ANYONE who hasn’t seen Inverness band The Whiskys (formerly The Whisky River Band) for a while, will probably notice a few changes – starting with the line-up.
With the departure last year, first of founding member and fiddler in the line-up, Iain Duncan, followed after Belladrum by Fraser McLean, there were some gaps to be filled.
Singer and guitarist Kris Douglas, drummer Andy Davidson and bassist Chris Ronaldson remain.
Grant Dunn on guitar, banjo and vocals was the first new face to be added in.
And for the second new guitarist in the band, Paul Elliott, it was while we were doing an interview as part of The Oxides, one of his many other band line-ups over the years, that he first received phone news that Fraser was to leave The Whiskys.
By a strange coincidence, I also happened to be in the small but appreciative crowd that witnessed Paul’s first unannounced public performance with the band, at Strathpeffer’s first AmaSing festival this summer.
Though Paul had always been a friend and fan of The Whiskys, it was a suprise to learn he was about to pick up a guitar and start to play!
Paul said: "When I was asked to play with The Whiskys because Fraser was leaving, it was an immediate ‘yes!’.
"But it was terrible in a way too because I was always a great fan of the band and it was because Fraser was leaving that I was being asked.
"Our first performance was that one in front of about six people – but it felt really good!" he laughed, recalling the gig.
The Whiskys had gone for it anyway, despite most of the potential audience being elsewhere - at the AmaSing festival’s headliners set from Kassidy.
Paul had had a lot of songs to learn in a short time to get ready in time to play.
And Grant laughed: "Unfortunately I had to teach him things I didn’t know that well myself because I was kind of new at the time too!"
Paul said: "Grant had only been in the band a couple of months at this point.
"So we’re the new guys!"
The inevitable changes that come with a different line-up – how did the "new boys" see that?
"I think it is a different Whiskys, it’s a new sound and a new band," said Paul.
Grant added: "Of course Kris and the rhythm section are the same and we still have a bit of a folk influence with the banjo, but it’s probably more rocky now than folk."
Paul added: "We’ve also discovered a side of us which is kind of unique as well.
"You know me, I love my delay pedals and sounds. But we can also be rocky if we want."
Grant pointed out: "We can also do more soundscapey sort of stuff as well."
And Paul offered: "I think we can be more diverse too."
Grant said: "We can go from songs that are quite slow and quiet, sort of folky songs with a bit of banjo, to full-on grunge rock songs.
"And the hits, old favourites, are again different as well now."
Paul laughed: "They’re obviously all still fairly new songs to me, but the band is bringing out new songs which are new to Whiskys’ fans.
"There’s a new song we’ll be playing at the Ironworks which would slot right into a Tarantino film!
"We’re also experimenting with different sounds and using different guitars to try to get the best out of the songs as well."
Grant revealed: "I am lucky enough to have a collection of guitars which is being distributed through the band.
"I’ve been collecting guitars for many years.
"Now the collection is being put to good use."
Paul said: "It means there won’t be the same instruments playing the same songs. There can be more variation between songs, so every set will be different.
"Even though it’s a new band and I’m still new – only a few months in – I think it will constantly evolve."
Grant also hinted that regular Whiskys fans will also be hearing new material.
He said: "We’re going to bring in new stuff very gently, but it’s not going to be ‘Bang!’. We’ll play old songs with maybe a couple of new ones and can build towards a new set and a new album.
"We’re looking to do an EP – or an album – next year.
"We were in the studio last year, but since all the band changes, we’ve decided to scrap that.
"We’ll take a step into the fresh and try to do something new."
Paul said: "I think it makes sense to record us sounding as we are."
Grant said: "Me and Paul have worked together before and know how each other work.
"I think because we have two new guitar players in the band – I still class myself as a new member – recording new stuff will promote that."
Singer and guitarist Kris Douglas said: "I loved Fraser in the band, the punk and improv feel."
But the line-up isn’t the only thing that has changed for Kris who has evolved his own Dr Wook solo set, quite different in feel from the performance of songs as frontman of The Whiskys.
He said: "Grant lent me a six-string banjo and I thought ‘There’s loads of things I could play on that!’ and in a way that and the Dr Wook thing has changed the way I write songs."
Now, the three agree, they want to work on letting the songs breathe, building in a bit of space to each song’s arrangement.
Kris said: "The evolution has been a good thing for the band – everyone gets to put their own stamp on things.
"Before, it was kind of me going ‘Whatever’, and everyone else followed suit. Now everyone grooves it out. I enjoy that."
The Whiskys play support for Alabama 3 on Sunday at the Ironworks, Inverness, and will also play the city’s Mad Hatters on Friday, December 20 as part of Netsounds Takeover night with the Cryptic Keys.