Twin Atlantic On How Changing Their Sound Literally Saved Them From Breaking Up

A lot’s happened since Twin Atlantic last landed on our shores for Soundwave 2015. The Scottish rock crew came to the brink of breaking up, decided to record a new album instead, and have now unleashed said album upon the world to a straight-up bukkake of critical kudos.

Named after their hometown of Glasgow, Twin Atlantic’s new disc GLA represents a complete rebirth for the alt-rock foursome, who’ve abandoned the perfectly polished pop-rock of the past for a grittier, edgier, more balls-to-the-wall sound, which frontman Sam McTrusty describes as the first time that the band have been “100% ourselves”.

Speaking with Music Feeds in a refreshingly and almost – at times – shockingly candid chat, McTrusty gives us the lowdown on making music for the right reasons, and producing a record that’s “not one for the mums”.

He also levels with us about the band’s plans for their forthcoming second Aussie jaunt (spoiler alert: they had such a blast the first time that they’re “desperate” to return ASAP) and how Glasgow really isn’t the drunken thug-filled danger zone that we all reckon it is (fun fact: the lads came through a thriving local scene at the same time as their bros Lauren Mayberry from Chvrches and Frightened Rabbit).

Music Feeds: Hey mate, how’s it going? Last time we chatted during Soundwave last year you’d just injured your foot in an accident involving flip-flops [AKA thongs]… is it all better now?

Sam McTrusty: Yeah, it was a short-lived injury [laughs]. I think it was better like 2 hours later.

MF: So that was actually your first ever trip Down Under – how did you rate it?

ST: It actually had a bit of a profound effect on our band – to be that far away from home. And not many – but a few – people knew who we were and, like, sang along at the shows and knew the words. And I think it changed us a little bit. When we came home we had a bit more… extra drive. And we wanted to keep that going. We’re desperate to come back to Australia!

We were just in absolute awe of the country and the people. We weren’t even thinking about music, we were just like ‘Oh my god, this place is just so beautiful… And there’s so many people here like us’, you know? Just kind of like-minded. Australia seems to be so – at least from my experience – made up of subcultures and alternatives to mainstream that it just felt like a really inspiring place to be… and also people just love to fuckin’ party [laughs].

MF:So are guys coming back for seconds any time soon?

ST: Yeah, we’re talking about doing it as early in the New Year as we can. It’s cheesy to say but we’ve been talking about going back like the fuckin’ day we left [laughs]. So yeah, it’s something that we’re desperate to do – come back and experience it all again. We just wanted to get our album out in the UK (obviously where we’re from) and just see how that all played out and then, now, we’re making serious plans about hopefully coming over in January or February, so that’s quite soon. That’d be quite cool.

MF: So let’s talk about this absolute monster of a new album. Is it true you guys were actually considering calling it a day before you made it?

ST: Yeah, it was mostly just [because] we didn’t know what to do. We didn’t want to make another album under the conditions that we made our last one. We didn’t really feel like we could go further into the pop world because it was starting to make us feel a little bit sick, like we’d taken that as far as it could go – with this band at least. ‘Cause it was never really our ambition when we started out to be, like, popstars, or be on breakfast radio being all happy [puts on cartoony voice] ‘Yayyyy!’ You know? That’s not really us. And we just fell into the trap of doing it all.

So when it came to make another album, we were like ‘Man, I really don’t know if I can do that again’… There were parts of [older albums] that were life-changing, but then there were tiny bits that just: ‘That makes me squirm that we did that’. And that’s kind of why we were, like, ‘Maybe we should just take a break for a bit, or maybe that’s just as far as we should take this band…

Then it dawned on us, like ‘Fuck it, let’s just be 100% ourselves and that can then maybe be our last album or if all goes well and we’re enjoying it then we’ll just keep going down that route’. That’s where the whole starting point for this album came from.

MF: One thing I will say is that my mum loved your last album ‘Great Divide’, but this one’s not really her cup of tea. How are your mums rating ‘GLA’?

ST: Yeah this one’s not for the mums [laughs]. My mum loved our last record too, and when I came home from recording this, I went up to hers… and I ended up playing it through my iPhone speakers – which is offensive because we spent six months and, like, thousands of dollars recording this – and then I play it out of my fucking iPhone speaker in a tiled kitchen! Anyway, she just looked at me like ‘my god, what have you done?’ [laughs] She hated it, she fuckin’ hated it. But I was standing, like smilin’, like [puts on voice] ‘Yeah! You’re not supposed to like this!’

Our record before was literally made to try and like, impress ourselves and to try and show off to the music industry like we were fuckin’ accomplished songwriters, and that we deserved all these opportunities that we’d been given, you know? We were trying to earn our place in amongst those massive artists on festivals and in the charts – I mean, we were just trying to prove that we deserved to be there with these, like, perfect songs. But with a little bit of distance away from writing them we realised that we’d made them a little bit too perfect. And mums liked it [laughs].

The cool thing is we just don’t really care anymore about any of that stuff. It’s actually a really good place to be because, we just kind of satisfied ourselves so much with the way we made this album and how it turned out that it would be quite poetic if – for some reason – it was our last album. You know, it’s quite an artistic move, to name something after where you’re from and where you discovered your roots and the things that excited you about music and all those things.

And we just wanted our rock band to have balls [laughs].

MF: Well there are so few rock bands that do these days! [proverbially speaking]

ST: Well we’re here to try and change it [laughs] what an arrogant thing to say! [laughs more]. Fuck it.

MF: And the album’s named after your home town. Obviously, Glasgow has got this kind of stigma as a bit of a dodgy place. What was it like coming up as a rock band and playing gigs there?

ST: It was kind of like this little community we were part of. We didn’t know it at the time but we were totally part of a music scene, and we grew up playing shows with like Lauren Mayberry from Chvrches – she was in a band and we played shows with her – and then the guys from Frightened Rabbit, we used to work in a bar with them and then put on acoustic nights. So we were making our own kind of little music community – not on purpose – just because we all kind of had a common love for like bands in general.

So yeah, it was actually probably like one of the greatest times of my life, and I didn’t realise it at the time! I was just kind of like surviving, working in a bar, meeting friends would tell me about cool bands. Yeah, we just kind of separated ourselves from the rest of the city, and just put ourselves in this little bubble, and yeah, it was actually really easy and fun and it was like, there’d be a metal band playing with an indie folk band and it didn’t really matter – we were all just kinda playing the same venues and – yeah – hanging out and stuff, it was cool.

MF: It’s pretty incredible to hear that, given the city’s reputation!

ST: Yeah, that’s partly why I wanted to put a record out named after the place too, because I didn’t realise just how widespread that reputation was, and it’s now not necessarily true. [Violence] still exists obviously – like how it exists in every other city around the world – but it’s basically with the whole kind of Brexit thing and the independence referendum that happened last year – like, this place is so open-minded and multicultural that I felt like there needed to be a modern representation of this city out there.

Not that I’m on some huge political campaign [laughs]. More that I just noticed people were interested in this city – whenever we went to, like, a radio studio in Melbourne or something, it was one of the first things someone would ask us: what it’s like here, and ‘oh, what [soccer] team do you support, Rangers or Celtic?’ and it was all about all those old clichés. And I thought ‘Fuck that! Let’s name our album after where we’re from and put something else out there for people to think about for a second’.

MF: Their tourism body should be paying you for the positive PR!

ST: [Laughs] Na, this is for the people, free of charge.

Twin Atlantic’s new album ‘GLA’ is out now.

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