Ross McNae

  • Twin Atlantic
  • 2009-07-24

Cross-breeding is fairly common place at the start of a band’s life. Therefore it is not a surprise then to hear that the latest Glaswegian indie kids Twin Atlantic have all been heard in different bands before. Formed in 2007, lead vocalist/guitarist Sam McTrusty (Arca Felix), bassist/pianist Ross McNae (LongStoryShort), guitarist/cellist Barry McKenna (Think:Fire) and drummer Craig Kneale (In Ernest), the foursome appear to have made a wise decision in ditching their formative bands. Twin Atlantic appear all set to follow in fellow Glaswegian rockers footsteps by hitting the bigtime. Having already supported the likes of The Subways, Biffy Clyro, You Me At Six, Funeral for a Friend and Lostprophets it seems that 2009 will see them finally having their moment in the spotlight. John Travis (Sugar Ray, Kid Rosck, Static X) produced debut mini-album Vivarium is all set for a September release, with the eye-wellingly beautiful “Lightspeed” and stomping lead single “You’re Turning Into John Wayne” already winning over many a heart. zap! bang! took a moment to find out more from Ross McNae.

First off, can you tell us a little about Twin Atlantic’s background… where are all of you from?

We’re all from in and around Glasgow — the real capital of Scotland. Barry’s the only one from outside of Glasgow’s walls, and only by ten miles.

So how did the group come together?

It was more through chance than anything else. Me and Sam were at school together and always spoke about getting a band together but nothing ever really materialised. We did have one rehearsal but I’ll not share details. When we eventually did get our act together, we played for a few months with another drummer as a three piece and went on our first DIY tour with a band called Piano Bar Fight, who are also from Glasgow. Barry randomly ended up driving us on that tour… it’s a long story. Anyway, we came back from that tour with our new friend Barry and we ended up needing to find a new drummer. To cut a long story short, me and Sam and Barry had all asked the same person to drum for our bands and we thought it wise to team up – meaning Craig didn’t have to choose. I wonder who he’d have picked.

You were all in different groups beforehand, why did you decide to focus energies on the Twin Atlantic project?

I don’t think it was really a conscious decision at first. None of us were in other bands when the band started – they had all finished beforehand. When the band came together with the four of us, we had a deadline as we had a gig booked about a month from our first practice. We had that practice and basically decided to practice every day to be ready for that gig. After that show passed I suppose we kind of thought why stop practicing all the time, and just like that it became all of our main focus.

Where does the name Twin Atlantic originate?

Honestly, there’s no real story behind the name. In all truth, I’m pretty sure we just liked the sound of it. We did, I suppose, make a conscious effort to choose something that didn’t necessarily have any connotations attached to it, you know. We didn’t want to be able to be categorised before people had heard us or seen us.

What first got you all into making music?

I can’t really speak for anybody else but for me it was my Dad, my Mum and Dad’s records and being taken to gigs since I was tiny. My Dad plays a lot of guitar and I always remember being fascinated by it when I was really young.

Who are your shared influences?

I can’t even really tell you. They are from all over the scale and we all cross over in some way, I suppose, but not in any definable way. They range from classical to punk to folk… I think we all just love music, all music. Yeah, my answer is music. It’s a cop out but I’ll go with it.

Who will admit to owning an embarrassing record, and what record is that?

We probably all do. Nothing comes to mind though, so maybe not. A year ago I would probably have been able to think of a record I own that was embarrassing but I think I’ve grown to love all the embarrassing stuff.

*You are from Glasgow, do you hope to emulate the success of
fellow Glaswegians Glasvegas?*

I won’t lie, that would be nice. They’ve done incredibly well recently. They were kicking around for a good while around Glasgow and then without any real warning they were on the front of every magazine and all over the radio. Hats off to them.

What are your thoughts on the Scottish scene?

There’s so much exciting music around in Scotland and it hasn’t really stopped erupting. There seems to be a steady stream of bands coming out of Scotland at all times. Franz, The Fratellis, Glasvegas, The View, Biffy Clyro all in the last few years, for example. There are so many great bands breaking through at the moment too — Frightened Rabbit, The Xcerts, Flood of Red…

How are songwriting duties shared in the group?

Sam’s the man with the words and usually has the seed that grows into the finished article when we all attack it. Sometimes it’s Barry’s guitar parts that start something or myself or Craig. There’s no real definitive answer.

How has your sound developed as the group has matured?

I think we realised a lot of things when we recorded our record at the start of the year. I definitely think we all play for the song now and not ourselves which I suppose has changed things a lot. I think we’ve all learned a lot about our instruments and music in general over the last couple of years, so it’s hopefully meant that our songs have taken a step forward and will continue to do so the more we learn. We’re a really young band though, so we haven’t really matured at all yet musically.

You have undergone a change of record label, what caused this?

Well we were never on a real label before. The label that we released our first EP (A Guidance From Colour) on was just us. We did everything ourselves with the help of our manager. We wanted to make the next step from that though and wanted to find somebody who shared our enthusiasm for our music and ethos and we happened to stumble upon them when we were least expecting it. I think they would say the same thing.

How difficult has the journey to album release been?

There have been plenty of ups and downs along the way but it’s been a great journey so far. I don’t think any of us ever thought in our wildest dreams that we would have had the opportunities we have had so far as a band. We’ve been to the other side of the world to live for a while, to record a record, filmed music videos and every other thing you could imagine, so if you look back at everything that we’ve done from the demo stage before going to pre-production, we’ve been working so hard. It’s been so exciting though, that I don’t think I realised until just then when I was thinking about it all.

Has it altered the group dynamic?

Not at all. I’m really proud of us all actually. We’ve just got our heads down and enjoyed every second of it. Well, nearly every second of it. There have been a couple of homesick moments, I’m sure.

You have supported Smashing Pumpkins and Lostprophets, how much contact did you get with the groups?

We’ve been really lucky with support shows. We’ve supported some of our favourite bands, which is incredible. Smashing Pumpkins was different. I won’t get into too many details as I don’t want to bore you but it certainly wasn’t what we expected in terms of contact with the band. Lostprophets were really nice though — they were recording their new record in the studio next door to where we were recording in LA. In fact, almost all of the bands we’ve supported have been really nice to us and we’re still friends with most of them.

Play like your life depends on it.

Were there any words of advice offered?

There have been plenty of words of advice but more than that we’ve learnt so much from people like The Subways, Biffy Clyro and Circa Survive. We’ve learnt how to be a touring band and the ground rules of the whole game. We’ve got a lot of people to thank so far and it’s just the very beginning.

If you could pick any up and coming band to support you, who would you choose?

There are loads of bands from Glasgow that are amazing at the moment. There’s a band called Arca Felix that rock the fuck out of their shows.

Do you alter your sound for live performance?

No. I know we never want to be “like the CD” though, so we’re a good bit more aggressive but that’s also because we all get really into live shows.

What are your performance tips?

Play Hard. That’s about all I have to offer on that subject. Play like your life depends on it. I suppose that’s what we try and do.

Who is the showman of the group?

Naturally, Sam.

Where would you like to be this time next year?

There are two answers. The biggest band in the world is the first. The second and I’m sure the real answer, is still playing shows and recording songs and making videos etc. If we can play to more people and let more people hear our music that would be amazing. To sum up, next year I think we just want to still be spreading the word.

Finally, if you could collaborate with one person/band, who would you choose and why?

I don’t even think that’s a fair question. There’s an endless list. In light of recent events, Michael Jackson maybe. David Bowie. Bach. I don’t know. Our problem is we like too much music I reckon. I couldn’t choose somebody for the band but for myself quite possibly David Bowie, or Queen, or both. That could be something. They are two of the people who made me want to start making music of my own, so for that reason I suppose it seems only proper to let them in on my success, seeing as they were never that popular on their own.

Twin Atlantic release single “You’re Turning Into John Wayne” on September 7th, swiftly followed by album Vivarium on September 14th. Both releases are on Red Bull Records. For more information visit Twin Atlantic’s Offical site.

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