By BRUCE DENNILL
What a fantastic surname that is. And the Twin Atlantic singer lives up to the gist of it when he comes on the line for a phone interview, apologising earnestly for a glitch on the conference call line in an earlier slot (which may or may not have been his fault. Hardly rock star behaviour.
But rock stars he and his cohorts Barry McKenna, Ross McNae and Craig Kneale are, and with new album GLA, they’ve addressed that part of the traditional rock star arc that involves becoming disillusioned after attaining a high level of success (1994’s Great Divide reached the UK Top Ten and gave the band the platform to play the largest venues of their career to date) and then not having any idea where to go from there.
It’s relatively early in your career to be feeling the hollowness of fame and commercial success. Did you see it coming at all?
Not immediately, no. It wasn’t a tangible thing; not one single storyline. We just got to the end of it with Great Divide and felt we had done it all. We didn’t have that extra layer that made us really believe in it. We were trying to make it perfect, but we’d lost what was truly us. This new album is our attempt to set that right.
Does GLA, with its references to the notion of “home” in physical, emotional and psychological terms, reset the situation to a degree that you’re happy with?
Massively! We’ve gone against the industry norm of playing it safe and tried to make the most authentic rock record we could. Putting our faces on the cover was what we wanted to do at first – we got distracted…
We were happy to go with that. We thought we might get bad reviews because of it – we haven’t.
If the new album is really successful – which you must surely want it to be – will you find yourself faced with the same problems? What then?
We have more control this time, I think. I feel I can be more myself a bit more. Now we can be a band we want to see, and if it goes huge, that’d be great. Don’t get me wrong: we love playing; we want to do well – we just want it to mean something.
The songwriting process changed after you came off the Great Divide tour. Instead of designing tunes for what you thought people wanted to hear, you went with a more instinctive approach. On a first listen fo the album, that seems risky – only No Sleep sounds like a single. A couple of listens later and there are four or five plug tracks. Is it good to have that sort of confirmation?
It’s given us licence to do whatever we want to, musically. It started with Ross and I setting up home studios. The two of us have become audio geeks over the last few years, so it was interesting for us to be able to play with some of that knowledge. And we found some good stuff was coming out.
People have the opportunity to listen to a lot more music now than they used to have access to. They don’t need to be spoon-fed. It wasn’t a challenge to our listeners to release supposedly less mainstream songs like Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator and Ex El up front. We didn’t analyse it – we just did it.
And even if people don’t like them, they might cause a reaction; get people to consider giving something different a chance.
We’re now in a place where we can be an example to other bands who are stuck in a scenario they want to move out of.
And it feels great.