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Features / Revellers get the skeletons out of the closet

From left to right - Adam Priest, Lewie Peterson, John-William Halcrow, Michael Anderson, Magnus Bradley, Erik Peterson. Missing from photo: Daniel Gear. Photo: Chris Cope/ShetNews

THE REVELLERS are sitting in a practice room in Wethersta, just outside of Brae. Everyone’s just finished a hard day of work, and the atmosphere is most definitely laid-back, writes Chris Cope.

Guitarist and vocalist Magnus Bradley chomps on a bag of seeds, while bassist Adam Priest is chilling out in his work clothes. Considering what’s about to come next weekend, it truly feels like the calm before the storm.

On Saturday the seven-headed folk-rockers will headline Clickimin Leisure Complex in Lerwick as they launch their second album Skeletons in true rock and roll fashion.

Since unleashing debut effort Renegades three years ago, the group – who formed in 2007 initially as a Levellers tribute act – have gone from strength to strength.

There’s been gigs on the mainland and further afield, with the group performing with aplomb at Denmark’s Skagen festival this summer. And, in an ironic twist of fate, they supported The Levellers when they returned to Shetland in 2014.

Bradley says Skeletons features “longer, darker” tracks compared to their back catalogue. It’s not something that was intentional, however, with the songwriting taking an organic flow.

“The title is more about getting to the truth of something, rather than being about something physical,” banjo player Lewie Peterson adds. “It’s skeletons out of the closet kind of idea.”

Each member of the band – which also features Daniel Gear on fiddle, Micheal ‘Beagle’ Anderson on lead guitar, mandolin player Erik Peterson and drummer John-William Halcrow – contributed at least one song to the record.

So what happens when a member brings a track to the table?

“Me and Beagle put tons of distortion over it and ruin it,” Bradley, proudly sporting a Metallica t-shirt, laughs.

Priest, however, says the songwriting was often a collaborative affair. “Michael came with the song Kamikaze and he said ‘I don’t know if this is a Revellers tune’, but as soon as Lewie and Erik started playing on it, it sounded like a Revellers song,” he said.

“Sometimes it took everybody’s contributions to give it its sound.”

Skeletons continues The Revellers’ knack for masterful melody making, as well as their ability to marry folk intricacies and fist-pumping rock and metal.

The first chance to hear ‘Expensive Education’, a new track from The Revellers’ second album ‘Skeletons’:

The album was recorded at the Mareel recording studio in Lerwick, with Lau sound engineer Tim Matthew overseeing the sessions.

“We’ve taken more care over it in terms of the sound and mixing than we did on Renegades,” Erik says, while brother Lewie added that the group wanted to make a more “polished” record this time around.

One of the “hardest things in the build-up to the album”, however, was getting everyone together at the same time.

The musicians regularly play with other groups, such as The Dirty Lemons, Trookers and Vair, while shift schedules can be a problem for gigging.

“The way the work rotas are, you do get a few windows of opportunity throughout the year to go away to play gigs,” Priest says. “But it’s hard – you just have to plan to do something when everybody’s off rota.”

The Clickimin gig will be the biggest headline show The Revellers have ever played. The dust will have barely settled from KT Tunstall selling out the Lerwick venue in August before the group are sparking a proper knees-up.

It has an all-star support cast too, with DJ Lyall, Steven Robertson and First Foot Soldiers making for a somewhat spreetastic bill, while local videographer Keiba Clubb will provide visuals for the headline act.

The show feels like a celebration of homegrown talent, while Skeletons – which features haunting artwork from Shetland artist Dirk Robertson – is almost an ode to the isles too.

“Everything apart from the CD burning costs has been spent in Shetland, in terms of Art Machine doing the booklet, and things like that,” Priest reflects. “It’s as Shetland as an album can be.”