Exactly one year ago this month, I had the amazing opportunity
to write about an album that surpasses many others out there.
It was that album that snagged me [as a writer] my first fan mail.
So naturally I hold a soft place in my heart for the band that
not only made me realize some of my talent, but produces truly
inspirational music. The band that I speak of calls themselves
Civil Twilight and it was "roughly" a year or
so ago that they officially made their appearance here in America.
It wasn't until recently, however, that their music has started
to make it on the airwaves and so, naturally, they hit the road
in hopes of capitalizing on that fact. Their road led them to
my neck of the woods and I had the great honor of spending the
evening with three exceptional musicians. So between beers and
sushi (literally the location of my voice recorder), I had the
opportunity to figure out just where this great music comes from:
Hybrid Magazine: Originally you're from Cape Town, but
when did you finally come to the States?
Andrew (guitar): We all came here in 2004, but we spent
about 2 years trying to get Rich a visa, so we didn't really
have time to play and be a band.
HM: So when did you finally end up on Wind-Up [Records]?
Andrew: May 2008, so about 2 years ago. Wow that doesn't
HM: How has America's welcome been so far?
Steven (vocals/keys/bass): It's been good.
Richard (drums): People have responded really well to the
music. I mean it's a huge country, so it's hard to say in general
for the whole country. But in general for us, the responses have
been good and we've only just started to get our music out now.
It's only just getting on the radio now, which makes a big difference.
But from the TV shows and our lives shows, overall it's been a
HM: Do you see high hopes with sharing and developing your
Steven: I think we're kind of set here, I think we'll probably
end up doing stuff in Europe as well. But this will be our home
HM: You were in L.A. but now Nashville. Why Nashville from
L.A. with all the music already there?
Andrew: L.A. is like a media hub more than a music hub.
We had a lot of fun there, but we actually ended up recording
the record in South Carolina and then decided to just move up
to Nashville. We knew a few people there and it sounded like an
Richard: Nashville has a really good indie music scene.
And not a lot of people know about it. So you can go to a really
great show, because the standard of music is really high.
HM: Do you think you might have an advantage coming from
South Africa, in writing your music, kind of coming from a place
separate from all the distractions of the American music scene?
Andrew: Because of the way we grew up, music is a very
honest thing for us. We're not trying to be anything else than
just expressing ourselves. We're not trying to be rock stars.
Even the bands that we listened to, we never tried to be them.
We just did our own thing and eventually it became our style.
HM: You were raised on jazz music. Does that ever come
out in your music?
Richard: Yeah, Steve and I pretty much studied jazz. But
Andrew hates it.
Andrew: Yeah, I don't like it. Like Easy listening is
considered "jazz" and elevator music.
HM: No, no. For me, jazz is more John Coltrane
and Miles Davis. When I reference jazz, I would pull the
elements from those musicians.
Andrew: Ok, that's better. Yes, I like the elements of
HM: OK, so the elements of jazz, do those come out in
Steven: I think maybe in dynamics it does. I think we
learned a lot from playing jazz about dynamics and also being
in the background. We've played so many jazz gigs at restaurants
where people would just be eating and we'll randomly *bum*bump*bum.*
They'll just be eating and we'll keep playing as their entertainment
and background music. It's come out a lot like that in the past.
Richard: For me jazz, in terms of how to play and learning
to play, was incredibly helpful. Like most of what I learned,
that I consider valuable and how to play my instrument, a lot
of that was from playing jazz.
HM: Is it the kind of music you play when trying to get
Richard: No, not really.
HM: Are there certain places that you draw your inspiration?
Richard: There are certain records that I like and certain
artists that I like. I tend to go towards the simpler stuff though.
Those old school [jazz] guys that could really swing and really
drum, that's who I like.
HM: What is your process for writing your music? How is
Andrew: There's 2 ways. It's normally that Steve would
write a song and he would play it out on the piano or the bass
or the guitar and we would listen to it and then jam around it.
Or we record our jam sessions for hours and then listen back to
sections that we like and kind of formulate them in a creative
way into songs.
HM: How was "Human" written?
Steven: That was written when we were visiting home,
actually. I had a piano in my room in my old house that I never
played at all, never touched it. I only dumped stuff there and
hid things in it. So when I went back, I had just started played
piano and so I started playing around and that's what came out.
Then it was just name at the end with the lyrics. Like all my
favorite songs, the lyrics come out at the end.
HM: In "Human" the guitar is doing something different,
can you describe/explain what's going on?
Andrew: I really enjoy listening to the emotion of music.
And there are a couple artists that I really enjoy and obviously
classical music where it's really emotional and kind of a story.
With that song, Steve actually showed it to us in the studio and
we're like "that's a great song," so Steve and I went
into the tracking room and recorded it live. So when I'm playing
the guitar, it's basically what I feel at the moment. I don't
know the chords, really.
HM: More of "making noises"?
Andrew: Pretty much. Feeling the emotions of the song and
feeling the dynamics and using the guitar as something else rather
than just a guitar. Guitars are interesting to me, because they
can sound so different depending on whom you listen to. It's just
an amazing instrument.
By now the sushi was gone and it was pre-show power-nap time
for the guys, so we headed back to the venue.
It's so rare to get to actually meet a band that has inspired you,
but even rarer is having the opportunity to sit down and connect
with them. It was refreshing, entertaining and humbling to pick
their brains for an evening. The friendships I [hopefully] made,
just make me want to talk about their music more and introduce
it to more people, so that it can touch their lives.
Their music is one-of-a-kind and so their set was just as unique,
it was a waterfall of emotions gently taking over the audience.
Their first official album is now available and it'll teach you
to "feel" your music.
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