📷 Photo by Elly Lucas
We made our first album together as Eabhal over a lengthy self-funded period beginning at the end of 2017, eventually landing with a finished project in time to release at the start of 2019. The music on ‘This is how the Ladies Dance’ is a collection of some of our favourites we’d been playing over the years. We hadn’t set out to write a record and the process of recording was a scattered one, booking in studio time as and when the money came in. So, when it came to thinking about a second album, we wanted to do things with a more considered approach. The plan was to create an album in the more traditional sense, with a cohesive narrative from start to finish. The five of us got settled in with writing as a group, composing tunes and arrangement ideas as we’d always done, but with a focused outcome in mind. However, as everyone reading this is probably expecting, the pandemic hit and did away with our plans. Just as the rest of the world did, we adapted and tried to find ways to jump the hurdles laid out before us. This meant a lot of tunes, voice recordings, sheet music, hand sketched chord charts and arrangement notes constantly being passed around virtually. We were layering up home-recorded clips from each of us on software just to hear how parts sounded together, something we used to do with us all instantaneously in the room together. Suddenly the whole process became a great deal longer, laborious and tedious.
Somehow though, through persistence and out of necessity to keep ourselves sane and inspired, we came out of it with an album of unrecorded arranged material. We enlisted the contributions of trad music titan Calum MacCrimmon as producer, made some musical adjustments, nailed down some funding and hit GloWorm Studio in Glasgow with Ross Saunders in the engineer’s seat. Released in May 2022 ‘Aisling’ is the overdue creative result of a weird time, but still very much an Eabhal album. It’s been a sensational feeling to be touring this album in the UK and abroad this year after the stifling barrage of pandemic-based subjugation we’ve all collectively experienced. We’re taking the gig and the album to some beautiful places and we’ve already clocked up some resoundingly memorable experiences as a band this summer.
Travel has always been a driving force for our experiences as a band, if not all bands that tour live performances. We’ve been lucky enough to travel to many places both within the UK and in the far-flung corners of the world. This is something we, initially unconsciously, worked into the creative make-up of the music on Aisling, informing decisions on material and musical influences that found their way on to the recording. With the looming dread of Brexit casting its shadow of uncertainty over us all, we looked to our own shores for reference, inspiration and meaning. We metaphysically re-visited places of cultural, physical and memorable significance for us throughout Scotland and the North of England. This whole concept grew arms and legs whilst working closely with Jen Anderson of The Bothy Society. Jen put a mammoth effort into the materialisation of the record, something the five of us are eternally grateful for.
One of the most dynamic ideas to come out of that coalition with Jen is our geocaching campaign. Many people are familiar with geocaching, but as far as we are aware it has yet to be used in conjunction with a musical release. Each track on ‘Aisling’ responds to an area or location of meaning for us or our music. Our followers, and anyone interested, can head to our website to get clues and coordinates relating to different tracks and can then head to these spots and begin the treasure hunt for our stashed boxes. Once found, the boxes contain QR codes that link the user to downloads of tracks, additional content relating to the track and the area/location of significance (delivered by our good-selves) and options to add our music to playlists etc. It’s an interactive union of offline, online, exploration and augmented reality. It propagates engagement with nine beautiful rural and urban places and builds connection with land, culture, heritage and music. It’s more or less ideal as a family activity, a great bit of craic with a group of pals or as a solo expedition.
From Uist to Sutherland to Northumberland, there’s some miles to clock up for those who try to find all nine. But we hope that sights, sounds, music, people and craic are all greedily drank in along the journey, after all, that’s half the point of travel. And perhaps we can begin to take Eabhal, our album and our treasure hunt a little further afield across borders again in the future, we surely hope so.
‘Aisling’ is available to buy via links on our website at www.eabhal.com, along with our first album, t-shirts and all other kinds of merchandise. The music is, of course, available to stream on all the usual platforms. We’re still touring the album throughout the summer and into the autumn, keep an eye on our socials for dates and tickets if you’re keen to catch a show. But crucially, if you’re feeling an itch to explore then check out the geocaching clues and coordinates for each cache on our website. Happy hunting!