Published: 19/06/2014 16:54 - Updated: 18/06/2014 17:13

Lau: taking pride in original sounds

Lau (left to right) Aidan O'Rourke, Kris Drever and Martin Green. Photo: Dave Angel.
Lau (left to right) Aidan O'Rourke, Kris Drever and Martin Green. Photo: Dave Angel.

BACK on his native Orkney, Lau’s Kris Drever seems to have been getting himself match fit for the multi-award winning trio’s latest tour — by taking part in the odd session at the island’s annual folk festival.

"It’s much like fitness training, I suspect, if you’re a footballer. It keeps your brain and your hand working quick," the singer and guitarist suggested.

Sessions are also handy for making contacts and it was through a series of sessions around the world that Lau’s three members, Drever, fiddle player Aidan O’Rourke from Oban and sole English representative, accordionist Martin Green, came together to form a band that would quickly branch out from the three musicians’ traditional roots.

"There is no traditional material," Drever pointed out.

"It’s based on the building blocks of traditional music, but we embrace concepts from jazz, classical composition, improvisation and more modern songwriting techniques.

"It’s an original noise. If you want to see Lau, you have to go and see Lau. There isn’t a copy that you could go and pay to see."

The three might play acoustic instruments, but as Drever points out, they are not frightened of deploying electronic effects to supplement that sound.

"It’s about creating a big sonic experience and anything we can do to enhance that, we will. We’re not frightened of those things," he said.

Lau’s unique sound is the produce of a painstaking collaborative writing process, but with spontaneity at its core.

"Sometimes we start off by setting ourselves an arbitrary set of rules and we improvise to those rules and record all those things," Drever revealed.

"In some cases we go back over them and find the little bits that are intriguing or musically interesting and develop them. But all of that stuff takes a long time. We try and play material as many different ways as possible to make sure we are not missing any useful or powerful bits of music.

"A lot of the early work gave us a kind of shorthand, so there are processes we have been through that took us a really long time, but because we have been through them already, we can use just a handful of words to simplify the whole process. Obviously we all have different areas of expertise, but as a whole we write as one unit — it’s not a very individualistic process any more. We tend to say ‘go’ and then play some music, which then takes a while to develop into something you might be interested in sitting down and listening to, but it’s good to have a bit of fearlessness."

The effort certainly seems to be worth it, however, and a lot of people across the world are happy to sit down and listen to a finished Lau album.

Unusually for what is still categorised as a Celtic band, Lau have built up a devoted following in Japan while closer to home, both individually and as a band, they have amassed an enviable awards collection, including picking up the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Best Group title a record four times between 2008 and last year.

"There have been a few of those," laughed Drever, who is also the possessor of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Newcomer in his own right.

"There have been those and tours around the world, and the albums have all been critically well received so it’s going good.

"But we do things with the intention of making things that we can personally stand by and be proud of, so we spend a lot of time doing it. We’re not writing something that we hope other people will like and I think that often gives people more to listen to and appreciate, so it tends to be that our fanbase is quite loyal and very enthusiastic. They like to see people doing things they believe in.

Lau curated their own festival in Gateshead last month.
Lau curated their own festival in Gateshead last month.

"It’s potentially more accessible because the music we’re writing is informed as much by modern music as it is by traditional music, where if you are performing traditional music, you can try putting a modern sound on it, but it was still written when it was written. There is a lot of extra information there we can make use of because we are doing this now."

Despite the band’s international following, it is still something of a thrill for Lau to perform on home turf, and especially a venue as iconic as Strathpeffer’s historic Spa Pavilion.

"We’d like to do more Scottish touring that we manage really, so when we do get to tour in Scotland, it’s a treat," Drever said.

"It feels so comfortable. Normally you’re in another country and far from home, so there is something that is just so nice about touring close to home."

• Lau appear at Strathpeffer Pavilion on Friday 20th June at 7.30pm. Support comes from Moray singer-songwriter Siobhan Wilson.

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