Ross McNae takes us behind the scenes of recording their latest album Power and tells an 80s synth pop-infused story of falling back in love with music and making it for yourself in the commercial reality.
Emerging from Glasgow pubs, Twin Atlantic took the best Scottish alt-rock sounds on the world heights. Since 2010 they’ve released four LPs and played with finest of their genre, Biffy Clyro and Smashing Pumpkins. Supported by a fair share of devoted followers and hyped by critics, they’ve secured a sweet spot in the British cabinet of stadium rock curiosities. After four years of studio silence (and well-deserved break), they’re back. With a brand new sound for a brand new decade.
“We allowed ourselves to explore areas we’ve always been interested in but haven’t had the gift of time to chase down,” says Ross McNae on Power, the fifth, up-coming studio album. After splitting ways with their previous label, Redbull Records, Twin Atlantic took a step back and a break from commercial pressure. Decided to act upon the possibility of being in full control of their music, they’ve developed a taste for self-producing.
Joining forces with Dan Austin, who worked as an engineer on Free and Great Divide, they’ve been exposed to another side of a process of recording. More intimate, less limited. “Making our own studio meant there was no watching the clock so we had time to explore sound design we didn’t really understand before this. There were a lot of happy accidents, and then we found ourselves here,” says McNae.
Accidents like discovering their shared love for the 80s dance music. Taking a break from their emo-rock comfort zone, they’ve migrated to the land of ever-lasting electronica. For the first time, they’ve allowed themselves to tap to a different kind of sound source, spicing up their signature musical brew. That’s how Power was born. A record designed not only to sing along to but also boogie to.
“It’s more modern in its use of instrumentation. Softer, but heavier. Less direct emotionally, but somehow more rousing,” says McNae. The trip that Power takes you on is indeed an intense one.
Freely bouncing between rock ‘n’ roll and electronic pop, Power may give you a concussion while taking it in all at once. Such an eclectic mix makes a statement. “I suppose it’s really just been about writing a new manifesto for the band – a reason to record another album, rather than just because,” says McNae and lists influences that brought the new Twin Atlantic to life.
“Time. The studio as an instrument. Experimentation. Real-life. The idea of creating a new path for ourselves after a decade of being Twin Atlantic. What can we bring to music that is new for our fans’ experience of the band,” he says.
The question is whether their fans will share their passion for experimentation. Whether they’re ready to face a disco-rock rush that the band has prepared for them. If not, shame on them, seems to suggest Twin Atlantic. They’re here to push the boundaries and head in the direction where they feel the most comfortable. There’s no stopping now.
It’d be absurd to not take the audience’s opinion into consideration though it’s influence on the creative process has its limits, explains McNae. “It has done in the past and in a sense, it always will because of the platform we’ve been given and we’re grateful for that, but at least personally I try not to imagine what people will think,” he says.
David Bowie, McNae’s never-to-be dream collaboration, would support this kind of attitude. “I think David Bowie would be particularly scary and inspiring to be around,” McNae says.
Dreaming big and getting ready for the Power release UK tour, Twin Atlantic is not forgetting where they came from. Knowing the Glasgow scene in-and-out, they put a spotlight on up-coming names on the horizon, predicting Lucia & The Best Boys and The Ninth Wave to make the most noise as the next hottest Scottish bands.
Still hooked on Power and with the new material to promote, Twin Atlantics are already back in the studio, figuring out the next step on their journey. “We fell back in love with making music and we can’t stop,” says McNae. Go on then.
Interviewed by Aleksandra Brzezicka
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