JAMES GRAHAM, the Twilight Sad's vocalist, shows up first. He's only 10 minutes late, which is early by indie band standards, and tells me that he's pleased to be here in this Glasgow café because it's given him something to do other than watch daytime television. Half an hour later, fellow member Andy MacFarlane – guitarist and general noise-monger in one of Scotland's most hotly tipped bands – finally puts in an appearance.
He slept in, and has the bed hair to prove it(though I think this might be his actual hairstyle). It's one o'clock in the afternoon.
All of this might lead you to assume that this "noisy folk band", as Graham describes them, are living it up in true rock'n'roll style. Actually, the Twilight Sad, whose debut album Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters was considered one of last year's finest, all still live with their parents. They are also very serious when it comes to talking about their thoroughly Scottish sound, which mixes the quiet-loud crescendo of discordant noise we associate with Mogwai, with the dour, heavily accented poetry of Arab Strap. "Just don't call it Highland emo, like they described it in Denmark," warns Graham.
Last year was huge for the Twilight Sad – who come from around Kilsyth – not that we know the half of it here in Scotland. The band, which includes Craig Orzel on bass and drummer Mark Devine, played 160 gigs over 12 months. Only a handful of them, however, were in Scotland. "We've mostly been playing in America. Our name has been all over the place there," says Graham.
Pitchfork, the independent music website that is hugely influential in the States, gave them a glowing review last year and a spot at their elite festival in Chicago catapulted them into the spotlight. "We were on the main stage with Cat Power and Steve Malkmus and our dressing room was opposite Yoko Ono's," says Graham, looking baffled. "But then we would come back here and be playing to my mum and dad and a couple of friends again. It was strange."
It may be a topsy-turvy way of achieving recognition but this year we're going to be seeing a lot more of them on their home turf. Tonight the Twilight Sad are playing Glasgow's Celtic Connections alongside Camera Obscura, and in the coming months they're touring Scotland, where they intend to test out some new material, which is apparently even "bigger and noisier" than the epic, shoegazing sound of their debut. "We were really surprised to be asked to play with Camera Obscura," says Graham. "I mean, it's at the ABC! I've seen Mogwai there…"
There may only be four of them, but Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters has an astonishingly layered sound, making use of accordions, theremin, piano, a crashing rhythm section and a hell of a lot of white noise, though live it's a more minimal, visceral affair. "I just mess about," says MacFarlane, whom Graham credits for creating the band's volume-shifting sound. "I don't really play these instruments. I just pick up the saw or the accordion and hit record. We're winging it basically." Thankfully, it doesn't sound like it when you hear their music.
It's the Twilight Sad's lyrics, though, that make them really interesting. With song titles including 'That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy', and 'Last Year's Rain Didn't Fall Quite So Hard', I'm keen to find out more about these crafted, miniature stories. "I'd never written a song before, and then 'That Summer' just came out two years ago," admits Graham, making a vomiting sound to show me how effortlessly it happened. "I think it's all down to Andy. I've got him to thank for getting me into music. He's like my HMV, and he's always been on at me to pull my finger out and write some songs."
Was MacFarlane surprised when Graham showed up with such strange, tender lyrics? "Definitely," he says. "I thought, why hasn't he been doing this for longer?"
But where do lines such as "The kids are on fire in the bedroom" come from? Graham refuses to be drawn: "I've never told anyone what my songs are about, and I don't intend to. My favourite songs are the ones I don't know anything about, where I can create my own interpretation. Basically, they're about where we stay, our families, our friends. Every single one is based on a real experience. But I've not even told my mum and dad, so I'm definitely not telling you."
I expected the band to be rather bookish but they tell me they don't read much and, although the Twilight Sad is taken from a Wilfred Owen poem, they can't remember which one and say it's irrelevant anyway. (It's 'But I Was Looking At The Permanent Stars', by the way.)
Graham and MacFarlance met at high school, while Devine lives nearby and the three of them have been in "rubbish bands" since they were aged 14. As for Orzel, MacFarlane met him at a bus stop. Forming in 2003, they did a couple of experimental gigs at the 13th Note in Glasgow, playing half-hour pieces of music using toy keyboards, tape loops from films, and computer games. They sent a rough demo to Fat Cat, the Brighton-based label home to Sigur R"s and Vashti Bunyan. Two days later, before they played their third gig, the head of Fat Cat arrived in Glasgow with a contract and sent the band across the pond.
They've spent a lot of time holed up in Glasgow studios Chem 19 and Ca Va, turning down offers to play live in order to fine tune their sound. "We've been keeping ourselves to ourselves," says MacFarlane. "We wanted to work in the studio until we felt happy with it, rather than playing out average stuff." Mind you, in that time they have taken SXSW by storm, supported Idlewild – Roddy Woomble now regularly plays with the band – and in the States, Micah P Hinson and Battles. Hinson, in fact, is so taken with the Twilight Sad that he wants to make an album with them. Meanwhile, in Glasgow and Edinburgh, their gigs are selling out.
Maybe now's the time to leave the parental nest, I suggest. "We will when we've got some money," promises MacFarlane. "I'm freeloading for as long as I can," says Graham. "It's great being at my mum and dad's. It's like a hotel." v
The Twilight Sad play ABC, Glasgow, tonight with Camera Obscura www.myspace.com/thetwilightsad