This year has been great for Twin Atlantic: playing festivals all over the world; getting signed; and, perhaps most importantly, the worldwide release of debut mini-album, Vivarium. We interviewed drummer Craig just days before their new single and Vivarium were released.
You were all in other bands before forming Twin Atlantic. Why did you leave those bands and decide to play together?
Well, I left my band (inErnest) because our singer went to Australia for a while and we just kind of decided that the band had run its course. I can’t speak for the other guys, but I don’t think there were really any dramatic reasons for leaving our old bands; it just wasn’t right. I think we all wanted to take our bands really seriously and completely go for it, but some of the members of our other bands had things that made it hard for them to leave Glasgow. Ross and Sam had already started Twin Atlantic with another drummer by the time inErnest had called it a day, and I was already a fan of what they were doing. Barry went on tour with them when he was playing cello with another band, and I saw them again at the Glasgow date. I was already trying to worm my way into Twin Atlantic and when they all found out we decided to have a jam together! So basically, I’m a whore… but it’s worked so far.
You signed to a new record company, Red Bull Records, in early 2009. Does being signed to such a small label mean that you have more freedom concerning the direction of your music?
Yeah, I guess it does. We’re kind of allowed to do what we like; the label may suggest things to us but they’ve never made us do anything we’re not comfortable with. They like us in the first place because we were a little different, so it would probably be silly of them to try and change that. So far, it’s only positive things we’ve attained from being on a label – it’s much easier to get our name out there and we can now concentrate on the band fully without having to worry so much about money.
Your new mini-album Vivarium, and single You’re Turning Into John Wayne, are coming out soon. How are you feeling? Are you excited? Or nervous?
A very much a combined mixture of the two! I cannot wait for people to hear it (even though it has already leaked), but at the same time I just hope people think it’s good! We put a lot of work into these songs and we love them, we just hope everyone else does too. At the end of the day we’re happy, and hopefully the people that are awaiting its release will be just as happy.
You decided to re-record What Is Light? Where Is Laughter? and Audience and Audio for this release. What was it about these songs that made you want to include them on the album?
It was more the matter that we wanted people to hear those songs, who may not have had the chance before. We’re still a very small band, and this is a worldwide release – so the vast majority of people have never even heard our name before. We wanted to give people an idea of what we are as a band now, as well as where we’ve come from. Plus, they’re still very strong songs in my opinion.
You’ve toured with bands like Taking Back Sunday, Lostprophets, Funeral for a Friend and Biffy Clyro. What’s it like touring with big names like those?
For the most part it’s great, and we’ve learned so much from the bands we’ve toured with. It usually makes you like their music even more, or appreciate their music if you didn’t before. The first six or seven tours we did were all support tours, and it’s where we learned how to present ourselves on the road, by watching these big bands and their crews. Watching how a professional outfit like Biffy Clyro or The Subways operate only makes you strive to be more professional as well. And the best tours we’ve been on are the ones when there’s a friendly atmosphere; I’d much rather play to no people and have a great camaraderie between bands than play to big crowds and have this weird “we’re the headline band and you are nothing” vibe that we’ve experienced a couple of times.
How does being a tour headliner compare to being a support band?
It can be either incredible or pretty tough! I sometimes prefer being on support tours, as we all try a bit harder as we know nobody is really there to see us, so we want to win everyone over. When you play and you know everyone is there to see you it’s a pretty special feeling, even if it’s only like 50 people. We’ve had the privilege of playing to pretty big crowds in Scotland, and it blows our mind even thinking about it. We just wrote these songs and practiced every day and now people want to watch us play them – it’s amazing. On the other hand, we can play in Exeter to one old man, and that can be tough. But we still try to give it our all, as silly as it might look in front of one old person.
Any funny stories from being on tour?
Not really many I could tell, we’d probably get put in jail. My favourite stories from tour are usually making up new names for our sound guy Paul – there are absolutely tonnes these days. My favourite is Breach of the Peesh, or Paulshi Donuts! Apart from that, after that fateful gig in Exeter our van broke down. Pushing our big black van around the cobbled backstreets of Exeter makes me laugh now; I promise you it was no laughing matter at the time, I nearly cried. And that is no joke. Oh! And the time Sam fell off the stage in Manchester during the only part of the set where he has to play guitar alone was pretty much the funniest thing I’ve seen.
Which do you prefer: being on tour or playing festivals? What’s your favourite festival been this year, and why?
Again, there are pros and cons to both. Festivals are great in the sense that you get to play to a lot of people that may not have heard of your band before but come along just to see something new. So you make a lot of new fans that way. But festival sound and the fact you rarely get a sound check always makes them that little bit more stressful. At a couple of them it actually sounded like there was an elephant shouting through my monitor. Tours are great because everything runs a little smoother (mostly), so you’re a little more relaxed. A busy gig in a small venue is probably my favourite show to play, where the sweat is coming off the ceilings. Our favourite festivals this year were T in the Park, Belladrum and a German festival called Highfields, for different reasons. T and Bella because our support at those festivals was just incredible, it really did make our year. And Highfields just because we played out of our socks and won a lot of people over.
The size of your audience at this year’s Belladrum festival was much larger than the previous years’. Has this increase in popularity come as a surprise, or have you seen steady growth throughout the year?
It has been a steady growth, but it still surprises us none the less. Not in the sense that we don’t think we deserve it, we put everything into this band – so in that sense we were hoping for it to happen – but it’s just always a shock when you play and there are lots of people there to watch you. We can remember when we played the Market Bar in Inverness less than two years ago to about 4 people. It’s amazing and it makes all the hard work worth it.
A lot of bands are now including strings in their music, whereas you have had them from the start. What was it that initially made you decide to mix rock and cello?
There wasn’t really a conscious decision like “this song needs strings”, it was more the fact that Barry had been playing cello since he was really young so it seemed silly not to utilise it. It’s such a lovely sounding instrument, so it can take a good song to the next level. Sam and Ross already had the song A Guidance From Colour written when we joined the band, and Barry brought his cello to practice one day and started to play over it, and it just made it sound amazing. We try not to over use it, we don’t want to make it gimmicky – but when it works in the song it’s great to know we have someone who can do that job.
In the past you’ve covered songs like Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. What made you choose a song like that, and will any more covers turn up in the future, as a b-side perhaps?
I think Sam started playing it as a joke, and then we all thought it was actually good! We had to record a cover song for a radio session so we went with that one, and now I think everyone likes it more than our own songs! Which is slightly worrying. We used to say as a joke it was to get in touch with our feminine side but that was bullshit. We recently recorded a Beatles cover that you should hear soon – it is very over the top! It’ll make you cry.
And finally, what do you think of the current music scene in Scotland?
I think the Scottish music scene is brilliant. Coming from here it’s easy to say, but it’s just so much healthier than the scene down in England. There’s more of a team atmosphere here – bands helping other bands and hoping each other to do well. We came from the Glasgow scene and we don’t ever forget that’s what we’re part of. Scottish music is just honest.