Belladrum is just around the corner and this year is the tenth anniversary – for this they bagged a sensational line up which promises a weekend to remember. Returning to the festival for the fourth time, Glasgow rockers Twin Atlantic are headlining on Friday night. We took this as an opportunity to catch up with their drummer, Craig Kneale, to talk about their festival appearances, their new album and their plans for the future.
We haven’t seen them up north since April 2012. Since then they’ve toured again selling out massive venues all over the UK, started recording their second album and have been very busy on the festival circuit this Summer. In the past few weeks they’ve played Hard Rock Calling, T in the Park, Wakestock, supported Green Day in Switzerland and are due to play Reading and Leeds as well as headlining Belladrum.
Craig noted: “It was kind of unplanned but also really nice. We initially agreed to do these festivals as they were too good to turn down, but mainly as an incentive to push ourselves to have new music ready to let people hear by this point. As it turns out we’ve ended up taking our time with the recording process, but the festivals have been the perfect way to test out some of the things we’ve been working on in the studio.”
Since being signed in 2009 they recorded their mini-album and debut album in LA, this time however they’re sticking to UK soil and have opted to record in Wales. With the success of ‘Free’ I asked if they felt there was more pressure due to higher expectations from their fan base this time round than there was previously: “The experience has been great. It’s been similar to ‘Free’ in the respect that we’re working with Gil Norton again, but different because we’ve been recording and living on a farm in Wales this time around instead of the distractions of Los Angeles from our first album. It’s been amazing working with Gil again because we could focus on working on the songs straight away without having to figure out how each other like to work, what are strengths and weaknesses are etc… I think we do feel more pressure, but I think we’re putting a lot of that pressure on ourselves because we want to make it perfect. We know more people are going to be interested in hearing what we have to offer this time around so it needs to be special.”
Throughout their festival appearances they’ve been testing the water with some of their new material which Craig said has been going down really well, adding: “It’s a lot to ask of an audience to sit through 4 minutes of music that they’ve never heard before, but the fact that we can see people physically getting into the new material within those 4 minutes is really encouraging. We’ve been playing a couple of new tracks at these festivals and they’ve been getting nearly as big a reaction as the songs people already know which is nice.”
Lead singer, Sam McTrusty, is now based in Canada while the rest of the band continue to stay in Glasgow. This could cause some obvious restraints on any band, however Craig talked about how they’ve turned this into a positive change for them: “I think we thought it might [affect the band’s dynamics] when he first went over but it’s actually proven to be quite healthy and made the writing sessions for the album a lot more focused. When we wrote ‘Free’ we kind of just went to our practice space most days we were home but there were many occasions when we didn’t get much done because we knew we could come back the following day or week etc… This time around Sam came back a few times and we would write in solid two week blocks where we would spend all day in the practice space. We ended up writing about 6 or 7 songs each session and the material was a lot more defined because we didn’t muck about half as much as if we’d had 4 months in our studio to work on ideas.”
Since forming in 2007 they’ve toured with some of the biggest names around, sold out massive headline shows, signed a record deal, travelled continents playing shows, released a studio album and have grown an incredibly supportive fan base, all in a few short years. For most people this would be a complete whirlwind to live through. I wondered if it had sunk in how far they’ve come in such a short space of time: “I think on the outside it probably seems really fast, but to us it’s been a really gradual process. When we first started going out on headline tours we’d play to next to no people, and that didn’t really change much for about two years? I think because we all cared so much about the band and were living it every minute, even when we weren’t on tour, everything seemed to move very slowly because we were so anxious to take it to the next level. When I look back now, it does seem crazy that only six years ago we were recording our first EP, but because we’ve worked so solidly since then it has felt like it’s taken forever to get to this point.”
The days of playing Hootananny in Inverness and The Loft in Forres now seem a distant memory. Having attended many of their more intimate shows I asked if they missed playing to smaller audiences: “I think we definitely all do occasionally, but the thrill of putting on bigger shows has definitely outweighed that. When we started out and got to play these crazy shows in tiny venues within a year or so, it really did feel like we’d be content doing that forever. But once we got to start playing slightly bigger shows we realised how much more exciting that can be. In those tiny shows we could kind of play horribly and the fact there was so much energy in the room would make that irrelevant – but now we actually have to think about how to construct the show and how to take it to the next level to impress people that aren’t 10cm away from the people on stage.”
Throughout the UK they’ve played tours with strings of sold out shows – in Scotland they’ve been selling out venues for a couple of years. On their last tour they played two consecutive sold out shows at Glasgow’s Barrowlands, the next obvious step is the SECC: “It’s something we’ve spoken about attempting once the new album is out. It does seem terribly scary though! We’ve always had a vision of our band eventually playing those size of venues (and bigger), even when we were just wee guys practicing in my house. We’re getting close to it now, and we’ll relish the challenge if we do manage it.”
With Scotland having such a vibrant music scene at the minute, their name is cropping up more and more as a point of inspiration. For a band who have only been around for a short number of years, this is a massive achievement in itself, Craig said: “I think it’s the biggest compliment a band can be given. Every band that’s ever existed has likely been formed because the individual members have been inspired by a band or artist they like enough to learn an instrument and start playing music together with like-minded people, so to know some bands and people have been influenced because of something we’ve done is completely crazy. In a good way.”
Belladrum is now only a week away – this is their fourth appearance at the festival with them first appearing in 2008. Craig talked about coming back up north and Twin Atlantic’s progression through the stages: “We can’t begin to explain how excited we are about it. Belladrum is a festival we’ve always held close to our hearts, it just has such a great atmosphere and we’ve had some really memorable experiences at it in the past. To get the chance to headline it is something we dreamed about since we first played the Seedlings Stage in 2008. I remember the promoter saying to us after we played then that we’d headline one day, but I think we all thought he was joking!”
As well as Twin Atlantic, there are some other incredible Scottish bands playing, including their former tour supports The LaFontaines, Craig gives his tips for bands to watch at this years Belladrum: “I have friends in a band called Fake Major that I really want to catch. I’ve seen them a couple of times live and they’re excellent. Very intimate but the songs sound big at the same time. Of course, I’ll be watching The LaFontaines as well as they’re just flawless live! And Fatherson are great too, they’re opening the Main Stage on our day I think so I’ll be watching them too.”
If you’re going to Belladrum, I can promise you Twin Atlantic’s set is one you will not want to miss. They headline the main stage on Friday night.
You can keep track of our Belladrum 2013 coverage here.