ATG had the chance to sit down with Cape Town’s Civil Twilight before their show at The Hamilton in Washington, DC last week. The show came on the heels of their latest album, Story of an Immigrant, released this past summer. Check out what they had to say below.
How does Story of an Immigrant differ from your previous albums?
We took a long time writing this one. We had time. We were really searching for a sound, and this took us into the next chapter. We had two full EPs before Stories of an Immigrant; a self-titled album and Holy Weather. It really came down to going back to sounds that influenced us in our youth, and simplifying our writing process. Your first albums are really…a “greatest hits”, if you will-things that you love the sound of, but may not be cohesive as an album, or a sound you wish to convey. Our first albums didn’t have that sense of what sound we really wanted.
How did Civil Twilight come to be?
Well, several of us are from Cape Town, South Africa. We started up when we were around 14, played in several bands and when we were about 19 or 20 decided we wanted to actually make a go of it, and we moved to The States. We met Kevin in Nashville, and he’s incredibly talented, we wanted him in the band, and he accepted. That’s a very brief history, but the basics of it all.
What/who influences you?
There’s a great afro-jazz scene in Cape Town, so that heavily influenced our most recent album. We incorporated that local scene and sound into “Story of an Immigrant. We are huge fans of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. (That’s not just a Mean Girls quote guys.)
It’s always interesting to know what music bands listen to, since they’re always surrounded by it, who are you excited about these days, and what are you listening to right now?
D’angelo. Hands down he’s Kevin’s favorite artist. Love that guy. Adele’s new stuff sounds pretty great. Bon Iver is making new stuff, and that’s exciting, Little Dragon, Tame Impala, James Blake and Bryan Adams are the most recent artists we’ve been playing. Diverse, but great.
What does the writing process look like for you?
It really varies, and has changed greatly over the years. We’ve used everything, from writing together, to separate, to being structured, or just having a jam session and letting something come from that, we just pull what is best from all those individual processes.
What does it feel like to present your writing to the band within that process?
Yea, that can be intimidating. We’re very comfortable with each other, but you’re presenting something you’re passionate about, you’re being vulnerable-that can be nerve-racking. Stephen has been doing it the longest, so he’s probably the most comfortable with it, but it’s personal.
What’s your favorite venue you’ve ever played?
This place, The Hamilton, has been great so far, they really take care of you here. I like the fact that people are really listening to our music at venues like this, there’s no distraction. We really liked the 930 Club, or Bowery in NYC, the Crocodile in Seattle, but most of us are from South Africa, and there’s this venue called Kirsten Bosch, it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s outside, and on one side you see the mountains, and the other you see the city skyline. Absolutely amazing.