Since 2007 UK based Twin Atlantic has been releasing new music and touring the world with it punk, indie and power pop-inspired songs garnering several radio hits along the way. The quartet are very well known for their passionate and energetic live shows. Now, Twin Atlantic is set to release its newest, fourth album, GLA, on September 9th. GLA was produced by Jacknife Lee (U2, Snow Patrol, Two Door Cinema Club). Lee produced their 2014 album Great Divide. Alan Moulder (best known for his work with Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Foo Fighters and My Bloody Valentine) mixed GLA. Recently theartofla interviewed singer/songwriter Sam McTrusty via email to discuss the band history, recording the new album, briefly touched on the band’s longtime relationship with Red Bull Records, touring, making videos and more.
Does the band pride itself on being together nine years? Would you say it’s been easy or a challenge at any time and you wanted to quit or even give up or get an each other’s nerves?I think it’s something we are definitely proud of right now. Especially as we formed a rock band right on the wave of critics and press claiming rock music was dead. Haha! It’s been easy and hard at the same time. When you keep your head stuck in a little bubble, it can be hard and frustrating. But when you look at the bigger picture, you’re getting to be creative and share your music with people all over the world while getting paid a little bit of money to live and travel to all these new places. It’s kind of a dream life!
What motivates the band more: artistic achievement or commercial success? Do you find both to be a delicate balancing act?
I don’t actually know what both of those even mean to me, if I’m honest. I think if I got stuck in either one of those amazing categories, I would always want the other. I do know for certain that when I make music, it’s always driven by artistic decisions. I can’t really make music with my heart and brain not connecting.
Were your first three albums self-produced? Did that free the band creatively to work in the studio and no have outside input and what was that like?
Our first three albums were produced by three different men! We always have creative control of our art even if sometimes that means colossal arguments with people at record labels. It’s always been our main stubborn goal to do our own thing even if it holds us back sometimes. Vivarium was produced by John Travis. Free was by Gil Norton. Great Divide was by Gil Norton and Jacknife Lee.
On the new album, you’re working with Jacknife Lee and Alan Moulder. How did you choose Lee to produce and did his work with other well-known artists in the studio help the band differently in your approach in recording than you have done before and what did you learn the most? Did you have a lot of input in the mix of the album with Moulder?
We worked with Jacknife on our Great Divide album but only for about two weeks to do three tracks that went on to be the main singles from that record. When we came to make new music again, he was our number one choice. I could honestly do a whole other interview about what we learned and the process… it’s limitless. Working with him has changed the way I even listen to music, nevermind take it in a studio environment. We wanted to work with him initially to make us uncomfortable and take away all of our learned habits and rules we had made for ourselves. He has worked on such a varied array of artists that we were confident we would be expanding our options and collective minds. We actually stayed completely out of the way with Alan. He was our first choice mixer and we wanted his take on our album. He’s such a legend and gives rock music depth and size that not many people can come close to.
Has Red Bull Records been supportive of the band as of late? I read in a recent interview or from what I have gathered reading the interview there has been some frustration in or tension making the album and songs you wrote? Was the label not happy with the direction you were going in?
It’s a miracle that this album will see the light of day.
The songs are clearly an expression of what you are going through personally as human being themes being universal your listeners can relate to. Is the new album would say a departure or continuation from the first three albums?
I think it’s probably a departure, but nothing too deliberate. We just made an album that we wanted to hear in 2016. That made it super easy to make decisions and just be free to be us. That’s what inspired everything. I don’t know if we’ve ever done anything different from that though…like our last album we wanted to prove to people that we deserved to be a band and were worthy of all the great opportunities we kept being given, so we wrote music to impress and please as many people as possible… but that’s what we wanted to do. It was still an album for us in a way.
I read in an interview that GLA was also about your Glasgow pride and getting in touch and remaining connected to your roots. Can you talk about that specifically?
It’s a hard thing to do – put that feeling into words. I feel like it ruins it and sounds cliché so that’s why we did it so loosely and tried to bottle that idea with music and with the atmosphere or energy a guitar band can create. I guess rather than be a concept album or anything, it’s more just a way to make our band feel real again to us. Totally selfish and helped us keep everything simple and way less overthought. We are from Glasgow. It’s always defined us so lets embrace it. Put that shit as big as you can on the front cover haha.
Being together since 2007, Twin Atlantic has had vast touring experience and playing festivals all over the world. Would say playing live is your first love versus being in the studio? Or it is just a different experience? How do you view it?
It definitely was. I actually used to hate being in the studio. Well, my recording part specifically. I felt trapped, unable to really express myself the way I learned the ropes live in tiny clubs or bars. Now though, I’ve learned a new way to work it like I’ve found my studio voice now. It’s amazing how different but connected they are. I think my future music making is going to be really exciting now and this album is the first taste of things to come. A new chapter.
What was the most interesting or unique experience you had on the road where and why?
It’s always been on the road in the States. You see a lot of car accidents. The sky feels massive. It’s just kinda alien feeling to me but that makes me feel so alive. We got stuck in like a sandstorm tornado thing in Kansas once and we all genuinely thought we were about to die. It was terrifying, but amazingly exciting and exhilarating. What felt like a low point became a highlight. I know there’s probably a million other moments but that one stands out right now.
What do you look forward to most touring this time around supporting the new album?
100% playing music that represents me more clearly and authentically. Repping my hometown and having more of a purpose to be on the stage in the first place.
Do you enjoy making videos and have much creative input do you have in making them? What inspires the band visually creating them? Do you ever work with a storyboard?
I actually do really enjoy them, I love film and TV and it inspires a lot of the things I choose to write about. Being around cameras and crew excites me. It feels like a big adventure. I’m more involved than ever with the videos on this album so far. The video for Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator was made by a friend Gavin and I, just driving around Glasgow capturing little details and widescreen moments that give a different look at the energy of the place.