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City on The Side of right as Highland indie-rockers return to north for headline show at Mad Hatters, Inverness

By Margaret Chrystall

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Highland indie-rock veterans The Side are back at Mad Hatters for a headline gig. Frontman Hugh ‘Winnie’ Winton spoke to Margaret Chrystall about Amsterdam adventures and the joys of being a north band

Let's get caught up from the start – what have The Side been up to in the last year:

Q Have you got any line-up updates?

For once we have no changes, The current line up has been together around a year and half, it must be a new record for us!

We are:

Hugh Winton (Winnie) - Vox and Guitar

Gordon Ross – Guitar and B.Vox

Rhys Torrance – Keys and B.Vox

Andrew Stewart (Badger) – Bass

Dougie Watt – Drums

Q Any recording plans?

A Yes, we are going to record three or four songs in January and February. The plan is to release them as singles from April onwards. We’re going to do some videos too – it’s something we’ve never done before, so we’re looking forward to that.

Q New songs that you have put into the set and will play at next gig?

A We will be playing a new one called “Ready” at our next one in Mad Hatters. We’ve been working on quite a lot of other new stuff, once our next few gigs are done we’re going to spend a bit of time getting them finished and ready for recording.

The Side, pictured in Amsterdam. The Highland indie rockers play Mad Hatters on Saturday.
The Side, pictured in Amsterdam. The Highland indie rockers play Mad Hatters on Saturday.

Q Plans for live dates coming up in the next few months? (and past ones Liverpool – Kyleakin – Paris – Amsterdam – you need to make a tour T-shirt of those brilliant places!)

A Our next two gigs are with a band from Belfast called The Coronations, we’re doing a gig swap with them. Saturday, September 21 at Mad Hatters, Inverness and then we’re going over to Belfast to play McHughs for their album launch on Saturday, October 19. We’re planning to do more gigs within the next year.

It’s been great to get away to these places, it’s been a few years since we gigged abroad as well.

The Cavern Club in Liverpool and The Waterhole in Amsterdam were definitely the highlights. We played two gigs at The Cavern as part of the IPO festival, hopefully we will be back next year.

The Amsterdam trip was amazing, great venue and people. I nearly lost my guitar on way home, I left it on the train to the airport, but thankfully the staff managed to get it back to me just in time for the flight.

Next summer we are planning a European tour, there were a couple of gigs we were offered this year in Spain and Belgium that we couldn’t do. So we’re going to hire a van and head off for a week and do 5 or 6 dates.

Q How has the music scene changed in the north for a band like your's that works hard in their spare time. Is it still a pleasure to get out there or are there new challenges?

A From day one, we’ve always just tried to do our own thing, we’ve never really considered ourselves as part of the local scene.

Now that the band has a settled line up at last, I guess we’re making up for lost time and just enjoying getting away and playing as many gigs as we can.

I think there are less opportunities up here for local bands now, but I guess you’ve just got to think outside the box sometimes and find other ways. Although we’re up in the highlands, there’s loads of opportunities if you're willing to travel and get out there.

Q How is The Side sound evolving, if it is – or are you happy with the tried and tested Side sound?

A It’s more guitar driven and the sound is a lot bigger and fuller, I think a lot of the older songs have a new lease of life. Style wise I don’t think we’ve changed that much, it just does what it says on the tin. We’ve never been one to change musically with fashions, etc.

Q What is the biggest excitement/ fear for a band in the North these days? Is it hard finding and keeping a live audience? Are social media connections to build you audience more demanding than it used to be?

A The Side are probably one of the longest running bands in the Highlands, we’ve had a few ups and downs along the way.

This last year has just been about trying to find our feet again and build our fan base back up through the gigs. It’s always brilliant to see people who were at your first gigs years ago and they are still there at your latest one.

New music is key for keeping people interested, so we’re looking forward to getting our new stuff out there at last. We’ve never really been heavy on the social media front, I guess it’s a fine line, as some bands go overboard with it.

I think in terms of highlights up here for bands, it’s the likes of gigs at local festivals, Ironworks and XpoNorth. So losing opportunities to play at those would definitely be a fear for local bands.

Hopefully the Ironworks can find a new home and more slots become available at the likes of festivals/Xpo to showcase the talent we have up here.

The Side play Mad Hatters, Inverness on Saturday night from 9.30pm. Entry is free.

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