Think what more you could do if you took to the stage with one electric guitar, a violin (sometimes ukulele), harmonium (sometimes mandolin) and double bass. That’s the Eagleowl way, and it makes for sweet, swelling, dramatic music.
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The quartet – Bart, Malcolm, Rob and Clarissa, respectively, on the instruments above – release a four-track EP, Into The Fold, on Monday, with Edinburgh and Glasgow launch gigs this weekend. On the back of last year’s beautiful single Sleep The Winter and one of Heraldscotland.com’s favourite live sets at last month’s Homegame Festival in Anstruther, it should edge them further into the spotlight, particularly on the capital’s ever-improving music scene.
The band has its origins in some open mike nights (rising to a couple of support slots for A Hawk And A Hacksaw and Field Music) that Bart and Malcolm played with acoustic guitar and violin in 2005. After a switch to electric and the addition of a couple of friends regularly met at like-minded gigs, Eagleowl began to take shape.
“It was just a natural progression,” admits Bart. “There was no grand plan. It was just using what we had at our disposal. And because there are no drums or percussion, the music is more about gradual build. We work around that,
rather than a verse/chorus.”
Their approach to song-writing hits a peak on No Conjunction, the final track on the new EP. A few seconds shy of 10 minutes, the track takes a melody line that wouldn’t be out of place in a Bonnie “Prince” Billy song, adds the ghost of a John Cale solo to its violin part and expands and intensifies as it repeats the same phrase over and over to hypnotic, ecstatic effect.
There’s a folk dimension at the heart of the music, but, as Bart points out, “that’s more to do with instrumentation than songwriting”. Grasping for a lo-fi ballpark comparison, I land on The Low Anthem. Bart counters with a more apt reference point for Eagleowl’s handling of time and space within their songs, if not their sound.
“Although I’m not a huge fan, I always cite Sigur Ros,” he says. “They make ‘unmarketable’ music almost, and don’t concede to commercial pressures much, but they’re still a huge band. So it is possible. I’m just not sure how to go about it.”
Geographic and domestic circumstances have to be taken into consideration. Bart has a day job in Edinburgh, Malcolm moved to London a few years ago, Rob is studying at Oxford and Clarissa, also Edinburgh-based, had a baby at the end of last year. Perhaps they should take the easy route and issue all the music they’ve recorded so far as one unit?
“It has been suggested we just package it up and release it as an album,” Bart says hesitantly. “I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that. I’m wary of re-releasing stuff. I’d rather concentrate on an album as an entity.”
His integrity is well-meaning but do yourselves a favour and ignore him. Eagleowl’s original For The Thoughts You Never Had EP, Sleep The Night single and Into The Fold EP are available for download at http://eagleowl.bandcamp.com.
Gathered in the order released, these 11 tracks have the cadence, variety and progression of a proper album, leading always to the awesome, epic No Conjunction. If it did exist as such, it would be up there as one of the albums of the year.
Eagleowl play the Roxy Art House, Edinburgh, tonight, 7pm, and the Flying Duck, Glasgow, tomorrow, 7pm.