by Margaret Chrystall
YOU might think the hardest thing for the four men of Twin Atlantic – as they hover on the brink of releasing new album The Great Divide – must be building a bridge between then and now.
Look at singer Sam McTrusty in 2008, dressed in yellow and rampaging in front of a packed Belladrum Seedlings tent crowd –the Twin Atlantic lads even then going for it big-style.
Six years on, the Twin Atlantic gazing steadily into your eyes on the latest 2014 picture are grown men who have seen the world and play to stadiums on a regular basis.
But some things never change.
You might be talking to guitarist Barry McKenna about what they’ve learned from supporting bands like Kings Of Leon – which they did on their recent huge 30,000-plus capacity stadium tour in America.
But the message has always been the same.
"Every band we’ve ever toured with, we’ve always had little things that we’ve learned or picked up," Barry reminds you.
"It’s like anything, you are always trying to get better. And when we put on shows, there is no point standing still or letting things stagnate so we are always trying to push ourselves as performers and put on a better show. Barry is just as clear on the thrill of their recent tour of small and more out of the way venues, including their first-time gig at Strathpeffer Pavilion and return to the East Grange Loft outside Forres.
Barry said: "To be honest, we love coming up to the Highlands.
"In our short career – I was going to say, but I think it’s too many years to call it a short career now ... in our mid-length career? - we’ve had a really great relationship with the people of the Highlands.
"We have always had an amazing time and the hospitality in the Northern quarter of Scotland is so amazing, people are so welcoming and friendly and we have always just felt a kind of gravity has brought us back there.
"On every record campaign, we have come back and had a good time.
"And we are also aware of the fact that places there are often more isolated and don’t often get the chance to see bands and have bands come through their towns playing their local art centre or whatever.
"So it is important to us,especially being Scottish, to make sure that our people - the ones in our country - can come along and join in.
"It’s beautiful countryside and beautiful people, so it’s kind of a no-brainer for us.
"It was beautiful to go to the East Loft in Forres again.
"There is a little room in the Loft which is upstairs from the restauriant and it only holds about 100 people, with eaves.
"We played in that room once and could barely fit the equipment in and for the gig it felt as if there were about 200 in the room and it was one of the hottest, sweatiest gigs we’ve ever played.
"It has just totally stuck in our memory. We’d never been to Forres before and it was just crazy.
"Sam ended up finishing off the gig in the rafters of the building!
"And it was just one of those really crazy memorable nights for us. so we thought it was quite fitting when we were doing another Highland tour to revisit the scene of the crime, as it were!
"But actually this time they put us in the bigger room downstairs. There was no surfer-rafting this time!"
The time off between the final tour dates for last album Free and getting down to the new one that would become The Great Divide was a time the band needed, Barry confirmed.
The Great Divide is neither a title track or a lyric. It’s come from a number of different places and not meaning one specific thing.
"When we recorded Free, our first LP, we definitely felt like we were boys and now having travelled the world and grown up a good bit and as a band, it’s a kind of transition in that part of life when you feel you have really become an adult.
"It’s kind of like the divide between our last record and this one and where we are from this one and it’s also that we recorded the album in two completely different places and two completely different cultures.
"So it was a divide in the recording as well, but it also represents the divide between us as people and us as a band – which is why when Sam came up with the idea we all immediately jumped on it."
"We had also recorded Free with producer Gil Norton and we'd love recording with Gil so much we wanted to do it again on this record.
"So the first part of the record - or the first volume of the record - we did with him in the Welsh countryside in Monmouth.
"We were surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and it was a residential studio and we were surrounded by horses every morning we came out of our rooms and literally there was no phone signal in the area.
"It's really isolated. We could completely focus on the record and get lost in the place and the history of the building.
"After that session, we had the makings of a record, but having waited for as long as we had to record, we still felt something was missing that there was somethng else we had to get out there.
"So we went over to the other side of the world to Jacknife Lee and LA and a crazy place called Topanga Canyon.
"Hgot a very different ethos to Gil.
"Gil’s been around so long and we have learned so much from him, but Jacknife’s got quite a different style and he pushed different buttons to the ones Gil did.
"He definitely helped us bring out the side of the record that we felt was missing and that we knew was in there somewhere.
"So we recorded a few songs with him that made it onto the album.
"With Jacknife we recorded our first two singles. Heart & Soul and Brothers & Sisters plus Hold On.
"We’d had the making of these songs, we just knew that there was something special there. The songs had been given time to grow and ... doing them out there gave them a chance to make it on the record and that’s what we did. In a completely different studio with a different atmosphere.
"The weather was completely different and the surroundings and different people, all of that inspired us in a different way.
"And those songs were the result of that.
"So it is definitely a record of two halves.
"But I definitely feel that one half would have been a bit lost without the other. We definitely needed the two halves, or each side, to tell the whole story.
"Jacknife is Irish and we were inspired to record with him originally because we kept seeing his name popping up on some of our favourite records. He’d recorded Weezer and Snow Patrol, U2 and Silversun Pickups – all these amazing bands.
"All the records sounded amazing, but so different and original.
"So when we got the chance to record with him, we jumped at it!
"His studio is up the Pacific coast of California where Venice Beach and Santa Monica are, but it’s way up in the hills.
"Back in the 60s it was where a lot of hippies went to if they couldn’t afford to live in the most expensive parts of LA, and it became this arty, holistic place.
"We saw a lot of weird and wonderful things up there, a mix of an old hippy vibe of the 60s and the modern yuppies who live up there, so it's a cool and trendy place.
"It was really interesting to drive up there every day cos we didn’t stay in the canyon itself, we stayed down in one of the local towns on the seafront.
"So every day we had this crazy 50-minute drive up through the mountains to get to Jacknife’s house, perched on top of the canyon."
An experience like that changes you, but so does time.
Barry said: "We’ve grown a lot as people. To be fair to us, we were very young when we started out and undertook this crazy, crazy life of ours, and we’ve kind of lived our formative years together.
"It’s such a privilege to get to play music with our best mates every day and travel the world and see new places, new cultures, play music – it’s pretty amazing."
He added: "We’ve definitely climbed a couple of rungs, we’ve definitely got ambitions to get a couple higher and we’ve made a record we are really, really proud of. So I just hope the people out there love it as much as we do!
"Then hopefully we can all climb a couple more rungs – together."
Twin Atlantic play the Ironworks, Inverness, on Tuesday. For more about the band: www.twinatlantic.com and watch the Brothers & Sisters video below.