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Interview: Washington Irving introduce new album Palomides: Volumes I & II

This Scottish band combines elements of folk with walls of noise to create a brand new sound that is all their own. I set out to learn more about the intriguing five some.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Palomides by Rebecca May Higgins

Palomides by Rebecca May Higgins.

Why does the new album, Palomides, come in two volumes?
Before releasing Palomides, we’d primarily focused on touring for a while, so when we came to it, we thought it would be better to put it out in two parts over the course of the year. It has allowed us to tour a bit more frequently (which we love doing) and meant we’d always have something new to show our fans. We wanted to do something different from the norm, as it’s our first full record. It gave us the opportunity to put the songs in a certain context, which they may not have had if it was just an LP. 

Washington Irving city

What prompted your decision to ‘revolutionise folk music’ when you were all back in high school?
Joe and I may have had lofty ambitions when we said that, (back when we were in High School) but it did ultimately give everyone a direction for when Washington Irving started. We wanted to write something modern that lifted the right things from traditional and folk music. The stories and mythology are what really makes folk music what it is, and we wanted to reflect that in what we did, Joe especially. The sense of melody was also important, as it helped us stick out to a certain extent in Glasgow and the surrounding area, there wasn’t as many bands doing the exact thing we were as we thought there would be. Part of it was to be noticed but also because music is about progression and it feels really good to take the old and make it new. 

Washington Irving, Palomides by xplusyequals

Washington Irving, Palomides by xplusyequals.

Who writes your lyrics and can you tell us about any specific tales that feature on the album?
Joe writes the lyrics and I think occasionally the rest of us will chip in and get a few lines in. I’m speaking for Joe on this, so I might not get it dead on but… The title track has quite a tale behind it. It’s the story of the knight, Palomides, who was (in Arthurian legend) a Knight of the Round Table. His stories were not so well known and he was always a bit player in other people’s tales, so Joe took a liking to him and decided he deserved his own story. With Palomides, it’s an amalgamation of different tales that involve him hunting for the mythical ‘Questing Beast‘, a creature that looks a bit like a dragon and leopard mixed together. I won’t go any further with my explanation because you’ll just have to see for yourself (and I may take liberties and upset Joe)

WashingtonIrving_Palomides_album artwork

What was it like growing up in Oban, Scotland? Best and worst bits?
Oban is a quaint little seaside town, not necessarily dull but quite calm and peaceful. Myself and Joe met each other there and formed the first band we’d both either been in, really. We were terrible, and probably had an awful name, but it was thrilling and completely new to us. 

Best bits? Probably the fish and chips, which are incredible. 

Worst bits? There’s plenty to name, but it all comes from growing up there. When you grow up in a small seaside town and all you want to do is make music and play shows, it can become the antithesis of what you want. I can’t say much more because I’ll probably get a beating the next time I’m home.

Washington Irving by Novemto Komo

Washington Irving by Novemto Komo.

What were your early musical inspirations outside of folk, and where does the wall of noise in your music come from?
The Pogues were a massive influence on us, a great collision of punk and Celtic folk music. We wanted to do something similar to them but not necessarily with the same genres. We can’t deny the influence of Arcade Fire and Neutral Milk Hotel on us, also. Two bands that were and are so good at conveying a very deep underlying emotion in their songs. 

Washington Irving lake

We love noisy shit, it’s just too much fun not to. We played for a long time in a loud and fast manner, but with mainly acoustic and clean sounding instruments, it was just a slow drawn out development where we needed everything to get, in the words of George Lucas, faster and more intense. There’s a very good reason that distortion is found in most popular music these days, certainly rock music. It speaks on several levels and it conveys something that tone and melody can’t always quite get across. Our live shows always revolve around a good bit of noise and it’s become part of who we are. 

Washington Irving LOST

What next for Washington Irving in 2014?
We’re going to start recording some new music very soon and get back on the touring circuit for a while, I think. We might even release our two-parter as one lovely big package, if we’re feeling generous. Onwards and upwards, for certain. And louder and noisier, no doubt. 

The album made me think of folk law but as a sort of mythical ‘Old’ Science… jumbling up several hundreds of years of discovery, collecting specimens on an expedition through rough, wild (and probably quite cold and wet) new terrain, voyages, sea shanties, studying the stars and perhaps a little alchemy. And of course, love.

Palomides: Volumes I & II by Washington Irving is out now on Instinctive Racoon.


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