Interview: Twin Atlantic

Words by James Hendicott

Glasgow rockers Twin Atlantic release their second full length album ‘Free’ on May 2, and plan to celebrate with a sizeable tour of the UK and Ireland, kicking off this week in Dublin and Belfast. Cleverly melding straight-up heavy rock with a heavily accented, quirkier side, Twin Atlantic are expected to make some serious waves with this latest effort, and follow up on their intense live ethos: “go big or go home”. AU took the chance to catch up with front man Sam McTrusty to quiz him on the new album and the step up to arena-level shows before things get under way…

Free comes out in about a month. What are you expectations?

To be honest I don’t really know what to expect. I just hope people like it. We’ve already achieved what we wanted to do, so we’re just going to let the people take it whichever way they want to.

It’s quite a nice mix of straight up rock and more intricate stuff. Is it important for the live show to have the kind of mix going on?

Yeah, well it would just be a bit too boring otherwise. Rock bands in particular are really bad for it, they tend to have one or two amazing songs and the show gets ruined by being all riffs for an hour. One colour is always bad, we need to mix it up with different textures and emotions. Loud is no more important than quiet, and
we try to cover all those bases.

Is there one particular track that stands out above the others to you?

I feel too close and connected to it all to really say right now. The one that’s gone down really well live is called ‘The Ghost Of Eddie’. People haven’t heard the song before, and when we play it they’re going mental for it. The title track, ‘Free’ is also a stand out, as it kind of sums up what we are as a band.

Do you see ‘The Ghost Of Eddie’ being a single based on the reaction?

It’s difficult to say. We don’t really write songs as singles, so we’ll end up releasing whatever seems right at the time. If it’s summer, we’ll put out a happy summer rock tune for example. You just need to let it take its own course and not be too precious about it. Singles can be really important, as they can ruin the perception of your band. I prefer not to think about it; I don’t want to get bogged down thinking like a businessman rather than a musician. But we really hate to be pigeonholed. We want this band to be something that lasts a very long time, and if you pigeonhole yourself, you’re restricting what you can do in the future.

How was the writing process for Free different to your previous album, Vivarium?

This one was a lot more stressful, as we put a lot more pressure on ourselves. We’re perfectionists, and putting that into our music made us a bit too uptight. We were a bit clinical, it took us a long time to relax, but we feel that when we did we made our best music to date. This record as a whole is not just a bunch of
songs, but an attempt to connect to people.

One thing that really stands out in your music is the Scottish accents. It sounds a strange question, but in your genre a lot of musicians take on ‘American’ styles just for publicity…

Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking, actually. For me it’s one of the most ridiculous things in music. You should be proud of where you come from, that’s one of the most basic things you learn as a person. It’s not like we’re trying to be Scottish, we just are. Although musically is fundamentally for fun, it’s also for escape, and people need things that won’t just stay with them for the next six months, but forever. We feel like if we’re ourselves, hopefully that’ll keep it more natural. The thing is, as soon as we go over to America, it’s the thing people latch on to the most. It makes us stand out over there. Our music is American-influenced, but they don’t really know what’s going on with the accents, and they get really excited about it.

You’re signed to Red Bull, which only has four bands. Is being on a branded label very different to a normal label?

Our previous label, King Tut’s, is a little local label trying to help bands get out of Glasgow, just giving a little front to it all. It helped us massively. At one stage we set up our own record label and released our own EP, too. We’ve only really been on friends’ labels before. But it’s the same set up as, say, Sony, as in they sell something else but also records. If someone wants to pay for us to make music, that’s cool with us! They’ve used our music in a few high profile adverts over in the US, which is pretty cool. But really we just want to concentrate on being a band first, before we get involved in anything too corporate. We started at the real grass roots, DIY ethic style of being a band. Just because we’re signed to a big organisation doesn’t mean we should start acting like dicks! We just want to make music, and we don’t really like to mix business and art.

In the last year or so you’ve played support to Blink-182, My Chemical Romance and several other arena-level acts. How has it been stepping up to that scale?

It’s definitely, cheesy as it is, a dream come true. You’re playing with your heroes from when you were 13, and you don’t think you’ll ever get to do it. It’s really surreal. Blink-182, Smashing Pumpkins, Biffy Clyro, The Gaslight Anthem… too many bands, we’re spoiled! We’ve learned what not to do from touring with such amazing professionals and standing and watching amazing songs being played night after night. If you don’t learn something from that you’re an idiot, I think. It’s ultimately made us a much stronger, much more interesting and direct band. It’s on a hugely different scale, but our lives are fairly similar in some ways – interviews, shows, recording music… if you remember that and don’t go nuts over their fame, you become friends with the bands you tour with and you can learn a lot.

You’re quite artistic in other areas, aren’t you? Isn’t your background in visual art?

Yeah. I try to be artistic, I don’t know if I’m successful at it, but I went to art school in Glasgow for a couple of years. It’s just something I’m pretty passionate about. I’ve always been a creative person, and I try to outlet it in different ways, but it wasn’t until I found music that I really could focus it. The problem with painting for me was that you didn’t really get to see anyone interact with it. You can’t imagine looking at a painting and the guy who painted is stood right there! It sounds really pretentious, but to recreate your art every night in front of a new audience, a different audience, you get to recreate that buzz of making a perfect brush stroke every night, and for me that’s much more of a thrill. I’m sure I’ll get to paint for years when I’m an old guy. Photography makes a lot of sense to me right now. We’re very closely connected to our album covers, merchandise designs and stuff. We want to put our personality into it.

What are the best and worst things about the Glasgow scene, or what you still see of it?

Well, there are a few people I’m still really good friends with back home and I go and see their bands every time I’m home. We always have one foot in the door of what’s going on. The best thing is the feeling of community. There’s not really scenes in Glasgow anymore, like a ‘punk scene’ and a ‘metal scene’, it’s all kind
of mixed in together. It’s really competitive, as the result of a lot of good bands coming out of Scotland in the last couple of years. There’s a band called United Fruit that we’re big fans of, and The La Fontaines are a really cool rock-rap band.

What’s the weirdest place you’ve heard your music so far?

Probably being in a shop or something like that. Somewhere I shouldn’t even have been, like JJB Sports or somewhere like that. Radio One during the day is pretty weird, too. Sara Cox saying our band name, then playing Lady Gaga after us, that’s pretty weird to be honest.

Let’s say the album really takes off and sells a million copies. What would you like to do with the stage show?

I’m a big fan of the big rock show. It’s very easy to do it very wrong, but I think a band like Muse just do it perfectly. I like stuff like the walkway that goes through the crowd. I think we could equal it, if not do better, otherwise what’s the point!

What about a general dream future for the band?

In an ideal world I’d like us to progress naturally. I don’t want us to become known as ‘the band from the iPod advert’ or anything like that. The idea of one song pigeonholing us makes me nervous. I don’t want to put any restrictions on the band. A lot of people see it as arrogant to say we want to be one of the biggest bands in the world, and play all across the globe to a lot of people. But we don’t want to put any restrictions on our songwriting. It’s very, very unlikely, but we set out goals as big as possible. We make pretty epic choruses. When I say epic I don’t mean I think we’re amazing, just that we’re quite an explosive kind of rock band. The only thing that will hold us back is our sales. Go big or go home.

As published in AU Magazine, April 2011.

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