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Lewis indie-pop band Astrid return to Inverness to play live on Sunday – a first at Eden Court Theatre

By Margaret Chrystall

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The euphoric harmonies of band Astrid's latest single will finally be heard live in a series of dates that bring the band to Inverness on Sunday.

Willie Campbell and Charlie Clark.
Willie Campbell and Charlie Clark.

Charlie Clark and Willie Campbell – who grew up together on Lewis before travelling the world with indie rock band Astrid in the 90s – are now both living back on Lewis.

Below, they talk about not living thousands of miles apart any more, recording again for Astrid releases and some other projects in their very much still music-focused lives.

They answer Margaret Chrystall's questions.

Q How have each of you spent the last few months – both busy on different projects I’m guessing?

A Charlie: I’ve been super busy with the label since it’s quite new so when I’ve not been working on my own solo material I’ve been putting in the effort to release one artist a month from the Highlands and Islands on No Big Deal Music.

Willie: I’ve been busy finishing off an album of co writes with Norman Patterson, he’s a first-time songwriter and has written some amazing lyrics. I’m getting a bit more confident on the mixing and production side, I’ve been really enjoying that, plus writing loads of songs for Astrid and other projects.

Q Did the live shutdown over Christmas and most of January cause major problems?

A Both: It was slightly catastrophic for us, to be honest with you. We had a Celtic Connections show cancelled, they cut the programme down quite drastically and we were unfortunately one of those acts. Everyone I know has suffered financially on the live side this last couple of months, so it’s great to be out doing a couple of shows.

Latest single Through The Darkness Of Your Life.
Latest single Through The Darkness Of Your Life.

Q What was it like being in the studio for Through The Darkness Of Your Life? Any revelations, doing things differently, sweet moments?

A Both: It was a really brilliant process. We recorded at Willie’s house in Tolsta on the island. Then we took that down to Glasgow and recorded at Dystopia Studios in the West End of Glasgow. It’s the most raw recordings that we’ve released in many years.

We had Paul Quinn playing drums and he’s one of our heroes from his Teenage Fanclub days. He added something really raw and primal to the recordings and definitely took it up a notch.

James Clifford from the Cosmic Rough Riders plays bass with us full-time now and it was just the right mix a players for this single.

We found ourselves actually going back to the very beginning in the way that we did things. It was a very basic but enjoyable process and I think the result sounds more like Astrid has done anything with releases in a long time. So expect more of these to follow!

Q I know you have known about these upcoming tour dates for a while – I’m imagining at certain points in all we have all been through they might have seemed like a lifeline, or were you worried they might not be able to happen after all?

Both: Yes, we absolutely thought a month ago that this handful of gigs might also get cancelled. The last couple of years have taught us that uncertainty is part of every day life now. This tour was meant to be between two and three weeks, and has been rescheduled three times. It now consists of three shows! But we are absolutely delighted to be underway again.

Q I’m guessing it might be easier to work on Astrid without the Atlantic Ocean between you?!

Charlie: It’s definitely making things a lot easier. Willie and I can rehearse a lot easier that’s for sure! It’s really nice to be Astrid back at home in Lewis because we never really did it before. We’ve been able to meet up regularly, that means we can work on loads of new material and I think that’s coming through on the songs we’re writing.

We are super excited about the latest batch of songs of written and we’re going to keep them coming out throughout the course of the year.

I miss Los Angeles, God only knows I miss the weather! But it was just another chapter. I think for me, in terms of music, Astrid was always the band I wanted to be in, so it’s really nice to be back together.

Q In the latest press release, there is a quote from Willie saying “... in a way this is the sound that we’ve always wanted for the band” – how would you describe that sound for people?

Willie: I think the single is doing what comes completely naturally to us which is to have restraint within the songwriting, let the melody do a lot of the work and have harmonies to the floor. There’s a lovely positive energy to this recording and I think we’re going to use as a template moving forward.

Charlie and Willie live dates together as Astrid.
Charlie and Willie live dates together as Astrid.

Q What other projects have you each had outside Astrid?

Charlie: I’ve mainly been working on my own solo record the last year. The first single came out on Creation Records last February and I released the follow-up two singles on the label so hopefully at some point the album will come out between Astrid releases.

I’ve written for artists in America such as Sugarplum Fairies and Matt Van Winkle. Other than that I’m kept fairly busy with organising shows.

Willie: I’ve been keeping busy with a few different projects. I released a solo album in 2020, four singles and an EP in 2021 mainly self-produced, so that’s been a steep learning curve. Tumbling Souls has been a lot of fun in recent years, we’re a mixture of country and trad. It’s been a good opportunity to write flat-out country songs. Dìleab was a lovely project about the history of the islands that featured young people from the Western Isles. I co-wrote for Between Islands, a really interesting writing project organised by Alex Macdonald at An Lanntair. I’m currently involved in Treòir run by Fèisean nan Gàidheal. I’m working with Alice Macmillan in Stornoway primary just now, it’s been really exciting.

Q And what further plans are there in store for Astrid that you can talk about (I understand there might be things you want to keep hush-hush) ; )

A Both: We’re going to keep releasing a single every other month this year. Full UK summer tour and some festivals slots and support tours a-plenty hopefully!

Q Have you played Eden Court before, and if so, what are your memories of it. I can’t think of a time – I remember Ironworks, the Raigmore etc, back in the day, not Eden Court, but my memory can be pretty bad!?

A Willie: This is a first time for Astrid at Eden Court! I’ve played solo a few times. It’s a lovely venue to play in, perfect for this acoustic set. Our good pal Jane Macmillan is joining us that night too.

Astrid play Eden Court on Sunday (February 12) at 7.30pm. Ticket info: eden-court.co.uk And about the band: astridmusic.net/

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