Interview: Lisa Thomson.
I managed to catch up with Craig Kneale from Twin Atlantic last week ahead of the bands biggest tour to date. With their album “Great Divide” being released in August of last year, achieving a headline slot at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party and playing sold out gigs, the band are creating quite a wave of excitement among their fans just now.
This will be your first time playing Glasgow’s new SSE Hydro? Is this the biggest venue that you have played to date? How are you all feeling about it?
Ha ha, it is by far the biggest venue we’ve played on our own yeah. We’ve played in bigger places supporting bands, but this will be a completely new experience for us. I think we’re all really excited about it, we have a lot of confidence in our live show at the moment and we have a pretty good idea already of what kind of show we want to put on.
This year definitely started with a bang for you guys at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party! Can you tell us what’s in store for us throughout 2015?
Well, apart from that UK tour in May we’ll be heading to Australia for the first time in February which is really exciting – it’s a place we’ve always wanted to go together. We’ll be heading back to Europe for more shows and it’s likely we’ll be in America before the summer too. As for the summer we’re just hoping to play as many festivals as possible and then we’ll probably decide wether we want to keep touring the album more into the Autumn or start writing for the next one.
I noticed the statement Parkas were ditched?
Ha ha, I think that was possibly a statement from Sam? He did wear quite a lot of parkas last year, I assume (and hope) he was talking personally. I think Parkas will still be popular everywhere else, we don’t have that sort of power over the popularity of long jackets.
You changed producer from Gil Norton to Jacknife Lee for “Great Divide” was that a hard call to make? What did each producer bring to the table?
It was a really difficult decision to make, yes. We love Gil to bits and he inspired us so much on the two albums we worked together on, but when we finished recording with him on ‘Great Divide’ we felt there was an element missing to the album. That was nothing to do with Gil, we’d just been so focused recording that we hadn’t looked at the album as a whole. We’d recorded for so long that it felt like the time to inject someone else’s opinion on it – and Jacknife seemed like the perfect choice because he works so differently to Gil. I think we needed both of them to make the album we wanted, it has Gil’s ability to make passionate, honest rock music on there – and it has Jacknife’s weird-pop sensibility on the tracks he worked on too. We were worried it wouldn’t sound cohesive when you heard it all together but we were surprised by how well it flowed together.
Opening the album is the track “The Ones That I Love” with lyrics such as “You can tell that the youth of today have lost their voice” is this a reference to the digital driven world we now live in?
Not directly, I think it’s more a general statement that there aren’t many people making a stand for young people these days. Everyone is so worried about offending that nobody is trying to engage people to stand for something or inspire them to make music or art. I’m not saying that we necessarily are, more that we live in a society right now where having opinions on anything is frowned upon and attacked.
Every song on the new album is rife with power and emotion, do you ever hit a moment of being so proud with your work and thinking where the hell do we go from here?
We probably do for a moment yes, but then we’ll wake up the following day after feeling that way and already be thinking of the next step and how to better it. And you can always put it in perspective if you get carried away – we might be proud of something but then we’ll think of all the songs from history that have had lasting cultural impact and that will jolt us back to reality and remind us that we have a long way to go to achieve that.
How do you feel that the band has progressed from “Free” and even “Vivarium”?
I think we’ve been developed a lot from the start of the band, which is probably to be expected as we were 18-20 years old when we started this band and we’re all in our mid to late twenties now. If we hadn’t it would kind of suggest that we hadn’t developed as people! When I listen to ‘Vivarium’ now, and even ‘Free’ to a small extent, I hear a band that sound like they’re trying to impress people. I still really like the songs on ‘Vivarium’, but nowadays we write music that’s all about being a good song without having to have crazy guitar parts or time changes etc… Even if it’s technically impressive or clever, but it doesn’t leave with you that feeling that a good song should after a couple of listen, we’ll not use it. It’s much more satisfying to us these days to write a 3 minute song that maybe has a classic verse-chorus structure but holds a listeners attention, than a 6 minute one that has 10 different parts.
The album is also full of so many catchy lyrics, do you have any writing traditions? What is your writing process?
We’ve kind of always written the same way since we started the band – Sam will write the basic chords and melody on his own before bringing it to us, usually with some form of chorus and verse lyrics. Ross will then fix any rogue chords that Sam can sometimes put in there so everything flows better and then we’ll get a basic drum and bass rhythm down so we can get a feel for the song together. Whilst we’re doing that Barry is working on lead parts for the song, which he’ll write quite a few until he gets one that sticks. After that it’s just honing it down and getting the details in there. That’s also an example of when it all goes to plan – there’s been a lot of songs where we get stuck for weeks trying to make it work together!
How do you feel when it comes to playing home town gigs? I know that for your Scottish fans it’s very special to have you guys home?
It is a really emotional experience playing in Scotland, and especially Glasgow, these days. Your home town is the first place where you’ll have played shows together and likely the first place people will take notice of you if you’re lucky. It’s now got to the point with us that there’s an actual physical atmosphere you can feel in the room when we play. It’s really hard to explain, i’m not very religious but it’s the closest thing to a spiritual experience i’ve ever felt. That sounds really silly, but it’s true.
There has been some mixed reviews for “Great Divide” How do you deal with someone negatively criticising a piece of work that you have put your heart and soul into? (Excuse the pun!)