INTERVIEW: HAV | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Having started as a solo project in 2012 for multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alex Ross to explore fiddle playing and the possibility of combining his own compositions with traditional Scottish folk melodies, HAV has since developed into something different. Now, it’s a creative and personal convergence of Ross’s own life and that of two long-standing friends and musicians, Ian ‘Dodge’ Patterson and Jonathan Bidgood.

HAV are releasing their debut album, Inver, on Friday 5th May. For Ross, Patterson and Bidgood — three nationally acclaimed musicians — Inver represents more than a new musical endeavor. In their attempt at creating a record at once rooted in tradition yet ultimately reflective of their modern-day reality, they have also managed to capture the warmth of twenty years of friendship.

What kept bringing them together since they met at university was a shared love of drum and bass, electronic composition, recording equipment, drinking whiskey, being by the sea and making sounds. These elements came together to fuel the artistic impetus and emotional feel of Inver, pushing it beyond an ordinary fiddle-led exploration of Scottish culture. It is especially through the combination of field recordings and electronic composition that they aimed to bring the distinctive flavours of far north-east Scotland, and other recording locations such as Edinburgh and Newcastle, alive.

We really wanted the listener to hear the ‘world’ of the record.

“We made a load of field recordings while recording the album in Cullen; using portable recorders and phones to capture the sounds of the environment in which we were living and recording; beaches, caves, sea, harbours, sea birds, the local distillery. We really wanted the listener to hear the ‘world’ of the record.”

The fishing village of Cullen, where Ross’s family originates from, becomes another musical instrument in Inver, which is Gaelic for a ‘confluence of rivers’, and also helped contribute to the feel of water permeating the record. Water imagery not only captures the importance of location in the members’ lives, but also the bonds formed in these locations. Central to the album is the theme of life change and the divergence and reconnection of human paths, which is evident in the Loch Tay Boat Song: “a duet between two lovers that the tide is carrying off in separate life directions.”

As a new group, HAV may be more readily associated with the folk genre than any other and while they acknowledge that they are part of it, they do not see themselves as immersed in the folk world. In terms of Inver’s contribution to folk, Ross explains, “I think what we’ve contributed is a sound that pays tribute to the heritage of my Scottish folk roots, without actually making a record of traditional folk music.”

Yet, for Ross the best thing about the record is that, “at heart, in amongst all the swirling electronic composition, it’s the sound of three musicians playing music in a living room.”

“That’s how people were making folk records in the sixties and seventies. Recording live in their front room and putting it out, trying to capture that live energy and magic”.

The album launch will take place at the Trinity Church in Gosforth on Saturday 27th May with special guests Beccy Owen, Ian Harrington and Eva Stone. There, HAV will disseminate the warmth of Inver: “mellifluous, immersive and gentle” and echoing with personal resonance.

Inver is out now on Proper Records (physical) and Folkwit Records (digital). HAV play Trinity Church, Gosforth on Saturday 27th May.

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