Thursday 8 December 2011

"Your new favourite band" Interview with Twin Atlantic

"This could be Twin Atlantic's time [...] There's a buzz about the band both here in America and in the UK."- Kerrang!

Hailed by Kerrang! as "your new favourite band" and gracing the cover of this week's issue, Est.1987 caught up with half of Twin Atlantic- singer Sam McTrusty and guitarist Barry McKenna

So, Leeds is the last show before you head back to Scotland to play – how’s it been going so far in the rest of the UK?
SAM [McTrusty, vocals]- Mad! Because we’re not really used to having a room full of people in England who all know the words, and that have all come down early and the gigs have sold out. It’s been really amazing, probably the best tour we’ve had yet.

You’re a band that seems to have a really strong work ethic and always on the road touring – do you prefer that as opposed to being in the studio?
BARRY [McKenna, guitar] - I guess playing live is one of the most important platforms to get your music out to people, because the thing about spending so much time in the studio is that not many people go out and buy records any more, or even go on the internet to check out bands for that matter. But the live scene seems to be absolutely thriving and it’s always been really important to us to be a really tight live band and be able to do what we do on record live. A lot of the bands nowadays, you listen to the record and you think “that’s amazing” and then you go and watch them live and its rubbish. So we’ve never wanted to be that rubbish live band.
S- [Laughing] I’m sure there are people out there who think we are.
B- We’ve always wanted to rehearse loads and play a lot of shows. For us we love what we do, so for us being on the road is one of the most enjoyably parts of being in a band. I guess for us as well being at home’s great and all that, but before we started this band we were all at home for twenty-four years. So now that we have an opportunity to be on the road we’re taking it. It’s great to be in different places every night and playing to new people- you can’t really beat it.

Twin Atlantic

You recorded the latest album “Free” with Gil Norton who’s worked with the likes of Echo & The Bunnymen and Foo Fighters- how did that collaboration come about?
S- It was honestly one of the most straightforward collaborations that I’ve maybe ever heard of. We reached out to him through our record label by saying we want to record an album with him. And he came back and said “cool, let’s record an album” and we said “ok, cool” and that was it, the way it came about! We sent him the record we’d done before- our mini album called “Vivarium” and a couple of demos and that was it- it was mind bending. It was such a flattering thing to work with someone who has worked with so many great songwriters, and made records that have influenced the past twenty years in music when he was working with the Pixies and stuff and Echo And The Bunnymen. The fact that he gave us the stamp of approval, kind of boosted our confidence.

Yeah, I was going to mention that the new record seems a lot more confident and anthemic – was that a deliberate move and do you think working with Gil brought that out?
S- Absolutely! I think what we did between our first batch of recordings and this record was cut out all the bullshit in terms of we maybe had ten songs but a thousand ideas and we wanted to use every idea to show people that we were serious musicians who could play guitar and were clever. But that actually kind of held us back in a way, and once we started simplifying things the message in the song was able to come through. There was something there musically because it was simpler; it was easier to connect to your feelings and emotions. So, that’s what we kind of realised at the start of the record, and then as it progressed thought the whole recording process it started to become clearer  that we were on to something that we enjoyed more. Our confidence grew as the recording grew and it was just a dead natural process.

Twin Atlantic on the front of Kerrang!
Congratulations on the Kerrang front cover! I was reading in the article that you’ve always fought to keep your identity – do you feel a piece such  this front cover is kind of a fingers up to those people who told you to change, lose the Scottish accents etc?
S- [Laughing] Kind of, I mean not until you said it right there.
B- I think for us, keeping our identity was really important because on our first album we feel like we kind of diluted ourselves and lost our way a little bit. It was only the couple of tours we did before “Free”, then the recording of “Free”, that we really got back on track and remembered why we’re doing this and what made us love what we’re doing. That’s why the record’s called what it is. And to have a magazine like Kerrang! that has such a history with British rock music it’s a massive compliment; but as well for us it’s kind of an indication that we were right to stick by our guns and stay true to what we believe in. I think had we diluted ourselves further and become that band that everyone wanted us to become we certainly wouldn’t have been on that cover today.
S- It’s weird though because it was never anything to do with music- it was never music dilution; it was always other things like haircuts and clothes or music videos. Music videos are so important. It’s weird when you’re in your own band; when I think of one of our songs I think about how we wrote it or how we play it live, I don’t automatically think of the video. But if I think of another band’s song, I think of the video at the same time when I hear it and we didn’t really realise that properly. It was never music, it was all the other stuff that we didn’t realise how important it all was.

You said when you write it is often quite quickly, throwing things down on the page – have you always written in this way? And is it because you’re influenced by what’s around you?
S- Yeah, kind of. Yeah, actually that probably is why I do that. I think it probably goes back to, and I hate to bring this up because we’re talking about music, but I went to art school for a couple of years and you were always encouraged to be that way especially because I was doing painting. At least I was encouraged to paint that way and I don’t know whether I’ve just carried the same work ethic over to when I started writing songs. So, it’s probably because I was a nuts, fast painter before and just kind of stayed on that same creative path. That’s just me personally, because Barry’s actually really different. Whenever I’ve watched him do something he is really calculated and works it all out, works on different loops and checks everything goes together. And I know when Ross [the bass player] has brought songs he’s sat and worked it out, and then we all work on it for up to like a week. Actually, there are a couple of songs that have taken us like two or three years to get to the end.

Your name came from Death Cab’s Transatlanticism – are you still big fans of the band?
B- Yeah! All of us actually. They’re one of the few bands that all four of us all agree on.

Do you have really varied music tastes then?
B- There are a lot of overlaps I guess.
S- We kind of like all music but we have certain preferences about each one. It’s really varied between all of us. If you put us all together it seems we just like everything. There are definitely bands that we all equally hate as well.

You guys used MySpace to drum up fans from outside of Scotland when you first started? What do think of this whole social network craze?
Twin Atlantic on stage at Leeds Cockpit
B- I think for bands the whole social network thing is really important. MySpace isn’t really as relevant as it used to be but whether Twitter or Facebook, what ever happens to be the most recent social network craze it’s important. I think why it’s important is because now the generation of music fans coming through at the moment, instead of picking up a phone or even sending a text they’ll use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with their friends on a daily basis. It’s all about using a medium that people are comfortable with ultimately. You don’t want to impose anything on anyone. I know when I started listening to bands the only way I’d find out about new bands was through magazines and now people are more and more moving to the internet. It’s definitely important to keep in touch and keep a pulse on what’s going on.

So, after this tour I guess you have Christmas off and then you head to America in January- are you looking forward to being back out there?
S- Yes. We’re happy to be out on the road at any point playing to new people. In fact I think this time there might be people coming to watch us from the last few tours we’ve done out there. So it’s really exciting. It’ll be good.

What do you want to achieve in the next year as a band?
S- Just to continue to be considered as a real band. I don’t ever want to get to the stage where it feels like we’ve lost grip on who we are or how music makes us feel – that’s why we do this because we’ve got a connection to music. As long as we can keep a grip of that then, anything’s possible. It’s quite a hard thing to put your finger on, because you get put in situations where you have to make a decision for business reasons and stuff; but I think as long as we stay who we are. I have this really naive vision that everything will just work out perfectly for us in the end. I’m sure the music industry, and I’ve got proof that the music industry doesn’t work that way but we don’t like to think too far in the future. In the music industry especially you always get let down and disappointed and just as long as we can take the next step up the ladder – we just like to crawl along and keep moving along.

Twin Atlantic
We always ask bands what they’re listening to at the moment and what our readers should be checking out…
S- There’s a band from Glasgow called “The LaFontaines” and they’re a kind of rock, hip-hop, rap infusion. The guy who raps has got an even thicker Scottish accent than I do!
B- They’re an incredible band! And there’s a band that I’m obsessed with at the moment, they’re from Ireland – “And So I Watch You From Afar”.
S- This is the first time we’ve been on one of these proper tour buses and there have been nights where the first track from their record "BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION" we’ve played that twenty or thirty times on the bus!
B- Another band who we’ve just got off tour with when we were in America last time is “Middle Class Rut”. They’re possibly one of our new favourite bands – having seen them live they’re one of the best live bands that I’ve seen in a long time. There are only two of them and what they do is so well constructed and their craft is so well honed.
S- Sounds like there are eight of them!
B- They make such a massive noise for two guys and their songs are incredible! There’s so much groove in their songs that when you listen to them it’s impossible to stand still. Check them out!

And here is what happened when Twin Atlantic took to the stage

Today is a pretty big day for Twin Atlantic boys; they’re gracing the cover of this week’s Kerrang!, are hotly tipped to be “everyone’s new favourite band” and are playing the last gig before heading back to their native Scotland to finish off their sell out tour!
The same anthemic confidence that the Glaswegian boys notably bring to the new album is replicated here on stage this evening at the Cockpit, complimented by unarguably impressive tunes and stunning lightshow.

Opening with single “Make A Beast of Myself” Twin Atlantic immediately prove what an exciting live band they are. They’re self-assured, tight and loud as they breeze through “What Is Light? Where Is Laughter?” and “Wonder Sleeps Here”. A front row fight breaks out mid the aptly named “Apocalyptic Renegade”, but front man Sam McTrusty dissolves it with his “Glasgow charm” [leaving the perpetrator storming out of the gig in disgrace].

Twin Atlantic
The set builds to the striking “Human After All”, seeing Sam throw himself and guitar off stage to lay on the crowd below. A brilliant Pixies cover “Where Is My Mind” and the echoic “Crashland” follow. The set culminates with the title track of the new album, “Free”, signifying everything that Twin Atlantic stand for. Against all the odds, some may say, the quartet have made it their own way succeeding in an industry which often attempts to mould artists to conformity.

The entire crowd, front to back, sing along at every opportunity; knowing that this could very well be the final chance to see Twin Atlantic at a venue as small as this!