ERISKA are a Glasgow-based folk band making waves in the traditional music scene in Scotland. Fresh from their recent debut at Celtic Connections, the band are going from strength to strength despite only forming in early 2016. Accordion player Aileen Sweeney explains that although initially it was difficult to pin down permanent members, the now six-strong line-up all agree that the fit feels just right. "Many bands are formed from friendship groups and I'll admit I was a bit worried at first that we wouldn't gel, as we didn't all know each other but I think it's actually been better that way. We've become friends but essentially we are all there to make the band a success". With musicians originating from as far flung as Argentina and the USA and with backgrounds in varying musical disciplines, ERISKA are an eclectic clan, keen to combine their interests in all styles of music to create a new sound. With their current repertoire a 50/50 mix of original work and their own take on traditional tunes, the objective is always to give every number the ERISKA stamp. "We work pretty hard to the get variations within the traditional arrangements spot on. It can take time to get the right balance but it's worth it in the end"- Aileen. Fuelled by their passion for music and a drive to see the band flourish, creative blocks or droughts haven't plagued them to date, although having too many ideas can be a challenge at times."It's going through a full rehearsal and realising we haven't produced anything new. However in that time we've ruled out what we definitely don't want and it's about being okay with that!"-Scott. Recalling a six-hour rehearsal where they tried every combination of chords imaginable to only arrive back at the original arrangement they started with demonstrates they adore every inch of the meticulous decision making that goes into concocting an ERISKA track. It's nothing short of masterful.
Establishing everyone's particular role in the band seems to have been the key to their success thus far. Fiddle player Madeline Stewart is seen as 'gaffer of the tunes', writing many of the melodies that kick start the band's creative process. Drummer Gavin Paterson, with his own recording studio, is known for his attention to detail when it comes to laying down tracks. Bassist Julian Pombo and guitarist Dario Palazzo both attend the Jazz and Popular music courses respectively at Glasgow's Royal Conservatoire and equally bring their own style of playing and composing to the table. Aileen is the self-confessed nagger of the group who ensures everyone is where they need to be. Last to join was Piper Scott Figgins, whose commitment to the cause from the outset seriously impressed the others, proving he was the missing jigsaw piece they needed. "A month before the Danny Kyle Open Stage gig at Celtic Connections, Aileen sent me all the tracks and I constantly had them on repeat until I'd learned the entire set list for my first rehearsal with the band"-Scott. Growing up in Pipe bands, Scott was keen to now delve in to more contemporary genres, enjoying a challenge and the chance to play alongside like-minded musicians. "We each have our own musical interests and influences and in turn, have our own style of playing which helps to create a unique sound"-Scott. Almost without a Piper for their first live performance, the band were also nameless for quite sometime. Concentrating more on producing music, they were forced to select a name for their debut gig. "We wanted something Scottish sounding but nothing too twee. It also couldn't be so obscure that people would struggle to pronounce it . I just went on Goggle maps, scrolled about and came across a wee tiny island off the coast of Oban called Eriska and that was it"-Aileen.
Prior to being chosen to perform at the festival, ERISKA's music had only been accessible via Soundcloud and so the prospect of a live audience was exciting. "It was great to experience playing our music to an audience. We also had the added pressure of being featured on TV and radio stations but it went down really well"-Aileen. Following on from the success of that particular performance, the band were invited to feature on STV's Live at Five programme and now, they've got the performing bug, working on extending their repertoire and keen to get playing more live gigs. Planning to host their own band night inviting other groups to perform, they hope to grow their fan base and get their music heard. "My family are the first to like anything we put on Facebook. I can't wait until someone we don't know likes our posts!"-Aileen.
The passion for music, the belief in the band and the sheer enjoyment they get from working together is evident. The lengthy recording process, the leg-work of finding gigs, time-management with their other commitments in the mix and everything else that comes with a managing a band and producing music doesn't scare but excites them. A somewhat unconventional start, with lead guitarist Dario recording all his parts before ever meeting the other band members and the last minute introduction of Scott to the line-up is all part of their story and a testament of their commitment to making it work. ERISKA are a perfect blend of traditional and contemporary; business and pleasure. Fuelled by the fun, driven by the artistry. Inspired by the old, ignited by the new and innovative.
Get listening to their music, start following them on their journey as I suspect big things are on the horizon for ERSIKA!
First album you bought?
Scott- "The Black Eyed Peas 'Elephunk'"
Aileen- "It was an album with Steps and S Club 7 on it. I thought I was so cool walking around the house with my portable cassette player"
Where's your happy place?
Scott- "I have two-on stage playing bangin' tunes to a large crowd but then equally I love the tranquillity of the golf course!"
Aileen-"I love the RCS Cafe. There's always someone you can chat to!"
Ultimate dinner party guest?
Scott- "Darcey Bussell"
Aileen- "My gran. Her craic was brilliant! She could talk all day about nothing!"
Biggest pet peeve?
Scott- "Untidiness! It's my OCD! My girlfriend leaves her breakfast dishes in the sink, her clothes on the floor as she knows I'll be right behind her cleaning it all up"
Aileen- "I have multiple. Disorganised people and people that read your messages and don't reply. I'm just super organised!"
Last song that was stuck in your head?
Aileen- "Deacon Blue's 'Dignity'. I was playing it in another band and kept having to go over and over this one bit!"
Scott-"The chorus of Taylor Swift's 'Trouble'-all because of that screaming goat video online!"