Civil Twilight’s music inspired me after listening to “Letters from the Sky” from their self titled debut album. Their lyrical ballads and piano pieces bring a strong message of love, loss and hope. The three members, Richard Wouters (Drums), and brothers Steven (Vocals, Keyboard) and Andrew (Guitar) Mckellar originated from Cape Town, South Africa, during high school. In an interview with Wouters, he said they named their band after an aviation term from the U.S. Naval Observatory:
"Civil twilight is defined to begin in the morning, and to end in the evening when the center of the Sun is geometrically 6 degrees below the horizon. This is the limit at which twilight illumination is sufficient, under good weather conditions, for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished; at the beginning of morning civil twilight, or end of evening civil twilight, the horizon is clearly defined and the brightest stars are visible under good atmospheric conditions in the absence of moonlight or other illumination."
When starting the band, Wouters said they “would just come up with stuff that made (them) feel good and excited about music and life (and) that's what (they) still try and do.
”Being originally from Cape Town, the band has been through cultural differences, because “America is so diverse,” Wouters said. When the band arrived in L.A. they thought, “It was the weirdest, most bizarre place imaginable! It was nothing like (they) expected” and “it’s SO much bigger-the country and the business. There's way more of an infrastructure around it here. In South Africa, there are only a handful of radio stations that could play (their) music and (the) audience size is very limited because the entire country is only about the size of Texas.”
The band plans to stay in the U.S. as a permanent home. Some of Civil Twilight’s influences include Radiohead, Oasis, The Verve and Led Zeppelin, which are recognized throughout their music. The band is now residing in New York and is finding success. Their video “Letters from the Sky” has been recently released on their Myspace, which is shown below.
Interview from Civil Twilight's drummer, Richard Wouters:
How did the band form?
We all grew up together and attended the same high school. We started playing our instruments around the same time and before we really knew how to play we decided to form a "band". It wasn't until much later that we were actually proficient enough to perform.
How did you come up with your name?
It's an aviation term that we heard and we just liked the sound of it and the imagery that it evokes.
"According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, civil twilight is defined to begin in the morning, and to end in the evening when the center of the Sun is geometrically 6 degrees below the horizon. This is the limit at which twilight illumination is sufficient, under good weather conditions, for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished; at the beginning of morning civil twilight, or end of evening civil twilight, the horizon is clearly defined and the brightest stars are visible under good atmospheric conditions in the absence of moonlight or other illumination."
Who are your influences? Have you been able to contact or play with those artists?
We have many influences but some of the more prominent ones would be Radiohead, The Police, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Oasis, The Band, The Verve, Bob Dylan... Half of them are dead, but we haven't performed with any of these artists... (yet).
Who are the members of your band? Are they all original?
Steven McKellar - Vocals, Bass, Piano
Andrew McKellar - Guitar
Richard Wouters - Drums
Yes, all original members.
How did you know what type of music you wanted to play? Have you played other music genres?
We didn't really sit down and think about what type of music we wanted to play. We've never really done that. When we started we were all into the same kind of music so that was what we played. We would just come up with stuff that made us feel good and excited about music and life... I guess that's what we still try and do.
Being originally from Cape Town, how different is the music business than the US?
It's very different here. It's SO much bigger - the country and the business. There's way more of an infrastructure around it here. In South Africa there are only a handful of radio stations that could play our music and your audience size is very limited because the entire country is only about the size of Texas. There are some good bands coming out of there now but all of them will have to go overseas at some point if they want to have a sustained music career.
What was the most interesting experience you have had on the road? Has that affected your music at all?
Hmm... We almost broke up a few times on our first tour. I remember our first show in New York City. It was at 1am at Arlene's Grocery down on the Lower East Side. It was in the middle of winter and it was snowing. It was a nightmare. Getting to the show with all our gear, which in NYC is always difficult - especially when you've never been there before - and then playing to no one, and having to haul everything back in the freezing cold to our friends house in upper Manhattan where we were staying. At one point we were standing in the street arguing about whether to take the subway or a cab. It's pretty funny to think about it now, but at the time it just made us all want to go home and become real estate salesmen!
Have you encountered any cultural differences coming to the US? And if so, What are they? And how have you dealt with them?
Yes, probably more so than we thought we would. Of course America is so diverse, it's like half a dozen countries in one, so each area is different. But when we first arrived we landed in LA and thought it was the weirded, most bizarre place imaginable! It was nothing like we expected. For one, it was so big and so busy and totally overwhelming. We didn't even know where to begin with our band and we thought about going home many times during the first few months. The people were different too and it took us a while to get used to the industry "hype factor" (for lack of a better word) that exists around Hollywood. Everyone is going to make you a star! But we found good people there too and we still have very close friends who live in the LA area.
What are your future plans?
To make honest music that inspires people to see the good in the world, themselves and the people around them.
How many albums do you have out?
Just one... And an iTunes Live from SoHo record that just came out too.
What was the response to your first album?
So far so good.
How long are you planning on staying in the US? Is this your permanent home, or are you wanting to go back to Cape Town?
We've been here for a few years already so we figure we may as well just stay! We'll see, but no immediate plans to move back to Cape Town.