Interview: Twin Atlantic
Scottish four-piece Twin Atlantic are back with their first album since 2016, POWER, and are kicking off the year with a number of intimate shows before their headline tour in March. The Mic sat down with drummer Craig Kneale ahead of their set at the Nottingham Metronome on Monday.
‘Selfishly,’ said Kneale, when asked why the band decided on this run of intimate shows instead of diving straight into their headline tour, ‘it’s because we want to learn all the new songs. We have a tour coming up and we’re notoriously bad if we don’t do gigs before it. But it was also because we haven’t played our own shows for a while and it seemed like a fun way – we really like doing them and getting to work with some record stores’.
Twin Atlantic’s fourth studio album, GLA, was released back in 2016. I asked what the band had been up to since then. ‘We did actually go straight into writing POWER, just took a really long time doing it,’ said Kneale. ‘In fact, we’d started writing it while we were still touring GLA – there’s a song called Volcano which was written during GLA, so that was kind of the start. We’ve been writing it for like three years or something’.
POWER, in comparison to GLA, feels like an album with which the band had more fun. I suggested so to Kneale: ‘GLA, we love that album, but it definitely felt like we were reacting to the previous album (Great Divide, 2014). There was a lot of angst, and we felt in the band like we still loved doing it but there were loads of things we weren’t enjoying. It definitely is quite aggressive-sounding,’ he laughed.
‘We finished with our old record label, so for POWER we could kind of just do what we wanted. It felt quite free and fun, like we were making music just for ourselves for the first time in a really long time. I think that comes across. The plan was just to make something enjoyable and for ourselves’.
On the writing process and revisiting unused songs from previous albums, Kneale said: ‘We always plan to save them, but when it actually comes to writing a new album again we end up being like, “if it wasn’t good enough to be on this thing we should probably just start again”. I’m probably the most eager to revisit stuff but the guys are more like “let’s just start fresh and write something better”. I’ve got quite a soft spot for all the stuff we don’t use’.
The album title came about as a result of influences inside and outside the studio. ‘It was our own studio and we were using more electronics, which require power. [Also] in the world right now there’s lots going on to do with power – power struggles and ego – so those were definitely things that influenced it’.
'We finished with our old record label, so for POWER we could kind of just do what we wanted. It felt quite free and fun, like we were making music just for ourselves for the first time in a really long time'.
I asked whether any of the tracks on POWER were engaging with the current political climate. ‘Subliminally. Living in the UK right now it’s hard not to be influenced by stuff like that. We’ve tried to make the music quite fun, but lyrically some of the themes are maybe a bit darker. Things bleed in,’ said Kneale.
Kneale and I agreed that POWER’s fifth track, I Feel It Too, is going to be a banging live performance. ‘It was the most fun to record as well,’ he said. ‘We took a long time over it, especially on the drums. It also felt like that song unlocked the rest of the album and we embraced recording everything ourselves – when we did the demo it was the first song where we’d recorded the drums ourselves. It felt like quite a big moment. It’s a fairly strange song,’ he continued, ‘it doesn’t really have a chorus’.
For Kneale, touring doesn’t come with any negatives. ‘The best thing is the shows. It’s the most fun for me, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything as exciting. There are nights where you’re more tired, but the show can normally turn that around. I don’t think there’s a ‘worst’ part for me; I get more done on tour, it’s easier to concentrate. Touring’s good for me’.
'Living in the UK right now it’s hard not to be influenced by stuff like that. We’ve tried to make the music quite fun, but lyrically some of the themes are maybe a bit darker. Things bleed in'.
I asked if Kneale could pinpoint a particularly memorable show. ‘We toured in South Africa a few years ago and that was a really cool experience. It felt culturally so different and we’d never been. Loads of people knew who we were and knew the songs, so that was cool. It was exciting that we’d managed to get that far. We’ve done some really big shows in Scotland and they’ve always felt pretty special – maybe it’s been in a venue or a festival we went to as kids,’ he said, smiling. It was clear that playing the same venues in which they used to watch their own favourite bands perform was a pretty special thing for the band.
To conclude the interview, Kneale humoured me with a quick-fire round:
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
Breakfast. Probably avocado toast.
Tea or coffee?
Where are you happiest?
Harris – it’s like an island off the top of Scotland. We go there every year and there’s no television or internet or anything. Really peaceful.
How would you rate your life out of 10?
8.5. There’s always room for improvement, I like to push myself. Pretty happy.
What does your perfect day off look like?
We’re really boring, so not getting drunk. Go on a run, which is really bad, I really like running. Just wander around. Then at night go for dinner somewhere nice and then maybe see a film. The best days off we’ve had usually involve a mixture of those things - pretty uncool!
If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The Strokes – Is This It. I never get bored of it.