Civil Twilight frontman Steve McKellar says he’s loathe to talk too much about “Holy Dove,” the new emphasis track from the band’s third album, Story of An Immigrant.
“I’ve received so many interesting takes on that song, just from playing it live and from my peers, so I’m going to avoid telling you my perspective of what the song’s about,” McKellar tells Billboard. But he does reveal that “Holy Dove” was the product of a bit of inner-band strife, courtesy of keyboardist Kevin Daily, the Nashville-by-way-of-South-Africa-based-group’s only American member.
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“Kev actually wrote the hookline, ‘I’m not going down with the rest of you,'” McKellar explains. “He was pissed off at the band. At the time we were going through a lot of changes and trying to find this new (musical) thing. That can take a toll on a band. Thank goodness we came out the other end OK, but he was just saying, like, ‘Fuck you guys. I’m tired of this…’ So the conception of it is a giant ‘fuck you,’ but I wrote the rest of the lyrics from a different point of view, and that song was actually really fun. From the get-go, as soon as that riff started up, we all thought, ‘This is what the album needs, and it’s what we need as people right now, to play something that gets us excited, musically.’ That’s the reason why it’s there. It’s not for you guys — it’s for us.”
Billboard is exclusively premiering “Holy Dove” below.
And watch the video for Story of an Immigrant‘s cover art reveal.
Musical change was, in fact, part of the mission the Civil Twilight felt while recording Story of an Immigrant with producer Ben H. Allen in Atlanta. “This is an album we tried to dive into what the hell we’re doing here and who the hell we are,” McKellar explains. “Our music on our first two albums was a replication of the music we knew how to make; that came out a certain way and it got a good response, but then it gets out to the world and people put it in a box, and that’s the really giant motherfuck, to be put in a box, to be put in a genre. So then it’s a journey from categorization into individuality, and this record is the first step back to that. I think we’re all at that age and that time in our careers that we want to ask those questions of ourselves in our music, so that was an interesting journey.”
The idea of being immigrants does, in fact, weigh heavy on McKellar, his brother and guitarist Andrew McKellar and drummer Richard Wouters, who formed the group a decade ago in Cape Town before relocating to Nashville during the late ’00s. “I think we’re more at home where we are and more at home in America — and more at home at home now, to be honest,” McKellar says. “Growing up (in South Africa), I never felt at home there. I never felt like I was actually a part of the culture, a part of that country. I think that’s just the immigrant spirit, which is forever looking for a new frontier, whether it’s physical or virtual. Now I feel like I’m more comfortable here and more comfortable there — but comfort does not mean I don’t feel very much like an immigrant in terms of my searching and trying to understand where I fit in and how this culture works and how people work in general. That’s what this album’s really about.”
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Civil Twilight also feels at home on the road, with tour plans currently being worked out after showcasing at South By Southwest in March. McKellar says the group is looking at “some opening slots for summer” as well as more extensive touring during the fall, although it’s eschewing festivals this year and will likely look to book some of those in 2016. Meanwhile, he says there’s still “lots” of music around for the quartet to work on while it’s waiting for dates to be locked in.
“We’ve got enough material in the vaults to make three records right now,” McKellar reports. “If I had my way I would just put out a record every month, although I don’t want to be another Ryan Adams. But you have to play the industry game, so it will probably be another couple years or so.”