Best Scottish album winners in Malta

the_twilight_sadTheir latest album, Nobody Wants to be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave, won the title of best Scottish album of 2014 and has been hailed as probably their most significant work to date.

Mixed by Pete Katis, producer of The National, Jonsi and Inter-pol, the album signifies a return to the band’s unadulterated, edgy style.

Now, the band will be giving two intimate concerts at St James Cavalier in Valletta, supported by Maltese musicians Yews and The Clandestines on each respective evening.

Vocalist James Graham reveals more here.

It’s been three years between the new album and your previous one – what has the band been up to in the meantime?

After we finished touring No One Can Ever Know, we took some time off from touring. We’d pretty much been on the road for the five years before that. It was a strange time for the band. We were working hard but we didn’t seem to be getting any further on in our career.

We took some time to reflect on what we had achieved as a band and what we hadn’t. It was in this time that we wrote the majority of the new album.

The year before we recorded the new record we played a lot of different types of gigs, which helped influence the song-writing on this record.

We played our normal five-piece full band gigs; we played stripped back sets; Andy and I performed the gigs acoustically; we even played a gig with an 80-piece orchestra in Paisley Abbey in Scotland.

Those experiences made us write the most dynamic record of our career. But I’d say the years preceding this record were the hardest and the most testing we’ve ever had. I’m glad we went through that tough time because we came out the other end.

You are credited with heralding a new wave on the Scottish music scene. What are your thoughts about this?

If that’s what people have said then that’s cool but we definitely don’t see it that way. We just do what we do and if people like it, or are influenced by what we do, then that’s amazing.

I was influenced by bands like Arab Strap, Mogwai and The Delgados when I started writing music. Without their music I wouldn’t have created my own. If we have that effect on one person, I think that’s really cool.

For your latest album you decided to work again with Peter Katis. What made you go back full circle?

We really enjoyed working with Peter on our first album, but we wanted to work with new people to try out new things and grow as a band. I think we did that.

After we started working on the demos for the new record, we agreed that these songs would really go to the next level if we had the opportunity to work with Peter again.

Luckily, for us he liked the songs and agreed to mix the record. I’d love to work with him again.

In a way the new album revisits elements, such as a focus on guitar-work, that were band trademarks in the first two issues. Can you describe this journey to the fourth album, and what it signified for you?

I think we learned a lot about who we are over our first three albums. When we write, we never think about it too much, we just let the songs write themselves in a very natural way.

Once we’d written the actual songs, we wanted to play to our strengths while pushing our sound forward at the same time.

There are things on this record we’ve never done before and instrumentation we never thought we’d use

We never want to repeat ourselves and I don’t think we have. There are things that will always be in our music that we can never change, because it’s just who we are. There are things like, my singing style, the way I write lyrics, the big sound we create…

At the same time, we want to push the boundaries of what we are capable of. There are things on this record we’ve never done before and instrumentation we never thought we’d use. For example, we have brass at the end of the title track. We stripped things right back to just a piano and my vocal on Sometimes I Wish I Could Fall Asleep, that’s something we might have not done in the past. I also think that In Nowhere’s sounds nothing like anything we’ve done before.

Lyrically, the band is known for being quite dark. Is this a result of personal experience and how much does it reflect the band’s personality in real life?

Every song I write is personal. I never write a song if I don’t have something to write about.

Yes, the themes are pretty dark and that’s because I find the darker side of life more interesting. I believe that you learn a lot from bad things or unhappier times in life and it helps make you a stronger person.

It is important to share these experiences, to let people know that we all go through these times. I use a lot of metaphors in my lyrics to help paint a picture.

You opted to record the new album at Mogwai’s castle in Glasgow, Scotland. What prompted this decision?

We wanted to be close to home this time. We wanted to have the opportunity to step away from recording to refresh our heads and sleep in our own beds each night. Mogwai are good friends and I was lucky enough to be able to go into the studio while they were recording their new album Rave Tapes, so I knew what the studio was like and recommended it to the band.

Your 2014 highlights in terms of music and anything you’re looking forward to from 2015?

2014 has been a great year for our band. We started it off by going into the studio in January to record Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave and that same month we released a free download of our performance at Paisley Abbey with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

We then reissued our album and ended up playing it in full in the UK and the US. Then followed a summer of some of our best experiences as a band at both Primavera in Spain and T in The Park in the UK.

The new record came out in October while we were on tour in North America and the reaction to the record was overwhelming.

What made you decide to accept to play in Malta and what are you expecting?

We are a band that loves to play live. We want to be playing all the time when we’re not writing or recording, so we accepted straight away when we got offered the chance to play in Malta.

We don’t know any other bands that have had the opportunity to do so, so we felt really privileged. It’s also January and the weather in Scotland is always pretty horrendous that time of year, so it will be nice to be in a place where the sun is shining.

Well, hopefully, as we always seem to take the bad weather with us wherever we go.

I honestly don’t know what to expect but I’m very excited to play and visit your country.

Both your acoustic performances and your fuller shows are equally well-received. Which format do you enjoy playing most, or, which elements from each format do you prefer?

I enjoy all different types of gigs. I like that we have so many options how to play our songs live. I think it shows that there are many different sides to our band and we’re not one dimensional.

The stripped-back gigs really showcase us as songwriters, while the full band gigs are a completely different experience. It’s good to have variety in what we do, it keeps things interesting for us.