Friday 28 May 2010

K&A with Washington Irving

Last year, Glasgow sextet Washington Irving released their debut single "The Magician" to a fair whack of acclaim from those-in-the-know. A few weeks time sees the release of their first EP "Little Wanderer, Head Thee Home" and with it no doubt, plenty more rave reviews. And rightly so. It is a cracking EP!

It's over to them now to tell us a bit more about themselves and their exciting plans for festival season. Take it away...

Kowalskiy: Who are Washington Irving?
Washington Irving: We are five guys and one girl:
Joe Black - Singer
Roslyn Potter - Flute
Chris Mcgarry - Drums
Keiran Heather - Bass
Rory Macdonald - Mandolin
Martin Anfield - Guitar
Martin: Joe and Chris started the band as teenagers. Everyone came together gradually in Glasgow, mainly in and around university, although Joe, Chris, Martin and Keiran are all from Oban. Our first gig was a leap year celebration in a basement flat. That was February 2008, before Roslyn and Keiran had joined and when we had a different bass player. We've had the current lineup since September last year.

Kowalskiy: How did you come to choose the name?
Martin: The name has been around for years, Joe and Chris took on the name when teenagers at Oban High School. The inspiration came from reading Catch 22, in which a character uses the alias Washington Irving.

Kowalskiy: The original Washington Irving is perhaps (so says Wikipedia anyway) best known for his fairy tales "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle". Would you say his work has in any way influenced your songs? What or who are your main influences?
Chris: To be honest I don't think any of us are very familiar with his work. We're frauds! The idea of fairy tales certainly inspired the artwork (by Ryan Hays). It was after Ryan had shown us some of the early work on the artwork that we came up with the name for the EP, it really tied together the ideas and stories on the record for us, so it became quite apt in the end.
Martin: Musically I think we started with the idea of being like The Pogues, then other influences crept in and we strayed further afield, adding a bit of Belle and Sebastian, Arcade Fire etc. We even flirted with Spanish and African sounds for a while. We had a song with a Spanish rock outro that we only ever played at our first gig. It will probably be resurrected one day.

Kowalskiy: How would you describe your music?
Chris: Any group of people who get together and write some music are constrained and refined by the backgrounds of the musicians involved. You could argue that a bands sound is akin to a soup. So, I suppose we're like a Scotch Broth cooked by Heston Blumenthal. We've got traditional Scottish and Irish folk in us, as well more modern indie-rock bands. It's always hard to describe your own sound, so that's possibly the closest we'll get. Kieran's the lentils.

Kowalskiy: You're about to release your debut EP "Little Wanderer, Head Thee Home". Could you tell us a bit about it?
Chris: The name is from a William Blake poem which Rory discovered while diving through books for his final exams. 'Little Wanderer' was recorded in three productive days at the Diving Bell Lounge in Glasgow. We worked again with producer Marcus Mackay on the EP as we'd really enjoyed working with him on the single "The Magician". Recording can be quite stressful but it's always a lot of fun in the end. Marcus really likes doing certain things live and employing a more natural approach which we always love. The EP isn't an all out live album in any way but we hope it brings out the melodies and instrumentation as well as the energy of our live show.

Kowalskiy: You're about to start touring the EP, but what would be your ideal gig?
Martin: T in the Park would be pretty high on the list. We've just found out we're playing T Break along with lots of our friends, Three Blind Wolves, French Wives, The Seventeenth Century, Kitty the Lion so that seems pretty ideal. I'd love to play at an ATP show, curated by one of your favourite bands, like Belle and Sebastian.

Kowalskiy: What can we expect from Washington Irving in the future?
Chris: We're playing loads of gigs over the summer including the T Break stage at T in the Park, which was just announced. We're heading to Ireland for the first time in June for the Happy Valley Festival - June 4th, 5th and 6th. Also the Insider Festival on 18th June. It's a beautiful wee festival near Aviemore. We played there last year and had a great time. You can check it all out over on the MySpace at

We've been writing and rehearsing new songs for the upcoming tour and we're really excited to finally air them out and show them off. We're going to keep recording stuff over the next few months also - keep ourselves busy!

Kowalskiy: Lastly, who or what is "Phantom Buck"?
Martin: I think it's a ghost deer or a metaphor for a girl maybe. Joe might tell you if you're lucky.

Kowalskiy: Any weird or interesting facts about the band before we go?
Martin: Keiran our bass player recorded an album of ambient singing saw music. He also used to play with the disco/funk band O.B.E. Chris also plays drums with Glasgow band The John Knox Sex Club. We're being featured on a compilation CD of up and coming bands called Festival Harvest. It will be released on the 7th June (the same date as our EP funnily enough) by 'A Greener Festival'.

As Martin says (nice extra plug there!) the "Little Wanderer, Head Thee Home" EP will be released on the 7th June. It's hard not to fall in love with it! Especially the opening song "SiSi". Have a wee listen for yourself.


1. SiSi
2. Phantom Buck
3. Islands
4. The Glebe
5. Dear Liza

Live versions of some of these EP tracks can be found in their Subcity Radio Session from November. If you fancy seeing them live, then there's plenty of opportunities over the next few months. Here's the dates for your diary:

Upcoming Gigs

28th May (TONIGHT) - Hootenanny, Inverness
29th May - The Jager Room (Launch Party), Stornoway
30th May - Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore
3rd June - Mono (EP Launch), Glasgow
13th June - West End Festival, Glasgow (Vintage Guru Bandstand)
18th June - Insider Festival, Aviemore
23rd June - West End Festival, Glasgow (Brel)
9th July - T in the Park, Balado
15th July - Snafu, Aberdeen (Dirty Hearts Club)
16th July - The Jager Room, Stornoway

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