With the next Lau-Land up in Edinburgh now less than a month away (27th – 29th November 2014), I grabbed a few minutes with Aidan O’Rourke to discuss the bill and plans for this latest instalment of their unique, portable, curated weekend festival. Inevitably, with the announcement that fans can also help with the process of making their new album by pre-ordering copies through the band’s website, he cast his gaze further ahead, offering a few clues, without giving the game away.
Given the unique, Lau-Land geography of the weekend’s events, our conversations drifted from the future to the past and the formative years of the band. But in the here and now Aidan is on the phone and we’re talking about the Elysian Quartet, who will feature as part of the Lau show on Thursday 27th November.
Notably they collaborated for a special show at Celtic Connections at the beginning of this year, which drew ecstatic reviews and as Aidan tells me, “We’ve actually been working together now for a couple of years.” It seems that they move in similar circles, sharing many mutual friends scattered through various collaborations and projects. He continues, explaining, “We have a very similar approach to music and there are a lot of parallels in the way that they approach classical music and the way that we approach music. For a start they often prefer not to have a score and neither of us are purists. Although they get called modern classical and we are defined as a folk act, but influences for both are far wider than those labels would suggest.”
I ask whether this suggests the direction the album will be heading in and Aidan confirms, “We were involved in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Much like with the Olympics, there was a whole cultural festival around the sporting event and we wrote a piece for that called The Bell That Never Rang with the idea that we would perform it together.” The title references the City’s coat of arms and was conceived as a celebration of Glasgow’s cultural, political and commercial heritage.
The 17 minute piece was performed for The Games, but has also been played live several time since. Aidan continues, “We wanted to create the feel of this being an integrated performance, not Lau with the Elysian Quartet bolted on and the more we’ve played it the better it’s become, in fact they take the lead on much of it. As things stand it’s the starting point for the new record and after Lau Land, the plan is to head for the studios and start recording together.”
With that in mind Joan As Policewoman is also making a special appearance at Lau-Land on the Friday. Aidan confirms Lau are collectively big fans of Joan, who of course has recorded for Reveal Records, their label home as well. But he reveals, “Joan is producing the new album and that news is definitely already out there now.” He also talks about the New York music world that Joan is part of and how exciting that is, before laughing and telling me, “Of course she’s also a violin player, which is alright by me.”
He also tells me about Lau hanging out with Joan, visiting John Zorn’s club and seeing a beautiful piece performed by a Korean string quartet, which set the wheels in motion and ties the whole story together. Aidan enthuses, “Joan is so immersed in that New York underground rock scene, which has these links to classical and jazz and our vision was to try and recreate that kind of world for these sessions.”
Saturday will feature two legendary Scottish Acts, Dick Gaughan and Capercaillie, to represent some of the very best of the Scottish Folk Scene, this is Lau Land’s homecoming after all. Aidan digs into the origins of Lau Land telling me, “We all listen to such a wide range of music and folk is obviously a big part of that, but of course it goes wider too and all of that feeds into how we write and perform. It was Alan Bearman who first suggested that we curate an event and that led to the first Lau Land in London in 2012. Since then we’ve also done one at the Sage in Gateshead and have this and then another planned for Bristol.”
There’s a special significance to this double bill as Aidan laughs again, “There are any things that I wouldn’t be prepared to say on Kris’ behalf, but I can definitely say that Dick Gaughan is his major influence, so when we found he was available he was straight on the bill.” He continues, “I grew up listening to Capercaillie, certainly when I started playing in my teenage years they were so important to me. We had a long school bus ride and while everyone else had Madonna and techno on their walkmans, it was Capercaillie for me. So it’s just brilliant to have two such talented and important acts on one bill.”
Aidan reminds me that there’s a also a late night Lau-Land Club that kicks in after that momentous night’s concert, with Anaïs Mitchell, Mystery Juice, Martin Green and Kris and Éamonn Coyne all billed for what promises to be one heck of a closing party. With other sessions, workshops and there is so much to look forward to.
We conclude with me reminiscing about a Scottish holiday with the woman who became my wife and buying a cassette of The Blood Is Strong from the clan Donald Centre on Skye, which became our in-car holiday soundtrack. Aidan is enthused and extends a generous invite to get my self up to Edinburgh, which although highly impractical is very tempting. I defer to Bristol, where I have a good friend or three and the prospect of a bed for the night, so if you’re reading this Mr P, prepare the guest room for the end of May!
Interview by: Simon Holland
Over three nights (Thu 27 – Sat 29 Nov) Lau present music that inspires them – from the upcoming songwriters support acts (Siobhan Wilson and Adam Holmes) through the exceptional truthful-soul of New York’s Joan As Police Woman (Fri 28) to Scottish folk legends Dick Gaughan and Capercaille (Sat 29). Lau-Land will culminate in an end of festival party featuring Anaïs Mitchell and other remarkable guests.
More details here: www.lau-music.co.uk/lau-land-home