Sam McTrusty was a little distracted at the beginning of our call. His fellow bandmember, the Twin Atlantic guitar player Barry McKenna, had apparently parked up next to him, got out, opened his shirt and started dancing in front of the window in the realisation his mate was doing a phone interview. Thiswas yet another sign of a band still going strong after eight years together. Sam mentioned that he feels very lucky with how the dynamics of Twin Atlantic have evolved, and that theyare at their happiest and most comfortable position right now. It’s easy to see why; their latest album, Great Divide, has received a great deal of positive press. It reached number six in the album charts, and one of their singles was premiered by Zane Lowe on BBC Radio 1 as the “Hottest Record in the World”.
Twin Atlantic came about in 2007, when all four members abandoned their jobs and universities to form a band, transforming music from their part-time hobby to their livelihood. Sam himself gave up art school, which he sees as the driving force behind his introduction to music and song writing. “If it wasn’t for my drawing and painting, I wouldn’t be in a band.” The art world, and indeed his fellow art students, introduced him to bands and music in a way he’d never encountered before. He found that music motivated him far more than his studies. Since the band has grown in popularity and fame, Sam has had little time to keep up his drawing and painting, but seems very contented with his lot.
As he should be. The self-described ‘rock band from Glasgow’ have been going from strength to strength, while never leaving their Glaswegian roots behind. If you’ve ever heard a Twin Atlantic song, you will know that one of the most distinctive elements of Sam’s voice is his enchanting Glaswegian accent. You’d be surprised to hear that he’d ever sung along to Blink-182 in a “fake American accent”. This Scottish touch has made the band stand out amongst a sea of rather generic voices, something that Sam finds rather strange, “It does surprise a lot of people, but the surprise should be that they’re surprised, because we are Scottish.”
The Glaswegian influence doesn’t just stop there. Sam’s pride for his hometown is apparent, although he is wary of the widespread reputation it has gained as a dangerous city. He explains that while this is true to some extent, Glaswegians are also the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, and you’d struggle to have a bad night out there. In Sam’s words, “People like to party here but we also like to fight.” These contradictions have led to the city feeling somewhat confused and conflicted, almost ideal conditions to allow creativity to thrive. Sam himself turns to the weather, rather poetically, to explain the large amount of creativity that Glasgow seems to foster. “The weather here is so fucking weird that in turn it makes all the children that grow up here a little bit weird, because you spend so much time indoors, you have to lean on your imagination.”
Sam’s imagination is clearly still thriving, wet weather or not. The band’s aim when they formed was to bring more honesty to rock music. They didn’t want to swing into either extreme of rock: on the one hand, it can be overly serious, while on the other, theatrical and over-dramatised. Instead, they prefer to draw upon raw human experience of love and loss, themes that underlie most of their songs.
This honesty can go some way to explain their popularity. Combined with the authentic accent, the music and the feeling behind it gains an unusual element of credibility. Their live performances burn with the energy and passion of earnest men. They have been privileged enough to play in some beautiful venues, such as Koko in London or Ontario Place in Toronto. They will embark shortly on yet another UK tour, which will culminate in a headline show in their hometown. If you’re looking for complexity, Twin Atlantic are not for you; Sam refuses to over-categorise the music, claiming that labels such as Scottish-angular-rest rock, “driven by pop with an underlying tone of appreciation of song writing from the past,” are far too pretentious for them.
However, if you’re looking for classic British rock music with an honest heart, there will be few better examples. As Sam says, “We’re just a rock band and I think that’s cool.” Me too.