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Twin Atlantic

They've got the POWER (Ross McNae on the Glasgow trio's new album)

By • Apr 18th, 2020 • Category: Feature

You’d expect an album entitled ‘POWER’ – yes, all caps – to be something of a monster. And you’d be right.

However, the Glasgow three-piece’s fifth long player isn’t just straight ahead rock.

“The songwriting process was typically on acoustic guitar,” Ross McNae reveals, “and it would be later at night – so it’d probably be more emotionally direct, looking back on the day and decompressing and defragging your feelings about it.”

Of course, there’s work to be done to turn those bare bones of songs into a carefully constructed mix of direct synth rock anthems and compelling soundscapery.

“We’d go into the studio, switch everything on and come up with things on the spot – we tried hard not to have any premeditated ideas, or work on songs for a month at a time.”

It was also the first time that McNae and singer Sam McTrusty fully collaborated on new material.

“We’ve been messing around since we were 10 or 11 years old,” the bassist recalls, “but this was the first time we’d collaborated from Ground Zero. It’s strange we’d never explored this together, as it’s our most important thing in our lives, so it was brilliant fun.”

Given the success of their previous releases this seems like a risky strategy.

“But why just go back and do the same thing?” McNae contends. “It’d have fun, and good I’m sure…”

But instead, the band followed their own path, free of outside influence – following two albums with Irish producer Jacknife Lee, also known for his work with U2 and Snow Patrol.

However, with Lee having already encouraged the band to build their own recording facility – overlooking Glasgow Green – it seemed natural that they go it alone, albeit with Lee offering informal advice on and off.

Another seismic change for the band is a new record label – previously on Red Bull’s imprint, Twin are now on a ‘proper’ major, Virgin/EMI. With more chance of success, but more pressure to succeed?

“I’m not sure,” McNae ponders, “maybe they don’t need to have a hit with us because they have Justin Bieber, or maybe they just want to help us to develop and do what we want to do – maybe it’s early days, but we feel really comfortable.”

So no pressure then, with another chance to reach millions of brand-new listeners, as the band did when soundtracking Felix Baumgartner’s space jump in 2012, to eight million people. Similar, in some ways, to their playing on BBC’s Hogmanay show.

“There’s not a bigger direct link into people’s houses,” McNae says, “so it was great to play to that many people – people that haven’t come to see you.”

It seems that with Phil and Aly and Jackie Bird absent from the show, some full-on rock before the bells would have been the least of the audience’s concerns. “Any break in tradition takes a bit to get used to,” McNae agrees.

However, the band’s long-term supporters have, it seems, embraced their heroes’ change in direction, the trio influenced by the likes of LCD Soundsystem and Depeche Mode.

“Rock’s not the most forward-thinking genre any more,” McNay muses. “It used to be, but it’s kind of stagnated with people making versions of rock, ourselves included”.

“I don’t think we’ve reinvented the wheel,” he continues, “more awakening to the fact that there is another way of doing things that doesn’t need to be so respectful of the past.”

And the new album’s eight songs are far removed from those late-night acoustic jams – as are the two additional ‘interludes’, or “palette cleansers” as McNae calls them.

“We listen to so many different genres of music, and something that runs through especially urban music like hiphop, is that ideas don’t need to die because you can’t find a three minute song in them, there’s merit in just taking you away for 20 seconds.”

And this leads to these wild leaps of imagination.

“It’s the Spotify generation,” says McNae, “people listen to a jazz song, then a dance song, then Katy Perry and so on. I feel like we’re like that, our attention span isn’t particularly long – what I hate most is something that meanders and goes on for too long!”

Which is one thing the new album couldn’t be accused of – meaning there is plenty of material still to come.

“We have so many songs at the minute, we’re not going to be releasing this and going away for another three years,” McNae enthuses. “We feel we’re more prolific than ever.”

So regardless of labels or sales, it seems Twin Atlantic will keep on making music for themselves – and whoever wants to listen.

McNae smiles. “Whatever the music gods decide, it’s fine.”

‘Power’ is out now – more at twinatlantic.com.
This article originally appeared in the Fife Herald.

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