Twin Atlantic interview: Growing up, touring and identifying as emo

Ahead of their headline slot at Manchester's Victoria Warehouse for the British Sound Project, we looked back at our chat with Twin Atlantic bassist Ross McNae.

Lorna Gray

Last updated: 6th Oct 2017.
Originally published: 27th Apr 2017

Image: Twin Atlantic (credit)

It took eight years since the band's inception for them to break through to the mainstream, proving Twin Atlantic as one of the most hard working and patient groups to finally grace the soundwaves of BBC Radio One and be invited to festivals all over the globe. 

With their fourth album GLA gaining praise across the board, the band show no signs of stopping anytime soon, they're set to hit stages and greet audiences in a whole host of cities. This September, the Glaswegian quartet will be headlining Manchester's huge venue Victoria Warehouse for the first in two days of exciting live music for British Sound Project

We caught up with bassist Ross McNae to compare what the band was a decade ago to the raucous rock outfit they've developed into today.

 

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It tells a lot that Twin Atlantic have been going for ten years, as most bands of your genre have a shelf life, what do you think it is that’s made your band last all this time in comparison to the ones that don’t?

I have honestly got no idea. We can only really, I suppose, speak for what we've done. Maybe it's something to do with the fact that a lot of people just got clogged up in thinking "oh, we'll just do four or five shows in the tour, just all the major cities" and a wee bit 'o that, you know?

We've always made sure that we try to travel around the world and go everywhere. If there are people that want to see us play - even if there are only a couple of people in the place - we'll go there rather than just doing a show in the city and expecting people to travel to see us. Maybe it's something to do with that? 

You're very modest because you could have said it was because you were just a better band than the other's out there.

Nah, come on, you have to be real. 

How do you feel Twin Atlantic’s sound has developed since you first started?

We were obviously so much younger at that point that we kind of trying to find our feet with music and what it was we wanted to do, I think that because of that we ended up just trying to emulate our heroes and favourite bands. Over the years - with everything we've made - we've got a little bit more of our own identity.

We're still trying, it's still a battle when you're writing music to get everything you've heard completely out of your head because obviously, it's so hard to be truly original as our sound is an amalgamation of everything that we know. I think we've just got better at knowing ourselves and we've just found a little bit more of our own voice I suppose.

Talk to me about the difference from your debut Vivarium to your most recent release GLA?

It's funny because actually, our most recent release is probably one of the most angsty and aggressive things we've ever done, and it's when we're all actually dead happy! So I'm not really sure why that comes across - maybe that's a reason why we're happy because it's in the music and we've gotten rid of it in our heads.

I suppose our songs, even though they were rock songs, they sounded much more major and I guess more tinged with the American bands that we grew up listening to. This record I think, rather than it being a record that stands along next to those sorts of artists, it was still a rock band and still followed that format but it was more of...

More of your own?

Yeah, more of our own! More unique. 

Tell me a bit more about this album, what were your specific influences for this record?

I'm not sure I could necessarily give you any musical influences but we kind of go back to what we were listening to... This is where it starts to get confusing, right, we tried to go back to our first album and thought back to what it was that got us excited about music in the first place. That's the more aggressive and punkier sounding bands. 

Trying to mix that together with our new sound. Bands like Queens of the Stoneage and At The Drive-In that maybe we were fans of when we were younger, and focusing still on more commercial bands like Blink 182 and those kinds of people when we really young because that's what we grew up on. I guess it's more "minor rock". Yeah. Minor rock. 

 

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You mentioned a few bands that influence to you, including Blink 182 who you ended up supporting on tour. I actually remember the first time I saw you was supporting Taking Back Sunday, were there any bands you've played with that you were starstruck with?

Most of them, if I'm honest with you! It sounds like you're a fan of Taking Back Sunday then? 

I definitely was when I was younger, they're a bit of a nostalgic band for me, I was definitely part of the emo generation...

Our whole band is the exact same! It was pretty hard when you were that age and being into that music was one of like three options, wasn't it? So we all were emo too, it's fine, there's nothing wrong with it! A lot of those bands were probably the bands we've been talking about - they were the bands we were trying to emulate for the first five years.

Playing with the likes of Blink 182 was probably the biggest "pinch me" moment for us because they were huge, they really were. They were the favourite band of nearly all of our friends and then all of a sudden you get to play gigs with them, it's quite cool! More recently, we got to play some shows with Kings of Leon. For our more grown-up selves that were a bit mad to us. Those are two bands that really stand out. 

I imagine playing with a band you listened to in your youth is surreal, because you all must be in your late twenties now? 

Yeah that's right, I've literally just turned thirty a month ago, Sam (McTrusty, vocalist) is 29, so we're all about that age. 

So you yourselves were quite young when these support slots happened? 

The band's been going as the four of us for ten years, but Sam and I were part of this band for maybe a year and a half before that. Then, we just messed around Glasgow and stuff so we've kind of been at it for ages.

After doing all of our uni, college things and started to play in a band together properly, even though we knew that we weren't particularly good, we thought we'd build ourselves up by going on tour rather than going in magazines and stuff. We thought that was the only way that you had to do it, so we just did it. We've been doing that same thing since we left school. 

It was quite a long stint and hard graft before the band broke through - you were always on the radar but it wasn’t until Great Divide that you started getting Radio One airplay and frequent festival slots was it ever frustrating?

Not really. If you ask us now what our goal is, our answer is obviously completely different to what it was during the last album, and the album before and from when we started the band. When we started, we honestly just wanted to tour, be in the back of a van - watch all of those DVDs that you used to watch when you were growing up. 

The glamour of it all was essentially being not very glamourous. When someone told us that we could maybe get a record deal and put out music that then became the goal. So it's ever evolving. That's why I think we've not ever gotten bored it. We've never really wanted to chuck it because we've always found something new to aim for. 

Is it still as glamorous as you thought then?

Touring is completely different now from what it was then. When we were starting out everyone has to get in the back of a van and everyone was put into the same hotel room - if you've even got a hotel room - sometimes you'd just stay in the van or even at someone's house that you met at the gig. That was the first couple of years and then and if anything we probably let go and have a bit more of a better time when we're away now. 

That's probably because we don't have as much to do now, we've other people about who are doing stuff so we can actually hang out and have a good time. Considering we were in our late twenties we were all quite boring because we had to drive ourselves then so we couldn't really drink often, so it wasn't what you'd imagine. 

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The album artwork for GLA, have you seen 'Almost Famous'? Reminds me a bit of Stillwater t-shirts, is it a reference?

Have I seen it? Wait, let me think, who's in it? I'm just going to IMDB it. I'm sure I've seen this, I'll remember as soon as I see the poster. Shit, I don't think I've actually seen this but feel like I should have? I'm going to have to watch it!

So, to explain the reference basically, the lead singer of a band prints some t-shirts and blurs out the other members, which they obviously all get quite upset over. 

Oh! (He laughs) We all just found it quite funny! There were various different photos of the exact same set up and we picked that one because we thought there was a little bit of humour attached to it. A little tongue in cheek humour, it's wasn't just face value of just the four us standing there like, "check us out!" There's an extra layer to it which we found funny - I'm glad you've picked up on it! 

Twin Atlantic’s fanbase is pretty extensive and it’s been known for fans to follow you around on tour, you’ve obviously worked hard to get to this level but was it ever expected?

We're really lucky, a lot of bands complain and say that the people that follow them are pretty weird, but we've got lucky - it's not like we're best friends with these people but I'd still call them my friends. I mean, I'd say we know more about them than about some people who are close friends because you just see them so often and you get chatting to them when you're outside.

I'm honestly not joking here when I say that every little step is the only thing that we're looking at, there's no bigger picture and so we never really thought about having any fans at all! 

No weirdos at all?

No, not really! There are a few people who are borderline, but there are no total crazy people. I don't know what that says about us, maybe we're not exciting enough for the weirdos.

Especially if you're not drinking on tour...

Ah see, I wish that was the case but because we don't drive ourselves anymore so we're falling into it more than we've ever been. 

You’re hitting the festival circuit this year, is there one in particular you’re looking to playing?

Love going to Germany, any festival we play there is always a good time. We're not doing Leeds and Reading this year, but that is probably my favourite. Between them and Glastonbury they're probably my favourite.

Reading for the show, one of the best gigs we've ever done was at Reading one year. Glastonbury because, well, it's the most famous festival in the world and until we played it we didn't really believe it. It's massive! It really is the total experience. 

You’re set to be one of the headliners in Victoria Warehouse’s British Sound Project with Deaf Havana and Band of Skulls, looking forward to it?

I am looking forward to it, of course, but I don't know too much about it. There are so many things that come through and you're just like, "Oh, that looks good!" Seeing more and more about it, it does seem like a cool thing - and it's in a great spot. We always like like to come to that part of the country. It was one of the first areas where people started to come and see us. It was the first time we thought our band would have mileage to be honest.

Twin Atlantic come to Manchester's Victoria Warehouse on Friday 29th September.

They'll be joined by the likes of Deaf Havana, Band of Skulls, Lonely the Brave, Fatherson, Sittin Pretty, Freedom of the City and more to be announced. 

You can get British Sound Project tickets via the box below.   

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