Interview with Sam From Twin Atlantic
Twin Atlantic are an interesting band, they’ve supported some amazing acts, Angels and Airwaves and My Chemical Romance amongst others. They are signed to Red Bull Records and they sing in their own Scottish accent. Their new album ‘Free’ produced by Gil Norton (Foo Fighters, Pixies) is out this Friday and they play The Academy 2 this Thursday. I caught up with their chatty lead singer Sam McTrusty on a sunny Glasgow day.
For us, here, based in Ireland, we get to hear a bit about the music scene in London and Manchester through the media but we don’t hear a lot about what happens in Glasgow, give us an insight.
‘Well, I suppose, it’s kinda like a big community of people and I think that stems from it being a working class area and everyone there using music as an escape, like at the weekend or gigs at night time. The cool factor is less there in Glasgow and I think that there’s no animosity between certain scenes. I mean, indie bands don’t hate the metal bands and all that sort of stuff. It’s just like everyone helps each other up the ladder. It probably comes from being separated from the music scene down south, that’s really where it all really kicks off where you would get a record deal or anything like that and it results in bands been given time and space to grow and become an actual real band. Not that bands down south aren’t, I just think there’s that bit more honesty installed in you if you’re given a chance to develop away from the pressures of (the media and spotlight?) people who are out to make money out of ye’.
The first thing most people will notice about you and really what defines your sound is really your vocal style. It immediately separates you from other band in that genre. What is a deliberate decision or is that just how you sing?
‘It is 100% not even thought about. I’m sure you can tell from my actual speaking voice that its more or less my singing voice as my talking voice and I think that’s the way it should be for everybody. It’s not even on a conscious level. It just happens. I’m trying to install a kind of honesty back into rock music and if I had to put on a fake American accent, I’d be contradicting myself’.
Do you think a lot of bands are under pressure to sound American?
‘I don’t reckon there’s any pressure. I don’t know why they do it, I don’t even think they could tell you why they do it. It’s just one of those things. I mean we’re influenced by a lot and predominately American music for our whole teenage years and growing up. That has definitely blended across to us but it never seemed singing with an American accent was the right thing to do, just felt really cheesy. Pressure? I genuinely don’t understand it, i can’t even comment because I don’t why people do it.’
Speaking of all things Amercan, you signed to Red Bull Records who are based in Los Angeles. From what I know of Red Bull they are involved in skateboarding, motocross and energy drinks. It’s almost a bit weird that they have a record label as well. How did you get involved?
‘I know, that’s what we thought when we first got approached by them as well. We were like ‘What? Na! Let’s avoid this’ and we actually did avoid the first email. We didn’t want to be associated with like a massive corporation like that because we come from like a grass roots DIY punk ethic. You know, we started at the bottom and funded our own little label that we set up. It felt a bit unnatural.
As soon as we met them, they travelled over to London for a Channel 4 snowboarding event or something, after having possibly the most lengthy conversation with them than we’ve ever had with any label, it just seemed such a natural obvious thing to do. It was a pretty scary thing to do. We were only the second band to be signed, first British/European band that they’d gone for. We kinda liked the idea of trying something different. The old model of the music industry was obviously failing, all collapsing in on itself and around that time EMI were going into liquidation and it just seemed like we needed to try something different.
Along they came, truth be told there wasn’t really much else on the table at that point. We’d had meeting with all the major labels and a lot of the bigger independent ones and they all kinda said they’d keep an eye on us and see how we developed. But along came Red Bull and put there money where their mouth was, to be literal, it just seemed like chances like that don’t come along every day and we’d be stupid to shy away. It’s definitely been controversial for us and people have said ‘It’s a massive corporation, you guys are sell outs’. It’s really no different to Sony selling TVs and Playstations but also have a record label, kinda the same set up. It’s working for us so far.
People saying that you’re sell outs? Isn’t that just a little bit of jealousy?
‘Sometimes you do get that but then other times there are the genuine purists because we came from the bottom of the ladder. Not saying the we’re by any means high up the ladder now, maybe if anything we’re on the first step. I think there’s a lot of musos and purists who see it as kind of an evil thing even signing a record deal in the first place never mind a big corporation. We’ve got big ambitions for this band, we feel like we’ve got something to say. When someone as big as that stands behind you as says that they believe in you, its really the right thing to do. Those people that are questioning it are a little narrow minded because it’s essentially an indie label. It’s like a really cool indie label that just so happens to be funded by a big drinks company. (laughing) It’s not like we have to have a Red Bull can in our music videos or anything like that’.
It has given you some amazing opportunities though, You worked with John Travis (Kid Rock, Sugar Ray) on your mini album Vivarium, and with Gil Norton on your new album ‘Free’? What was the difference in working with two such big names and how do you feel you’ve progressed since your first recordings ?
I feel we just learned a lot about how to be musicians and how to write songs, in the more classic sense. On the first mini album we were trying to show off, trying to get people’s attention and hold it. We did that by putting in weird stops and starts in the songs and time signature changes. We recorded the whole album live to a click track all in one room, going for that whole natural as possible recording thing. Showing off that we could play. I think that maybe the actual song writing suffered a little bit, I think John Travis really executed what we were going for on that first attempt of making a group of songs work together.
I think what Gil Norton brought to the table was just a lot more experience in making timeless rock albums and that’s really what our goal was for this album and I know that’s very arrogant and big headed. We kinda feel we’re doing something a little bit different from all the other British rock bands that are out there just now. We kinda feel like, as rock fans and as music fans there’s something missing from it and just thought there must be like minded people out there so why not just go in with a big ambition and go in with someone who’s as experienced as Gil, legendary in a sense.
He worked with the Pixes, Foo Fighters, Echo & The Bunnymen.. when you’ve got someone like that standing listening to your demos you’ve recorded yourself saying, you’re the first believable band he’s heard in ten years or something like that.. All those little things, make and encourage you to push your song-writing and not be too narrow minded and too precious about sounding cool. We just wanted to make songs that would connect with people, songs that would mean something to someone.’
That’s an amazing compliment to get.
‘Oh My God, we couldn’t believe it. Still can’t believe it. It’s quite a surreal thing. I mean all the things that have happened to our band like that, working with Gil, playing with My Chem(ical Romance) and Blink (182) and The Gaslight Anthem, all these big bands that have taken us out on tour, it’s not that we take it for granted, it’s that we can’t accept that this has actually happened to us. When we started the band we had this big ambition and if you let yourself get caught up in it I think you’d just freak out and not be able to write what we think is a good album or play a good show on the night when you’re playing with your actual heroes and stuff like that. It’s not like we’ve got our heads in the clouds or anything like that, we’re not going to play Wembley tomorrow, for so much we’re really grounded and really appreciative and we try to keep it real.’
Playing with people like that too, it’s a great way of playing to new people and for you to get used to big crowds and hone your skills in that environment and not having the main focus on you.
‘It’s weird, I don’t know if we’re used to the big stage. Every time we play one of those shows I’m so nervous. It’s definitely shown us what not to do, not even when we’re playing but watching those successful bands and you see how their shows work down to the little details, who’s doing their sound, how are they running their guitar amps, what microphones are they using, it just helps you become a more professional unit. You don’t have to worry about all that stuff and you can concentrate on the songs. You watch four or five different frontmen over the course of a year and see how they work the crowd and all that sort of stuff. That sounds like I’m totally studying them to learn and copy. It’s really inspiring and gives you a little more self belief. If they can do it, maybe we can do a similar thing. Time will tell.
An hour before I knew I was going to be speaking to you, I put a post on your Facebook page so these are some questions from your fans.
1. Of all the bands you’ve supported who’s your favourite to go on tour with?
(long gap)Em, Probably a band called the Fall of Troy, not necessarily the biggest band out of the lot of them. The were a kind of revolutionary spark in our band. We got on tour with them around Europe and then all over the U.S. on our first North American tour. They allowed us to have fun and not take everything too seriously and not get too bogged down in the ins and outs of the music industry and all that. They reminded us why we were even in a band in the first place. (laughs) Just to have fun and get away with not having a real job and all that.
2. What’s your favourite song by your band?
Wow! (laughs) They’re difficult. Em. Right now it’s probably, My God that’s a real difficult question to answer! It depends what mood I’m in cos all our songs are so different from each other it’s hard to pick one and obviously I’m so closely tied to them all but probably just now I’d probably say ‘Free’ because it’s the title track from our new album and the kind of statement that it makes and the lyrics in it and that. They’re uplifting but they are also quite bold I think, personally, I think they make a statement of what its like to be a young music fan and looking and experiencing music. It’s bold but uplifting.
3. What was your favourite toy as a kid
I dunno!..Em.. Probably.. I went through a phase of collecting Bat-Men, BatMans, I was really into Batman and I’ve got loads of little actions figures and stuff like that. That or waterballoons cos I had a pretty mean aim for a youngster.
4. Have you ever worn a kilt?
Yes I have, not that often. You only wear them for big occasions like a wedding but only if you’re like part of the actual thing. I think I wore one for my uncles wedding cos I was like an usher or something. Or your high school leaving dance, you only wear them for big marking occasions in your life. It’s not like everyone cuts about going shopping in your kilt or whatever.
The single ‘Free’ is out now, the album is released on Friday 29th April. Twin Atlantic play The Academy 2 on Thursday 28th April Tickets are 13 available from Ticketmaster. Doors 18.30.