Civil Twilight Talks Songwriting, Fans & “Story of an Immigrant”

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The always captivating Civil Twilight graced The Hamilton stage this week as they continue their fall tour following the July release of their third album, Story of an Immigrant.

The South African natives turned Nashville locals – Steven McKellar, Andrew McKellar, Richard Wouters and Kevin Dailey – sat down with us before their set to give us the low down on their new album and their awesome fans.

What makes Story of An Immigrant different than your first two albums?

Steven McKellar: The first record is always the greatest hits for most bands – you just gather all the songs that have always worked for you and put them on a record. Our first record was like that. Our second record was kind of a reaction to finding out we were actually in a category and boxed in. Or people were boxing us in I guess. I think the third record -we had a long time to write for it so we sort of shed the pressure off – trying to be cool or trying to rebel against anything or trying to react against anything we did before. So I think that’s why the songs sort of came out a little more joyful than the other records and a little more free. It was a lot of fun to make. Writing was tough at times, but it was worth it to me.

What kind of box do you think you were put in as a band?

SM: We made the first record and we started touring it and found ourselves gaining this perspective on where our music fit in and what kind of people were listening to our record or who we were invited to play with and what people were saying about our music. We heard that stuff for the first time and it was just – I don’t know what kind of box it was. It was just the alternative rock thing, but it was a lot to do with the 90s which is a big influence of ours and everything because we’re all old bastards now. I personally was kind of startled by that. I’d never seen music that way, so for me it was interesting that people put it in categories.

It is strange how people do that…

SM: It’s amazing. Like the first thing when someone’s describing a band to somebody else – the first thing they’re going to do is compare them to another band. Immediately it’s just this category. Why not say, “Oh they sound like a peanut butter sandwich.”

What’s the song writing process like for you guys?

Richard Wouters: It’s different every time. Well it’s changed quite a bit over the years. We used to just get in a room together and jam. Steve’s kind of always writing as well. He would often – and still does – bring songs to the table that are pretty much written. We would work on the arrangement together and change some things. The second record – well Steve wrote the majority of that in GarageBand. The third record was a long process of trying a lot of different ideas and all of us writing parts and seeing what way to go in with the producer.

SM: Yeah we had a shit load of demos on this record and they were all over the place – all different styles and genres so we needed somebody to come in and give us some direction.

It’s better to have more ideas than not enough right?

SM: Yeah it’s not a bad problem to have.

Andrew McKellar: Well sometimes it’s not.

Do you have a favorite song from your new album to play live?

AM: Story of an Immigrant is kind of fun to play. River Child has been fun.

SM: I can tell you the ones I don’t enjoy. There are a couple songs I’d love to try to play.

So what are the ones you don’t enjoy?

SM: I’m just kidding – I like them all. Some I like more than others, but yeah that kind of changes every night. That’s the thing about having a new record is that every show is a little different. We haven’t dialed in the lining process yet. We look on stage and suddenly a song goes to the next level and we didn’t realize it was capable of going there.

We saw some people sitting on the floor waiting for the show – obviously big fans of yours. How do you like to interact with your fans?

SM: I like to do it face to face. Are there actually people sitting on the ground out there? That’s cool, but uncomfortable – they should get some chairs.

AM: Kev’s been doing a lot of social media stuff – trying to post every day at least.

Kevin Dailey: I’m not great at interacting. It’s difficult to respond to everyone’s tweet or question. It’s like “Hey when are you going to London?” and we have no idea.

RW: We usually come out and say hi to our fans after the show. We enjoy meeting people – it’s nice.

We saw you created a Tumblr dedicated to the new album. What did you hope to get out of that?

SM: That’s a good question. It was giving people a chance to share a story that’s relatable to the idea of immigration. Immigrants as in spiritual immigrants like the fact that we’re all on this planet trying to find a home. Whenever you throw the term “immigrant” it’s always different especially nowadays. There are so many connotations.

AM: We’ve had such bad timing with terms. First we released our record and then the Twilight movies came out.

RW: It’s the best timing.

Have you gotten any interesting responses or stories from fans?

RW: There was this one beautiful story somebody wrote. One of the first ones about just music in general and traveling to see music and how much it’s meant to her. We forget sometimes how much music means to people especially people who have a connection to a band or to a song. It’s so much more than just a song – it’s a soundtrack to a moment in their life. For us it’s just a song that we wrote in our garage or something, but it could be a lot more to someone else so it’s cool to see some of the stories.

Interviewed by Rian Kirchhoff & Julie Peak // Transcribed by Rian Kirchhoff

find Civil Twilight:

official // twitter // instagram // soundcloud

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