An Interview With: Twin Atlantic

Posted: Monday 17 February 2020

Twin Atlantic have been a mainstay in the UK rock scene for over 10 years now and their latest album, POWER, sees them take risks they’ve never taken before.

Ahead of their intimate live run across the country, we caught up with Ross McNae (bass/keyboards) to find out about the band’s new lease of life and the plans they’ve got for the future.

It’s been nearly a month now since your new album, POWER, was released, what’s the journey been like so far? How have the past few weeks been treating you?

Do you know what? It’s been great actually. It feels like it’s been a build-up forever in our heads, plus it’s been quite a long time between this album and the last album. Everything’s just been a bit of a blur since it came out. It’s funny as well, because whenever we’ve released an album in the past, it’s been this long lead-up to it, but now everything comes out quicker, single after single, and it just feels that so much of it has already happened. It’s been fun though, it’s been really fun.

The album is a long time coming as well, it’s been four years since GLA, why the wait?

Well, a couple of reasons. Basically just, life…

We were in between record deals and we wanted to not rush anything and just put it out for the sake of putting something out, without having a good platform to put it out on. We kinda realised as well I suppose, after doing albums for so long, why are we doing another one just for the sake of it? We’ve been on autopilot a lot of times in the past and just arrived at an album being out, which we’re proud of and it’s great but, we’ve not particularly had a reason to do it as such, other than that’s just what you do. You just put out more music.

This time, we actually experimented a lot more. Myself and Sam (McTrusty – vocals/guitar) had been really interested in working with other people and then that bled into, “Well, if we make music for other people, why don’t we try and make our music ourselves? Rather than having any outside influences?”

When you’re doing things yourselves and you’re not on the clock or whatever, because we were in our own place that we built this time, things just tended to peel off into weeks and weeks on end, messing about with things. So, there’s been a few reasons, but the main reason I suppose was just because we wanted to make sure that we’re actually doing something for a good reason and to enjoy music y’know?

As you mentioned, you set up shop in your own studio as well, was that a vital part in the creation of the record, to have your own space?

Well, we didn’t actually intend for that to be the case. This was the first time that we decided when we were making demos, to just put all our stuff in the one place – we have a rehearsal room, which we turned into a studio simply by just putting all of our stuff in it – then, once we started to realise the enjoyment we were getting out of it, the bug arrived and we started to buy more things for the place and started to make the place not just somewhere where we could make a demo, but somewhere where we could make a finished project.

It ended up being a really important part of [the record], but we didn’t actually necessarily set out for it to be like that. We just thought we were making demos and then we’d go and make the album with somebody else somewhere, but we kinda got to the point where, what we were making sounded so exciting and so finished, that there didn’t really seem to be a point in going anywhere else. We’re so thankful that it turned out like that, because it’s made us fall back in love with making music again, because a lot of the time, recording can be… not the fun part.

The album has a strong 80s/synth vibe flowing through it, whilst still being distinctly Twin Atlantic – was this the plan when you started writing? Did you know how you wanted the record to sound at the end?

Ever since the last album, we’ve been gathering bits and bobs together and the thing is, right, we’ve always had all these other influences as a band, but we’ve never really known how to put them in to the band. If we’re all just at home, we won’t necessarily listen to music like our band, it’s just that when we got together, that’s what happened. Our music tastes between us are so eclectic, that we’ve never really felt like we’ve fitted into one area and we’re constantly trying to push little ideas here and there, but it was all very much in a rock format, if you like.

These things have always been present, it’s just that when you’ve got the time to experiment and the clock’s not counting down and costing you money every day, then you can actually start to think, “What new can we do here? Let’s not just do the same thing again.” It wasn’t necessarily that it was going to sound like that, but we knew that we wanted it to sound different and that’s just the place that we fell into. The idea of blending synthetic sounds and real live instruments like guitar and drums, is something that a lot of our favourite bands have done and it’s something we’ve never really had the chance to do. It just always felt interesting to us, so that’s just where it naturally came from. I don’t think it does sound like anybody that we were taking influence from, but it’s more the idea of the blending of those two things together. It’s not electronic, but it’s not a band, it’s somewhere in between.

And why POWER for the title? What does that title mean for you as a band?

There’s two sides to this. First of all - this is the more literal side of it, I suppose - It just felt like, because we were between labels and we didn’t work with a producer, we were making it all on our own in our time and it was like, for the first time in… well, maybe ever, in making records, we actually had the power to do whatever it was that we wanted.

Then, with the time that we live in, through the tail end of the last album, to writing this album, we’ve had a referendum on Brexit, a referendum on Scottish independence, we’ve now left the EU, Scotland’s a bit of a no-man’s land. There’s all the obvious things that were going on before that with previous different powers in Germany, the rise of the right, America… there’s been a lot going on. I suppose we’ve got to an age where we’re maybe starting to think about those things a little more.

As you said, you were in between labels and this time around, the deal with Virgin Records came after you’d finished the record, so it feels like a big, fresh new start for you guys. Was that in the plan or just how it worked out?

It was the plan, but not the sort where we thought it’d actually happen. We kinda felt that if we did leave Red Bull, because they’d been so good to us and given us so many opportunities, that it’d have to be for something that had more scope, rather than to go backwards. We had plans and offers and ideas of maybe having our own record label, or different types of deals that weren’t traditional to a record label, but all these things on paper seem like the sensible thing to do, but it just didn’t excite us as much. We started our band when major labels were – and they still are today – the thing to do, and we always just wondered what would happen to our band if we gave it that shot to put it through that big machine. It always felt like unfinished business and we just wanted to see what would happen, and so far, it’s been a really great experience.

Good! That’s what we like to hear.

It’s not the most important part, obviously, but it’s just that little thing like, if you’re going to change, change to something that’s got more scope, y’know?

Definitely. And, you’ve had the chance to road test the new songs at your recent intimate release shows, how’d they go down with the fans?

Really well actually, yeah! You just don’t know how things are going to translate into your set, but the two songs that were out before the album, ‘Novocaine’ and ‘Barcelona’, especially ‘Barcelona’, it felt like it had been in the set for years. It already felt like a special moment and it’d only been out for like, a month or something? I feel like it’s going to stand the test of time in our set, it’s going to be there for a long time.

It must be nice getting back out on the road again and playing some headline shows right?

I mean, we’ve all got a different experience with playing live. There’s some of us who do it for different reasons, but I think all of us combined together, we definitely had and are gonna have a lot of fun. It feels like this is why this band started for us, because of our love of playing live, not for our love of doing all the other bits that comes with being in a band. After not doing it for a little while, you start to miss it, so it’s been… I’m trying to pick my words here, cathartic is a bit heavy duty, but it's felt like something we needed to do.

And you’ve got the full headline tour next month, much of which is sold out already so congrats on that, got any tricks up your sleeves to make these shows special?

We’ve thought quite hard about how we marry the visuals to the music and it’s something that we’ve always really cared about. We don’t just turn up and play the songs. Even though it’s not the biggest venues, we’ve taken the time to marry those two things together, so it’s going to be visually stimulating, but also our shows, to be totally honest with you, aren’t like some left-field thing, it’s all about playing the songs that people will know. We’ve always been committed to playing shows to give [the fans] the best possible experience, because 99% of people there just want to hear the songs they know and love. We’re not a band who are going to play wacky B-sides and stuff, that’s not really our thing, so it’s kinda like a celebration, it’ll be fun! It’s a party!

We like the sound of that! Finally then, where do Twin Atlantic go from here? What’s next? And don’t say it’s going to be another four-year wait…

No four-year wait! We’ve fallen back in love so much with making music, for either… well, for this band, first and foremost, we’ve got… I don’t want to tell you exactly when, but it’s not going to be four years, we’re already making new music, so it won’t be long.

Fancy hearing Twin Atlantic's fully-charged new material live? Grab your tickets to their headline tour now:

O2 Academy Leicester: Monday 12 October Buy Tickets

O2 Academy Oxford: Thursday 15 October Buy Tickets

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