As far as in-yer-face album covers go, Treacherous Orchestra’s Grind* is hard to beat. Featuring a close-up of a goggle-wearing, oily-faced, bearded chap with gritted teeth and sparks flying, it has something of an industrial steampunk vibe to it.
“Yes, very Steam-punk, literally, much like the music, from steam to punk!” agrees banjo player Éamonn Coyne. “Ali Hutton, one of the bands’ pipers, is responsible for the cover as it was his idea originally, but we all hopped on the bandwagon throwing ideas at him which he carefully considered as Artistic Director, and then ignored!
“It really is a fantastic cover and is one which we like to think describes the album well – a bit dirty, a bit in your face at times, but over-all straight from the heart with a background that’s based in hard work and community – much like the blacksmith of old was.”
Something of a ‘super group’, the Orchestra’s 11 strong membership have worked with a monumental range of artists, including Capercaillie, Bèla Fleck, Sinéad O’Connor, Salsa Celtica, Kris Drever, Breabach, Kate Rusby, Mary Chapin Carenter, Session A9, Peatbog Faeries, Robyn Stapleton, Halcyon, Julie Fowlis and Old Blind Dogs – to name but a few!
Éamonn, Ali, Ross Ainslie (pipes), Duncan Lyall (bass, synth), Adam Sutherland (fiddle), Innes Watson (fiddle), John Somerville (box), Barry Reid (guitar), Martin O’Neill (bodhran), Fraser Stone (drums) and Kevin O’Neill (flute) came together in Glasgow, releasing the critically acclaimed Origins in 2012. Grind continues the story with a range of instrumentals that, though based in folk/ traditional music, pull in influences from dance music to rock.
“Origins was the start and Grind is where we are today, but we are always moving on even though some of the arrangement ideas are similar,” Éamonn explains. “Grind is harder, more edgy but true to the orchestral idea of a place for everything.”
For Grind, T.O. had no shortage of material, with tracks pulled into shape during group sessions, with input from all.
“Someone comes with a tune to the band for consideration and then the fun begins moulding it to suit the various instruments,” says Éamonn of their songwriting process. “A tune written by a Scottish piper played on the banjo for instance can turn the tune on its head and produce something quite different. When that happens over and over with other instruments a different version of the tune often emerges. When the harmony is added and the rhythm instruments pick up on chord charts and riffs and the melody players pick out little lines to repeat etc. etc. … it all changes again – you get the idea. Creative people get busy changing anything that appears in front of them.”
With Grind described as “pure, unadulterated, delirious joy” by FRUK, the combo are spending the summer performing live across the UK, concluding with their first appearance at Towersey Festival over August Bank Holiday (where they’ll be joining a line-up that also includes that other big band, Bellowhead). Of what to expect live, Éamonn refers to them as a “juggernaut roaring … whipping up a frenzied storm.”
“The cover says half of it but the inside of the cover tells the rest of the story,” he says. “Bring it on; we are really looking forward to it spreading the T.O. message ‘down south’.”
Interview by: Dave Freak
* Treacherous Orchestra’s Grind is out now via Reveal. The band’s UK tour begins on 7 June 2015 at Òran Mór, Glasgow, and concludes at Towersey Festival, Oxfordshire, on Friday 28 August 2015. www.towerseyfestival.com
Full details of their tour can be found here: http://www.treacherousorchestra.com/tour/