Scottish rockers Twin Atlantic have been gracing our radios with their song ‘Heart and Soul’ for the past few months. If you don’t have any idea what we’re talking about, once you hear the Glaswegian tones you will do. It’s been a few years since their song ‘Free’ accompanied an epic jump from space, and they are constantly looking forward to the future. Ross McNae from Twin Atlantic gives us the lowdown on writing new material and how the Gran Canyon is like playing to 20,000 people!
Hi! How are you?
Good thank you but I’m meant to be asking the questions!
What are you up to?
Just enjoying the sun in Glasgow, we’ve actually got a couple of days to ourselves, so it’s nice! We’ve been really busy for the past month and we’re busy again from the weekend onwards so we’re having a nice little recharge.
Have you been catching up with everyone at home?
Yeah, it’s been good actually catching up with everyone but it’s always the way when you’re home you don’t really get a chance to rest because you need to catch up with everyone!
We can imagine!
So, we know this was a while ago but a remix of your song ‘Free’ was featured on Felix Baumgartner’s space jump! How did that feel?
It was pretty mad, we were all dotted over the place watching the space jump because we were interested in watching it and we actually forgot our song was going to be part of it. We thought it was going to be used further down the line in a documentary at a later date. So we forgot and were wrapped up in the moment and then our song came on, so it was very surreal.
He chose it himself didn’t he?
Yeah, I believe so. I think there were a few other songs that got put to him in a shortlist and he said that the words matched most appropriately to what he was doing and trying to achieve. It is quite scary because some of the words in the song are about catching on fire. That would have been a total nightmare!The band’s finished – no one ever comes to a gig again!
Well at least that didn’t happen and you are here with your 3rd album ‘Great Divide’. It was released only a few days before your Reading and Leeds performance. How did it feel being able to play new tracks live?
We decided at the start of the summer to start playing our new songs at gigs and festivals. I know people come along to watch us play and sometimes they don’t want to hear new songs. We played them for the first time at Reading and Leeds and it was the first time people had a chance to hear more than just the singles. It was just a great experience to play these songs, which we had spent so long working on, with people singing the words back at you. It’s a pretty mad experience that not many people get to have. I suppose that took some of the nerves of releasing our album away, because we knew that people liked what we were doing.
You have been busy doing the festivals this summer, how do you find time to write new material?
This summer we have just decided not to write anything new. We are trying to embrace the excitement of the album just coming out and enjoy the moment.
In the last few years when writing new material, it’s just finding the time to write especially when we’re away touring. Sam (McTrusty, vocals) spent a lot of time writing and working on lyrics on the tour bus after we had played a gig. I know Sam found it really hard to get rid of the adrenaline after we’d played a show, so he ended up spending a lot of time writing. Also when those initial ideas were there for new songs,we would play around during our sound checks. It’s not easy doing it on the road, it’s a lot easier to say we’re going to spend a week in the studio and write music. Also we are lucky because we go all around the world touring, so if we have to find time to write our songs in between, then it’s not the end of the world is it.
Do you feel pressure when you are in the studio that you have to have new material by the end of it? Rather than casually playing around with ideas on the tour bus?
Erm, you know it’s different. Luckily – and I’m going to touch wood here so I don’t bring on the meltdown of the band – we usually have too many ideas. I suppose that has been the issue with our band up until this album. We had so many ideas and we tried to cram all the ideas into the one song. This is the first time we have managed to simplify it. I definitely think when you are in the studio, it can be a little harder when the pressure is actually on, but we all work better like that. Last summer we spent some time in Wales recording and it was amazing, we had a great experience and recorded most of our album there.
You were working with the producer Gil Norton in Wales, what did you learn from him when you were recording?
We recorded with him in L.A. a few years ago tooand it went really well, so we recorded half this album with Gil again that was a pretty mad experience. We’ve never worked with anyone of Gil’s calibre before (that’s nodisrespect for any one we have worked with previously). Gil has produced records that we were all fans of anyway when we were growing up. I think what we learnt from him is – it seems very basic but – when not to play. Not everyone needs to do something all the time and we learnt how important dynamics and space are. Apart from anything else, we learnt how to be a proper band from him, he had all these stories from the past and we focused a lot more because we knew that the person we were dealing with had worked all these amazing bands.
We also worked with the producer Jacknife Lee on the other half of the record, we would say Jacknife is more ‘new school’ whereas Gil is quite ‘old school’ so we got a good mix of styles on the album.
We have got to ask about the album artwork, what is the meaning behind the flags?
We basically we got a bit obsessed with the idea of propaganda and having a military feel to things. We thought it might be quite interesting to create our own flag and logo as if we were an entity ourselves. I know, it sounds very up our own arse but bear with me…
So then we rolled with that idea and thought why not try to represent each of the four of us, not in a literal way, but the idea of four separate things, four people in the band, coming together on the cover almost like the end of a journey. Everything fits together in the artwork, there’s kind of a concept behind it, but more than anything else we wanted something clean and striking and what we felt was a cool, fun, representation of us on the artwork. It just seemed to fit together. Then we thought why not get the fans involved and they can design their own flags too!
You also got your fans involved for your ‘Brothers and Sisters’ video, they had to send in photos with their siblings. Did you get some funny pictures?
There were loads of funny photos and there were a few where we were questioning whether we could actually put them in the video. We did it thinking that if we only get 100 pictures that will be alright and we could make something, but it totally relies on people taking the time to send photos in. Then we got thousands of photos and we managed to get so many in the actual video. We thought it was a cool, interactive and fun thing for people to do.
Your first album Vivarium has been described as your ‘mini album’, how has your music style changed since then, if at all?
We basically started our band when we were late teens and that’s when we were writing all the songs for Vivarium. We were big fans of pop music but also big fans of more angular bands like At The Drive In, so we tried to mash the two styles together.
We had all been in other bands before but Vivarium was the first time we had properly been in a band and written a lot of songs. We just had so many ideas and, as I said earlier, we were trying to cram them all into one song. They all went on these weird progressive journeys, something like Bohemian Rhapsody, but looking back on it I’m really proud of it, it was fun and it was definitely a snapshot of time.
You are with the independent record label Red Bull; do you feel like you have more freedom being with an independent?
I’ve never been signed to a major label so I don’t know what ‘the other side’ is like. I’ve got friends that have had a great experience with a major label and I’ve got friends that have had a terrible experience. Then on the other hand I’ve had friends that have been signed to an indie label that have had a rubbish experience. It is always a bit of a battle because ultimately a label is designed to sell music and a lot of the time a band just wants to make music. We are lucky, we have an awful lot of freedom. Musically,we’ve been allowed to do pretty much whatever we want to do.
Have you had your defining moment where you’re like ‘yeah, we’re pretty big’?
We’ve tried not to think about it, I think because if we start thinking like that, we’re all worried that it will feel like it’s over. We all like thinking about the next thing. There have been a few moments over the summer though. It’s really hard to explain but I’m going to try, it’s like a few years ago we were in America playing shows and we drove past the Gran Canyon. We stopped and got out and just looked at it and took pictures and things. You know the Gran Canyon is impressive and amazing,but you can’t really get your head round it. It’s not until much later on when you look back at pictures and it sets in how much of an amazing thing it is. In our own really tiny little way playing to 20,000 people in a tent is like that. In your head you know it’s unbelievable and amazing but you don’t really know it at the time, it’s probably a few weeks or months later where you think “wow, that was amazing!”
Home grown British talent really is getting more radio play nowadays, why do you think that is?
I don’t know, there seems to be a shift even in like America, whenever we’ve been there we have noticed British bands just seem to be cool. People around the world just want to listen to British accents, I don’t know why it is but it seems to be the current thing.
Everyone does love the accent!
Yeah, it must just be really cool right now or something!
Talking of accents, you are often compared to your fellow Scots Biffy Clyro, that’s got to be a compliment though?
It really is a massive compliment!They’re good friends as well. From the very start of our band they have really supported us. They’ve helped us out with a lot of things, even when we were on tour with them they would advise us what the best amp is and things like that. So yeah it’s a good thing to be compared to them and we owe them an awful lot as well.
We’ve heard that you hand pick your support acts when you tour, is this true?
Yep we always try to! There have been a couple of bands in the past where it’s been a favour or something. We’ve never had anyone if we don’t like them – that has been our underlying motto.
And what is next for Twin Atlantic?
We’ve got a few things in September. There are a few more small festivals to go and a couple of Freshers’ gigs going on. After that we’re going on tour in the UK in October, we’ve got about 10 or 12 dates (I could be totally making that up!). Then we go to Europe and back to America.
Wow that sounds brilliant! Thanks so much for chatting with us!
No worries, thank you! I think you caught me on a totally chatty day so sorry if I’ve just completely bitten your ear off!
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