Scotland’s Washington Irving consists of mates Joseph Black, Martin Anfield, Rory MacDonald, Kieran Heather, and Chris McGarry. The band decided to release their debut record in two volumes, having recently released the first half, titled Palomides : Volume 1. Check out our interview with Washington Irving where they explain why they released their record over two parts, talk about hanging with Jesus, and how they “awfully” describe their own music!
AMBY: Hello Washington Irving! Thanks for having a chat with AMBY, what have you been up to lately?
Washington Irving: Hey there, we’re just chilling out at the moment actually. We spent April and May playing a lot of shows for the release of Palomides Vol 1. We got back to Scotland from The Great Escape and Wood Festival last week. Since then I did a collaboration with Siobhan Wilson and Jill O’Sullivan from Sparrow and the Workshop and a couple of solo shows. But mostly we’ve all just been enjoying the sun.
AMBY: How would you describe Washington Irving’s sound to those unfamiliar with your music?
Washington Irving I’m not a big fan of describing music to people. If someone asks me I normally just send them a link or direct them to something online. I think we are a folk rock band. Or electric folk has been suggested. I’d probably describe us as a prog-folk-indie-rock-traditional-punk band. How d’you like them apples? I just re-read that. It sounds awful. If someone told me that was the genre of their band I’d never listen to it!
AMBY: You have just released the first half of your debut album Palomides : Volume 1. Why did you decide to split up the record over two parts?
Washington Irving We toured with Frightened Rabbit at the start of the year and released a single. Following on from that amazing experience, we wanted to introduce our music to new people in the right way, so it made more sense to us to go at our own pace and in the end release what we wanted to release. The album split really nicely into two parts. The title track, Palomides, is on Vol 2. I’m really enjoying the fact that nobody’s heard that yet!
AMBY: Wandering Wits is such an infectious song. What is the story behind it?
Washington Irving Thanks. It’s a song we jammed for ages before I had any lyrics for it so I’d just be singing nonsense. I remember realizing that the song worked best when there was loads of syllables screaming out at you. So when I started writing I tried to cram as many words in as possible. I took the story from an AS Byatt novel. She passes it off as old Breton mythology but I think she just made it up. I don’t really want to explain it too literally because I think that might take away people’s enjoyment of the song. I think all I’ll say is that all of the characters on the record have a lot of similarities. The songs are all based around people undertaking journeys and struggling on them or struggling with leaving loved ones behind. It’s a central motif of a lot of folk music and folklore. And it’s one that rang true with our own situation as a band.
AMBY: Does coming from Northern Scotland have an influence on your music? And if yes, how so?
Washington Irving It does. Me and Chris were in Oban High School together. We played our first show together when we were 12. When we started Washington Irving we wanted it to somehow be honest. I didn’t want to pretend I was from anywhere else. And I didn’t like the way a lot of bands had modernized Scottish music and I wanted to see if we could do it. I don’t think we’re always going to sound like that though. We’ve all lived in Glasgow for years now. I feel we’ve done what we wanted to do with Scottish music. Whether we keep doing that I’m not sure.
AMBY: What’s the funniest thing to happen to you at a gig?
Washington Irving I think I say this every time, but I once got the power turned off on me by the sound engineer during an encore. It was a bad moment! He wanted his bed. Suddenly all the lights went off and the guitar cut out. And the crowd looked at me and I looked at them.
AMBY: If you could hang out with any of your influences for a day, who would you choose?
Washington Irving Jesus.
AMBY: Which three albums changed your life?
Washington Irving Recently albums I’ve got obsessed with are:
Let England Shake – PJ Harvey, The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads – Lift To Experience, Orphans – Tom Waits
AMBY: Where did the name Washington Irving come from?
Washington Irving It came from Catch 22.
AMBY: What has you excited for 2013?
Washington Irving So far we’ve toured with Frightened Rabbit and Wintersleep, released Palomides Vol 1 and toured the UK again. Now we’ve got loads of festivals incl Insider, Doune the Rabbit Hole, Tiree, and Belladrum. We’re touring with The Music Tapes which include a former member of Neutral Milk Hotel who are one of our favourite bands. That’s starts on the 25th of June in Aberdeen. Then we’re supporting Runrig in the Black Isle showground which will be our biggest ever show! Then we have a few more Scottish shows including a homecoming show in Oban in August. Then after that we start gearing up for the launch of Vol 2. 2013 has been crazy so far and I think it’s gonna get better.
AMBY: What would a movie based on the band be called?
Washington Irving Cults, Sacrifice and Three Days of Darkness: A Grizzly, Pychotic Tale of the Deeds and Creeds of the Infamous and Dreaded Washington Irving.
But the truth would never get passed the censors.
AMBY: And last but never least, what’s something about Washington Irving that nobody knows?
Washington Irving Wait for the movie.
Thank you Washington Irving, for giving us your answers!