It’s a crossroads at which any musician will eventually find themselves, if they’re fortunate enough. Once you have achieved all the ambitions that first compelled you to strap on your guitar, well… what next? Home.
For Twin Atlantic, this moment arrived in 2015, as the group were enjoying the greatest success of their career. Eight years after they first formed, seven years on from their debut EP 'A Guidance From Colour', their third album, 2014’s 'Great Divide', had topped the Scottish album charts, reaching as high as #6 in the UK. They had criss-crossed the globe multiple times, developing devout followings wherever they played. Their UK tour that spring had been a riot: playing Manchester’s Albert Hall, London’s fabled Brixton Academy, and a show before 10,000 fans at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro – their biggest hometown gig yet. Summer saw the band sub-headline the Radio 1 Stage at the Reading/Leeds Weekender and – closer to home, and perhaps closer to their hearts – headlining the Radio 1 Stage at T In The Park. Drummer Craig Kneale published 'Photographic Record', a book collecting his photographs from the group’s first eight years together.
It was a moment to stand back and take stock, to appreciate all they’d achieved so far; maybe even pat themselves on the back a little and feel a smidgeon smug. And it was at this moment that Twin Atlantic considered calling it a day.
“Those big climactic gigs, they felt like an ending,” says singer/guitarist Sam McTrusty. “Like a bookend. To the point where we were saying, ‘Maybe we should just not do another fuckin’ thing?’ Because it felt, well… done.”
But this is not, thankfully, the story of How Twin Atlantic Called It A Day. It is the story of ‘GLA', the fourth Twin Atlantic album, and also their finest. So let’s investigate the birth of this remarkable album – and the rebirth of this remarkable group.
Stardom didn’t happen quickly for Twin Atlantic: three years of writing, recording and touring the UK in a van. On their first album, 2009’s ‘Vivarium', McTrusty says the band “couldn’t believe we were getting to make a record”, and so squeezed in every idea and trick they knew. The work paid off on their second album, 2011’s ‘Free', as they started selling out 2,000 capacity venues and the album went silver. By 2014’s 'Great Divide', McTrusty had polished his gift for penning tight, laser-guided rock songs to a bright sheen.
“But”, he says, "it wasn’t interesting anymore. It became an uncomfortable fit. We’d become the ‘best’ version of this band.” In the process, they felt they’d lost themselves. “When something’s shiny and new, it’s got no history, no bruises. It’s not interesting.” If Twin Atlantic were to continue, they decided it was time to wear those bruises like medals, to wear their histories on their sleeves.
“One of the reasons we wanted to be in a band in the first place was to travel, to have new experiences,” says bassist Ross McNae. Escapism had been a part of the appeal. But for their new album, they would ditch that escapism and dig deeper into themselves. The mantra for GLA would be that sometimes who you are is where you’re from.