Introducing Scotland’s Washington Irving

Washington Irving

Every year there’s a small group of Scottish musicians that emerge in the United States at international festivals, or they join fellow homeland bands for opening slots on U.S. tours. Successful names that have grown into their own and returned for tours consistently year after year include Belle and Sebastian, Frightened Rabbit, We Were Promised Jetpacks, and most recently, Chvrches.

Glasgow’s Washington Irving is a frontrunner among the next bands to break in the U.S. in the coming years. They’ve worked with all the right people thus far, including producer Marcus Mackay (Frightened Rabbit, Sparrow and the Workshop) and¬†Grammy-nominated Mandy Parnell.

The band is splitting the release of its debut record, Palomides, into two parts, Volume 1 and Volume 2. They released the five tracks from Volume 1 in April and Volume 2 is due out later this fall. Washington Irving experiments with folk pop, driving hook after hook, recounting stories of love, death and madness, escalating it all into energetic choruses. It is with this same energy that the band captures their fans, which is why it is not surprising that they’ve grown into quite the traveling band, playing gigs all over the United Kingdom, including a 10-date tour with Frightened Rabbit.

THE BOMBER JACKET interviewed the band to learn the basics of their album and understand how things have evolved for the young Scottish five-piece. Below is a video for the band’s new song, “You’ve Seen the Last of Me”:


TBJ: So these new songs from Washington Irving are making their debut in two parts, Palomides: Volume 1, and 2. Volume 1 has five tracks…how many tracks are on Volume 2? Why did you guys choose to split the album like this?

Washington Irving: In essence, we ended up not releasing a lot of music last year, because we were recording this album and doing a lot of touring and festivals. So when we finally had everything in our hands and ready to go we thought it would be a shame to just release it all at once. It also gave us a unique method to present our music to our fans and new listeners. We tend to delve into old folk tales and mythology, certainly with the lyrics that Joe writes, and the idea of two volumes definitely lended itself to that well. Rustic-indie or something like that!

How did the Frightened Rabbit tour happen?

It was partially blood, sweat and tears and mainly the Frabbits being really, really great. They’re renowned for getting up and coming bands on tours with them and helping out the local Scottish scene. It’s opened some doors for us and was just a lot of fun. There was a few late nights of boozing and banter, which is always essential on tours like that. We also got the benefit of meeting the other tour support, Wintersleep, who are another great band and also so much fun. We had plenty of silly times with them, and hopefully will continue to do so!

Scotland seems to play a big role in your music. Can you pinpoint the most influential aspects of the country?

I think Scotland has a strange love affair between its traditional, folk and modern strands of music. There’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between them all that leads to cross-over appeal, which really helps us get our music out there. We love a lot of the old folk music that has come out of Scotland, i.e Davy Graham, Bert Jansch, John Martyn and Hamish Imlach, as well as the new group of folk musicians, i.e Alasdair Roberts, Trembling Bells, James Yorkston and so on. We’ve cherry-picked certain aspects of Scottish music to suit our needs and we like the hybrid beast we’ve been left with.

How did you guys team up with Marcus Mackay?

We met Marcus a few years ago when he came down to a few shows and we eventually got talking and making some plans. He’s worked with some amazing Scottish bands (Frightened Rabbit, Trembling Bells, Sparrow and the Workshop, Alasdair Roberts, etc.) and we were really lucky to form a good relationship with him early on. He has a unique mixture of old and new ideas when it comes to producing and he really loves reggae, I mean really loves reggae.

Can you tell me about the scenes from the “You’ve Seen the Last of Me”? It seems like you guys have really grown into being quite a touring band!

We’ve done a good bit of touring in the last two or three years and we’ve settled into it quite nicely now. I think the catalyst to us changing our sound so much in the last year or so was a lot to do with doing a lot of gigs all over, we got tired of being quiet and clean and twee and just started turning everything up. The video captures the last tour we did to promote the release of Palomides: Volume 1 and just our day to day. We try and keep ourselves amused as much as possible because otherwise we start asking all those deep questions that keep you awake at night–who wants that when you’re in a van with five other people for three to eight hours every day? When the same group of people co-exist together for so long you start to develop some really dark and bizarre humour, as I’m sure you can see in some parts of the video.

You have a lot of festival dates this summer. Is this your first summer like this? What’s the best part about playing at all of these festivals?

Festivals are a great time to be loud. Everyone is there for music, there’s no question of that and at our stage we’ve still got to win the crowd over to an extent. It’s a great test of our abilities and there’s little to do at festivals other than check out other cool bands and have a few beers, so what’s not to like? We’ve done one or two summers with a festival schedule on the go, it’s all weekends so everyone can attempt to have actual jobs on the go in Glasgow/Oban–it’s a good time for some well-deserved rest and regathering for the band.

When are you releasing Volume 2?

Around October.


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