Twin Atlantic’s Ross McNae On the Band’s Plan for Global Domination
Scottish modern rock outfit Twin Atlantic may not be a household name on this side of the pond, but that could change very soon.
After coming together in 2007 from assorted Glasgow bands, frontman Sam McTrusty, guitarist Barry McKenna, bassist Ross McNae and drummer Craig Neale have been on a noticeable upward trajectory. Releasing their debut, 'Vivarium,' in 2009 and following it up with their 2011 worldwide breakthrough, 'Free,' Twin Atlantic have become U.K. festival mainstays and solid openers for the likes of everyone from 30 Seconds to Mars to Blink-182. You might best recognize them, however, from a remix of their single, 'Free,' which was used during Discovery Channel's coverage of the Red Bull Stratos space jump by Felix Baumgartner in 2012.
This past August, Twin Atlantic released their third full-length, 'Great Divide,' which reached No. 1 on Billboard's U.K. singles chart thanks in part to BBC Radio DJ Zane Lowe declaring the song, 'Heart and Soul,' as the "hottest record in the world" back in March.
With the band preparing to ring in the new year in style at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay (Scotland's version of the Times Square ball drop), we caught up with McNae (pictured above, far right) to find out a little about where the band came from and where they plan to go next.
How has Twin Atlantic's sound or focus changed since you guys first came together?
I think we’ve just grown into ourselves and became comfortable with who we are as people, who we are as a band and our roles within the band. When we were putting out our first music, we were really young and hadn’t really written songs before. We had so many ideas that we just put them all in the songs. The songs are now more about the song and less about how much we can play on them.
The Scottish accent is at the forefront of your songs -- perhaps more than with other bands from Scotland who sort of hide it. Have you faced pressure to change that?
We’ve always tried to be honest in our music and not try and be anything that we’re not. It would be weird if someone from Nebraska told you a story in a French accent -- and that really sums up why we just sing in our own accents. Sam’s just telling stories in a louder format, so it would be crazy to do anything other than what we do.
Is there anyone you’ve toured with who really affected the way you approach your career?
I think the Kings of Leon shows we did last summer affected us. The shows were the first time we’d played in stadiums and I think the whole experience was pretty inspiring. When there are that many people together sharing the same experience, it’s a magical feeling.
Do you have any role models from Scotland who you think have done things the right way?
I look up to Biffy Clyro and the way they have grown from record to record. They started out touring in the back of a van and playing with any band that they could and they’ve climbed to the top of the pile naturally.
What’s it like to have a song dubbed the “hottest record in the world” like ‘Heart and Soul’ was?
It was a mad label to be put on one of our songs. We’ve known Zane Lowe for a while now, so it was less weird than it could have been. But it is still surreal to hear him [call it] that before he played it for the first time on the radio. We were all at my flat in Glasgow gathered round the radio with our manager and our partners, so it was a special moment.
Does that put more pressure on you or does it free you creatively?
It made us more confident in what we were doing at a scary time for the band. We took a long time to make the new record and the process had its ups and downs, so having a stamp of approval on it really felt like a weight off our shoulders, regardless of the fact that we make music for ourselves first and foremost.
Your videos -- particularly with this album -- are each sort of high-concept and unique to the feel of the songs. How involved are you in coming up with the ideas?
We just work with the director and the idea that feels right for the song. Music videos are really hard to get right and there are so many people who feel like they have an opinion, so we mostly just look to the director for guidance unless something stands out to us as wrong. The directors we’ve worked with on this record have probably got it more right than anyone in the past.
Which video from this album do you like most?
I like the video for 'Heart and Soul.' It’s different and really striking and that’s what excited me about the concept. It was also the first one we made on the record and we hadn’t made one for a while, so that probably has a lot to do with it.
You guys will be ringing in the new year at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. For Americans who might not be familiar, what kind of party will that be?
It’s the biggest party in the U.K. and one of the oldest annual New Years Eve gatherings in the world, so it should be a lot of fun. We play before the bells, break for the fireworks and then play again afterwards, so we’ll need to keep the partying to a minimum until after that. Although it’s New Years in Scotland, so we’ll see how that goes!
What about the rest of 2015 -- what’s in store for you guys?
Next year we’re going to a lot of places we haven’t been before like Australia, coming back to the states a good few times and playing our biggest shows we’ve ever done at home in the U.K. After all that, it'll be festival season and then we’ll maybe start to think about making more music.