Tonight, saw them play Manchester Academy, for an unprecedented 12th time. Fortunately, me and my trusty photographer, James Butterworth, were invited to go along and interview this band that have been causing a stir across the UK.
The original venue for the interview was changed, and the only other available place was backstage amongst the smoky atmosphere of beer, drugs, groupies, roadies and general rock n roll misconducts. Unfortunately, this is 2011 and no such antics occurred or outrageous perks were available as we chose to sip water instead of the beer on offer. We met the band, Sam McTrusty on lead vocals and guitar, Ross McNae on bass and piano, Barry McKenna on guitar and cello, and finally Craig Kneale on drums. With other interviews taking place, we took Barry and Craig aside and found a little more about the experiences and ideals of Twin Atlantic
NIGEL: So, you’re in the middle of a busy schedule at the moment with the album release and a number of gigs completed and approaching. How’s it going so far, anything on the trip which stands out?
CRAIG: It’s been really cool so far, most of the shows have sold out and it’s been a really good experience for us. This is the sixth or seventh show of the tour tonight so yeah it’s really cool and quite exciting.
NIGEL: Any particular gig you were looking forward to the most?
CRAIG: Tomorrow night! We’re playing our home town show Barrowlands in Glasgow. That’s definitely the biggest gig and we’re kind of scared and excited, more scared though.
NIGEL: I understand you’ve performed in-stores recently. How does that differ from a proper venue?
BARRY: It’s a bit weird actually! We did a HMV store in Glasgow, a little one in Newcastle and an independent one in London and it’s a bit surreal. The one in Glasgow was a full band performance but it’s weird playing in a shop in the middle of the day with bright exposed lights because we’re so used to playing small dark venues.
CRAIG: Yeah, especially because the HMV in Glasgow is the same one that I buy my DVD’s from, but it was cool though.
JAMES: Were the stores full?
CRAIG: Yeah, there were people queuing up all day.
BARRY: We could see more people queuing up more than the actual shows which was surreal but good fun, a bit overwhelming though.
NIGEL: What was the audience type with it being the middle of the day?
CRAIG: It was a bit of a mixture of all creatures great and small, a bit diverse but I’d say more people out of colleges.NIGEL: The new album, Free, was released on Monday. What reaction have you had so far from the album?
BARRY: So far we’ve had a great reaction! You never really know but first and foremost you have to love the music and then hope the people out there do too. Fortunately, the people and the press have had a positive reaction. At the end of the day, not everyone is going to like the music but we just hope that we reach the people that do, but it’s been good so far.
NIGEL: What was the inspiration for the title?
CRAIG: We had quite a few ideas and changed our minds a lot but because we have a song called ‘Free’, it kind of struck a chord. Sam (McTrusty) suggested we should call the album ‘Free’. We all shared that feeling of breaking out of something or experiencing things that make you feel alive, so we thought that people could relate to the word if relayed properly through the songs and show who we are. It’s kind of showing how we’ve discovered ourselves a bit too.
NIGEL: How does this album differ from Vivariuim?
CRAIG: It’s a little more concise and structured. Before, we just had a load of ideas and threw them together and then we took ideas from other songs we’d wrote. This album differs because it’s more like the song is written 90% from start to finish and it all makes a bit more sense.
BARRY: The previous album was a bit more schizophrenic. We were brand new and just wanted to be heard and make an impact on people. With this album, our song writing has developed a bit more and more thought has gone into it.
NIGEL: Which song on the album is the one to look out for, or your favourite track/s?
CRAIG: ‘Free’ has the biggest statement, kind of a best foot forward song that sets the tone for the album but the favourite always changes though. It’s not just 4 or 5 songs that we like, we think the overall calibre is quite strong.
NIGEL: What festivals are you playing this summer, and which are you most looking forward to?
BARRY: At the moment, we’ve only announced one, T in the Park, but we’re looking forward to that because we grew up going to that festival seeing lots of our favourite bands like Rage Against the Machine and Foo Fighters. The line-up’s vary every year with pop, heavy metal etc but we’re excited to be there. We’re hopeful of playing Leeds and Reading too but nothing has been confirmed yet.
NIGEL: I understand it’s been quite a long road so far, but do you feel that after this summer, with the first full album release, and by working with Red Bull Studios and Gil Norton, recording in California that you have now finally made it and it’s now a case of hanging on for the ride?
CRAIG: We’ve always had the same idea about working hard and it was a great opportunity working with Gil. We’re all really aware about how hard it is in this business and there are so many other bands who want the same thing as us. We know how fickle it can be that it can all end tomorrow. We’re never in that mindset that we’ve made it, we know it’s a very long road. We look at bands like U2 playing big stadiums and I suppose in a way that’s what we’re striving for, to be at that level with hard work.
BARRY: I guess we’ve always been fairly ambitious as a band, not necessarily that bigger is always better but as long as we’re professional, we’ll always look for the next challenge, but we look at our favourite bands and we’ll try and get to that level.
NIGEL: I understand a lot of influence from the new album has come from travelling and broadening the mind. Is it important that these experiences are undertaken to help creativity?
CRAIG: I think so, because the majority of the time we’re on the road together, about 9 months of the year. When we’re home we just rest so on the road we have these experiences, especially over the last two years and we have learnt a lot of the world and about ourselves.
BARRY: In particular we always said that this album was shaped by going on tour with two really good bands and we were in Canada and North America. We got caught up in such a whirlwind in the UK that we didn’t have time to stand back and get a perspective on things but when we went out there and only had each other for company, it reminded us why we were in the band in the first place. When we came back from that tour we felt rejuvenated and refreshed and we just wrote a whole bunch of songs, so definitely, travelling is good!
NIGEL: You mentioned that tour in North America and Canada, how did that come about?
CRAIG: We toured with an American band in Europe and on the tour the drummer put his passport in the microwave and fried it, thinking he was being tracked because of the chip, so he was unable to fly back. It was because of that we had to stay in the hotel for about a week because different shows were getting cancelled, but it was fortunate that the band liked us and kind of felt guilty about what happened so they asked us to tour with them in America.
BARRY: I was just amazed that despite his passport being shrivelled up he still tried to fly with it.
NIGEL: How important is it, not just with yourselves, but music in general that there remains that layer of brutal honesty and raw passion?
BARRY: Sam always gets questions about why he sings with a Scottish accent as if it’s a really quirky thing, but we think that speaking in your own voice is the most honest way to portray anything. There are bands who do sing in different accents, American or English and they’re not necessarily from them places, but it’s just generally accepted. We’ve just always tried to be pretty honest and passionate and that comes across in this record. I think most of our favourite bands are honest and straight forward and not into any overly pretentious fake music. I think there are bands that are in it for the wrong reasons and motivated by, just to be liked by people or by financial gain. Fundamentally, what’s driven us is that passion and honesty and love of music.
NIGEL: I’ve heard you talk about the lack of belief in music and how corporations manipulate opinions and market talent show winners. Does that frustration add to the soul of your own music?
CRAIG: I guess we try not to think about it. We don’t really get time to watch much television these days but I think it’s just the reality of it. I think about 90% of what sells in music is pretty soulless. Obviously you want to kind of fight back against that with the music, but you’ll just end up writing about hating everything and it’ll end up getting pretty boring.
BARRY: I think with the whole reality TV thing it definitely creates some frustration. I was glad when Rage Against the Machine was Christmas Number one instead of X Factor because it showed that all is not lost and there still is belief.
NIGEL: What’s the best and worst thing about your journey so far?
CRAIG: The best thing is that it’s been a massive experience, certainly the most important thing we’ve ever done in our lives and had most passion for. The worst thing is that the industry is not how you think it is like when you’re younger, as in you write a song, it hits the top and and that’s that. Seeing people in it for wrong reasons can depress you but I think we’re passed that now. It’s not a fairytale and there are idiots within it and it’s not the idolised thing some people think it is. It is promising though and things can improve as we’ve seen in the past.
With the interview over, it was time to watch the show. They were greeted by rapturous applause from screaming fans and opened with their album title song, Free. During the course of the gig, I saw that passion which the band had held deep to their heart and they unquestionably gave their all in the performance. There was certainly talent on show, whether that be with the individual instruments played or with McTrusty’s voice, but at times, the guitars were too loud, which drowned out the actual tune and the lyrics. Having read the lyrics, I immediately got onboard what they were saying and I could feel the brutal honesty embedded in their quest to be heard. At times, I heard some really good riffs and build ups to what could’ve been great rock songs, but it seemed to get ruined with a sudden change to more modern American sounding rock. These lads pride themselves on being from their roots and being honest and I truly believe that their intentions are good, but I couldn’t help think that their time in America, where they toured and recorded the album had been imprinted on an otherwise great concept. Despite this, I do believe there is a fan base that will grow and I do think Twin Atlantic will go from strength to strength. Having met two of the band members, it’s clear that their feet are firmly on the ground and I found them to be very humble and insightful with their thoughts and experiences with music, and it was a real pleasure to interview them. As the song ‘Free’ asks, “Where’s your passion, where’s your fire tonight?” I do believe Twin Atlantic can answer the question with a wry smile to back it up. I wish them all the best in the future and hope that they can remain true and free.http://free.twinatlantic.com
Interview/review by Nigel Cartner
Photos by James Butterworth