One of the Highlands' favourite adopted bands Twin Atlantic return to play live at Inverness Ironworks on Wednesday celebrating – and playing – the 10th anniversary of landmark album Free
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This week a Scottish band that have held a special place in the hearts of their many Highland fans step out on the Ironworks stage the way they have so many times before.
It has always been dramatic, it has always drawn passionate word-perfect singalongs from their fans.
And in some ways, this tour might be seen as the next step into their future as Twin Atlantic do something bassist Ross McNae confessed he thought they never would – look back into their past and celebrate a milestone for one of their most important albums 10 years on – Free.
And though the past few years have had the stresses and strains many have faced during Covid and the lockdowns, it sounds as if Twin Atlantic are in a good place, despite drummer Craig Kneale deciding to step back from the band.
The band is perhaps getting used to evolution and though there has been Craig moving on, other things are just building.
Ross confirmed: “It is a kind of a fun time.
“Whatever is happening, the tour is rolling on and we are about to get into full swing after the last couple of years.”
Before talking on the phone, Ross revealed he had just been “recording a little idea”. And a creative Twin Atlantic has always been a good thing.
Ross offers a quick update on what the band has been doing – mentioning the latest album Transparency which came out in January.
“We ended up doing things and making an album in ways we had never done before and not sure we ever would again!” Ross admitted.
“You know, you’re put in a corner and react in a certain way, I suppose. But it feels now, like all of a sudden we have a bit of a blank canvas.
"For the first time in a while we don’t have any rescheduled shows and we don’t have another album release hanging over us. We can just go out and have fun and play the show and come up with new stuff. So it feels like a good time to be in the band!”
A quick update on how Ross spent the downtime of Covid reveals he enjoyed having time.
“For me personally, we had a baby! We had one little girl pre-pandemic and then we had a baby who was born in December before things shut down a couple of months after that. So I was really lucky that I was able to focus really hard in the first few months on being a dad.
"It was a terrible state for things to be in and so many people were unfortunate – people lost their lives. I wouldn’t usually have had so much time at home because we would have been touring, so I almost feel guilty saying there were positives.
"Then slowly but surely, I started to work on music again, trying to keep my ear in, more than anything.”
Ross describes the last few years as being a time the band had the rare luxury of thinking time, away from the relentless cycle of writing an album, recording it, touring it before starting the whole thing again, the way they had lived for years.
“It has given us time to think – ‘Do we want to keep making Twin Atlantic albums?’ And we have come out the other side of it thinking ‘Yes we do!’.
"It’s a positive thing and we want to keep going with it.
"We don’t mind if we are number one or the headliner at the festival. It’s kind of like realising it is not all about chasing whatever the dream is. It’s more than that.”
Part of it too is honouring the fans who have made the band part of their lives.
Twin Atlantic fans packing the Seedlings tent at Belladruum when the band made their much-talked about appearance that summer, is one of the big early moments.
Ross said: "That was a special thing for the band and there were only a handful of things like that that happened.
"It felt like a moment, so you do tend to remember.
"But bear in mind that at that time – in our heads and in reality – we really weren’t a real band yet!
"We were just finding our feet.
"So it was great to have a bit of a stamp of approval, turning up somewhere busy and people being genuinely excited.
"I suppose anything creative is about confidence or a lack of confidence and the way those two things collide. And to be able to have the confidence about something where you might have lacked confidence – that for our band was THE moment."
Doing some more looking back in the run up to getting to interview Ross for a preview piece before this week's gig, I came across a review I had done when the band played the Ironworks in 2014.
It was one of the many epic nights the band have provided the venue – and their Highland fans – with over the years.
In the review, I quote frontman Sam McTrusty who saluted the fans with his words from the stage: “There are guys in the middle singing as if their lives depended on it!”
And it made me think of the role Twin Atlantic seem to play in the lives of their fans – and it comes across as a big one.
Talking to Ross in our interview, I wonder if the band always did feel like one of those bands that "people took to their hearts".
"We actually do – I feel I keep saying that we actually feel lucky that that is the feeling we feel."
I asked Ross what he thought about the band's relationship with their audience, and, for example, had that been an important part of deciding to go on with the band, thinking of those people who had essentially grown up with Twin Atlantic, really?
"For so many of those people, not just for us but for the people who have come to see us as the band, people who have listened over the years and that has ended up becoming an important part of their life.
"The band is one of the things they identify with and rationalise who they are with. And being a fan of our band is what makes them who they are.
"I don’t imagine that we would ever have thought our band would be like that – even for us – let alone for anybody else.
"But seeing those people, to answer your question I suppose, that is important.
"In a band there is usually one person who is having a moment where maybe they are not having the best time and everyone else is.
"And over the years, those moments have been 'medicated', if you like, by saying ‘Look what this actually means to people’.
"People really do care about this no matter what you think and it is important for people.
"You might not be the only point in people’s lives, but it is important that they come along to see a band that gives them joy and happiness – and maybe even more than that in some circumstances.
"It’s actually a valuable thing to do.
"We are not heart surgeons!
"But over the last few years for people who work in entertainment, there have been questions about what we are actually giving to society.
"Everybody has a role and people need to forget about things and escape."
The band Ross, frontman Sam McTrusty and Barry McKenna who just joins them for live shows, returns celebrating the 10th anniversary of landmark album Free.
Ross admits there was a time when that kind of idea would have been the last thing on Twin Atlantic’s minds: “Hand on heart, we would never have done anything like this before, we weren’t the kind of people who looked back.
"We were always pushing forward. But a friend we trust, DF Concerts’ promoter Dave McGeaghan, thought it’d be a good thing to do.
"We realised Free was an important part of our band’s journey,” Ross explained.
Inevitably, the Inverness Ironworks gig is likely to be one of those legendary giant word-perfect singalongs ...
Sold out, though a few tickets might remain – Twin Atlantic play the 10th anniversary of Free at the Ironworks, Inverness, on Wednesday, May 11. Support comes from Declan Welsh And The Decadent West plus Dead Pony. Below, check out the lyric video of transparency's dirty – and also a link here for a great look back at the making of album Free: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0iOn2Gp1AQ