Interview: The Twilight Hours

Starting with Trip Shakespeare in the late 80’s, Matt Wilson and John Munson have been making music together for nearly three decades now. After pit stops in a couple of different bands, across a few genres, the duo eventually came back together to form The Twilight Hours. Jacques, David, and Steve came in to round out their lineup on guitar, piano, and drums respectively, and in 2009 they celebrated the release of their first album Stereo Night right here at The Cedar. The Twilight Hours will return to The Cedar this Saturday, March 25th with special guests The Counterfactuals and Fathom Lane. Tickets are $15 advance/$18 day of the show.

 

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We spoke to the Matt and John in advance of the show.

 

Q. You all have been involved in many other projects over the years. What bought you all together for The Twilight Hours?

A. John: Matt and I have been working on music together for many years, sometimes separately and sometimes together. Even when we weren’t working together formally, we both wanted to impress each other. While Matt was crafting his solo project Burnt, White and Blue, he was sharing a studio space with my band, Semisonic, as we worked on Feeling Strangely Fine. So even when we weren’t in bands together, we were urging each other on, looking over each others shoulders, and stuff.

As Semisonic began winding down, Matt and I were living together in an apartment in uptown. A bunch of the songs that became our first record, Stereo Night, had their genesis around that time. It took a number of years more to actually record them, but the seeds were planted.

Matt: Back in those days I had a fantasy of being a solo musician. And I tried. But after a while I found that my songs were missing a dimension and that it really wasn’t all that fun to work alone. John and I push back on each other and dismiss the stuff we don’t like without being too delicate about it. John’s right. We’ve been trying to impress the other guys since we were kids.

 

Q. You guys are all fixtures of the Minneapolis music scene. You’ve played at The Cedar many time, including releasing your 2009 album Stereo Night here. How has the band evolved over the last eight years?

A. JohnBecoming “a fixture on the Minneapolis music scene…” I can’t tell if that’s an honor or what… I guess it is true, though.  I have never wanted to be from anywhere else besides here.  I take enormous pride in the city and it’s contributions to the national music scene.  I can’t think of a place that can lay claim to two more important bands than Prince and The Replacements, who are both authentically FROM here, really remained here throughout their careers… and define two strains of late twentieth century musical influence.

That was what we grew up with.  That was the ambition.  Be as big as Prince or The Replacements or whoever… Obviously we have not quite realized that ambition, yet.  But still, my feeling is that we have created an original body of work that is important to people here, people who I consider to be among the most devoted, discerning music fans in the country, and that is meaningful.

Matt: I really hate to think of myself as a fixture or a heritage act. Someone shoot me if that’s ever all I am. I want the new albums we make to stand on their own, as though each one was our first record, demanding to be listened to. That’s the goal anyway.

 

Q. A portion of your proceeds for this show will be going to support the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Can you speak a bit about this organization and why you chose to support them?

A. Leading up to our plans to do this show the Muslim Ban has been in the news multiple times.  Richard, our drummer, asked, “Isn’t there something we could do around the show to help?”  Given that we will be performing in Cedar Riverside and that The Cedar has made it a mission to build understanding between the Somali community and the city of Minneapolis, we realized that organizing to give a portion of proceeds from the show to The Council on American Islamic Relations-MN was a good way to say, “We are for understanding.  We are for inclusion.  We are for tolerance.”  To me these are cornerstone values of The United States and we support them.  To the degree to which this suggests dissenting views from our current president, I say, dissent is also a cornerstone American value.

Friends of mine have told me, “You realize half of your fans probably disagree with your politics, right?”  That may be so.  I try very hard not to hold someone’s politics against them if they represent thoughtful, deeply held beliefs.  I hope everyone will give us the same benefit and understand that difference is part of what makes us strong.

CAIR-MN will be on hand at the show to accept donations and discuss their mission.

 

Q. Your latest album Black Beauty has been praised for its superb lyrical content. Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

A. John: I will defer to Matt on the lyrics since he wrote em!  But I will say this: Matt works extraordinarily hard on lyrics.  Each word is carefully chosen.  And I mean EACH WORD.  The re-drafting can be vexing, because even after having performed a song for a time, the words can change.  But the poetical effect of the lyrics is consistently strong, so we always forgive Matt.

Matt: The songs on this record came about in a lot of ways. Often the musical idea coming first. Or sometimes a verse and a chorus would come straight out of a dream. I’d wake up and stumble downstairs repeating the music over and over in my mind, or singing it in a whisper so I don’t wake anyone up, until I could get to a place where I could sing into a recorder, or write in my notebook. As far as the lyrics, I’m very sensitive to the sounds of word, how the consonants add up. That’s the stuff that I like to spend time dialing in if I’m so inspired.

 

Q. What has been inspiring you lately?

A. John: I was really inspired by Mbongwanga Star a couple weeks ago at the Cedar!  What a tremendous show that was… inspiring on many levels.

Just as I was growing up, I continue to be inspired by the creative community in our city, including many different disciplines and collaborators.  Last spring we worked with a number of artists to create our Black Beauty Theatrical which involved amazing sculptural sets by Chris Larson and film projections by Phil Harder (who we are hoping will provide some images for our Cedar performance!).  Their work was truly inspiring.

Matt: I’ve been listening to Cat Stevens a lot, Henry Mancini, corny stuff. Tame Impala – but not really the current album that much. ELO – middle period. Derek and the Dominos, basically the Layla record exclusively. Miles Davis, Bill Evans. Just anything that moves me.

John: I recently performed with my old friend, Mason Jennings and was astounded at what a rich book of tunes he has… just one song after another of great. Totally inspiring.  I’m currently producing a record with Dylan Hicks.  Dylan’s writing is very singular and this is going to be his earthiest and most real record to date, I believe.  I’m super excited about it.  And coming up Chan Poling and I are planning to produce a new Lucy Michelle solo record. She’s amazing and inspiring.

But most of all I find the work of my bandmates to be a source of inspiration. That’s where the rubber meets the road.  If you’re not loving what you are making and being inspired by it, you have to go find other music to make. Thanks for being inspiring, Matt, Steve, Jacques, Richard and Dave!

 
Brenna Tierney, Spring Marketing Interns