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THE GATHERING: Watch a taster as Elephant Sessions’ Alasdair Taylor talks about returning on Saturday to dance the crowd to the end of the night

By Margaret Chrystall

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In the year of their 10th anniversary, Elephant Sessions – a line-up that came together in the Highlands – is almost having a business-as-usual year.

That’s ‘mad busy’ from the sound of it – and a return to The Gathering at the Northern Meeting Park in Inverness is one of the highlights that comes the band’s way on Saturday.

Last time Elephant Sessions played The Gathering in 2019 – Alasdair Taylor and Euan Smillie. Picture: Gary Anthony
Last time Elephant Sessions played The Gathering in 2019 – Alasdair Taylor and Euan Smillie. Picture: Gary Anthony

Last December, Covid stole away the five-piece’s last scheduled return to Inverness, the home town of mandolin player Alasdair Taylor.

So though that gig in the Ironworks will now happen in September, first up is the chance to take the Northern Meeting Park crowd to the best place as last-on Elephant Sessions get ready to close The Gathering on an emotional high.

And to get the crowd dancing their socks off while they do it…

“Obviously you look at that line-up this year and you think there are probably five or six bands that could have gone on last there,” Alasdair pointed out, speaking a few days before The Gathering.

“To come and do that – and it is a home gig for us – we are totally buzzing!”

The rollercoaster of live shows and creating their next album in the studio is already powering up 2022.

“We’ve been away quite a lot recently. We’re just at the end of some Scottish and English dates and we’ve been away to Denmark as well, so we have been away all over the place recently which has been nice, it’s been good fun, Alasdair laughed.

“We’ve managed to have a relatively normal year so far,” Alasdair confessed. “Since February it has been full on.”

That included a return to Australia in the earliest days when Covid was receding there.

“It’s class being back on the road!,” Alasdair laughed. “It was ‘Thank you Australia’ in March.

“We’d just finished the album – and two days after that we flew out!

“We were one of the first lots of people from abroad back in. and we feel so delighted to have gone – it was cool to be back out there.”

Elephant Sessions.
Elephant Sessions.

The new album is on the cards to appear this summer.

Though Elephant Sessions lost just the last three home dates of their winter tour – Aberdeen, Findhorn and Inverness last December, the first two will soon be honoured and Inverness comes later in the year, by which time the crowd there may have their copies of the new as yet unnamed album at home.

“We were just coming up to record the album when that lockdown came along and we ended up spending nearly the whole of January in a room just trying to finish it off,” Alasdair recalled. “Then we recorded the album in February.

“We started touring at the end of March and the recording actually ran over into March as well, but we’re done – it is mastered. I got the master stack the other day.

“Before you rang just now, I was just doing some of the admin around the licensing and all that kind of thing.

“So it’s a case very much of getting there and it goes to print this week and it will be out later in the year, probably end of summer!

“We have a name for it – and names for all the tracks and artwork. Everything is done,” he says, but very politely won’t be drawn quite yet on the name of this new album!

But Elephant Sessions will be playing some of the tracks from it as part of their live set at The Gathering, Alasdair confirmed.

And he happily hints at what loyal fans can expect to hear in the album’s latest set of songs, a place where genres have shifted and moved forward over the past few years.

“I would say it’s a mix,” Alasdair started, thoughtfully. “But more of an electronic dancey element to a lot of it.

“Think late night festival – which is what we are doing at the festival, but still a total mix. Even more so than the last record,” Alasdair hinted.

It’s hard to think of the band playing on Saturday without having that picture in your mind’s eye. The light fading as Elephant Sessions hit the stage, the artwork dancer with the elephant head that their bassist, synth player and graphic designer Seth Tinsley has created for their latest poster, all tumbling limbs and the craziest spinning dance move you might see at the barriers in front of the stage on the night.

Elephant Sessions at the Red Hot Highland Fling Hogmanay Party at the Northern Meeting Park. Picture: HN and M
Elephant Sessions at the Red Hot Highland Fling Hogmanay Party at the Northern Meeting Park. Picture: HN and M

Saturday will be the second time out of three that Elephant Sessions will have been part of The Gathering’s one-day festival line-up – what is it like backstage there for the acts?

“The Gathering is one of my favourite ones,” Alasdair revealed. “I remember 2019, there were a couple of dressing rooms but they have a communal green room there with sofas and people sit in there and, that’s what I really like, you don’t get communal areas at many festivals.

“At those, you pass each other just walking through to go onstage.

“Unless you know bands, you don’t go and hang out.

“But when you have a communal area, people do go and hang out there. It feels really nice – it did when we were there a couple of years ago. We were onstage about tea-time and we got the craic for quite a while before we went on and then for an hour or two afterwards as well with whoever was about. So it’s really good fun, that one.”

Is it all impromptu jamming, musicians just getting some music going ..?

Alasdair laughed: “I can’t remember if there were tunes?

“But there is definitely a lot of laughter and this year there will be people we haven’t seen in ages because there are lots of people on the bill we know quite well and it will be really nice catching up with folk again! I would think we probably haven’t seen most of them since 2019.”

Is there still a chance for the band to go out front without getting surrounded by eager fans?

Alasdair laughed again: “Yeah, you can definitely wander about the park.

“I mean people will come and chat or ask what you are playing, whatever tunes for that night – or maybe ask for a photograph.

“But you can definitely walk about out in the park and I will.

“We did that the last time we were there and I will definitely do that again.

Northern Roots Festival 2017 at Bogbain Farm.The Elephant Sessions finish the night off in style. Picture: HNandM
Northern Roots Festival 2017 at Bogbain Farm.The Elephant Sessions finish the night off in style. Picture: HNandM

“And I will enjoy going out and watching other bands from the front because it’s a very different sound from backstage.

“I think it’s a great little event, really well-run and put together.

“There are options for whatever you want to do.

“My folks are probably not going to go down the front and jump around, but they are going to sit and enjoy the event.

“But if people want to get hammered and go down the front to jump around, they can totally do that as well.

“I like the mix of people and I think that makes for an interesting day.

“And I think you also need that from a performance point of view – you want people jumping but you don’t have to do that to enjoy yourself, you can get into the music.

“You want to be playing to a variety of people and I feel our shows have that.”

Even the weather, Alasdair is not going to be too fussy in the face of The Gathering’s return.

“The year we were there it was 100 per cent nice weather.

“I think it’s not meant to be good weather earlier this week, because it is meant to be dry on Saturday.

“That’ll do, won’t it?”

Elephant Sessions return to The Gathering at the Northern Meeting Park, Inverness, on Saturday, and are due to be last up onstage. More: elephantsessions.com and on The Gathering: thegatheringscotland.com

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