Touring is important, just ask Bob Dylan.
On June 7th, 1988 Dylan performed live at the Concord Pavilion in California and pretty much hasn’t stopped since. Through decades of journeys and thousands of gigs, he has perhaps become the most obvious, and emphatic, example of embracing the medium which truly makes a musician tick. Today, it’s known as the Never Ending tour – and is showing no signs of slowing up.
Out on the road and up on a stage is where a musician really discovers what they’re about, where everything that makes a band or artist tick collides together. With adoring fans screaming back your songs, it all suddenly makes sense. It becomes a drug some find hard to kick. Dylan understands that.
And so do Twin Atlantic. After releasing their superb second album ‘Free‘ last year, the Scottish band have embarked on their own world-wide slog to show off a record which brilliantly tows the line between hard rock leanings and mass-pleasing anthems – an album that positively demands to be witnessed by millions. Over the past twelve months, Twin Atlantic have given that a damn good go.
And The Warped Tour, this year celebrating its 18th birthday, might just be the perfect home for such a group of battle-hardened, well travelled individuals. For every summer since 1994, countless heavy duty trucks have rattled up and down the sunburnt United States highways for weeks on end, briefly stopping off in venues and parking lots across the land when stages are unfolded as if by magic to unveil scores of guitar wielding groups from across the globe.
It was on the 2012 Warped Tour’s stop in New York last month when Twin Atlantic sat down with Live4ever to discuss a lifetime’s experience on the road, looking back on a touring schedule which, while it may not prove to be never ending, could yet find its rewards to be ceaseless.
How’s things going?
Things are going good, surprisingly. We’re actually having a lot of fun – every day is enjoyable. You get a little bit bored because obviously you’re in a car park every day, a lot of the time far away from places so you can’t really visit a city or anything like that. But we’re just making the most of what we have here, and each other, and trying to keep ourselves amused between the nine of us or however many it is (on the tour bus).
Keeping yourselves amused seems to be something you have to do with such a hectic schedule – it seems to be non-stop.
It is; we basically get up, play a gig, do a signing. There is no schedule – you can’t really get a daily routine ‘cos of the old punk rock ethic of, like, you don’t have a set stage-time, you just wake up and find out the stage time. So today, for example, we played at 11:40, gates have only been open for about 20 minutes or something. Your daily routine changes depending on the throw of a dice.
And that’s to make it fair for the 60 bands?
Obviously everyone has their own stage – it’s not like you switch stages every day – but within that stage everybody gets a shot. It’s designed so that people don’t come at 5 in the evening just to watch the headliners, ‘cos the headliner might be on at 2 in the afternoon. It’s a good idea.
Do you change around the setlist? How do you keep it interesting for fans?
We’ve tried to adapt to the vibe of the festival. Back in the UK, if we were doing a headline tour, we’d have this regimented thing that we’ve planned out, because we’ve got so many songs, with different tunings, so you try to keep them close and together so the set flows well, and there’s all these little details that we iron out so that we do put on a show as well. But here we’ve just kinda decided to let whatever happen, to keep it natural.
So that means no setlist?
We’ve got a setlist, but we’ve always operated that way – the same setlist on tour. It’s a bit freer; ask us again in a week’s time when we’ve been on the road for a fortnight and we’ve got a fortnight to go and we might have changed it.
What do you make of the Warped Tour?
Before we came we were dreading it, we thought it might be the worst thing we’ve ever done. But we needed to put a tick in a box because it’s a reputable tour and it’s a worldwide-known thing. But now that we’re here and you see the human element…We’re lucky as one of the bands on the tour with a small, dedicated fanbase over here, which we didn’t actually realise until we did this tour – music fans who want to get up at fucking 9am to get to the place on time just in case we’re on first. They’ve probably got a list of maybe four or five bands that they want to see, so when you see that kind of dedication it’s really uplifting for us, and it’s making us go through maybe a slight change within our band where we actually care about our fans more on this tour – not that we didn’t before – but even more.
It’s quite easy to get disconnected from people; we always try and look on our Facebook and Twitter and all those kind of things, but it’s quite easy to forget how lucky you are that there are people who want to come and see your band. It’s hard to remember that without those people you don’t have a band, you’re just four people playing music together, it’s not a band. So it’s been a really cool experience because every day we’ve noticed that, with the exception of a couple of days when you might clash with other people, there seems to be more people coming to see us, just slightly, every day. So it feels like there is something, something quite small, but good, coming off the tour for us.
Do you think that’s due to the locations, or due to the buzz you generate?
It’s word of mouth, or word of computer screen! We’re not talking about 15,000 people, but if you come to where we are today, New York, and play to 150 or 200 people – if that was our own headline show it would blow our minds – especially if we put on our own headline show at 11:40 in the morning! So it felt like it was going to be a strange thing but it’s actually been very positive.
It seems like, as we’ve known you for a bunch of years now, the last twelve months your schedule has been non-stop touring. Is it tough? Do you love it?
Both. It’s now become a job, but not in the way that most other people have a job. We’re obviously really fortunate because our passion and our hobby has become a full-time job. But it’s just like any day you can wake up and, say one of us as had a terrible show or said the wrong thing on stage, they’ll think about it for the rest of the day – things like that ruin your day and you don’t enjoy the fact that you’ve got a show tomorrow or whatever. But for the most part the times when it’s hard for a band are the times when you get to go home for a minute, literally, and it’s thinking about going back out. But then when you get back out you get so much into the lifestyle of it that going home feels weird and it’s this constant dichotomy of being two different people. Obviously you stay the same in your own mind, but your life’s so dramatically different on the road as opposed to at home.
You have to just take a minute every now and then and just think, ‘Whoa, we’re actually getting to do something that’s really cool’- sometimes you just have to pinch yourself and remember.
Do you get to know the other bands on the tour?
Don’t want to say we’re amazing friends because we’ve only been here for under a couple of weeks, but it’s nice because it’s like a travelling family, or circus maybe…
How international are the 60 bands?
Our stage has two bands from Australia, a band from England and a band from Scotland, us, and a Canadian band. The rest are American.
Has your writing process changed at all since we first talked, and with the hectic touring?
It basically becomes, like, everyone does their own thing. There’s not really any point that we can all get together.
Sam: We’ve started writing, not separately ‘cos that sounds like the band’s over, but more like that I’ve been writing a lot on the road because we’re on a bus so it’s a lot easier. I haven’t written any full songs on this bus, but I’ve had little ideas. But back in the UK, because we play a lot later at night, I can’t get to sleep ‘till about 5 or 6 in the morning just because I’m so amped and elated from the show, my adrenaline is just out of control so I’ve found myself being the only person left awake. So that’s when I can kinda get some peace and quiet. Off road, right now, I don’t really know where I live. Like literally I don’t have a flat or I don’t stay with my parents or a girlfriend or anything like that so I’m technically homeless! So when I get a few hours in the back of the bus that’s when it’s generally been happening.
But then, bizarrely, the majority of the (new) record we’ve written so far has been written partly in the back of our bus, partly in venues, partly in my old apartment in Glasgow. But then we got together and ended up writing in a studio in LA for a week. So we’ve got about 10 or 12 finished demos and we’ve got another batch of maybe just under 10.
And are those close to being finished?
Yeah, we’ve played some at soundchecks and things like that. We played a song on our last headline tour of the UK called ‘The Lost Ones’ and it’s not like, ‘That’s going to be the next song we release’ or anything like that, it’s just fun to do something new.
We love the visuals for the new video ‘Yes, I Was Drunk’. Can you tell us a little about the concept?
It was Mike Baldwin. We got maybe twenty or thirty video submissions where a lot of people were taking the song really literally. They were all really good ideas individually but it didn’t really resonate with us. We’ve got this weird high standard where it’s got a lot to do with feelings, although we don’t really talk about it much because we don’t want to pour everything out all the time. But the fact that the director had had this visceral reaction to our music inspired us to want to go with him, even if it wasn’t the perfect ‘thing’, we just like the idea of working with people who have got a passion and feeling for what we do.
Where were the locations?
Well it’s the first time we’ve ever filmed a video in Glasgow, or in Scotland even. See we’ve always wanted to do something in Scotland and we all try to be really truthful about what we do so it was amazing to get to do it where we’re from, you know, and have it look like our actual life. It’s just cool cos it’s your actual ‘life’ areas in a video, rather than just like random, in LA nonsense. It’s really important to show what you’re all about.
We wanted to ask you about T In The Park; how was the whole experience?
The whole experience was just fucking surreal. Just mental. It was just a bizarre weekend for us because obviously we’ve grown up with that festival – we’ve been when we were younger, the radio things that we were doing are (hosted by) people that we’ve listened to and been fans of since we were young, and they knew who we were when we were walking up to them – all those little things just built the weekend up. And then daft things like we went on after McFly…things like that were bizarre. If you’re from Scotland, no matter who else is on the bill or how many people are there, if you were just on that stage and the place is empty you’d get nervous and excited. We’ve seen like Rage Against The Machine play there, and Blur – it’s insane.
So we had T In The Park, and then we’ve come to do this, and then we have Reading/Leeds – it feels like this month-and-a-half window is kinda like what the whole album’s built up to for us.
It’s a proud moment.Just Published: