Photography: Katy Cummings
Scottish-rock band Twin Atlantic have undergone many changes and discoveries in the process of creating their fifth album POWER. Following the success of previous albums GLA and Great Divide which both achieved top 10 in the album charts, it marks a new direction for the band. They have revisited the electronic-influenced music of their youth which they experienced at Glasgow’s techno club Optimo.
During the creation of this album they discovered vocalist and guitarist Sam McTrusty had synesthesia, the same rare neurological condition as artists like Lorde. This also guided them through the album with a navy and gold colour palette.
The three-piece forced themselves to be more honest and open in their music and created an album without limitations consisting of eight tracks and two interludes. After its completion, they signed with Virgin EMI after leaving Red Bull Records. Everything pointed towards the band taking the power back for themselves.
aAh! Magazine caught up with their drummer Craig Kneale to discuss building their studio in their hometown, sustaining the power of longevity and staying true to themselves.
How did you settle on the title of ‘Power’ for your latest album?
“It was kind of several things. One of it being we recorded it all ourselves. It’s also kind of got quite a lot of electronic instruments on it which require power for them. I guess it was also kind of us taking the power of our band back to ourselves and kind of doing everything ourselves. We always write the songs ourselves, but we recorded it all in our studio in Glasgow. Also, there’s always a power struggle in it all, but it seems more than ever there’s a lot of really powerful figures, politically and lots of aspects of life which are all fighting for attention.”
When creating the album you revisited the music of your youth, was that part of your motivation for building your studio in Glasgow?
“Yeah, I think so. I think we just got to a point where we’ve always kind of not reinvented ourselves, but we kind of go all-in on an album and do that feeling that music gives us and move on. We’ve kind of tried a couple of times to not do the same thing again but try and recapture it and instantly kind of get a little bit bored. I think this was more to try and recapture that feeling of how we felt when we first got into music. Especially because Sam [McTrusty] and Ross [McNae] especially were quite into electronic music and dance music when they were younger. I think it was a way of inspiring them to try and add that element on to this thing we already had.”
How was it discovering Sam McTrusty’s synesthesia?
“Yeah, I don’t have it but from what he’s told me is that there are certain sounds that he hears and kind of have a vivid colour in his head and there are just certain noises he hears then it’ll make it so he knows what the next sound is he wants to hear based on the colour or what that will take him.”
What was it like using that to lead you – did it give you more freedom than following a label?
“It was a really cool thing. Not by design kind of got off and finished our old deal with our old record label and then we started speaking to labels but nothing. Lots of things were up in the air so we started writing ourselves and we got to the point where we had an album finished. Sam and Ross are quite into the production side of music, and we kind of just tried it to see how it sounded. We had our good friend who we worked with on some of our albums called Dan [Austin], who came up and engineered it, as we don’t really know what we’re doing, but we know roughly. Sam, Ross and Dan kind of produced it together and then we finished it. It was nice because we weren’t really answering to anyone but ourselves. It was cool, we went and tried to shop it to a label after that. It wasn’t maybe our initial plan but it kind of worked really well.”
Following on from the production of the album, it has a structure of two interludes in the middle of the album. How did you choose to order the album?
“It was more because we were writing lots of instrumental bits, with rock music we felt that we find that it’s quite intense to listen to a rock album. Even ten tracks can kind of do your head in a little. We didn’t want to short change people but we also didn’t want to like put anything on it. I feel like even if we had 20 amazing songs if you tried to listen to them all at once, in an inner rock setting it would start to get a little bit burnt out. It was more a way of resetting for us the feeling of the album so you weren’t just getting pummelled by music for like 40 minutes. We have always been really big fans of interludes and having them on albums. It’s something which I’ve always enjoyed and I know a lot of people sometimes think they’re kind of just there for the sake of it but it’s kind of nice to separate stuff.”
From the drum perspective on the album, it sounds a lot more tribal with the pounding electronic element in the background. Did you intend to create it during the production of the album?
“This is the first time. The last couple of albums during the demo process Ross and Sam have sketched it with the drums. I kind of basically just make it sound like a real person playing it and I do all the fills and things. A lot of that is probably down to them, they kind of wrote a lot of the basic stuff and what’s kind of cool, it may be initially doesn’t sound like a person playing it. However, when I played over it and tried to kind of interpret what they were doing it makes it sound kind of unique. I wouldn’t have been able to come up with it on my own and it’s maybe because it came from a machine. It sounds maybe more rhythmic than me writing it.”
We think it sounded really interesting, to be honest!
“Aw, thank you!”
You’re welcome! In the first track ‘Oh Euphoria’, it features the lyrics “Where’s my revolution?” Would you say that this is Twin Atlantic’s form of a revolution and taking the power back?
“Yeah, I think so. I guess we’ve always written music for ourselves but I think you also write music for people to connect with it. You probably do like you turn one person to your band and it becomes a part of your little organisation if you know what I mean. I guess it is, any of our gigs have started to feel even more like little communities or things which feel like there’s a connection of us and the audience. I guess most bands do but I’ve felt in the last few years it’s quite special to play these shows and it feels like there’s a special bond between the crowd. It doesn’t feel separate, which I think is cool.”
How have you found translating the album to the live setting?
“You know what at first we were kind of worried, as we wrote it all in the studio we never played anything together. It was all kind of written on a computer and we pieced it together. We didn’t play anything as a band until the summer when we started trying it out. It’s been a lot easier than we thought and we were worried that they’d be hard to learn and get them sounding kind of how the album sounds. When putting them in the set we thought they’d maybe stick out. The last one was kind of a rock album and the one before that was a poppier sound. We were kind of worried that it’d just sound a bit of a mess together. Since this is the first tour we’re doing kind of an hour and a half of our music, it’s actually working out really well. It’s kind of really nice having these different feelings. We’re kind of lucky really.”
Which song has been your favourite to play live?
“I mean personally, for me it would have to be ‘I Feel It Too’. Actually, for me, the newer songs are some of the trickier songs to play live because a lot of them have a lot going on in the Hi-Hats, which aren’t normally used for the more rocky songs. They’re kind of at a slower tempo you kind of get into a rhythm a little bit easier, as they’re all a little bit faster. ‘I Feel It Too’ because I love playing that because it’s fun for me. ‘Barcelona’, ‘Novocaine’ and ‘Volcano’ are probably getting the biggest reactions. Which is always really cool when it’s a new song when you think people wouldn’t like it as much. It’s good that they’re getting similar vibes to older songs which is cool.”
What would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned while being in the music industry?
“I don’t know, I guess probably just to not be too affected by things not going your way. I think with music as a band there maybe 100 things you don’t get and things go wrong. Maybe 90 things that go wrong and 10 that go right out of a 100, but the things that go right feel amazing. I think for a band of our level, it’s kind of like a battle but it’s worth it for the good moments. I think it’s more just to be resilient because the good things that you get out of the music industry are pretty unbeatable.”
What would you say was your favourite moment so far?
“You know what, I don’t know. It’s weird because in Scotland we’ve done some really big gigs. We’ve kind of had moments where a band has been really big and we’re lucky that it’s never really dropped, there’s been this realness to it. I don’t even know if the biggest gig we’ve done was my favourite. We’ve been lucky I guess to be sustaining it for so long. I know it’s not a great answer but it’s more just to still be doing it. We always said we’d do it until it wasn’t fun and we’re still really enjoying writing music and playing it. So, probably how we’re still doing it.”
What are your next plans for Twin Atlantic- what direction do you want to head in next?
“I think we’re loving touring this album. We’ll see where other people want us to go. We’re kind of eager to start writing and recording again and, we’re eager to play live. We’re kind of taking it as it comes. If other people want to hear more of this album or tour it again, or if not we’ll write more music. I think we’re in a pretty good space now because we can record in our own studio, and we don’t have to get money off someone. We’re lucky we’ve got a label who supports what we’re doing and it feels quite good. It doesn’t feel scary. It feels like whatever we do next will be good, either doing this album, live shows or write some more music.”
You’ve been a band for over a decade now. Is there anything you’ve not managed to do yet which you still want to?
“I don’t know. We’ve done tons of stuff which we never thought we would get to in a band. I think we just want to keep pushing, as the drive to play in front of people is still really exciting. Also, we would love to go to countries which we haven’t been to. We’ve never been to Japan or South America. I’d kind of love to do that just to experience it, and just to keep playing in front of people. I think that still gives us quite a buzz. If it’s like a small room in front of small crowds where we’ve not been, we still get a real buzz out of it.”
What was the first live gig which you went to?
“I technically saw a band called Orko at King Tuts in Glasgow which is kind of small. The first actual gig I went to was T In The Park which was like the festival before TRNSMT in 2002, I think it was. It was the Foo Fighters playing. They were my favourite band growing up and Oasis. It was a long time ago, nearly 20 years. It’s quite scary. That’s probably the first proper gig I went to. Think I was 16 or something.”
Has touring got any easier after 10 years?
“Yeah it has, we’ve always been quite good. Even when we started we didn’t play in front of many people for quite a few years, and we were always quite resilient and we made it work. We had no money and now we can kind of afford to do it at a slightly nicer level. Yeah, it is easy and all the guys, we’re kind of lucky we don’t find it hard to be away from home. All the guys are really nice and everyone kind of respects one another’s space and you can really tell if someone needs time on their own. We’ve been lucky yeah, it’s never been difficult. Sometimes I miss home as I love playing gigs, but if I was at home I’d wish I was playing shows. It’s a good thing to get to do.”
Despite their live shows being shelved like many others, the band will surely make up for the lost time when this global situation is over. Hopefully, finally making their way over to Ukraine and then Japan. Until then make sure to stream POWER and follow their socials
Be sure to keep up with Twin Atlantic’s socials.