Indie rock or indie folk? Is that second one even a genre? Certainly there’s a twist in Edinburgh quintet Dante’s sound, seemingly steeped in traditional music (a recent Celtic Connections show the evidence of this) but with a penchant for loud guitars and distortion even on the traditional instruments. More proof is that the band are the brainchild of one Seán McLaughlin, who you might recognise as part of The Birthday Suit – and the folk rock crossover doesn’t get much more pronounced than Idlewild (whose Rob Jones of course founded Seán’s ‘other’ band). And violinist Vicky Gray was in Aberdeldy, to muddy the folk rock waters further.
Anyway, we should let Mr McLaughlin take up the story…
Ruaridh Kidd – Drums
Stephen Thom – Elec. Mandolin/Guitars
Stuart Hosking – Bass
Vicky Gray – Fiddle/Vocals
Seán McLaughlin – Guitars/Vocals
I put out a 10” record under the band name ‘dante’ in 2009 – just a wee EP that I’d made called Monochrome. I didn’t want to call it ‘Seán McLaughlin’ because it sounded too self-congratulatory and a lot of my friends played on it. We decided to gig the EP a bit so I booked a show in Polmont Young Offenders Institute. I like telling people about this as it makes us sound hard and cool – like the way they painted Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. In fact it was like going back to school to play for the lads in your class that used to throw pencils at the English teacher and inaccurately draw genitalia on other folks’ maths jotters. They were a seemingly harmless bunch of kids, who were very appreciative of the band coming into play.
After that, I did the odd gig on and off with Vicky, my brother and a few other folky mates but (to cut a long story short) about a year ago we put a finalised version of the band together and set about making a full LP. We kept the name ‘dante’ but it would have made as much sense to call it something else. So the band, as it is, is really pretty new.
We are very nice and settled in the current line-up now. We’re from various parts of the central belt (Stirling, Perth, Kinross) but mostly rehearse in Edinburgh. When we were making ‘Wake’ we went all over – unlike most bands, I don’t think we feel particularly attached to a scene or city and so we’re pretty happy floating around. We worked a lot with Andy Monaghan from Frightened Rabbit on the record and because he’s so busy, we did everything on the hoof – we did drums in Perth, drums and guitars in a high school in Kinross, vocals in Edinburgh, more vocals, bass and guitar in Andy’s flat in Glasgow. Next time we’re going to record one instrument in every Scottish town and city…
Bands are notoriously rubbish at this – and as much as I hate the ‘you can’t categorise our art, man!’ chat from other bands, I think it is really hard to be objective about your own music. We’re just an amalgamation of everything we love. I’ll try to give it percentages:
25% Trady Scottish Folk
10% Post Rock
2% Punk/Post Punk
Stick us under Scottish Indie in a record shop and we’re happy, though. We’re not precious about it but we should probably make ‘May Contain Folk’ stickers… and then another that says ‘No, not like the fucking Mumfords’.
We’re all really happy with Wake as a record as we feel it contains elements of a lot of the music we’re into. If anything, I think I was a little concerned that it was a bit inconsistent, but a lot of punters and journalists have responded quite well to this, which is a bit of relief. In general, Wake is an indie folk rock record.
Personally, as I’m writing this alone at night and it would be rude to start phoning everyone else, I play music because I’m incredibly passionate about pop and folk songs. There’s never been a time in my life, from the age of about twelve/thirteen onwards, when I haven’t been in a band and writing.
I don’t think anyone gets into music thinking it’s a fast track to fame and fortune… well, maybe idiots do. It’s not that making music brings you constant joy – it does bring a lot of happiness to your life, but sometimes it’s a frustrating pain in the arse. It’s not something you can stop, however. I think it’s an addiction, but a relatively healthy one.
On the surface, too, popular music seems very simple but when you start trying to write songs you’re happy with, it instantly seems incredibly complex. I think I also love thelearning aspect of popular music. I can’t speak for everyone else in the band, however. They’re probably in it for the fame, cash, sex and drugs.
For more on the band see www.facebook.com/wearedante