The Twilight Sad comprises James Graham (vocals), Andy MacFarlane, (guitar/electronics) and Mark Devine (drums/keyboard). Live, they introduce Johnny Doc on bass guitar to the line-up.
Forming in late 2003, the band played a couple of early shows at Glasgow’s 13th Note. They created half hour pieces of music utilising guitars, bass, drums, theremin, tape loops from films and old folk and country songs, effects pedals, toy keyboards, thumb pianos, computer games and various other ephemera. Subsequently withdrawing to the studio to refine their sound, and rejecting any live shows offered, the band underwent a gradual metamorphosis into a more traditional, but still sonically adventurous outfit, with a more overt inclination towards emotive, eloquent song. At this time Craig Orzel played bass in the band, but left in 2010, amicably – for personal reasons.
Their debut release, out late 2006 was the critically acclaimed US only five track EP. Following just months later, ‘Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters’ (flanked by two singles, ‘That Summer At Home I Was The Invisible Boy’ and And She Would Darken The Memory’ respectively) the band’s debut album more than lives up to the early promise of their earlier recordings. Influenced by a diverse range of music from Van Dyke Parks to Phil Spector, Daniel Johnston, and beyond, although the band are as influenced by their immediate geography (‘the sticks just outside Glasgow’), as they are any particular musical reference points. Recorded at Chem 19 and Ca Va studios, Glasgow, and mixed and produced by the band and Peter Katis (Interpol, Mercury Rev, Mice Parade) in Tarquin Studios, Connecticut, ‘Fourteen Autumns…’ is nevertheless liable to evoke a more familiar indie canon, from white-noise era Creation Records, to fellow Scots Arab Strap or Mogwai.
In June 2008, the band released six-track mini-album, ‘Here, It Never Snowed. Afterwards It Did’; the concept originating from off-the-cuff reworkings of songs from ‘Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters’, and adapted to accommodate certain settings as they toured. The resultant set of recordings shows not only a band full of ideas, embracing the opportunity to recontextualise and create fresh material, invigorated by any imposed restrictions, but also stands to re-focus the listener’s attention on the strength of the songs themselves.
The Twilight Sad toured Europe in 2008 with Mogwai, and released a live EP, ‘(The Twilight Sad) Killed My Parents and Hit The Road’ to coincide with the tour. The EP featured live tracks, covers and live versions of new songs, and was for sale exclusively on the FatCat website and at their live shows. Indie shops now stock the CD.
May 2009 saw the release of the band’s sophomore album. In lyrical terms ‘Forget The Night Ahead’ is possibly a darker set even than it’s hallowed predecessor ‘Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters’, James Graham’s portentous knack for unsettling lines, forcefully delivered in his own Caledonian burr remaining very much on point.
Produced and mixed by ex-Delgados’ man Paul Savage and guitarist Andy MacFarlane at the legendary Chem19 Studios in Glasgow, musically too, the new record is no less tumultuous, MacFarelane’s distinctive tremelo’d guitar creating seismic shifts between melancholy introspection and explosive release, the cacophony broadening to accommodate the band’s most melodic and yet also most thrillingly discordant moments yet. Here the influence of artists like early 80’s Cure, Neu, Wire or even Shellac are just as prominent as longer-standing comparisons to MBV or Joy Division. The album also features the talents of ex-Aerogramme member, Dok, who also contributes guitar and keys to the live line-up, and My Latest Novel’s Laura McFarlane who plays violin on ‘The Room’ and ‘That Birthday Present’.
In September 2010, ‘The Wrong Car’ - was released to coincide with a joint headline tour with Errors. The EP is made partly of tracks taken from the ‘Forget The Night Ahead’ album sessions - tracks that the band wanted to hold back until they were absolutely content with the recording - and partly from remixes from the band’s friends and collaborators. In this case, Mogwai and Errors.
Feburary 2011 saw the release of album number three. ‘No One Can Ever Know’ marks a sonic shift for The Twilight Sad. Freshly inspired by a listening diet of Caberet Voltaire, Liars, Magazine, Autechre, Banshees, Fad Gadget, PiL and Can, a synth-heavy sound characterizes ‘No One Can Ever Know’, a record thematically akin to ‘Holy Bible’ era Manics, ‘Violator’-era Depeche Mode and ‘The Downward Spiral’ -era Nine Inch Nails.
Under the guidance of DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall the band experimented with vintage analogue synths - borrowed from Ben Hillier – to work on the core sounds they wanted, finding inspiration too in the distinctive production style of innovators like Martin Hannett and Conny Plank. For the first time the drums were also recorded separately utilising a lot of synthetic effects which allowed for the easy manipulation of the sounds and samples later in the process. Stylistically, the guitars tend to refract John McGeogh (Magazine/ Banshees) or Keith Levene (PiL) rather than the ‘wall of sound’ approach that defined The Twilight Sad’s previous recordings.
Lyrically ‘No One Can Ever Know’ finds singer James Graham on typically ominous form, delivering lightning bolts of malevolent threat. “I’ll find you - don’t worry” he promises on forthcoming single, ‘Another Bed’ - The Twilight Sad’s most radical and anthemic moment yet, it’s driving disco motorik and glacial keys pushing a dizzy emotional uplift.
In April 2011, for Record Store Day, FatCat Records released a tape which consisted of old demo recordings of The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit songs. Only 400 tapes were made, a third of which were lost in the Song fire of the same year, making these tapes a real collector’s item.
The Twilight Sad have played with bands such as Snow Patrol, Mogwai, Idlewild, Smashing Pumpkins, Errors, Frightened Rabbit, Micah P Hinson. They have performed at festivals such as Pitchfork, End Of The Road, Latitude, T In The Park & Roskilde, and venues such as O2, Union Chapel & The Scala, as well as many more. They play their largest ever headline show in December 2012 at Barrowlands in Glasgow – to 2100 people.