Touring musicians have a great gig. Rock and roll! It’s doubly great when they’re interested in exploring the international culinary world. We do realize some bands subsist solely on Taco Bell and Coke Zero. Shame on them! There’s Hatch chile to sample in New Mexico. Pappy Van Winkle in Kentucky. Doppelbock outside Hamburg. Tortas on the California-Mexico border. In Good Food, Rocks, we track down a band member serious about their grub—and who has held a job in the food industry too.
The Twilight Sad‘s new album, released next Tuesday, isn’t what you’d call upbeat. No One Can Ever Know even has a menacing title, and that’s just the way lead singer James Graham likes it: He readily admits that he wouldn’t even play it at a dinner party because that’d be too “depressing” (though wait ’til you read what he would play!). In other news, the band’s raucous live shows have been linked to hearing loss in mice.
So while The Twilight Sad may not sound like a fun group of lads to hang ’round with, talking food with Graham reveals a different side to this intriguing band, which also features guitarist (and vegetarian) Andy MacFarlane and drummer Mark Devine. As for Graham, his culinary experience dates back to a youth spent helping out in his uncle’s bakery and catering business, which not only funded his record-buying obsession but also helped him develop some strong opinions about what he does — and doesn’t — eat.
Ok, let’s get the Scottish stuff out of the way: How do you feel about haggis?
I haven’t had it in a long long time, probably since school. In Scotland, we celebrate Robert Burns’ Birthday and on that day at school we had to recite his poems and eat Haggis, Neeps (mashed turnip) and tatties (potatoes). I was quite a fussy eater when I was younger and didn’t like it back then and have not eaten it since. Andy is a vegetarian and loves Veggie Haggis!
What about whisky?
I’m not going to come across as a Good Scotsman here as I don’t like haggis and I don’t like whisky. We all used to drink Jack Daniels when we were younger to pretend we were like Guns ‘n’ Roses, and I think I sickened myself with it. As for Scotch Whisky it makes me boak*! (*that’s Scottish slang for nauseous)
A Scottish chef told us that Scotland has has some of the best seafood in the world. True or false?
That’s definitely true! Our coasts are filled with amazing fresh seafood. We have loads of award winning fish and chip shops around the country. Also at the higher end of the scale, the shellfish over here is amazing. My favourite these days are fresh seared scollops with cured ham and pea puree. I have expensive taste. Although the best fish supper (fish and chips) in Scotland is Anstruther Fish Bar.
Congrats on the new album. Any go-to foods and drinks during the making of it?
We recorded down in London so we weren’t eating a lot of Scottish food. I was drinking a lot though. Once I’ve done my parts in the studio i have a lot of time on my hands so I ended up watching a lot of cooking programmes and drinking red wine. My favourite is a Chilean wine called “Yali.” Although a few nights we went and found a tonic wine which is blamed for a lot of Glasgow’s crime called “Buckfast,” which is made by Monks in Devon and has 12 cans of Coke worth of caffeine in one bottle. It makes you go crazy!
What about on tour—do you get to sample local cuisines as you travel about?
Yeah, especially in America. I’ll namecheck a few places: the Bottle Tree in Birmingham Alabama is an amazing venue and the food is great; Roberta’s in NY was one of the best places I’ve been to! Kuma’s Corner’s burgers in Chicago are fantastic! I’ve had so many great Mexican meals in America. BBQ at the Ironworks in Austin, Texas! That’s just a few; there are so many places.
Do you have any restaurant industry experience?
My uncle runs a local bakery and a successful catering company called Alex Graham Catering (wee plug there). I’ve worked at lots of different functions serving the customers and helping in the kitchen. I have worked in the bakery as well. Working with my uncle helped finance my weekly trip to the record store, so I’ve got him to thank for giving me the ways and means to acquire some of my favourite albums.
What’s the best or worst memory from working there?
I didn’t really have any bad memories as I was working with my family. I mean it’s hard work and the hours that my uncle and his staff put in are amazing. I think they start at 4 a.m. and work long hours to make it a successful business. I suppose I’ve had a few burns whilst working there which wasn’t too nice. As for the best memory I think it would be having great food around me to eat for lunch and dinner.
What’s your earliest food memory?
My Grandmother made home made Scotch pancakes and they were famous around the local area. It was a secret recipe. I remember people asking me when the next time I’d be at her house so I could get them a batch. I was a really fussy eater and still am in many ways. I remember my dad offering up a new toy if I tried something new. I have still never tried tomato ketchup and won’t ever I don’t think.
What’s the best thing you cook?
I cook a lot of stir-frys with loads of vegetables when I’m eating healthy. I make a pretty good beef Wellington. My favourite thing I make which is really simple is Parma ham/mozzarella/spinach filo pastry parcels dusted with parmesan on top. That sounds really posh, eh?
You’ll be touring the States starting in mid-February. What’ll be on your tour rider for food and drinks?
Lots of alcohol: two bottles of vodka, a crate of PBR, a crate of cider, one bottle of Jack Daniels, two bottles of red wine, Cheetos, Baked Lays. Knowing our luck we’ll get three drinks tickets each and a bag crisps, or chips as you say in America.
If you ran were throwing a dinner party, which songs from No One Can Ever Know would you play on the sound system and why?
I wouldn’t play any! That would be a really depressing dinner party! I’d just put on Abba instead. I love me some Abba!
After your tour when you get back to Scotland, will you immediately eat haggis?
Wrong! What we all do is go to the nearest shop and buy some Irn Bru! Irn Bru is a soft drink, or soda as you say in America. It’s the biggest selling soda in Scotland and we’re one of the only countries in the world where Coca-Cola isn’t the biggest selling soft drink. It has a secret recipe and only two men know it and they aren’t allowed to get on the same plane as each other in case the plane crashes and they lose the recipe forever! It’s great for a hangover! The factory is about 10 minutes away from where I live. I like to think it’s a bit like a Scottish version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Also, I make a cup of tea when I get home. America is great for so many things but a good cup of tea isn’t one of them!
Listen to “Kill It In The Morning” from The Twilight Sad’s new album:
More Good Food, Rocks on Food Republic (indie rock edition):