Twin Atlantic: “What matters is authenticity”The Scottish rockers refuse to get rid of their quirks. And that’s exactly why they’re so successful, says singer Sam McTrusty
Almost 10 million people heard Twin Atlantic’s “Free” on October 14, 2012, as the victory anthem of the live broadcast of Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the edge of space.
The event promoted the Scottish foursome into the premier league of rock, with sell-out concerts and a top-10 position in the UK charts for their third album, Great Divide.
An extraordinary achievement, considering that, early on, several music industry experts deemed them to be of limited potential, due to singer Sam McTrusty’s heavy Scottish burr.
THE RED BULLETIN: You’ve dedicated your new album to Glasgow. Why does your hometown deserve a homage?
SAN MCTRUSTY: Because the place represents us really strongly. It’s just one of those cities that, no matter where you go in the world, if you say you’re from Glasgow, you get instantly defined by it. It’s a city that has a lot of history and for such a small place it’s such a definite thing. When we were making the album, we wrote all of the songs and demos at home.
It’s interesting to hear that you’ve been so inspired by a city that has been struggling with a bad reputation for decades …
I think firstly, the weather here plays such a huge part in creativity. Because you’re mostly forced to be indoors. Even in the summer it can rain two weeks in a row. So in the autumn you go into creative hibernation. You lock yourself in and you just become really creative. There are other cities like that, Seattle is a good example. The whole northwest part of America is famous for its artistry.
Being from Glasgow, do you think you had to work a lot harder than bands from London to break through?
Definitely. You feel like you’re a million miles away from where the art and the music industry is based. Everything happens in London, especially as a band, it made us feel like we had to shout a little bit louder. That just made us work so, so hard. We quit everything and went full time and rehearsed nine to five, five days a week. We took it so seriously, because we knew that it’s a one in a million shot to get a record deal if you’re tapped up here in Scotland, away from London.
How did this experience shape you as a young band?
It’s funny what it did to us. I think we’re actually more proud of what we achieved. The decision to stay in Glasgow made us a bit more stubborn. Like, we don’t have to be somewhere, we’re proud to be from here, it’s cool. It keeps you separate from all the bullshit that happens in the music industry.
Speaking of the industry, an unwritten law of the music business says: If you want to become famous you have to get rid of your quirks. You sing in a thick Scottish accent – and still, Twin Atlantic are very successful.
The accent itself isn’t too important to me. What matters is authenticity. When I write songs I want to express my thoughts in my own voice, rather than pretending to be someone else. And I think that’s exactly why our fans love us.
But do you think U2 would be superstars today, had Bono not toned down his Irish accent a little bit?
I don’t know. People have been telling us, ‘you know, if you had a bit more of an universal accent, you guys would be huge in the States.’ But to me the thought that someone would be so desperate to be famous to be willing to not be themselves is really embarrassing. It feels like it’s a much bigger achievement to be accepted for who you are.
As a young band, where do you find the self-confidence to ignore advice like that?
A lot of the time experts advise you to play it safe, to do what has proven to be successful.
Which kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?
I think it’s essential to take risks in life to achieve real success. As a band, we pretty much take a risk every day for something. Not because we’re ultra cool daredevils, but there is so much competition out there that you need to think outside the box.
So a sense of healthy suspicion is the key to success?
You do need people along the way, not just in music, it will be in anyone’s walk of life. But you should ask yourself, does that person believe in me or is this someone working for me so they can get a pay cheque? Make sure you feel their passion and there has to be invested interest. When it comes to advice, always question things and listen the voice in the back of your head.
And what’s the most helpful piece of advice you’ve received so far?
Actually it was the first piece of advice we were ever given as a band. We wanted to move from Glasgow to London, to get a record deal and make something of ourselves. And someone told us, ‘you need to pull a crowd in your hometown first. If your own people don’t support you, then how do you expect anyone else to believe in you?’ We took that very literally and worked really hard. So that even before we signed our record deal, we had sold out shows in Glasgow with more than a thousand people.