Pre-empting this more impressive anniversary somewhat, we explored The Twilight Sad’s remarkable debut record in greater detail with a big retrospective feature back in 2012, featuring a sprawling interview with James Graham about the record’s origins and the path that both it, and the band, has taken over the years.
That being said, Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters still stands as one of the great debut records, and The Twilight Sad’s recent success – namely a mammoth world tour supporting The Cure – seemed to reframe it once again, feeling something like the cherried crown that such a monumental album always deserved.
A full decade down the line, the record still feels wildly abrasive and compelling. With gargantuan instrumentals as its base, cryptic and numerous literary and film references scattered throughout, and with the dreich, brooding, fog-soaked Scottish landscape as its backdrop, it remains a fascinating and figurative document of stories that remain hidden behind broken people in broken homes, secrets lost to the weather and the slamming of doors.
To mark the tenth anniversary of this most special of records we gathered some reflections from Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai, a band who became a key figure in The Sad’s development, Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, whose own band rose up through the same Scottish scene as The Sad’s, Texan troubadour Micah P. Hinson who played many a show with the band back in those days, and James Graham himself who recalls both those formative days and the lingering presence of Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters on his life and work. Check it out below…
“We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise,
that they understood love and even death, and that our job
was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.”
– Jeffrey Eugenides
I don’t want to over-egg the praise for this album, because licking the arse of a friend is a weird thing to do. Instead I’ll go back and briefly tell it like I remember it. My first encounter with The Twilight Sad was not through listening to their music. It was immediately after an early FR show, when I thought they were collectively hitting on my girlfriend. They weren’t, but this set of Kilsyth cunts still looked wide to me and I wasn’t sure what their game was.
The band had been sent to see us by Alex Knight from FatCat. Andy MacFarlane, who at the time had a rosy, cherubic complexion and lovely curly hair, was yelling “ALEX THINKS WE’VE GOT THE SAME SPIRIT!”. As it turns out, that spirit was cheap vodka. After some enjoyable, and occasionally confusing, patter we agreed we should meet up again at their next show: Barfly, the following week, opening for Collar Up (fuck knows, mate).
A friend once described the demos as sounding
like “a pigeon rattling about in some tinfoil.
In the days between, I listened to their demos on Myspace and was in awe. WE DO HAVE THE SAME SPIRIT! The songs had a wonderful cavernous toilet sound, spacious and sort of shite at the same time. A friend once described the demos as sounding like “a pigeon rattling about in some tinfoil” which I disagree with, but in fairness the recordings didn’t prepare the listener for what happened when they played live.
That night at The Barfly I was pinned back. In many ways it is still my favourite Twilight Sad show, ‘first time’s a charm’ and all that. But it really was fucking amazing. However, I was also left wondering how on earth they could transfer that power to a record. But oh fuck me with a delay pedal, they did.
About a year later, there was a small boozy gathering at which we were all trying to get someone from The Twilight Sad to play us the album they had just recorded. Reluctantly, James obliged. Suddenly, the chatty-bastard-party fell silent. For about 45 minutes we all stared at the floor, only occasionally looking at each other as if to say… “fuck”. I mean, that was the only word I could find to express my thoughts at that time. Just, fuck, man.
I couldn’t believe that this was made by people from North Lanarkshire. It was surely sent from somewhere else. Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters remains one of my favourite albums ever. I suppose you can’t lick an arse much harder than that.
It was actually my ex-wife, Grainne, who introduced me too them. She put on a lot of their early shows and recommended them to me quite early on. I just remember hearing them, and that first record, and it just had an extra energy to it that a lot of young bands don’t have. James has always had a real intensity as a front-person but it was more than that. They weren’t mucking about. A lot of bands muck about but they definitely had something a bit more serious and solid to what they were doing.
The whole thing is really, really strong.
It’s one of the classic Scottish records.
‘Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters’ has an energy to it, but all of the songs are really timeless. They have a maturity to them that are way ahead of a lot of bands’ first records. The whole thing is really, really strong. It’s one of the classic Scottish records.
The first time I met them was a festival in Holland that me and Barry were DJ’ing at and we met them and saw them play and got on really well. I think as people we have quite a lot in common; we don’t take life too seriously but we take music really seriously. Since then we’ve done loads of shows with them and always wanted to help them in any way we can. They’re good people and I’m glad that the band’s getting more like the recognition the’ve deserved for a long time.
I’d like to think we’re a small part of the story. I definitely think coming and playing shows with us abroad probably got them used to playing the kind of venues they went on to play on their own. I think of the bands that we’ve toured with over the years that have made a big impression and I’m very grateful to those bands and if we fulfil a similar role for those guys then that would make me really proud.
Micah P. Hinson
I was on a long, round-the-US tour, trying to support the release of The Opera Circuit – clocking mile after mile in my folks hand-me-down cop car, hearing support after support band from any given backstage, just me and my drummer, spiritual advisor, T. Nicholas Phelps. When, low and behold, one night up in the north west comes a chaotic, blissful, tsunami of sound through the wall. We stopped what we were doing, looked at each other and ran into the main room – and who was there? Destroying the ears of patrons? Pulling lightening from the sky? The Twilight Sad. Goddamned right.
And who was there?
Destroying the ears of patrons?
Pulling lightening from the sky?
The Twilight Sad. Goddamned right.
The show was spotless and mad, joyous and cockeyed. It was after the gig that I finally got to sit down and meet these boys of Scotland – a bit pissed, astoundingly kind, and with their debut under their belt. I knew something was in the air for this group of lunatics – and there was, there is. The Twilight Sad is an unstoppable presence wherever they stand, whether in front of 30 people on their first US run, or in front of thousands supporting The Cure around the world.
In the end, I feel our relationship was a bit more than just some shows at the beginning. I took them out whenever I could, they played with me at the Union Chapel, so they had to be much quieter. Then out comes that EP where they began to take another sonic road. I wanted to champion them, if that’s a way to say it. Those were the days and I hope me helping them somehow made their rise a bit easier.
Such great, sincere music. It had to be heard. And I did my damnedest to help them. I wouldn’t be here today without help from The Earlies; music is a very important place to try to give back… I’m not sure that’s a modern, popular idea, but it really just makes sense.
Though their music and relationship to the world has changed over these past nameless years, that first record, “14 Autumns and 15 Winters“, was the first nail in the wall that supported the wild dreaming nature that will forever be The Sad. I miss them when they’re gone, I love ’em when they are near – certainly forever holding a wild electric charge in my soul.
(The Twilight Sad)
Ten years is a long time. A lot has happened in ten years: I’m a different person to the twenty-two year old who had just released the first songs he’d ever written with his best friend. But in saying that, I still have the same hopes, dreams and aspirations for our music and our band. I look back at what I was writing about at that time, and the songs which would make up our debut record, and they still mean as much to me now as they did then. I get the same feeling singing them now as I did when I was twenty-two.
I think I’ve said this before but our debut record didn’t take the world by storm. Our debut record didn’t set the music industry alight. Our debut record won’t be in any fancy top 100 records of the noughties lists. Our debut record didn’t have us selling out venues across the world. And do you know what? I’m glad it didn’t. I might not have been glad ten years ago though.
To be honest, ten years later none of that stuff has happened but some very cool stuff has (Thank you Mogwai, Thank you Robert). If any of that had happened we could have turned into the biggest pricks around. I mean we’ve all seen it happen to other bands with their successful debut album. We had to work at it, I think we played around 200 gigs in 2007 to promote the album. Working hard made me appreciate it all. It still does. It made me never take it for granted.
“I wanted to be a band people gave a fuck about;
like the bands that I loved growing up.“
In saying that, to me, the record was a success. We would play small sweaty venues across Europe and North America which were full, half full, a handful people there, or a couple of locals at the bar. When we played and when I looked at the people in the crowd I could tell how much the songs meant to them, and those were the kind of songs I wanted to write. I wanted to be a band people gave a fuck about; like the bands that I loved growing up. They weren’t going to see a band that was flavour of the month or a buzz band, they came to see a band play music that meant something to them. I know that sounds a bit emo but, fuck sake, if you’ve seen the band, met me, or even listened to us then….
Without 14 Autumns & 15 Winters and what it achieved my life would be a lot different. This record set me on the path to meet my best friends and most influential people in my life. This record and these songs gave me the chance to spend the last ten years writing more music with Andy which is my favourite thing to do and i’d be lost without that.
I still love the record and I love that it has a special place in some people’s lives. People send us messages or say to us after a gig that the record helped them through a rough time in their life and that is amazing to me. It helped me and continues to, and, to this day, the record is still connecting with people who discover it. I love the artwork too and it was the beginning of our relationship with DLT who does all our artwork. He got what we were trying to achieve and still does. He is a big part of what we do and we’re very lucky to have him as a friend and a collaborator.
I don’t think this record defines us, but, like each record we do, it reflects who we are at that time in our lives. it was the just the beginning, but i think it was a good start. Especially for a bunch of rockets.
‘Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters‘ is released by Fatcat Records