Twin Atlantic play the Academy 2 on Thursday. Ian Maleney spoke to them about SXSW, their new album ‘Free’, and why they won’t mind if you don’t actually buy it – as long as you get to hear it.
So tell us, where in the world are you at the moment? We’re on the way to the ferry right now, on the way to Dover. We’ve got a festival in Belgium tomorrow and then we’re back on Saturday and then the tour starts a few days after that. It starts in Dublin or Belfast, goes all the way through the UK, for a fortnight through to London, then all over Europe too. We get to go back to Scandinavia and all over Europe basically. We’ve got a month and a half in total. So it’s not the longest I’ve ever done but it’s a fair chunk.
You’re promoting your new record, Free. Can you tell me a little about the album? We’ve pretty much been writing it for a year now, on and off, whenever we’ve had a break from touring and it was coming around to the time where we all felt we were ready to make a proper full length album. So we basically asked around and enlisted the help of the best producer we could find, Gil Norton, who we were all really happy that we managed to work with. And then we made the record there at the end of last year, just there. And that’s it really, we’re all really happy with the record. It’s kind of like what we’ve always hoped our band would be and we think this time we’ve really managed to achieve it. We’re certainly all really proud of it and we just hope that other people like it.
How do you feel you’ve developed as a band since the last release? I just think we’ve become a little bit more concise. There’s still variations within the songs, but it’s slightly more straight-forward in terms of structures. I don’t think we jump about the place as much as we used to do. It’s kind of more classic structures and the ideas in the songs are a lot more universal, they’re not as personal to Sam, our singer.
Is there any kind of significance to the title of the new album? I think it kind of sums up what the record is for all of us. It’s a slight departure from what we’ve done in the past and we feel like we all made the record that we wanted to make and not what anyone else wanted us to make. So I suppose it has some connotations for us in that respect but honestly, it’s pretty up in the air and open to interpretation, whatever you want to take from it.
The artwork is quite striking too. It’s basically like there’s a symbol on the front for every song that we feel sums up the song. It’s like the front of the album is a way of linking all the songs together.
You’re selling the record in lots of different ways, was that a band decision? Yeah, we’re doing quite a lot of different pre-order things for it. Like you can order it with a t-shirt and bags and all this kind of stuff. It’s up on so many websites too, it gets confusing. But hopefully there will be something for everybody.
Is there any reason for it? Yeah we just didn’t want to just have the option of buying the record, we wanted people to have more than the record. We were all involved in the artwork and everything, and it was all kind of our idea in the first place. I feel that nowadays that because someone can go out and download it in twenty seconds for free over their internet connection, you have to just to think about those things a lot and concentrate on them and make sure there’s something people actually want. Make it special for people so they actually feel like they want to own it. We all know the feeling when you get something and it’s feels nice and looks nice and it’s something you can actually hold. It’s just so much better. Not that I’m saying don’t download it for free. If you don’t have any money, then download it for free. We’d rather people just heard it. Honestly we don’t care. We’ll probably get in trouble for saying we don’t care, but we genuinely don’t care. It’s hard because at some points I feel like there shouldn’t be a price on music, it should be something that is enjoyed by everyone. But then the flip-side of that is that, in order to actually make the music, someone has to actually pay for someone’s time to record it. It’s a bit of a toss up. I think records are probably too expensive to start with. I don’t know, I definitely don’t have a problem with people downloading it for free. If you don’t have the money, then download it for free. If you want the version with the proper artwork and everything then it’d be amazing if you bought it, but it’s not the be all and end all.
What do you think would your label (Red Bull Records) make of that stance on piracy? I reckon we’re a band at our stage in our career where it’s just important for people to hear us and I think it’s more about development of their artists as opposed to making money for them.
So you have a good relationship with them then? It’s really cool, like particularly cool. We don’t have any other experience of anything else I suppose, but just from talking to our peer group and our friends and everybody that we speak to, it seems we’ve got a pretty good situation. They’re very willing to help with everything and we’ve just got a really good relationship with them. You hear about bands that don’t get any support and we’ve got friends who don’t get any label support and it’s just really unfair. We’ve been very lucky not to be landed in that situation.
You played SXSW recently, right? How did that go? Yeah we did, it was amazing man, really really good. We’ve been a couple of times before but this time we actually had the chance to relax a lot. We played four shows in the space of two days and we were there for a week so we got to see loads of bands we wanted to see. I saw Foo Fighters, I saw Death From Above 1979, we just got to experience the festival a bit more than we ever had before. I suppose because we knew what to expect and we planned a little better, doing everything within certain times so we actually got to enjoy ourselves a lot more. It’s a bit overwhelming at the best of times, certainly your first year and probably your second year. You can’t really explain it until you’ve been there.
You’ve moved into doing more headline shows recently, how have you been finding that transition from support to main attraction? We’ve supported so many bands over the past few years so we’ve been trying this year to kind of be more of our own band, be more of a headline band. Even if in some places, you’re not playing to many people. As long as you’re going and playing your show and trying to establish yourself. I think we all felt it was time to establish ourselves as Twin Atlantic, not as a support band. But apart from the fact you have to build up your stamina because you have to play a lot longer, it’s been good. It’s cool, the thing about headlining is that you’re the first band there and the last to leave, the first band to load in and the last to load out, so it’s a longer day but there’s a certain thing that you get out of playing your own shows that you won’t get out of a support show, it’s cool to see people coming to see your band and connecting with your music and that they want to support it.
Do you feel like that has had an impact on the way you write songs? It feels more accomplished, the songwriting, and we get to the point quicker. Feels a bit more like a band that know what they’re doing you know? Like, we were just trying to write better songs obviously, but I don’t think those two things we’re necessarily connected to each other, it was just coincidence.
There’s an instrumental track on the new album, is that a new departure for you guys? It is, we all have a big love for instrumental music and instrumental bands. I’m not 100% sure how it came about but Barry had a piece of music that he’d written and we all came together and wrote out his idea together and came out with something we all loved. It just made sense to leave it instrumental. I think Sam toyed with the idea of singing over it but we all just came to the conclusion that it was cooler the way it was, that it didn’t need any more explanation. It just was the way it was.
Finally, I hear your singer has a notorious sweet tooth? Yeah he really, really does! He’s probably better than he was but any kind of fruit gum, wine gum, fruit pastilles, any kind of gum or pastille, he’s the man for that. He’s not like a sweet junkie though, he’s not as bad as that!
Twin Atlantic play The Academy 2 this Thursday, 28th April, the eve of their LP release.