Hailing from the highlands, folk-fusion project Elephant Sessions have been imprinting themselves more and more on the Scottish music scene since their inception over a decade ago. Bringing fiddle, mandolin, and other traditional stylings into the same arena as heavy dance tunes and funky grooves has carved out a niche for the award-winning group. SNACK spoke to mandolinist Alasdair Taylor about upcoming shows, Hogmanay, and Scottish cultural traditions.
You’re playing your biggest headline show to date on 8th December at Glasgow’s O2 Academy. How does that feel?
We’re absolutely buzzing. It’s a bit cliche, but we’ve got a bucket list of venues that we’re slowly ticking off and this one’s a really big one for us. Just a couple of weeks ago I saw Little Simz there and I was thinking ‘okay, this is sick. Next time I’m in here it’ll be our show.’ That felt great.
It’s one of those venues, alongside the Barras, that growing up in Inverness you really wanted to get down the road to. At 13 I was always trying to convince my dad to bring me down and then head back up the same night. But yeah, we’ve been doing a lot of prep for it. The sort of stuff that makes it a show and not just us playing our music. We really want to make it special.
Later in the month you’re headlining the Tartan Zone at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. How does that feel?
It’s hands down the best Hogmanay street party. The crowd is always so down for it. What an end of the year: big gigs in Glasgow and Edinburgh, probably two of our favourite cities in the world to play. I think this is our third time doing Hogmanay in Edinburgh. One year I was really ill and wasn’t sure I could play, but we did the gig and for that one hour I was totally fine. Once I got off stage I felt so ill, but while on stage that Edinburgh crowd dragged me through by just being so up for it. It’s freezing cold and everyone’s just dancing around cause they kind of need to. It’s so much fun.
How important do you think it is to be able to present the youth of Scotland today with forms of cultural heritage in a way that they might be more keen to engage with it?
Tradition is really important for culture and countries, but if you let it stay the same it will die. There’s a stereotype of these things and often that’s not exciting to a kid. You need to modernise. You definitely don’t get rid of the old style but you need to provide a spectrum from very traditional to very new. In my mind that’s how you keep a tradition going.
Elephant Sessions are playing the O2 Academy in Glasgow on 16th December and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party on 31st December.