Conducted by Capt. Obvious
Van Etten: A combination of things really… My writing is more confident and playing with an electric guitar vs. acoustic has made my style a little more aggressive than before. I felt these new songs would benefit from a different kind of catharsis. While my last record was intended to be quietly intimate, I was hoping for this one to be more urgent and direct – though still personal.
Obvious: You’re playing with a band now. How has interacting and playing with other musicians effected your growth as an artist?
Van Etten: I feel more comfortable on stage. I feel supported and (again) more confident. It’s such a release. It helps me to “let go” live a lot more than I was used to.
Obvious: Folk music seems to be a bit maligned by know-it-all hipsters lately, but in my humble opinion, the most heartrending songs are the most stripped down. What do you make of the backlash?
Van Etten: Intimate, emotional, directly honest songs can be hard for people to swallow. Especially when it’s solo and quiet. People that diss on folk music want to hang out at a show and talk or rock out or not “get deep.” I’m obviously overgeneralizing now… but yes – I agree with you that there is a negative connotation with singer/songwriter and the folk genre… when its initial uprise was meant for folk, the common everyone.
Obvious: In an old interview you admitted to being a bit socially anxious, yet your songs are intensely personal and revealing. Now that you’ve been at it a bit longer, do you find yourself more comfortable dealing with fans, large crowds, and media attention?
Van Etten: I still get anxious. No doubt. I am learning how to deal with my anxiety better, though. Breathing exercises, jokes, and whatnot… Writing and performing is very healing for me, which is why the songs are so confessional and personal. It is my therapy. It has helped me move on from harder times in my life – so each time I play them I am meditating, in a way… Maybe one day I won’t be nervous, but I am sure glad I’m able to feel something.
Obvious: Some highly touted artists, such as Bon Iver and The National, have covered your songs lately. Is it surreal knowing some high profile bands are connecting with your music? Any possible future collaborations with these or other bands?
Van Etten: I was on tour with Megafaun when Brad Cook (bassist) showed me that video. He woke me up to show me the video on his phone. I cried. So surreal. To have people you listen to and respect cover a song! It was hard to not be taken aback… I recently went to Durham and sang with Megafaun, Bon Iver, and Fight the Big Bull. They arranged a bunch of old Alan Lomax folk field recordings from the South and we had 3 nights performing in an old baptist church, now the Hayti Heritage Center. It was all recorded live and there is talk of it being released.
Obvious: Two sad songs that have been owning my life lately: “Flirted With You All My Life” by Vic Chesnutt and “Morning Hollow” by Sparklehorse. Your turn! And… go
Van Etten: Richard Youngs’ “It Soon Will Be Fire” and Big Star’s “Holocaust”
Conducted by Capt. Obvious
Obvious: Congratulations on the release of your wonderful new album Forget The Night Ahead. While it’s still a noisy album, it seems to be more complex structurally and more melody driven. Was this a conscious decision and do you see your future material moving in that direction?
Graham: First of all, thank you for your kind words on our new record. The songs on Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters were the first songs we had ever written together so I think it wasn’t as much a conscious decision but more of a natural progression. We knew we wanted to balance the noise with the melody to compliment each other. We always start off by making sure we have the song written first then we layer up the noise and other instrumentation.
Obvious: While vague, some of the lyrical content on your first album Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters pointed towards a traumatic childhood. Have family members ever asked about the meaning of your songs?
Graham: To be honest, the songs on the first album were about me, my friends and family, and the actions of others around us that effected us in some sort of way. A lot of people have asked me about my lyrics and I haven’t told anyone. A few people have commented that I must have some sort of bad relationship with my family, but it’s the exact opposite. I have the best relationship with them and they support the band 100%. My parents have asked me what the songs are about but I told them not to worry. They don’t reflect badly on them.
Obvious: Martin Docherty, formerly of Aereogramme, has been playing keyboard and some guitar for you during live shows. How has having an extra member changed the way you approach your live performances and will Dok become a permanent member of The Twilight Sad?
Graham: It has given Andy a lot more freedom to focus on the main guitar parts as before he was playing two or three parts at a time. Dok plays the guitar, organ, and loops, so it fills out the sound a lot more than the early days when it was just the four of us. We knew we needed someone else to be in the live band as we knew we couldn’t play the new songs on our own and we were just lucky that Dok was around and a fan of the band and most importantly he was also a friend so we knew he would fit in. At the moment Dok is in the live band and we haven’t really talked about him joining the band as we have been so busy, but I’m sure when we get the time to discuss it, it will get sorted as he is very much a big part of this band now.
Obvious: You recently toured with Frightened Rabbit and We Were Promised Jetpacks (who you’re still touring with). How was it having an all-Scot tour?
Graham: Right now I’m sitting in Ann Arbor and we have 2 more gigs until we go home and I suppose it’s a good time to reflect on the past month and what’s happened. The first half of the tour was amazing as we were good friends with Frightened Rabbit and we haven’t had a lot of time to hang out back home as we have both been so busy. So it was great to drink, watch them play, and just hang out with them. The shows were nearly all sold out and it was just a good time all around. We didn’t really know the Jetpacks that well before coming over but they have become really good friends as well. They are one of the most consistent bands I have ever seen. They seem to kill it every night. The shows that we have headlined have been amazing too. They’ve nearly all sold out and for a small Scottish band from Glasgow that’s pretty mind-blowing for us. So there has been a lot of drinking and good times!
Obvious: After spending time with you and the other bands on your recent tour, I catch myself saying “You booze, you lose” in a feigned Scottish accent more than I’d like to admit. Have you picked up any lingo or mannerisms from fans on your latest American tour?
Graham: Not really. We just teach our American friends our fucked up ways of saying things. Esteban, our tour manager, Steven, our sound guy, and Terry, our bus driver, have slowly learned how to understand us. They have all now started using our Scottish slang in everyday life. As for “you booze, you lose,” that term is used a lot, especially when we’re Manky (Scottish word for drunk)!
Obvious: “I Became A Prostitute” is one of my favorite tracks off the new record. What’s your favorite synonym for a lady of the night? I’m partial to “harlot.”
Graham: Fuck, I don’t know! Eh, “whore” is probably the word that is used the most back home. I don’t really know too many as I don’t really hang around those parts of towns where these ladies do their business. Our bass player Craig is probably the best person to answer that question as he loves all ladies of different shapes, sizes, and professions.
Conducted by Capt. Obvious
Obvious: Your last album The Midnight Organ Fight seemed to be fueled by heartbreak. Is it ever difficult staying emotionally connected to that material as time passes? How do you keep a fresh perspective on those songs when you’re constantly playing them live?
Hutchison: The songs’ initial sentiment certainly dulls over time, and the only thing that keeps them fresh are all the people who come to see the shows. These songs perhaps mean more to others than they do to me at this point in time – don’t get me wrong, I still love the songs but its the energy that the audience brings that keeps them exciting for me. People come and sing with such passion and gusto, that its hard not to get caught up in that.
Obvious: There was a noticeable evolution in the band’s sound from Sing the Greys to The Midnight Organ Fight. I hear you’ve finished recording a new album that’s slated for release early next year. How would you describe the new album in terms of the band’s progression in sound?
Hutchison: It’s a lot more delicately layered. On the last record, there wasn’t enough time to get the songs to sound just as I wanted them to. This time round, we were able to add more detail and the result is a richer, better record. I think its a great deal more mature and I feel much more confident in the material than I did last time.
Obvious: Much of the lyrical content on The Midnight Organ Fight was metaphorically driven and paralleled a broken relationship with the atrophy of the human body. Have you noticed any recurring lyrical themes on the newly recorded album?
Hutchison: The body stuff is still in there, but the overriding theme seems to be the sea this time round – I recorded most of the demos in a tiny village on the East coast of Scotland, so it seeped into the music. I think it’s less directly about me – my life’s been eventful over the past year, but pleasantly so. I had to move more into storytelling than on the last record, and the result is a bit more oblique.
Obvious: I’ve read that the band’s name stems from you not being entirely comfortable with social situations as a child. You seem very comfortable on stage. Can you expound a bit on that juxtaposition between your public persona as the lead singer of a band and your personal, more private persona? How does meeting and interacting with fans play into this?
Hutchison: I love meeting fans. Frightened Rabbit fans are all fucking awesome people, which helps. I think the stage persona thing took me by surprise too, but ever since my first show as a solo performer, I’ve felt confident that what I’m doing is worth something and that helps with the confidence thing. However, if you throw me into a party full of strangers, I’ll still struggle to make small talk.
Obvious: You just finished an American tour with fellow Scots and labelmates The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks. How was that experience and how do American audiences compare to those in Scotland?
Hutchison: They are actually surprisingly similar. Our audiences here in Scotland have a sense of national pride in their own bands, and that comes across when you play a live show here. There’s nowhere in the world that matches that. The level of excitement on this US tour was great, though. It was such a great bill and I’m a massive fan of both of those bands – I was as excited as anyone else about watching the shows night after night. It felt like a big fun school trip.
Obvious: I don’t think you sound the least bit like Adam Duritz. Do you ever want to cause physical harm to those who constantly bring that comparison up?
Hutchison: Haha! Not physical harm – I’m not much of a puncher. Its often intended as a compliment, so I usually graciously accept it and then never talk to that person ever again. EVER.