Going the distance - Sacred Paws (re)united

By Stuart McHugh
Friday, 14 June, 2019, 09:21

Around 400 miles separate Glasgow and London – surely too far apart for a band to exist, never mind record an award-winning album. Yet, Glasgow-based duo Sacred Paws somehow made ‘Strike A Match’ – Scottish Album of the Year in 2017 – despite Rachel Aggs being based in the English capital.

Now, however, things are more straightforward with the guitarist’s move north to join percussionist Eilidh Rodgers. “ We’re neighbours, which is nice, smiles Aggs, “we can hang out in her kitchen.”

The duo have just released the follow-up to that landmark long-player, ‘Run Around The Sun’ being conceived over the space of two years with recording being done in Glasgow. “It was nice to go to a studio and come home not sleep on someone’s sofa,” Aggs says.

However, that busy travel schedule has been replaced with pressures of a different kind, following their debut’s success.

“The first album was just the songs we’d been playing together for years,” Aggs reveals.

“With this album there was more of a time pressure to write it so it was certainly easier being together – otherwise it’d have taken us years, just like the first one!”

And of course, a record label ‘encouraging’ the pair to produce a follow-up. “They didn’t ‘force’ us’,” Rodgers laughs, ”but there was some momentum and they said we should strike while the iron was hot – they were definitely keen to get something out for people to hear.”

“It was exciting to know people were listening and wanting to hear more music from us,” Aggs adds, “so that was encouraging and spurred us on.” “Having the SAY in the background gave us confidence.”

The pair understandably operate as a tight-knit unit, with their label – Mogwai’s Rock Action imprint – offering the business expertise, but letting the pair get on with the task in hand.

“We usually have a good idea of what it’ll sound like in the studio, and sometimes Tony will offer some opinion”. Veteran producer Tony Doogan – known for taking up production duties Belle and Sebastian’s early releases – again worked on the second long player. “He’s stuck with us now!” laughs Rodgers.

The result: a bouncy rollicking collection of Afrobeat-infused tunes, which has tones of 1980s pioneers of African music, Scots-based Zimbabweans The Bhundu Boys. “We loved the Bhundus so much,” enthuses Aggs. "A good reference, well done!” she jokes.

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The duo are more used to Paul Simon being cited as an influence. “We loved Graceland,” Aggs admits. “I don’t know that many people our age that didn’t grow up listening to that record and didn’t love it.”

That enthusiasm for music shines throughout the album’s ten relentlessly uptempo tunes.

“I think we sometimes go into things that are darker in mood but we don’t tend to keep them!” Rodgers laughs. “We’re very sensitive people so we need to make music that cheers us up or we don’t enjoy doing it!

"So the songs that made the album at least have an edge to them that is uplifting, even if lyrically they’re sad - they need something that’s a hook that keeps you going, or we lose interest.”

The new record starts particularly brightly with a blast of feedback on single ‘The Conversation’.

“That was our friend Jack, of (Glasgow band) Spinning Coin. Feedback’s not very Sacred Paws so we thought we’d surprise people with that.”

So it’s not just about the duo, with live shows seeing the twosome becoming a four-piece.

“Live, I feel we always bring it,” Rodgers laughs.

“No matter how many instruments we have!”

‘Run Around The Sun’ is out now. More at www.sacredpaws.com.