In any young band’s career, there are defining moments that signal things are going rather well.
For Niteworks, who formed ten years ago in Skye, one of these memorable occasions came when they launched their much-acclaimed debut album ‘NW’ at Glasgow’s SWG3 venue in 2015.
“We were sitting in the back getting ready to go on” recalls Allan MacDonald, who plays bagpipes and keyboards. “We looked out the window and there was a queue as far as we could see of people waiting in the pouring rain.
“We ended up having to delay our stage time by almost an hour to give people the opportunity to come in! That was probably the first milestone.”
Another massive highlight came this year when the band, who mix the Gaelic language and traditional music with electronica and techno sounds, performed a nine-minute live soundtrack for the midnight fireworks display at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party.
Ironically, the hugely-successful gig didn’t go according to plan: “It was funny, when we were first approached to do it, our initial thought was not to include any of our own music and instead do a mash-up celebration of Scottish traditional and Gaelic music”, said Allan.
“Licensing restrictions, however, meant we could only use our own music. So, we ended up working with composer Dan Jones who rescored a bunch of our stuff that was then recorded by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and played back to the biggest firework display ever hosted in Edinburgh. All quite surreal to be honest.”
Niteworks will be one of the star attractions at next month’s Hebridean Celtic Festival, and their appearance will mark a return to one of the first festivals they played.
“We've always absolutely loved coming back to HebCelt after we were offered a great slot at the festival early on in our career in 2011”, said vocalist and keyboard player Innes Strachan. “Since then, playing HebCelt has been a bit like returning to a home crowd.
“We're always made to feel very welcome and the crowd have always been good to us, so we can't wait to return after a few years away. We've just returned from a stint in the studio working on our set, transferring our new material to the live environment, so expect plenty fresh tracks and a live set which we feel is as energetic as we've produced yet.”
That new material includes songs from the much-anticipated follow-up album which is complete and will be released on 24 August.
The album was overseen by acclaimed techno producer Alex Menzies (Alex Smoke) and features appearances from notable acts such as Julie Fowlis, Iain Morrison, Ellen MacDonald, Sian and Kinnaris Quintet.
“We've really enjoyed writing and recording this one” admits Innes. “It's been our first time working with another producer - Alex Smoke - who we got on board for a different perspective on the electronic side of the production and to draw on his years of experience in the scene.
“Ever since the release of the last album we had been putting together ideas for new tracks, searching for songs and looking at new collaborations so it's been quite a long process, culminating in a busy start to 2018, working hard to get it finished. But we got there eventually and we're delighted with the finished product.”
Bass guitarist Chris Nicolson adds: “We're lucky to know some of the best musicians and vocalists in Scottish music, some of whom we grew up with.
“Collaborating on this album has been very exciting and has certainly informed the direction it has taken. Particularly with vocals, it's our guests that really define the sound of the piece, not us. What we aim to do, and have hopefully managed, is to place them in a context that no one else has before.”
As is evident from the new album, the band, that also includes drummer Ruairidh Graham, continues to evolve: “Our sound is probably dictated a fair bit by the instruments we play and the synths we use”, said Allan. “Synthesis is one area we'll probably never stop adding/changing..”
All this while members of the band still have full time jobs and live in different cities, making it difficult to produce new material. However, they are working on new projects from already existing recordings.
“We're still toying with the idea of releasing the orchestral arrangements of our stuff from the Hogmanay show. Watch this space.”
This year’s HebCelt runs from 18-21 July with headliners Deacon Blue, The Fratellis, Eddi Reader, Skipinnish and Roddy Woomble.
Day tickets for HebCelt are available from the festival shop and website. See www.hebceltfest.com