“If the world was a better place they would be playing to more people, and I think they can”
– Robert Smith, The Cure
From their unassuming origins as a group of school friends drawn together by a shared passion for music to the global touring force they have quietly become, The Twilight Sad’s ascent has been forged the old way with grit, graft and four exceptional studio albums. The Kilsyth group – based around the core duo of James Graham and Andy MacFarlane – seemed to emerge fully formed with their blindsiding 2007 debut Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters but there has been an undeniable evolution throughout the critically acclaimed body of work they have since produced.
“When we started this it wasn’t about anything other than making music that mattered to us,” James offers. “Four albums and countless tours later, our agenda is still to write something which is true, honest and exciting to ourselves, but we have also realised that what we’re doing matters to other people. When our music connects it can become as important to them as it is to us.”
The band’s course was altered by a new alliance with The Cure which began in earnest with Robert Smith’s stirring cover of ‘There’s a Girl in the Corner’ in 2015. Two emotionally charged groups, generations apart yet undeniably cut from similar cloth. “We were in the typical cycle of recording a new album to tour every two years,” says Andy. “I had previously mentioned to Robert that if they ever needed a support band, we’d love to do it – not thinking he’d take me seriously. Not long after, he sent over some dates and asked if we were available. It was the perfect excuse to break up the routine we’d found ourselves in and all pretty surreal.”
As sliding doors moments go, this was fate shaping material. It’s no understatement to say that The Cure’s mentorship has set the band on a trajectory we are yet to feel the full force of. Having scaled new heights on what ultimately became a year-long transcontinental trek with their idols, the band were uniquely placed to sketch out their intent for the next chapter.
“I’d call all that a once in a lifetime experience, but it’s not an experience I ever dreamed of in my lifetime,” says James. “Getting onstage every night, on that level, playing our music and seeing people react – I’ve never expected to be in that situation. The fact that it was working was pretty crazy to experience. To know we could connect with even a tenth of that crowd is mind-blowing to me. It opened my eyes to the idea that what we’re doing has legs. If we keep doing what we’re doing we can keep on reaching higher.”
“After a while, seeing how those songs were put together, it started to bleed into what we were doing,” Andy admits. “It gave us time to reflect and think quite carefully about what to do next. When we got back it was a case of trying to decide where to go with it.”
The amicable departure of founding member Mark Devine meant that the band had to shed its skin to evolve once more in 2018; James and Andy officially brought long-time touring members Brendan Smith (The Blue Nile, The Unwinding Hours) and Johnny Docherty (Take a Worm For a Walk Week,
RUNGS) in from the wings to help push The Twilight Sad to the next plateau. “I’ve always seen them as part of the band and it’s time to say that aloud,” James affirms. “The more you commit, the more you want to have your own influence and impact,” says Brendan, now six years into playing live with the band. “We didn’t know how it was going to work but at no point did it feel forced or uncomfortable. Quite the contrary – it felt like a natural transition for Johnny and I to be involved.”
With a new label in their corner – Mogwai’s Rock Action Records – there’s a palpable sense that The Twilight Sad have arrived home. “Mogwai took us on tour early on, offered advice when we needed it, lent us gear to record and now we’ll officially be part of the Rock Action family,” says James.
“They’ve been hugely influential and I’m excited to give something back for all the good faith they’ve had in us over the years.”
As their focus returns to the international stage with two major tours in the offing, the band are as eager to connect with fans old and new as take strides into the unknown.
“It feels like everything’s in uncharted territory at the moment,” Andy offers in summary. “Technology has drastically altered the landscape, it’s given people more control over what they listen to.” James chimes in: “For all the damage the internet has done, I find the world a strange place. Rather than interact on devices with people, I’d rather get out there, see them, talk to them
and play our music for them. We haven’t done that in a long time. I just want to be face to face with people.” — Dave Kerr, Summer 2018