‘Rock N Roll Brotherhood’:
An Interview with Sam McTrusty of Twin Atlantic
Words and Photo by Ken Grand-Pierre
Well it’s happened; they’re back. Scottish rock band Twin Atlantic are back and not only do they have a great new album to unleash onto the masses but they also have a new approach to their live shows to share with fans. That new approach is invigorating passion that will propel listeners into new depths as they’re jumping like mad men at Twin Atlantic’s shows. They’re a band I deeply respect and getting to reconnect with front-man Sam McTrusty as a true pleasure of mine. After their sold out show at Webster Hall I got to sit down with Sam and find out how new album, Great Divide, was born.
The response for Heart and Soul has been incredible. What has surprised you guys about it the most?
Sam: We’re definitely riding on some extreme high right now. To be honest the last two months of being in this band has been life changing. I know that sounds quite dramatic but it’s true. We worked on the album for so long and right after we toured with Thirty Seconds To Mars in these huge arenas and then went to do huge festivals, so we never really had a chance to let the album sink in until now. It’s been mental seeing how the single has taken a life of it’s own, the way it’s being added to so many stations across the states.
That’s the incredible thing isn’t it? You always want that to happen after you write a song but there really isn’t a way to prepare for the outcome of that really.
Sam: Yeah, no one can. It’s making me feel nervous but also alive and excited. It’s just given the band a bit of a new life, a heightened life. We feel immensely lucky right now and it feels great because we worked so hard to get here.
Well it’s interesting to hear you say that because over the past couple of years with us working together I’ve noticed that the reputation of Twin Atlantic is that you’re viewed as
one of the hardest working bands out there.
Sam: It’s amazing. It’s an honor to be one of those bands and I look up to bands who are like that. I think we’re also doubly fortunate because we come from a place where you’re not
considered to be a real band until you go through a lot of hard shit. You can still have great songs but you’re not real until things like that happen.
Yeah, it’s like you don’t want to have only one song and already be a BBC Hottest Record haha.
Sam: Exactly. I mean can you even believe people like that? Like, can you believe what they’re trying to sell to you?
It’s mental. It’s even crazier to think that for some of those bands will play their second or third show in front of thousands of people just because of hype.
Sam: Yeah man. I’ve been to shows like that before and it’s always been a weird experience. It’s like everyone is in stasis until that one random song comes on.
Mmhmm, and then it’s like after two years the band is gone and never existed.
Sam: Yeah exactly! That’s one of the reasons I feel really good about tonight’s show. I noticed while I was on stage that there were faces in the crowd from different states and it’s just mental
to me that we’ve left such an impression on people that they’d want to travel long distances just to see us. It means a lot. And also to see new people in the crowd who’ve just only heard of us
because of our single…just to see people like that care…it’s just been a dream of ours for a long time, to have a real connection with people.
Something that I find very intriguing is the art direction for the album and singles. It’s incredible and very striking. What inspired this direction?
Sam: Well striking was definitely the idea haha. It started with the last album when I bought a US Air Force shirt in a shop when we were recording Free. I’d wear the shirt a lot in the studio and it’d just give me this weird confidence boost (laughs). I truly can’t explain it but something about it made me feel more confident with how I sang. So it made me get into reading about the psychology of that and of military history and propaganda. I definitely kind of got lost in it all, but then I found myself reading about military music, like songs played during war times and on battle fields.
Wow that’s very interesting because that tends to be a major aspect of war that people forget; the fact that music has always been a crucial element to war.
Sam: Yeah I always feel that music is meant to inspire people and be something that’s truly for people. I love the fact that music can bring people from the brink; like you can be having a
shite day and a song can just completely change the direction of that day. And when you think about times like World War 2 or the Cold War you can’t help but imagine how crucial music was for
some people in those times.
Yeah, and at that point it highlights how music can be a form of escapism.
Sam: Yeah exactly, and that all started a conversation of how to present our music to people. So when it came to this album I just wanted to build on what we had with Free. We wanted the album to reflect what we were going through so I said to this guy named Mark Farrow, this really great designer in the UK who makes very clean designs, what we wanted to do. I felt like he’d be the best person to go to since usually in rock everything is gritty and we wanted something very clean and simple.
Well you guys definitely achieved that. When I look at the artwork the word ‘modern’ instantly springs to mind.
Sam: That’s great to hear because that’s exactly the reaction we wanted! The whole idea was to be direct as possible. I told Mark that I was interested in propaganda and how flags can represent things. To me it was a passing comment but he took it literally and in a beautiful way. So he designed a flag for each band member. What I especially love about that is that there’s going to be four singles off the record so each single gets it’s own flag as well. It’s really fucking cool to me to be perfectly honest (laughs).
That’s great that the artwork is both meaningful and cohesive with the entire project, especially for the singles as well.
Sam: Yeah man. You know it’s funny because…well….I’ve said all this about the army but to be honest it’s a thing I don’t like very much, I hate that it exists. But with the album art it’s just utilizing the aesthetics and how that in itself can be meaningful. The visual aspect gives structure to everything, which is something I really like.
Well what’s very interesting about that as well is that in a lot of ways being in a band is similar to being in an army, in the context of brotherhood and going through shit together to
strengthen a bond.
Sam: Wow it’s really interesting to hear you say that. I’ve actually never thought of that before but I do kind of get what you mean. It’s strange too because I’ve been really into reading about the army and other militaries and I don’t personally know that many people part of the military. I know a girl in Canada who was in the military but yeah…I think with me it’s that…well I think I have a bit of a naïve perspective on it where I believe that if no one joined the army there wouldn’t be any wars. There would only be conversation to happen.
I hear what you mean, but…
Sam: Yeah I know, it’s a very simple thought. A bit of a ‘well duh, if it was that easy’ type of thing but I don’t know, I think the idea of someone joining the army is something I’ve tried to wrap my brain around. In the UK you get a sense that people do it because of a lack of options.
That tends to be the case here in the states as well.
Sam: Yeah, see so you get it. To me my brain always goes ‘yeah…but there’s got to be other options then that no?’
Yeah, I’m from a small town outside of the city and back there it’s a very common occurrence for people to join the military right after high school.
Sam: See that’s mental to me. I mean I totally understand that not everybody can be creative but I do think there are more options out there than to join an army you know? But I do very much agree about the brotherhood you mentioned. A good example is that we saw two guys today that we went on tour with years ago, and when we started talking it was as though we talked on this level that was more than how friends would talk you know? It’s like, being on the road created this bond that’s
just more than it would be with other people. So I do get those parallels completely. But I think you can feel that feeling even if you just travel about and meet people at a hostel or something,
it’s just a form of having something that you can only share with a particular group of people.
Well it’s interesting you’d say that because that nicely goes into my next question. With the past albums you guys got the chance to tour a lot. Do you feel like traveling and touring has changed you as a person and has changed the band as well?
Sam: Absolutely, it totally has. It changed us all as people completely, all for different reasons but…I just never take for granted how much of a gift this has been. Not only touring but also I truly love the fact that I get to meet so many new people. Even stuff like this (interviews) I love them because it just alters your perspective and widens your mind a lot more than you could ever imagine. I probably know a thousand people from doing this.
Come now Sam, you guys definitely know loads more than a thousand people.
Sam: Hahaha yeah you’re probably right. I mean along with Thirty Seconds To Mars we toured with Kings of Leon and Blink-182 and I remember that we’d just meet loads of people at every stop of those tours.
Recently in an NME video you mentioned how important it was for you guys to remember being fans in a crowd yourselves. What do you think it is about that (being in a crowd for a show) that means so much to you?
Sam: Aw man, just everything about it really. I lived in Canada on and off for about two years and I went for a personal reason.
Dude, did you meet a girl?
Sam: Hahaha, maybe. But what I took away from there was being outside of my comfort zone constantly. I mean I know I’m not like David Bowie or something but back in Scotland it’s gotten
difficult for me to just walk around and such (laughs). So being in Canada, or hell even America, gives me the chance to just hang about. So to round about to your question, being at shows kind of echoed that to me, like it reminded me that even when you’re away from home, a venue can still be a sort of comfort zone for you. Actually now I mention it I remember that back at BBC’s Big Weekend in Glasgow that right before Kings of Leon went on, they played this recap of the festival on these massive screens. The song they played over the recap was ‘Heart and Soul’, and I remember people in the crowd looking at me and pointing. The thing that got me the most was that so many people were singing the song out loud, like a chorus of people and I was there in the crowd just to watch Kasabian (laughs).
Dude, Kasabian?…I fucking love Kasabian.
Sam: Holy shit, they’re fucking amazing aren’t they?
That song they kick their sets off now with (Bumblebee) is fucking immense!
Sam: They’re so diverse man and they totally just push rock music into the future man, they really fucking do.
It’s like if put Stone Roses in a fucking space ship or something.
Sam: That has to be the best way I’ve ever heard someone describe Kasabian (laughs).
Lastly, where was the Great Divide recorded and do you feel that the location influenced the album at all?
Sam: It was recorded in two places. We spent three months in this old studio in Wales called Rockfield. It’s where Coldplay, Black Sabbath, Oasis, Queen, and pretty much every big British
band has recorded at some point. We were hashing out the songs and…we got a bit enamored by the history of the place to be honest. It was tranquil and nice but we lost our way to be honest because we had too much freedom. So when we finished we thought ‘fuck man…we can do better than this’ so we went out to LA to record with Jacknife Lee and he really helped us grow some more life into the songs. Without him we wouldn’t have been able to make ‘Hold On,’ ‘Brothers and Sisters,’
and ‘Heart and Soul’ into what they are now.
TheWaster.com | Great Divide