LOCALS have never had to look far for quality traditional music. However, Markie Dans played host to a different sort of ceilidh band last Friday. Inspired by ska and funk, Inverness and Speyside trio Tweed brought a whole new level of energy to the Oban venue.
The band impressed the crowd with their unique arrangements of Scottish classics and more outlandish tunes such as Russian folk song ‘Kalinka’.
Accordionist Graeme MacKay and fiddle player Duncan Farquhar began much like many Scottish dance groups: playing regular slots at pubs and hotels.
However, in 2011 they broadened their horizons by recruiting by recruiting Sam McLeod, an accomplished ska drummer for Edinburgh band Bombskare.
‘The way I like to look at is I turned up and spoilt all of the tunes,’ says Sam. ‘We were playing about and the grooves that I went for just seemed to work.
‘There’s so much space in a 4/4 rhythm or a reel. With us, the bassline might stay the same but the drums will completely change. Sometimes we stumble across funk stuff by accident just by playing around with old Scottish stuff.’
Like all the best experiments, the trio agree that their hybrid sound was created ‘by accident’.
Though the band never rehearse, they enjoy a weekly residence in Aviemore, which has become a training ground for the spontaneous medley-based approach that they bring to their sets.
‘When people see us setting up they assume we’re just a ceilidh band,’ says Graeme. ‘Once we get going people either get up and dance immediately or they just sit there with their jaws to the ground, trying to work out who’s doing what.
‘For a three-piece we do create a really big sound, but there’s no point trying to work out what’s going on because often we don’t even know.’
In November the band released their second album, ‘The Dark Side of the Loom’, which features everything from sped up marches to reels played in ‘reggae style’.
Produced by Graeme’s cousin Marcus Mackay, percussionist for SAY Award winner Kathryn Joseph, the album was possible thanks to a crowdfunding project that raised £3,500.
Touring the album took the band everywhere from a Cyprus military base to an empty Tomintoul village hall. However, the band are quick to hail the west coast as one of their favourite place to play.
‘We were last here for the Mull Music Festival so it’s great to be back,’ says Graeme. ‘Oban’s been amazing every single time we’ve visited.
‘Plenty of tourists come to shows here, especially in the summer, which is great. We’re not really interested in pipes, shortbread and bus parties, but we want to get people dancing, wherever they’re from.
‘We intend to be in Oban on a monthly basis. We’re coming back to Markie Dans on June 10 and July 23, anyway. What can people expect? To jump up and down and dance like hell.’
First Printed in Oban Times on June 2 2016