If you love music, Lewie Peterson reckons you'd better go and see Lau. Have a look below and see why.
When a fiddle player, accordionist and guitarist decided to jam in a kitchen in Edinburgh, few would imagine that a decade later they would become one of the leading lights in the Scottish music scene.
Attempting to describe Lau to the uninitiated is a little bit tricky. Simply mentioning the fact they’ve won Best Band at the Radio 2 Folk Awards four times is misleading and when trying to explain their style it is easy to fall into a web of clichés. Terms like ‘groundbreaking‘, ‘genre-spanning’, ‘alt-folk’ and ‘innovative’ fall out the mouth like some sort of arts funding applicant. Those terms are not irrelevant or wrong but it’s maybe just better to let people go and see for themselves.
Kris Drever, Martin Green and Aidan O’Rourke each have a distinct presence on stage and a wide range of musical backgrounds between them. They are all masters of their craft having played in bands such as Session A9, Blazing Fiddles, KAN and with artists such as Eliza Carthy. It is their ear for arrangement though that really sets Lau apart. This is exemplified in all their work and something that gets interesting with every release.
They have just launched their fourth album, The Bell That Never Rang, which is produced by Joan (as Policewoman) Wasser. There are enough changes to keep things fresh but not too many to alienate a growing fan-base. Some of their music will grab the listener’s attention straight away while other tracks are slower, more ambient and grow on you over time. Seeing them live is probably not for the casual listener. They demand full attention onstage and in a time of constant distraction and need for stimulation, it is an intense experience for some.
When it comes to speaking about folk music, I admit I am a fraud. I blame my upbringing. I was truly spoilt (musically) as a child. First family holiday was as a three-year-old with Hom Bru at L’Orient Festival in France, Willie Hunter was the local fiddle teacher, Phil Cunningham would come up for a visit now and again. Most weekends I was exposed to musical practices, sessions or concerts in some form. Because of this, I took it all for granted and found it was even something to rebel against.
Nowadays I count bands such as Four Men and a Dog, Fiddlers Bid and Nickel Creek as firm favourites but that wasn’t always the case. My teens were not spent playing in sessions or practicing the mandolin. Instead I preferred the angst of Nirvana, Radiohead and Rage Against the Machine and being a young Shetlander also meant AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Metallica would play a large part in my formative years whereas the ‘Trad’ scene was something I associated with ‘mam and dad’. Even the folk festival (now my favourite time of year) was just some gigs we (as toddlers) got dragged to for a long weekend. During university years though, something in the mind-set changed. New bands came around that subtly introduced to me how folk music could be exhilarating even to a System of a Down fan or as musically interesting as OK Computer. One such band was Lau. Uniquely talented trad musicians who compliment and challenge each other to make something that bit different - less Dashing White Sergeant and more Sergeant Pepper even though you may still find jigs, reels and slow airs in their repetoire.
I am a biased fan but if you love music (of any description) go see them this month. I am lucky to have seen them on multiple occasions and they are simply one of the best live bands you can see in the country today.
Lau will be playing Mareel on Friday 26 June. To book tickets visit Shetland Box Office or phone on 01595 745555 Want to know more? Have a look at his video of Lau filmed at Lau Land at Colston Hall, Bristol earlier this month.