A couple in love carving their initials into an object has become a bit of a time-honoured romantic tradition.
When one comes across them, so many questions arise. Who were these people? What became of them? Are they even still together, or has this message outlasted their relationship?
For Highland duo Carma, when they came across “A + G 97” etched into the walls of Rait Castle only one thing struck them – inspiration.
The band – Conon Bridge’s Carmen Beaton and Nairn’s Kenna Ross – had been at the castle filming the music video for the Stardust Project’s music video, a charity effort to raise money for cancer.
“We didn’t really know anyone who was part of Stardust before, and then we came in, it was all Nairn acts, and it was really fun!” Kenna explained.
“That’s actually when we wrote A + G, when we were waiting for them to put up the lights.
“Even though we don’t have a clue who it could be, we were like, ‘Let’s do a song about this A + G 97.’ It could be a completely different story than it actually is, but we made up a story around it – and it’s a nice story!”
That story is wrapped around bouncing piano and an almost calypso-esque beat – it’s a sunny pop song that, according to Kenna, marks a departure in sound for the duo.
“As soon as we wrote it, we were like, ‘This is our catchiest song – oh no, is it a good thing or a bad thing?!’” the pianist laughed. “But it’s a good thing, it gets in people’s heads!”
“It has an entirely different sound to what we do – easy listening, folk...alternative folk? We never really got our own genre – we don’t actually know what genre we are – but we always say, ‘Ohhh, we’re alternative folk,’ because that can be anything!
“So this song sounds a bit more poppy and a bit more energetic than the other ones that we’ve done.”
They’ll be needing that energy themselves – the band are booked in for two Highland gigs on Sunday. Carma are set to play the Seaforth Club in Nairn at 2pm, before running through to Inverness for a 9.30pm gig at Hootananny. “Yeah – I don’t know why we did that!
“The Seaforth one is like a three hour kind of chilled set – a chilled Carma set we call them – and we do our own stuff but we do covers as well, and we ask the audience if there are any covers they want, stuff like that. And then, Hoots will be just Carma music.”
The show is part of a wider tour promoting the new single – with other dates in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen on the horizon in the coming weeks.
Aberdeen in particular is an important gig for Kenna and Carmen, who have a history with the city. “We moved to Aberdeen in 2015, and we were going by the name Carmen and Kenna, then our fans and friends were like, ‘You HAVE to call yourselves Carma!’
“That’s just kind of stuck – we use the meaning of karma as well, like fate and all that.”
But it’s in the Highlands where the duo have really seen their star rise. On top of this new single and the tour, Carma were announced yesterday morning as the Saturday morning openers for Belladrum festival’s Hothouse Tent – the second-biggest stage at the Highland festival.
It’s an announcement that has left the pair stunned. “When we got told last week we were like, ‘What?! How did we get that?!’” Kenna laughs. “Because we’ve always been in the Walled Garden, and we were aiming for the XpoNorth stage next, so we were like, ‘The Hothouse stage, how’s that...really?!’
“We’re going to have to do a good set and practice all summer! We’ve got a violinist and drummer coming for that set now, so it’ll be good.”
It’s the perfect moment for a duo whose heart has always been in the Highlands. “We came up here again because we have more sort of contacts up here. We got more gigs, Belladrum, just building our set up – we feel like it’s more us in our set now, we feel like we’re growing!
“I really like the music scene in the Highlands, because everyone works together and you just feel more like you’re part of something.
There’s a lot of talent there as well, and we’re really good friends with everyone in the music scene here. Everyone’s really nice – just be really nice to everyone!”
Carma play two Inverness-shire dates on Sunday: the Seaforth Club, Nairn at 2pm; and Hootananny, Inverness at 9.30pm. For more information about the band, go to www.carmenandkenna.wixsite.com/carmaband