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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.

 

Live Gig Video: Happyness preview upcoming EP with opening track ‘Anna, Lisa Calls’

 
By on Wednesday, 7th September 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

Happyness are doing their part to continue the lo-fi tradition that’s proven so popular as of late. They’ll be releasing their newest material in less than 2 weeks. The ‘Tunnel Vision on Your Part’ EP will be released on the 23rd of September on Moshi Moshi. As per usual in the past, the guys have a winsome description for the EP’s opening track, ‘Anna, Lisa Calls’:

This is our first phone call song and our 5th song in E major. We wrote it one day in the studio in June and recorded it straight away – I think we were going for a kind of Traveling Wilburys thing. Also we felt like we hadn’t put a synth in a song for a while, so there’s a synth.

To celebrate the release of the new EP, the London trio have unveiled this live performance of the song, which you watch below. There’s also an intriguing, Pixies at their most melodic kind of feeling to it. Which begs the question, which Happyness are we going to get on the new EP? We’ll have to wait until the 23rd to find out.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQ_dg6Sswvs[/youtube]

 

Interview: Ross McNae of Twin Atlantic (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 7th September 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Scottish rock band Twin Atlantic are experiencing a rebirth of sorts around the creation of their upcoming new album ‘GLA’, whose early singles are already enjoying commercial success ahead of the album’s official release this Friday. But as Twin Atlantic bass player Ross McNae pointed out to me in our phone interview last week, commercial success wasn’t the band’s main concern with their third full length release. “I suppose we’re not really that bothered this time, as much as we have been in the past. We just kind of concentrated this time on making a record that would excite us, and [that] was what we felt we wanted to hear from a rock band.”

Twin Atlantic’s own rock credentials had come into question somewhat of late. The band’s first releases, mini-album ‘Vivarium’ and full-length LP ‘Free’ established them as a rock band first and foremost, but their sophomore album ‘Great Divide’ left some doubts in the minds of their listeners. TGTF’s own former writer John Fernandez found that album to be somewhat indecisive, with the band straddling the fence between commercially successful mainstream pop-rock and the louder, grittier brand of alt-rock he would have preferred. (Read back to John’s August 2014 review of ‘Great Divide’ right here.)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQ71T4bunzE[/youtube]

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

Whether or not ‘Great Divide’ appealed to your rock sensibilities, it was undoubtedly a turning point in Twin Atlantic’s creative development and a necessary stepping stone to the band’s current sound. McNae explains the evolution in a bit more detail: “The funny thing is, [‘Great Divide’] was a reaction to the fact that our record before that was probably more of a rock record. You kind of just get to the point where you’ve been doing something for 2 1/2 years, and then you think, ‘I don’t want to do that again, I’d rather do something new’. So then you react and make a new record. But yeah, the last album was definitely more toward a kind of ‘perfect pop’ at that point. I think it was more the strive to achieve that than the actual sound of the music. And I suppose maybe halfway through the last album, we realised that as things were going really well that there wasn’t quite as much of a connection as we thought to the actual album.”

McNae reveals that with ‘GLA’, Twin Atlantic made a very deliberate decision to revisit alt-rock. “We haven’t really been listening to much rock music for a while, and I suppose it’s because we hadn’t really heard much that had grabbed our attention. I think that was important to us in making this record, to dial back what we’d been doing and remember what it was that excited us about this kind of music in the first place, and try and make [the] album we were missing.”

Though Twin Atlantic have made an effort with ‘GLA’ to create a heavier, more visceral rock sound with ‘GLA’, they did carry over one important element of ‘Great Divide’, namely producer Jacknife Lee. McNae had asked Lee to do some work with Twin Atlantic on ‘Great Divide’, describing the original collaboration as “a shot in the dark” that happened to have positive and long-lasting results. “We went to him with an album that we, in our heads, thought was finished, but we weren’t sure”, McNae explains. “He found parts of our other demos that he felt would really add something to the record, and it turned out that we really kind of found that energy and that spark when we worked with him. We knew there was something in that with him, like he awakened something in us. I think he just made us question ourselves and what it was that we were doing this for.”

That energy and spark eventually led Twin Atlantic back to Lee’s Los Angeles area studio for the recording of ‘GLA’. “Over the course of the last album and touring it, that [experience] was quite in our heads. The whole recording process with him was really enjoyable, and made us start writing the kind of songs that we were writing for for this [album], so it made sense to go back and try and finish what we started with him. And we knew he was more excited about making something like this, with as much roar, and more of the angst of [the] funk and guitar music that we grew up listening to and also that he grew up listening to. So, it felt like if we went back and worked with him there was going to be something that was new for both of us, and it’s worked, it’s worked out. We were challenging each other.”

Stay tuned to TGTF for part 2 of our interview with Ross McNae, which will post tomorrow. In the meantime, you can check out their live dates in the UK in October and December here, as well as trawl through TGTF’s archive of coverage on Twin Atlantic via this link.

 

Reading 2016: Sunday Roundup

 
By on Tuesday, 6th September 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

As so we came to the final day of Reading Festival 2016. Where those who couldn’t quite cut it have left, and those that remain are ready to see the festival out as they started; with no inhibitions and a fantastic soundtrack.

Activities on the main stage Saturday gave a preview as to the heavy-fest that Sunday would be. Bar A$AP Rocky and The Vaccines, the lineup for the day could also have been found at the heavier British festival staple that is Download. The weather decided it didn’t feel like baring it’s sunnier disposition and instead graced us with its greyer, cloudier and wetter side. As pointed out yesterday though, this is where the British thrive, and thrive they did.

Albany, New York pop punkers State Champs opened up the main stage, bringing a brief respite from the dismal weather at Reading with their take on summer anthem genre. For a Sunday morning, the crowd were particularly excitable and offered back a sincere response. Following on from this spot of sunshine were The Virginmarys, a definite band to watch in the UK rock scene, with their brutal vocals, hard-hitting guitar lines and a savageness reminiscent of early punk. Though the crowd may have mildly dispersed post-State Champs, this didn’t stop the band from Macclesfield from delivering a completely brutal set worthy of a much higher billing.

Mancunians Spring King who have had quite the quick ascent to fame, which you can read about in our interview with drummer and singer Tarek Musa back here at LeeFest 2016 in late July, gave a performance to a completely packed out tent. Though the sudden downpour may have instigated this mass collective, the band made sure to capitalise upon it. The set brought fun and tunes in equal measure, with both band and fans having a Another band who had to deal with what the weather dealt them were Coheed and Cambria who were faultless, giving a ferocious performance all the while being on the main stage and open to the elements.

As the rain continued to slowly drizzled over the Reading festival site, the crowds gave up hiding from it, revelling in the weather. Back on the Radio 1/NME Stage, Deaf Havana used their set wisely as a promotional opportunity, announcing the name and release date of their upcoming album. Appearing on stage with only a white sheet across the back of the stage, as the set went on the words “All These Countless Nights” were painted in black, followed by “21.1.17”. The set was a special moment, secured it as one for the band’s history.

What was The Pit for the past 2 days had now reverted back to its original name The Lock Up for the final day. Beach Slang, the American punk band who are bringing back the old school ethos to the genre, completely dominated the tent. Their set was summed up well in the immortal words of frontman James Alex: “We are Beach Slang, and we’re here to punch you right in the heart!” The Lock Up stage continued with its earnest punk environment with Modern Baseball. Having released their third album ‘Holy Ghost’ back in May, they’re finally on our UK shores, giving their diehard fanbase a run-through of these new offerings. Even though A$AP Rocky was ruling the main stage and causing a surge in crowd flow, The Lock Up was still over capacity for the American four-piece. The excited audience simply did not stop moving until the final chord finished, and the speed at which crowd surfers ran from the security to pit and back into the throng was astounding. Another standout set from this year’s festival.

The evening was an anticipated delight from co-headliners Fall Out Boy and Biffy Clyro. As eight pm swung around, the skies were still cloudy but the atmosphere was as electric as ever. A sea of Fall Out Boy merchandise seen around the festival over the course of the weekend was a concrete measurement in exactly how big a draw band were, and for good reason. A show that featured non-stop fireworks, pyrotechnics, choreographed fire dancers and visuals, Fall Out Boy knew they had a massive opportunity, and they ran with it. Running through a majority set that consisted of songs from the last two albums plus a few golden treats, especially finale ‘Saturday’ from 2003’s ‘Take This to Your Grave’, Fall Out Boy certainly ensured that the ravenous crowd were delivered the set they yearned for.

Finally, it was time for the final headliners of the entire weekend at Richfield Avenue. Biffy Clyro were given the honour and duty of closing out this year’s edition, giving everything they had and fully delivering. With a stage show that reflected the precision and grandeur we’ve come to expect from the Scottish trio, it was a set that will surely be remembered in the festival’s history. From opener ‘Wolves of Winter’ to closer ‘Stinging Bell’ that featured a fireworks display, they somehow managed to dwarf the explosive affair that Fall Out Boy had previously.

Using a popular Scottish battle cry, halfway through the set singer Simon Neil roared out, “Mon The Reading!”, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Biffy Clyro’s ascension through the ranks of musicdom has been made by leaps and strides, and this was the largest of them yet. A perfectly executed set that ran through a majority of newer material – plus the appearance of ’57’, a cut from 2002’s ‘Blackened Sky’ as a pleasant treat – the trio seized the moment and are now reaping the rewards. As the Reading crowd finally dispersed ar the end the festival for another year, the only question on everyone’s mind was, “how are they going to top this next year?” We’ll find out in 2017.

 

TGTF’s Spotify Playlist: August 2016

 
By on Friday, 2nd September 2016 at 11:00 am
 

The sunny days of summer may be drawing to a close, but TGTF’s monthly Spotify playlists are just getting started! This is our third installment of the monthly playlist, which includes all the new music we’ve featured here on the site through the month of August. (If you missed our first two monthly playlists, you can find the June collection here and the July compilation here.)

Our August tracklisting is remarkably heavy on female artists, including new music from London soul singer JONES, Irish sister duo Heathers and understated teenage songstress Billie Marten. You’ll also find on the list a lovely live acoustic performance from up-and-coming American singer/songwriter Julien Baker. We featured Baker’s cover version of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Badlands’ just last week, but as that cover isn’t available on Spotify, we’ve included the original recording instead. New songs from Travis is a Tourist and Crocodiles were also unavailable via Spotify, but you can click their names to find our original features and have a listen.

We’ve had positive feedback on this monthly playlist feature so far, and we’re excited to keep it coming. If you like the monthly playlists and want to subscribe to the TGTF Spotify account, you can plug “spotify:user:tgtftunes” (no quotes) into the search bar and hit the Follow button.

 

Reading 2016: Saturday Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 31st August 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Following on from the complete success that was Friday at Reading 2016 – and with Foals‘ pinnacle career moment headlining the main stage – Saturday had a lot to live up to. Headlining solo today were the funk giants and great dividers of opinion, Red Hot Chili Peppers, but first we had a whole day to experience.

The weather had a go at trying to dampen the spirits by giving a mid-morning downpour, but as with all UK festivals, this only fuelled the festival-going crowd’s insatiable lust for a good time. First up were Scottish three-piece Fatherson. Clearly a milestone for the band, they delivered their emotive and euphoric set with complete expert execution. It shouldn’t be too long before they climb their way through the stages and find themselves front and centre.

The Beach, a London-based singer/songwriter recently on tour with Tom Odell, brought his band for a full ensemble run through of his thoughtful and encompassing tunes. This was an easy watch that the calm crowd relished in. Over on the main stage, American hard rockers Clutch may not have had the largest crowd for the location, but they certainly didn’t let this stop them from giving a set that was filled with solos, riffs and just about every other rock staple you need. Shout out to drummer Jean-Paul Gaster for his 9:30 Club t-shirt (Washington represent!)

Continuing the heavy streak on the main stage, Skindred gave a thoroughly vicious performance with their blend of rock, reggae and metal. The crowd, after witnessing Clutch, were more than up for a good time with heavier influences. Which was good considering what was to come across the field.

The Pit was the place to be for most of the afternoon. Like most festivals, secret sets are always a guarantee, and Reading was no different. With a gap on the stage at 4 PM labelled as ‘TBC’, a spraypainted You Me At Six poster and a band photo backstage, the most subtle of secrets was suddenly revealed. But this was not before what could probably have been one of the best sets of the festival by Heck, a musical marvel who completely dominated the stage, the crowd and everything in between. Spending the majority of the set in various states in and on the crowd, including guitarist and singer Jonny Hall sat atop a flight case while playing guitar, it was an absolutely animalistic and wild sight to behold, Heck should not skip anyone’s radar, not they’d let that happen in any case. Back to the You Me At Six secret set, the closer the time came to 4 PM, the further the tent filled out. By the time the band took to the stage through a curtain of fog, the tent was a gravitational centre. With the band having just announced a large tour of the UK, it was a close and exciting glimpse into what was to hit our cities early next year.

On the main stage, Kent breakthrough punk duo Slaves, proved that they’d earned their way on to central billing by ferociously powering through their socially relevant songs. Another historic moment for a British band at a staple festival.

Back at The Pit and following on from Reading 2016’s worst kept secret came Milk Teeth. The Gloucestershire-based band showed exactly why they’re one of the UK’s brightest up-and-comers. With songs filled with personality and a ’90s rock feel, the crowd were as immersed in the music as the band playing them. It’s sets such as theirs that give Reading its best draw and atmosphere: small bands finding their audience, laying the groundwork for a return in the future to ever larger crowds.

One of the UK festival exclusives this year, Eagles of Death Metal have been present in the public eye for many reasons over the last year, both positive and negative. All of that didn’t matter today though as they joked, sang, laughed and rocked through a main stage set that will surely eclipse what has gone before. Leading man Jesse Hughes knows exactly how to engage and entertain his audience, be it dedicating ‘Zipper Down’ cut ‘Silverlake’ to a fan-made golden cape that he wore atop a Red Hot Chili Peppers shirt, or introducing us all to his father who was side of stage and beginning a chant of “dad! dad! dad!”, he’s an expert at his craft. Ending with ‘Save a Prayer’ who he dedicated to England because “when we needed you, you did not let us down”, likely a reference to the Bataclan terror attack in Paris last November.

While this riotous party was going down, newcomers VANT had the Festival Republic tent filled with young minds that they’re hoping to reach with their politically charged songs. Judging by the reception they were given during single ‘The Answer’ that references Afghanistan and UK/U.S. relations, their plan is working.

Mancunians The Courteeners burst onto the main stage taking over from where Eagles of Death Metal left off. Theirs was a rousing, anthemic set, perfect to carry the afternoon through to ready for the evening’s festivities. Imagine Dragons were the warm-up for Red Hot Chili Peppers, and by the term warm up, they certainly did. With crowd pleasers such as ‘Radioactive’ and ‘Demons’ and their larger than life sound, there was no way they could fail.

Finally, it was the turn of the big guns, Red Hot Chili Peppers. A band who simply need no introduction, over 3 decades of funk and rock, they proved at Reading they’re here to keep the reigning crown. Taking to the stage at 9:30, the incomparable Red Hot Chili Peppers were as welcomed as they would’ve been at any point in their career, with a hungry crowd and rapturous applause. Kicking straight in with ‘Can’t Stop’, it was clear they were here to only prove this point. Though the set could have felt a touch more exciting, it was a solid performance that certainly cemented Kiedis and co.’s place at top billing. Hits aplenty, from a full crowd sing along to ‘Under the Bridge’ to an encore ending with ‘Give It Away’. Saturday night closed out with the feeling of an impenetrable force proved by the enthusiastic crowd, who had grown to almost the entire festival capacity and sought any means possible to get a view. If Saturday was anything to go by, it proved Reading and Leeds is a festival that not only secures the legends but can also breed them.

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

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