Former Trip Shakespeare frontman Matt Wilson largely dropped off the Minnesota music scene after his 1998 solo record Burnt, White And Blue. He later reteamed with Shakespeare bandmates John Munson (also of Semisonic and The New Standards) as the casual duo The Flops, which played occasional shows throughout the 2000s, but as the two friends built up a collection of new songs rivaling their old band's best stuff, they realized it was time to take things more seriously: Hence, a name change and a new focus as The Twilight Hours. On debut Stereo Night, the alt-pop unit offers a winsome, carefully rendered manifesto. With toasty acoustic tones and melodic sophistication with an earnest, sometimes playful pop spirit, the album plays on the proven chemistry of its principal collaborators while offering plenty of fresh hooks for newcomers. In advance of their Nov. 1 appearance at the Uptown Bar—part of that venue’s last-ever live music lineup—Wilson and Munson talked with The A.V. Club about the pleasures, pains, and prospects of their latest team-up.
The A.V. Club: Matt, your level of musical activity took a conspicuous downturn not long after Burnt, White And Blue came out. Was that a deliberate move on your part?
Matt Wilson: I had three kids and basically wasn’t able to make anything like a living off music for some years here. People would ask me what I do, and I would say “I’m a musician,” but it became more and more about the day job, all the while kind of aching inside and being a musician at root and experiencing this identity shift. Not a crisis, but just a rift. I was always writing, constantly, any free time I had, on every vacation I would attempt to write and have a guitar with me. I made a whole record on my own, recorded it on my own, mixed it all. I showed it to John, and John loved it, but … I needed a partner. It had that kind of solo-album sound of just being two-dimensional. So I basically lost a lot of years there meandering and zigzagging around.
AVC: Now that The Twilight Hours are up and running, are you also getting reacquainted with your least favorite parts of being in a band? Questions like these, for instance?
MW: No, I love to yak about it. That’s actually my favorite. There’s kind of a mixture of exalted confidence and then also dire insecurity in a musician. Someone could say something terrible about you and you just crumble because part of you believes that. But then, if you’re at a club, you just want to jump up onstage. There’s that energy that makes you want to be the guy onstage, but the motivation is also to cure this insecurity you might have.
JM: I have a feeling that your least favorite part is gonna be sitting in the van for hours. [Laughs.] Try as you might, it’s very hard to be productive on the road, just sitting on your ass and driving. I think you’re gonna hate that.
AVC: With a longer career history, plus children and other commitments to juggle, how “goal-oriented” are you about The Twilight Hours?
MW: I think this kind of dynamic has probably happened a thousand times to a thousand bands: John and I have been through the ringer, seen a lot of success and been to the bottom a few times, too. Especially with The Flops, we went into it with the notion that it’s gonna be for fun. This is gonna be our band where we don’t care, fuck everyone, this is for ourselves. And then, inevitably, as we started caring more about the songs, the casual approach melted away and returned to this core of us really wanting this to work and for people to hear it, getting more concerned and invested. Where before we wanted it to be “just do it in a couple takes,” now it’s lapsing into the same habits that we always had.
JM: Those tendencies, which have been set by years of doing stuff together in various ways, they’re kind of hard-wired, and trying to short-circuit that system is kind of impossible.
MW: In a way, it’s like the music and the sound and the approach that John and I mapped out with The Flops and what morphed into [The Twilight Hours]. It was gonna be all acoustic, just the two of us with our two instruments. That, too, lapsed into seeking after the same ideal sound that we always sought after. Chasing the same alternate mix that we envisioned years ago and the same kind of Platonic notion of what a song sounds like and what’s moving.