Once in a while a band comes along and creates such a hype that you know that they are on the brink of something big. This band at the moment is, without a doubt, Scottish rockers Twin Atlantic. Recently, you can’t turn on the radio or look at a festival line up without their name cropping up, and with a UK tour fast approaching and a second album on the horizon, 2012 is certainly looking to be Twin Atlantic’s year. We caught up with Craig and Ross from the band and discussed everything from what the year entails for Twin Atlantic, to singer Sam and his lack of a ‘diva’ voice and Ross’s recent veggie tattoo.
By Emily Clarkson
Emily Clarkson: With your influences ranging from Death Cab For Cutie (even naming your band with a nod to their album 'Transatlanticism') to Radiohead, how do you feel all of these different sounds manifest in your music?
Craig Kneale: I think they all add to our sound without us realising. Our tastes have changed a lot since we started the band as well so there are always things being added to the mix. I think the best bands have always taken the sum of their influences to create something unique.
EC: How’s 2012 shaping up for you as a band? You have a UK tour coming up in April and are playing venues such as the 1500 capacity KoKo in London. You've already toured Europe and been to the US...
CK: 2012 is already looking mega busy. We left a couple of weeks after New Year and we won't be home now until the end of March. A week later we leave for that UK tour. We go back to Europe again after that and then Summer is with us and we've already got quite a lot locked in for festival season. We want to try and record our second album at some point too; we'll squeeze it in somewhere...
EC: Congratulations on being named ‘iTunes Rewind New Rock Artist’ of the year in 2011. What other high points or achievements were the peaks of 2011?
CK: I think the main one would be our album coming out and seeing how much it's been embraced by people since then. We could actually see our profile raising each month which has been so exciting.
EC: You’ve played shows as support to My Chemical Romance and Blink-182. Did you get much chance to interact with/get to know them and did they live up to any expectations you had?
CK: We've always been lucky that most bands we've supported have been very friendly and taken the time to give us advice too, especially in the early days of the band. The bigger bands like Blink-182 and My Chemical Romance were all really nice too, but they have a bit more of a circus with them so you don't want to get in their faces too much.
EC: One word that is synonymous with Twin Atlantic is the word ‘passion’. Yourselves, as well as others, keep describing the band as passionate, both in your music and live show. How many bands nowadays do you think still provide that key element of passion in their music? CK: I think there are loads of bands that still have passion infused in their music. I think people sometimes think that if you jump about a lot on stage then you're passionate but that can quite often be very insincere and all an act. Arctic Monkeys just stand and play their songs live, but they have bucket loads more passion than the majority of emo bands who everyone seems to think are incredible to watch live.
EC: ‘Your lies are loose and there’s no excuse’ is a lyric from your song ‘Audience And Audio’ from the album ‘Vivarium’. What’s the worst lie you’ve ever been told, or even, what’s the worst lie you have told yourselves?
CK: A boy I went to school with told me that he'd got a scholarship to NASA at the age of six. Even at that age I knew it was nonsense. I'm actually really bad at telling people I’ve got plans with someone else if they ask if I want to do something so I usually just lie and say I’m too tired to do anything. This has backfired on me many times...
EC: Your song ‘We Want Better, Man.’ on the album ‘Free’ is very interesting lyrically, with a running theme about freedom of speech and making a stand. What was the meaning and intentions behind the song? What inspired you to write it?
Ross McNae: It was just a feeling of unrest really. We were all tired of a lot of things that were going on in the life of the band and the world around us and it was the perfect time for us to say something about it. Everybody should always want more from the people in power. The minute that push stops, the world stands still.
EC: You recently did a cover of a Jessie J song for Radio 1’s Live Lounge. What was it like trying to translate a pop song to have a rockier feel? CK: I think we actually possibly made it more pop than the original! Sam hasn't got that diva voice, but we kind of broke it down even more into a full acoustic ballad. It could have backfired tremendously but I think it actually went down pretty well.
EC: You guys always seem to be playing shows. With a hectic touring schedule, how do you find ‘you’ time? CK: We usually don't. 'You' time is mainly time spent on our laptops. When we're home we actually don't spend that much time together out of practice because we see each other the majority of the year so 'you' time is also 'home' time.
EC: Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the non-musical elements of the band, such as speaking to record labels and trying to establish what’s best for the band in terms of the business side of things? The band has said before that these are the parts of being a band they don’t tell you about when you’re first starting out. Do you feel more confident dealing with those areas of being a band now or can they still at times be a bit overwhelming?
CK: It is something that we still struggle thing, but you need to keep a handle on it so you can control your destiny. In a perfect world we could just write and perform our music but there's so much more that you need to deal with but I think we're all more comfortable dealing with that these days. Our label understands us, and they're usually into our ideas for the band.
EC: Do you have any hobbies you like to pursue when you have some downtime from the band? CK: Ross and I are both quite into photography, but that's become something I actually do more on tour than at home now. I like running and hill climbing when I’m at home; I just like the freedom of it. Plus, it's quite a manly feeling when you get to the top of a mountain.
EC: Ross tweeted just after Christmas, ‘So, someone was actually stabbed and died on Oxford Street today, 300 separate groups of people hunted foxes & two men were shot in Salford.’ And then ‘I'm all for freedom of speech but not when it infringes others human or animal rights. Due to this I will be holding public hangings soon.’ How can we make the UK a better place where people respect other humans and animals? RM: I reckon people always act on their upbringing and the way the people they look up to view other humans, animals & property. It's impossible to change opinions, values and morals overnight. The world is definitely more liberal than it has been for a long time. I honestly don't know what to do to make it better. Nobody's perfect, so I certainly don't think I have the right to tell people to change.
EC: Ross and Craig – you’re both vegetarian. Did the health benefits that come with being a vegetarian influence you to turn veggie or was it based on feeling it was unjust to kill animals for our own consumption? Did anything else influence your decision? CK: The health reason was actually why I was hesitant to turn vegetarian at first. I try to live a healthy lifestyle and was worried that I’d lose out on things that I’d need. But every time I ate meat I felt massively guilty and then Ross showed me the 'meat.org' video and after that I just couldn't do it anymore. I turned vegetarian at the start of 2011 and haven't looked back since; I don't think I’ll ever be able to eat meat again. And I’m probably healthier now than I was before.
EC: Have you ever convinced someone else to become veggie? CK: Well, Ross managed to convince me by educating me on things I already had problems with and also alleviating any fears I had. I've not turned anyone vegetarian myself but in the last year the people around me have all said that they understand why I do it, which in itself is a result because I actually got a lot of stick for turning vegetarian at first. There's an opinion you hear a lot which is "I don't think I could live without meat" - which has always seemed crazy to me.
EC: What’s the best veggie restaurant or shop you’ve ever visited? CK: There's a bar/cafe in Glasgow called the 13th Note which does loads of great veggie stuff for cheap prices too. It's got a cool atmosphere as well and also houses one of the best small venues in Glasgow. A lot of huge bands played there at the start.
EC: Ross, you’ve been vegetarian your whole life. Were your parents very passionate about animal rights and how did that affect your childhood? RM: They had both been vegetarian for quite a long time before I was born so I think the idea that I would be brought up any other way never crossed their minds. There was never anything pushed on me though which I'm really glad of. I just didn't ever want to change. When I was a bit older and started to look into animal rights issues myself then my parents would talk about it but I was left to really discover them by myself.
EC: Ross, you recently got a tattoo to commemorate the veggie lifestyle. What made you decide you wanted to celebrate your choice to not eat meat in that way?
RM: It’s just always been such a massive part of my life. In fact it's probably the only thing that I've done every day of my life apart from the obvious sleep, eat etc. It's something I'm proud of so I thought I would have it drawn on permanently. When I put it like that, it's quite ridiculous really.
EC: Have you ever thought about becoming vegan?
CK: I would like to think I could, but I think I’ll have to build up to that for now. I'm still discovering about things I can't eat because I’m vegetarian (certain beers, parmesan etc...) but it is something I’d like to try in the future.
EC: Do you think you might ever combine your music with your views regarding eating meat – doing an album, tour or even some merch which promotes vegetarianism? Or playing an animal benefit show?
CK: I think myself and Ross would like to, but we wouldn't want to force our beliefs on the other guys in the band as it's probably something they wouldn't be comfortable with. Perhaps me and you could start our Dubstep side project to raise awareness, Rossco?
EC: Are there any anti-animal cruelty organisations you particularly support and would like to give a shout out to? RM: The Hunt Saboteurs Association works to disrupt blood sports meetings in the UK like fox hunting.
EC: Finally, since your album is called ‘Free’, which animal would you most like to be set free – monkeys, rats, dogs and others that are tested on in laboratories, cows, pigs and lambs in farms, elephants in circuses or whales and dolphins in places like SeaWorld? How would you feel if your life was in one of those places?
CK: I think it would be unfair to pick just one, they should all be set free. I think if any human had to put up with the conditions that farmed/zoo animals are treated to for even a couple of days they'd become vegetarian. It's barbaric; I couldn't even imagine what it must be like. It seems like it'd be infinitely worse than going to prison.