show people they are not alone in feeling that way sometimes. I feel that is a very positive message within our dark music.
M: Are you affected by the political situation in Scotland? Do you have strong opinions on the independence movement and Brexit?
JG: I do have strong opinions. Mainly that Brexit is fucking stupid and I want no part in it. Our country [Scotland] voted to stay in the European Union.
M: You often support The Cure. What’s the experience been like for you? Are Robert Smith and the other members supportive of your band?
JG: Supporting The Cure has been a dream come true for us. They are one of our favorite bands of all time. Robert’s friendship means the world to us. He has been so kind to us. Knowing that one of the greatest songwriters of all time loves and cares about our music gives us the confidence and inspiration to keep pushing our music forward. We have learned so much from him.
M: Do you have any message for your Japanese and Japan-based fans?
JG: I would like our Japanese fans to know that coming to your country is honestly a dream come true for us. Every album we have released I have wanted to come and play in your country. I’m so excited to see and learn about Japan. I feel very lucky to have been given this opportunity and we will do everything we can to make sure it is one of the best gigs we’ve ever played.