"This is the first time there’s pressure on us" - hmv.com talks to Twin Atlantic
You’ve all heard the phrase “slow and steady wins the race”, too many times probably, but it’s particularly fitting when it comes to describing Scottish rockers Twin Atlantic’s rise to become one of the UK’s most dynamic and exciting bands.
Formed back in early 2007, it took four years of relentless touring and endless support slots before the band’s fortunes really picked up when their debut album Free emerged. Full of high-octane guitars and massive choruses, it yielded seven singles (two of which were re-releases) and saw the band rise from the lower reaches of festival stages and the top rooms of pubs, to regular main stage slots and venues with capacities in the thousands.
The record took the band around the world for a tour that lasted almost three years and had the public’s appetite well and truly whetted. After eventually returning home, the band have spent the last year working on the follow-up, Great Divide, which finally emerges on Monday (August 18th).
Recorded in Wales, Glasgow and later in Los Angeles, the album showcases the band’s ability to write colossal, anthemic and heartfelt rock and roll. To find out more about its making, we spoke to guitarist Barry McKenna…
Great Divide is out on Monday, it must feel like the end of a long journey…
“It does feel like a long time. Free took us halfway round the world and the best part of three years touring, so by the time we’ve gone through the process of writing and recording, it has been a long time yes.”
Did you feel different while recording this time? Were expectations bigger?
“This is the first time we’ve recorded with any level of expectancy. This is the first time there’s pressure on us. With Free, we were just guys playing music because they loved playing music, this time we had people sitting and waiting to see what we did next. We wanted to make sure we made the best record we possibly could.”
How long did it take to record? Was it a long process?
“We did it in two parts really. We did the first half of the record, which at the time was supposed to be the whole of the record, with Gil Norton in Wales at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth. That was a proper residential studio, and it’s where bands like Queen have recorded. We then finished the session up in Glasgow with Gil and we could have called that the record and put it out then.”
But you didn’t?
“No, we listened to the record and although the songs were great there was something missing, it felt like we needed a type of song, some different character on there. So we went to L.A to record with Jacknife Lee, we needed someone to challenge us in a new way, we needed a fresh approach.”
So how many of the songs are with Gil? And how many with Jacknife?
“The lion’s share is with Gil, there’s about three or four with Jacknife Lee. We felt like we wanted a few songs that were more open and expansive, most of the songs are quite thick and dense, so we used our time with Jacknife for that. We had two completely different experiences with each producer, Gil is very focused, very intense, there’s no escape from the music. Jacknife, and L.A in general was a lot more laidback. That’s where the album title comes from really, because we had such a contrast.”
Sam (McTrusty, Twin Atlantic lead singer) has said that a lot of the record was written on tour. Can you date songs to specific times and places?
“I don’t know if you could say the songs are location specific, they don’t start ‘It’s 3am in Dallas’ or anything, it’s more the experience of going around the world, meeting all these interesting people, eye-opening experiences, missing people, it’s all that, that’s what you can hear in the record. There’s a real sense of commonality, the idea that you can be anywhere in the world and not know anyone, but still feel like you’ve got common ideals and mind-set.”
How did most of the songs come together?
“It mostly starts with Sam, quite a long of the time it’s a song idea he’s done on acoustic guitar, or just a dead basic demo and then we’ll take it to our practise space in Glasgow and really flesh it out. That’s how most of the album came together.”
You’ve been playing some of the songs live for a while, you played ‘Actions That Echo’ all last year…
“I think that was frustration at not putting anything new out. We wanted to play the songs, we were excited for people to hear them, we always want to our live sets exciting, so it just seemed the logical thing to do. We wanted to let people hear what we’ve been up to.”
Free took you all over the world on a pretty exhausting world tour, are you up for the same again?
“Oh yeah, we really don’t feel like the album will be complete until we’ve toured it properly and presented it to as many people as we can. We can’t wait to get back out there.”
Are there any bands you look to for career inspiration? Or do you not think about your career in those terms?
“We’ve driven by our own ambitions, in the beginning our only aim was to be the best band we could, we’ve done more than I ever thought we would. We try not to compare ourselves to other bands, but we have looked to Idlewild and Biffy Clyro who were really looked to when we started out as a band. That showed us what we could do and gave us the belief that you could come from Scotland and as a guitar band have real success.”
“Recently we’ve toured with Kings Of Leon and 30 Seconds To Mars and that’s given us new ambition to try and take our music to as many people as we can.”
You’ve got some hmv signings coming up next week, what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever signed?
“Nothing too bonkers. Signed an iPad before, if I was going to spend money on that, I wouldn’t want four hairy Scottish guys scribbling all over it.”
Anything you wouldn’t sign?
“Intimate body parts. No way.”
“Do people do that?”
“No, that would be cruel, we wouldn’t do that, that’s so weird…”
Twin Atlantic’s new album Great Divide is released on Monday (August 18th) and is available for pre-order in store now.
The band will be meeting fans and signing copies of their new record at hmv Argyle Street, Glasgow at 4pm on Monday 18th August. Access to this event is on a first-come first-served basis while stocks last.
Twin Atlantic will also be performing live and then signing copies of the album at hmv 363 Oxford Street, London on Wednesday 20th August at 6pm. Access to this event is limited to 200 fans due to licence restrictions. Fans will be able to pick up a wristband from the store on the day of the event on a first-come first-served basis.