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(Credit: Cameon Brisbane)

Music

Far Out Meets: Twin Atlantic discuss the harsh realities in the age of Spotify

@josephtaysom

Twin Atlantic’s most recent album, Power, drained the group both emotionally and financially to create. Additional pain was then thrust upon the band when the pandemic prevented the opportunity to tour the new material, and their brand-new record, Transparency, is a response to a tumultuous period that almost ruined them.

While fighting problems with pure hard work is admirable, yet more fuel was poured onto the fire in September when drummer Craig Kneale announced his departure. Now, Twin Atlantic’s ability to fight adversity was trimmed by a third, and they are now adjusting to life as a duo. It was never a consideration for singer Sam McTrusty to call a day on the group, and creating Transparency has been the crutch the frontman helped steer him back towards the light.

McTrusty is now a father, and his life has changed drastically since Twin Atlantic’s last record two years ago. After making Power, his mental health spiralled out of control without him even realising. Shortly after, the singer was diagnosed with clinical stress.

The pandemic then struck, and he had no choice but to stop. However, his workaholic instincts would mean that break was only brief, and McTrusty’s mind soon began to wander to album number six. Rather than making the new album in plush studio surroundings of Los Angeles, McTrusty instead settled for recording in his baby daughter’s bedroom. 

“In the lead up to the pandemic, I was so stressed,” McTrusty says from his home over Zoom. “I wasn’t really aware that it was happening until my body basically said, ‘No, fuck you. Stop doing this to us.’ It was from making the previous album and everything that went into that. I put my life savings into it, we left our record label by choice, and then it took us three years to sign again. Then I had a kid, and it was all too much.”

McTrusty initially kept the ordeal to himself and admitted that he didn’t even think to consider asking for help from within the music industry, noting, “I wouldn’t know who to talk to”. After losing 12kg in weight within a month, he finally sought medical advice after convincing himself he had a rare illness, and stress wasn’t even something he considered. 

After getting through his health scare, McTrusty returned to work and called upon the Los Angeles based musician Jacknife Lee, who had previously produced the band’s fourth album, GLA, and on their 2014 hit, ‘Heart and Soul’.

The contrasting timezone was just one of the major differences McTrusty had to deal with while recording Transparency, which was also the first record he’d made without his bandmates for support. Originally, the plan was to make just one song together, but the material simply kept rolling, and the group were also in desperate need of another album.

While Twin Atlantic have amassed tens of millions of streams, food still needs to be put on the table, and creating Transparency allowed them to survive during the pandemic.

(Credit: Press)

McTrusty says the enforced break was a “Godsend” for him mentally, but he didn’t have the luxury to completely take his foot off the pedal and relax. Furthermore, his wife, an NHS nurse, worked on the frontline throughout 2020. Her role on the Covid wards put his situation into perspective, and working on new material also provided the frontman with a sense of purpose.

“As a band, we had been working on an album already, but something was missing for me,” he openly admits. “It was the first time as a band we had a body of work that we didn’t truly love, and we were confused about the direction it was going in.

“I think we needed to not be making an album, but we were making an album because we were contracted to, and we needed to get paid. But we wouldn’t get paid unless we submitted the final part of this album, and that’s why we ended up making an album when we were locked down as our work was cancelled, but if I finished this album, it meant that we survived the lockdown.”

Having the opportunity to tour taken away from the band and being a father has mounted the pressure on McTrusty economically. Twin Atlantic’s upcoming run of dates includes a stop at London’s Roundhouse and two nights at The Barrowlands in Glasgow, but the future looked grave when that revenue stream disappeared overnight.

Streaming is now the golden goose, and McTrusty’s take on this topic is nuanced. He understands that it remains the most vital utensil for bands to find an audience, but he struggles to look past their “unethical” nature.

“The actual platform is unbelievable,” McTrusty admits. “I use it, and I get a buzz when we get playlisted on ‘New Music Friday’, but the thing that fuels it is the music, and the people making it are the least rewarded. Therefore, the quality goes down because artists are chasing those big playlists.”

“Here’s our story,” McTrusty continues. “We had a song called ‘Heart and Soul’ come out in 2014, it was on the radio about five times a day, and I felt like I was in a movie. Spotify was still quite new at this time, so the number of users isn’t what it is now, but in the first month of release, we got four and a half million streams on Spotify alone.

“I was just renting a flat and didn’t have a car, but I started thinking, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to get £50,000’. I started freaking out, and began looking at cars online, and thought I could maybe get a mortgage on a one-bedroom flat. Then, I got the royalty cheque through, and it was £12. You have to pay income tax too, so it ended up being £8,” McTrusty painfully recollects through laughter.

If ‘Heart and Soul’ had been released in a bygone era, undoubtedly, the making of Power wouldn’t have drained McTrusty’s life savings, and Twin Atlantic would be in a more comfortable position. However, over a decade since their debut album, and two band members down, the singer’s desire is still burning as bright as ever.

Transparency made in far from idyllic circumstances, but being away from opulent surroundings has lent itself to the group creating their most intimate and starkly honest piece of work yet as McTrusty as he pulls himself back from the brink.

Both personally and professionally, survival was the only thing on McTrusty’s mind while creating Transparency. The defiant spirit he unlocked while holed up in his daughter’s bedroom fuelled the record and helped the Twin Atlantic story climb to its most personal chapter yet.

Transparency is out now and can be purchased here.

Twin Atlantic tour dates

  • Thu 5th – Dublin, Opium
  • Fri 6th – Belfast, The Limelight
  • Sun 8th – London, Roundhouse
  • Mon 9th – Newcastle, Boiler Shop
  • Wed 11th – Inverness, Ironworks
  • Thu 12th – Glasgow, Barrowland
  • Fri 13th – Glasgow, Barrowland
  • Sun 15th – Leeds, Stylus
  • Tue 17th- Manchester, O2 Ritz
  • Wed 18th – Bristol, O2 Academy
  • Thu 19th – Birmingham, o2 Institute