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.)



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.

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