After a cancelled show and interview last November, RockUrLife had the chance to spend time with Twin Atlantic’s guitarist Barry McKenna before the gig, talking about their last album, “Great Divide”.
Hi Twin Atlantic! How do you feel today, a few weeks after the French release of your new album “Great Divide” which was released at the beginning of November?
Barry McKenna (guitar): We’re feeling very good! It’s good to be back here because it’s been a while! We always have a good time in this area.
First of all, just out of curiosity, how do you feel about that delay? Because we all know that your brand new album was released officially last august but it took us 3 months for having it properly.
B: Oh, i didn’t know about that! (laughs). We kind of focused on the fact of making sure this sounds alright. But then, sometimes, there’s some problems with distribution because it’s different in every country. And, sometimes, some snags hold up… But, you know, I’m just glad that now, the album is out and people got it and they can enjoy listen to it.
Today’s also your official comeback in Paris as a headliner! It’s good to see you back in France with your own show and your very own public. Furthermore, Sam was sick last time so we hope you are ready to rock.
B: Yes, we are! Sam had this BeG infection back in his chest. His throat was weak and if he pushed too hard, he could completely lost his voice so we had to cancel the show in Paris and a couple of shows in America also. But now, we had Christmas and New Eve and some time at home and he’s recuperating so we’re definitely ready for the show tonight!
Do you think he fell ill because of touring?
B: I think that when you do our job, your immune system becomes more vulnerable. It leaves you more open and more susceptible to fall ill. I think that, at first, Sam had a small infection and then, because of that, his immune system was weak and then, he caught a bigger infection. But I guess, touring had an impact. Sometimes, when you’re on the road and you’re playing shows, you kind of forget to look after yourself because you’re only thinking about doing the best shows possible. You’re only thinking about music. Your own affair is in the background. But it’s kind of alarming when stuff like that happens. It reminds us “oh yes, we are people and we have to look after ourselves”. It’s insane.
Did you receive angry messages about these cancellations?
B: Actually, no. We’ve got an amazing relationship with the French fans that we have. And we actually find out that our French fans are really passionate and really supportive. Thanks to them, we feel at home even in France! Most people we got in touch were like “get well soon. Obviously we’re sad that you can’t make it but see you soon”. That’s pleasing that there were no angry messages at all.
Let’s talk about your band new album “Great Divide”. First, what is the meaning behind this title?
B: It’s kind of mean a lot of things. It represents the kind of transition between young youth and becoming an adult, a man. It’s also the idea of taking a different look of the world. I always have been in this band so this is kind of like an introspective and a retrospective look on our life over the last few years. But also it represents the four of us. The 4 flags represent each of us. It’s kind of about the fact that we’re different people but when we come together, we make the band as good as we can. Even if we’re different people with our own opinion and our own agenda. When it’s about the 4 of us, we’re unified.
Each flag represents one of you so did you make your own flag?
B: It was our idea to make the flag but we’re not really talented for that. We do not have the talent of the designers so we relied our artistic talent to a couple of designers. There is a guy named Mark Farrow and he’s based in London. He’s been part of some of really iconic albums. We think he’s amazing. We wanted something simple and iconic and he understood that. The funny fact is that a guy who works for this company, a designer called Fred, has a flag obsession. So when we came with this idea, he came and said “I’m the man, i’ve been doing that for years” and he already had examples. We gave them our ideas and they came back with these 4 flags, a perfect match of our personality. It was a pretty fun collaboration to be a part of, you know. Very interesting.
How was the recording process of “Great Divide” and your work with the producer Gil Norton (Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World)? Different after the arena shows you played with Thirty Seconds To Mars?
B: Well, i think when we did that last year, we actually played a couple of new songs which are now on the new album. When you play music live to people, you see the way people react and it’s a very responsive fact. We appeared like one unit on stage and people liked it. What a blast when people jump at the same time. So that two songs was a really good measure of our new direction. Then, we adapted some parts of the songs later. But we don’t always get to play new songs live before. So these live tests gave us the opportunity to do this and to have a people opinion.
But these support acts, did they motivate you to write poppy songs/more generic rock songs?
B: I think we prefer think of the ideological purpose of the music. If you call back, way back like through the history of music, music exists not for popularity sake. Music exists to bring people together, a real together, and a unified thing. It’s here to provoke emotion regardless to whether they are sad emotions or happy emotions. We just want to write a song that relates to a lot of people, regardless of your background. If you could think of a common plan. We more look at the essence of what the sad songs are. “Brothers And Sisters” is a song lyrically written by Sam who tries to send a unified message.
At the production level, you seem to have radically evolved. Fan of your classic and strong rock sound, we discover in this album a new approach with a more controlled sound. Let’s say a more pop rock atmosphere. Can you tell us a bit more about this new Twin Atlantic?
B: “Controlled” is maybe the perfect word. When we first act as a band, we were very angular and that was the reaction of being a small band from Glasgow. No one had heard of Twin Atlantic, our music. At this time, our music represented us, it was a kind of extension of us doing “Hey, we’re a band from Glasgow, come over here”. So yes, we had a very loud and angular sound. But literally, we were trying to grab people by the neck and said “Hey, we exists. Pay attention”. But then… for “Great Divide”, it’s the first time we made a record with a pre-made audience and we had people anticipating something. So because of that, we didn’t have to catch the attention anymore and we finally could write songs that each had an individual message. As we’re getting older, we’re more comfortable in our own skin and more open about showing different state of ourselves. Thanks to that, we can say “oh that’s too pop, that’s too cheesy” because the ideas that come from us, it’s us. We all listen to so many different bands, so many different tastes of music, each of our music collections is so eclectic that we thought “why no incorporate our music passions and loves into our band?” Different influences have a big part in the Twin Atlantic’s sounds.
RockUrLife is really fan of your new album and, i don’t know if you know this, but your single “Brothers And sisters” is broadcasted maybe 3 times per hour on MTV Pulse.
B: Oh, i didn’t know that! That’s cool!
But is “Brothers And Sisters” a good representation of “Great Divide”?
B: I think that it’s always difficult to choose a song, but i would say no because it’s really hard to come up with a song that represents an entire album. Especially if an album is eclectic. There are other songs from the album that could had create a stronger impact on the audience. For instance, a song on the album like “Cell Mate”, which i love play live, is for more traditional rock fans. So it’s really difficult… All you have to do is “here’s the full album” and listen to that. With 3 minutes, you can’t please everyone.
This album is divided by two different atmospheres: On the first half, we can hear new Twin Atlantic waves, for example “The Ones That I Love” and “Hold On”. And on the other half, there is more classical songs like “Cell Mate”, more in a math rock mood. Is it a kind of hi to your new fans and a wink to the old ones?
B: When we write music, it’s kinda selfish. We’re never do it with the intention of looking for new people. We just write the music that we love because we are believers that if you write something that you’re honestly passionate about, then you’re going to meet the people that feel the same way. We’re still the same persons that 4 years ago tried to please ourselves with things written from the heart. Compromise can bring mediocrity.
B: In my opinion, if you try to please everyone, you’re going to end up with a corrupt result so you need to write music that means something to you. And there’s people who’s going to like it and other who don’t. It’s important for an artist to have an integrity. You have a vision and you have to step to that vision.
But old fans can be disappointed with such a cheesy sound.
B: I don’t really read angry messages because I’m not searching online. Occasionally, I see the odd reviews because it’s unavoidable. But generally speaking, unless it’s like a direct message sent to me, I’m a bit old fashion. I prefer real interactions, i prefer phone my friends instead of texting. I don’t really go to Facebook and Twitter every day. But it’s natural to receive negative responses. Furthermore, my favourite band, i have not liked every single one of their albums.
What is your favourite band?
B: Pearl Jam! One of my all-time favourites. Most of their albums, I’m like “well, that’s okay” but it’s not gonna stop me from loving their work that’s already out. And, who knows? Maybe their next album is going to be my favourite. Some bands stay the same after all this time and randomly people change and don’t like them anymore. It’s a very complicated and subjective thing. We don’t write music in intention of catch one person. We stay honest and if you wanna go on board, you’re welcomed! It’s awesome.
Lets talk music industry. What is your opinion about albums that are re-released a year after their official launching?
B: As a fan who used to go to the record store to buy albums, I don’t know. Now, with most music being digital, people don’t consume music in a most conventional way. They go on iTunes, they go on Spotify. So with that way, it’s easy to skip the original content and you don’t have to buy the whole package again. So, i think it works quite well. But in a traditional sense, if you’re a fan of the traditional copies, it’s something pretty hard. It depends of the band but it’s tough. What’s the intention behind that re-release.
Is this, for you, the better way to promote music and sell tunes? Because it looks like labels try to convince us to buy the same songs twice in purpose to have some “bonus”. Why not develop the EP format?
B: Yes. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the live DVDs. I’ve got lots. For me, that’s a good reason to re-release something because it’s a different format and you get something different. But i’m for everything that has an artistic purpose.
To conclude, our website is called “RockUrLife” so what rocks your life?
B: Man… Music! Play music every day and all my friends and family around me.