Interview: Ross McNae of Twin Atlantic (Part 2)

By on Thursday, 8th September 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Catch up on part 1 of this interview with Twin Atlantic’s bassist back here.

Though the album was produced and recorded in Los Angeles, ‘GLA’ is the first of Twin Atlantic‘s albums to be written almost entirely in the band’s native Glasgow. Savvy travellers among you might already have noticed that ‘GLA’ is the International Air Transport Association code for Glasgow Airport, and bass player Ross McNae says that the identifier is significant to the songs on the album. “It’s not too complicated, as you can imagine. We travel, and [that] was our access point back to all the people that we love, and to all these great memories and adventures that we would go on in different countries with each other. We were just trying to think of something to match the record, and ultimately I think we realised that we didn’t actually need to think too hard. The record had been written at home for the first time, and rather than actually calling it ‘Glasgow’, we thought, ‘Why not just call it that?’ It seemed interesting and straight to the point enough”.

As far as the band’s writing process is concerned, McNae says Twin Atlantic has evolved in that way too, though the core of the band has remained the same for the past 7 years, comprising McNae, lead singer Sam McTrusty, guitarist Barry McKenna and drummer Craig Kneale. “There have been ups and downs. People go through periods where they’re more invested than others, and everybody has their moments where they’re affected by things, but it’s been very important to us that we started the whole journey together. We’re not hasty, some people will just chuck people out of the band and all that kind of stuff, but we kind of think there’s a reason to keep going together. We have something that’s, maybe not the best band in the world, but there’s a good energy there, and when we get together we create something that’s pretty cool.

“We’ve written in loads of different ways. [At] the very start of our band, myself and Sam would write everything, predominantly him writing the majority. Over the years it became much more weighted on Sam writing, and I would suggest ideas, like kind of direct arranging of the songs. For this album, for the first time [and] from the beginning, Sam and myself pretty much wrote as much as each other. I was writing some lyrics, and it was the first time where he was not playing guitar on a lot of songs, and that was giving him the freedom to maybe think about things a bit differently and concentrate on the vocal. It kind of evolved to the point now where it’s much more of a collaboration between the two of us, and that’s kind of exciting.”

One particularly exciting result of the new songwriting pattern is the variety and subtlety in the songs on ‘GLA’. Heavy drums and forceful guitar riffs combine with catchy melodies, graceful string arrangements and surprisingly effective vocals throughout the album, starting with opening track ‘Gold Elephant Cherry Alligator’. It’s a straightforward rock ’n’ roll song, but its lyrics are both exotic and elusive. “Like a lot of the album”, McNae says, “it’s less literal than everything else that [Sam’s] ever written. It’s more about the feeling that things give you in putting words together”.

That kind of raw, instinctive rock sound dominates the first half of the album, particularly in a song called, ironically enough, ‘Overthinking’. “We felt that was definitely going to be on the record, as soon as I heard a demo of it. You know when [a song] has something and it excites you, you just know, and that was one of those moments quite early on. I suppose that thinking inspired the rest of the album to be more free. If it feels exciting, feels right, then just roll with it.”

On the thematic side of the coin, the songs on ‘GLA’ are quite dark and tumultuous, but McNae seems surprised to hear me describe them that way. “I don’t think that we’re particularly dark or angsty people, but we’re certainly not all prim and proper, shiny, nice, ‘everything is all rosy’ either. I think that that’s more of a reflection of the fact that we just have been a little bit more honest and a little bit more real about who we are, and not kind of trying to dress it up as much.” He describes the song ‘Whispers’ in particular as “probably the most literal song on the album,” having been written about experiences with loss and death. “I suppose I kind of felt like that needed to be said in a much more direct and literal way. It’s not really the type of thing for me to be too wistful about.”

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpA6JOWpiEY[/youtube]

Recent single ‘The Chaser’ reflects back on McNae and McTrusty’s early music experiences, once again at home in Glasgow. “Myself and Sam grew up spending loads of time messing about with my dad’s guitars and stuff like that. My mum was always a fan of glam rock, those type of bands, and I suppose that [song] is a throwback to those early experiences that we had. If we were making an album that was inspired by home, it felt like that was the real genesis of the two of us making music together, so it would have been untruthful to miss out on this particular thing because it was so much about where we’re from.”

The early rock influences that have found their way onto ‘GLA’ will likely translate into high energy for Twin Atlantic’s upcoming live performances, and McNae was clearly looking forward to incorporating the new songs into a live set. “Right now, we’re currently pretty much playing everything straight off the record. Trying to put a set together [from three albums’ worth of songs] is pretty exciting, to be able to kind of have ebbs and flows in your show. It’s good to have that diversity.” But in the end, McNae circles back around to what seems to have become Twin Atlantic’s new mantra: “I think that this time we’re going to concentrate and focus on just kind of being a rock ‘n’ roll band, because that’s what’s exciting us just now, you know?”

Twin Atlantic will play a full tour of the UK and Ireland in October and December, as well as planned American and Australian dates in early 2017. Their third album ‘GLA’ is due for release tomorrow, the 9th of September, via Red Bull Records. TGTF’s past coverage on Twin Atlantic can be found here.

Special thanks to Carina for coordinating this interview.

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