On a sunny day in Dublin, Sam McTrusty of Twin Atlantic speaks to us from a similarly sunny Glasgow on his last day off before tour.
Contrary to the title of their latest album, ‘The Great Divide’, Twin Atlantic have succeeded in garnering more mainstream attention than ever, with lead single Heart And Soul making the UK Top 20.
When asked what made this album different, however, he struggles to find the words to explain.
“It’s quite difficult for me to answer that, because I’m the one who wrote it all,” he tells GoldenPlec. “Everything we’ve released falls under the same umbrella really.”
“When interviewers ask that question, I feel like whatever I say is a lie,” he laughs.
“The only difference I see with the record is how we recorded it. We spent much longer recording, and went into a lot more depth with the songs. It’s slightly more accomplished-sounding because of that.”
The band recorded in a variety of locations across the UK, primarily in Wales, working with the same producer that they did on their sophomore effort, ‘Free’. This was a conscious decision on the band’s part.
“It just felt really comfortable,” says Sam of Rockfield Studios. “We had already started recording when I heard that Queen had recorded there, the Pixies, Joe Strummer, Black Sabbath … It was a no-brainer. We wanted to soak up some of that history.”
The commercial success of this album was something that the band anticipated – sort of.
“In the beginning, we didn’t set out to do it, or have this charting album and song,” he says. “We wanted to make a good album that we liked and that we thought our fans would enjoy, and an album that new fans could get on board with.”
“I guess commercial success comes hand-in-hand with that. We changed producers half-way through the record, and starting working with Jacknife Lee and I think then we sort of knew what we had in our hands.”
With more success came less pressure on the band for the next record.
“With ‘The Great Divide’, we all felt there was a pressure to deliver and it clouded our judgement on some things. It felt like we were trying to secure our place as a real band. Gradually, we’ve been asked to play bigger shows and festival slots, so it was great to finally cement our status. Now that we’ve done that, maybe on the next album we’ll be able to be ourselves more, and go into the process without any fear.”
Fellow pop-rock band All Time Low have just come from topping the UK Album Charts with their latest release, surprising everyone on the way. Is an American band really representative of the scene in the UK, and was the accolade deserved?
Sam is quick to disassociate Twin Atlantic’s style with that of All Time Low’s, but was full of praise for them as working musicians.
“I’ve met the guys before and they seem like pretty nice people,” he says, “They’ve been touring for a long time, nearly ten years. That’s probably why it seems like a surprise to some people. The genre that they play in is a dying music scene everywhere – that whole candy pop rock thing.”
“They probably do deserve it. There’s no real weight to anything that they’re saying or playing. I can see why people say they don’t deserve it but maybe they’ve just worked hard enough.”
Do Twin Atlantic feel penned in as a rock band, giving the ever shrinking scene in the UK and beyond?
“Ultimately, yes, it is a lot harder, but really, it’s just raising the bar for us,” he says.
The quest for commercial success, however, remains elusive.
“It’s definitely harder with rock bands. There could be hundreds at a time making music, and you know only three of them will ever make it on the radio. They could write 300 songs, but only one may become a hit.”
“Radio went through this trend of playing very digital sounding pop music. Anything real sounding is intimidating. They think the music’s shit because it doesn’t sound perfect.”
“The resurgence of rock though isn’t that far away,” he went on to say. “The biggest champions in the charts now are Hozier, James Bay and Sam Smith. All their music is recorded really raw and honestly. Obviously you’ll always have the more polished artists like Rihanna and Taylor Swift. But you’ll never be able to erase the idea of a good song, and a good song is one that sounds the most real.”
On their upcoming tour, the band are set to play The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, their biggest headline show of the tour, and to date.
“I’m so excited that it makes me nervous,” he laughs.
“I’m not nervous to play to that many people anymore because we’ve done it so many times. We’ve been touring for eight or nine years and supported a lot of big bands. Getting to play a show of our own to that scale, we feel we’ve earned it. We’ve played every single venue in Glasgow on the way up. There’s no where else for us to go!”
One of the best pieces of advice Sam got while touring was not to be so forthright in expressing his feelings on stage.
“If something didn’t go my way, it would come across on stage that I was a spoiled brat. But I just really really cared about letting people in the band, as well as letting myself down. I didn’t realise that that’s what it looked like to someone that didn’t know me. It was a big turning point for me, learning to control that.”
Comparisons to Biffy Clyro initially plagued the band, but it’s now something that doesn’t annoy him.
“The only thing that annoys us now is that people think it would annoy us. It’s actually helped us so much. It’s gotten us to where we are in a way.”
The summer sees Twin Atlantic play T In The Park, and a few other festivals that McTrusty can’t disclose just yet. After honing his song-writing skills on ‘The Great Divide’, Sam is also looking forward to getting started on the next record.
“I love writing and I love performing … I only like recording though,” he laughs. “It should come much more naturally this time around though I think.”
Twin Atlantic play The Academy on May 2nd.