From the Highlands of Scotland, neo-trad folk quintet Elephant Sessions make their debut in Australia this month and och aye, you better be ready to party.
The maiden voyage Down Under for Elephant Sessions comes off the back of their 2017 sophomore album, ‘All We Have Is Now’, and mandolinist Alasdair Taylor and fiddle player Euan Smillie have some simple advice for Australian audiences about their upcoming shows.
“Grab a beer, push the chair away and have fun,” Euan says.
“It’s a party, don’t come expecting to be sitting down all night,” Alasdair says. “Prepare yourself to party.”
Elephant Sessions have earned a sturdy reputation for pumping out an infectious breed of neo-trad Scottish music that blends their contemporary sensibilities with the iconic strains of traditional Highlands folk.
Since releasing their debut album ‘The Elusive Highland Beauty’ in 2014, it’s been arm-swinging, foot-stomping party that’s seen them traverse the globe.
Having spent 2017 playing the UK and European folk festival circuits to wide acclaim, Alasdair says the band have learnt not to judge a book by its cover when it comes to live audiences.
“We certainly don’t now, but in the earlier days of the band… we’d get ourselves down before a gig about an audience we were playing that were maybe an elderly audience, or a small audience, or one that didn’t know us and you’d get all these negative thoughts in your head,” he says.
“But actually people who you might least expect [to enjoy us] get right into [it], are up for it and are going mental at the end. You could be someone who thinks you’re not a dancer and you don’t want to get up, but you might be surprised.”
Released in the middle of last year, ‘All We Have Is Now’ saw Elephant Sessions take a different approach to producing an album. “We did something different on this album that we didn’t do on the first in that we wrote a lot of music and then did a tour to trial it,” Alasdair explains.
“So prior to releasing the album we trialled all the material and we saw how the record reacted [sic]; what people liked, what they weren’t as into and we edited things in that sense. We changed quite a bit in the studio as well, spent a long time working on the production of it and changing bits here and there.”
With two albums, Elephant Sessions have set a new precedent for contemporary folk music infusing their own personal tastes for soul, funk and electronic music with established traditional folk sounds. “It’s quite approachable for Scottish traditional music or instrumental music; I think there’s something there for everyone,” Alasdair says.
“We think about every instrument individually, so although traditional folk bands would maybe have a tune and the lead instruments - for us the fiddle and mandolin - we’d take it away and then everyone else would just accompany.
"But we try and write in such a way where we give space for the electric guitar to play some riff or the bass to go on some nice basslines or where the drummer can show some flair.”
Elephant Sessions Tour Dates
Thu 15 Mar - Stag and Hunter (Newcastle) 16-18 Mar - Blue Mountains Folk Festival (NSW) Wed 21 Mar - The Brass Monkey (Sydney) Thu 22 Mar - Spotted Mallard (Melbourne) 23-25 Mar - Yackandandah Folk Festival (Victoria) Wed 28 Mar - The Leadbelly (Sydney) 29-30 Mar - Bluesfest (Byron Bay) 31 Mar-2 Apr - National Folk Festival (Canberra)