Glasgow’s Twin Atlantic are fighting against preconceptions, rebelling against their label and banging a drum for their home town. Larry Bartleet hears the story behind the new album that’s completely redefining them
“Ah no, I sounded a bit Bono then…” Twin Atlantic frontman Sam McTrusty is cursing himself because he’s just said the band’s new album ‘GLA’ is “giving a little bit of our version of Glasgow back to people” and he can’t quite believe himself.
Worry not, though, because ‘GLA’ – named after Glasgow Airport’s initials – couldn’t be further from any Bono-esque b***cks. The Glaswegian rock band’s fourth album is both a rough paean to their home town and a refusal to pander to expectations. Quite simply, it’s a rebellion.
Those expectations stem from their 2014 single ‘Heart And Soul’ – the band’s only UK Top 20 single to date – and its accompanying album ‘Great Divide’, which reached Number Six in the UK album chart and went on to earn them a slot on The Other Stage at Glastonbury and a headline set at T In The Park’s Radio 1/BBC Three stage in 2015. That album took six gruelling months to record and McTrusty recalls spending periods of up to two weeks in the same 10m radius while putting it all together. “Before you knew it I went mad,” he mourns. “We just all f**king lost the plot just because we were so detached from reality.”
‘GLA’ was the polar opposite. Recording took six weeks, not six months. In the demo stages they were living less than a mile apart, but worked separately at home in Glasgow. Why? “We were coming up with contrasting ideas and getting something more original than we’d ever achieved by all sitting in one room,” explains bassist Ross McNae. Bringing those ideas together resulted in ‘GLA’s resolutely odd opening track ‘Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator’.
When it came to recording it late last year, they flew out to the LA home studio of Irish producer Jacknife Lee (Two Door Cinema Club, Crystal Castles) for two three-week sessions separated by Christmas. “His kids were coming home from school and there were all these distractions,” McTrusty recalls, “but it kept our brains awake. A decision that would take seven weeks on the last record took us 30 seconds on this one.”
If all of this so far sounds like a breeze, it wasn’t. Getting their label on board was definitely a struggle. “We do have a lot of pressure from our label to be something we’re not,” admits McTrusty. “It’s kind of a miracle that the album is even coming out – it’s such a huge victory for the band. There was a point where it wasn’t f**king coming out. The recording was getting cancelled, we were out in LA and I guess they wanted to hear ‘Heart And Soul: Part II’. We just didn’t f**king do it. It’s probably the most punk-rock moment in our band.”
A baller move, maybe, but not one they’d have dared make any sooner. They say the success of their last album gave them confidence – so was ‘GLA’ still a risk? “I suppose it is risky, but I think we’re over caring about that side of things,” says McTrusty. He reckons the decision’s paid dividends, too. “All our contemporaries are just doing reworked versions of themselves. We’re rebelling against that.”
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A less obvious two fingers is the theme of the album, which only made itself clear when the band were selecting demos. Often billed as a ‘Scottish rock band’ – a description that’s historically p**sed off the foursome – they noticed a “harder edge” to the demos they were choosing and realised they were actually making something resembling ‘Scottish rock’. “It obviously f**king defines us according to so many people,” McTrusty says of their thinking at the time, “so let’s do our own f**king version of that.”
Lyrics about Glasgow took shape: growing up in a tenement flat with “a really confined, comedy-small bedroom – like Harry Potter under-the-stairs s**t”. Elsewhere: tops off at the first sign of sun, rival Celtic and Rangers football shirts intermingling after a tragedy in town. The lyrics to final track ‘Mother Tongue’ – “You’ll drape out all your colours but I’ll never pick a side” – are McTrusty’s tribute to that sobering sight. “It makes the rivalry seem so silly,” he says.
But he’s keen to note that there are fewer of these tragedies nowadays. “That was another reason why I wanted to talk about it. A lot of people have got the wrong idea about the place. I wanted to represent where I’m from in a more modern way. I guess we feel a lot of f**king pride because we’ve played our biggest shows here.” As McTrusty puts it: “I just wanted to f**king write songs that had a purpose.” Job done.