Interview: Eagleowl

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IT USED TO BE THE APPAREL THAT proclaimed the man, but now, particularly where musicians are concerned, it's the website.

Big-name acts with unlimited budgets and a penchant for bling tend to go for all the latest hi-tech widgets (check out the narcissistic "video wall" on By contrast, big-name acts with unlimited budgets and a desire to be seen as regular folks will make like Radiohead and commission a site that looks like a 12-year-old geek's school project.

The web can be a great leveller, too. Unsigned bands with a fraction of the resources of their A-list counterparts can still make a powerful statement online – and that's exactly what Edinburgh band Eagleowl have achieved with their so-minimal-it's-hardly-there-at-all homepage.

There's not much to look at on, just a badly-drawn sketch of an owl (he opens his eyes when you click on him) and a few lines of text on a white background. But that text speaks volumes: "Eagleowl are a lo-fi post folk ensemble from Edinburgh, Scotland," it says. "Eagleowl believe in doing things right, rather than doing things fast."

Not much of a gimmick, perhaps, being slow and methodical. Not very rock 'n' roll. But in the pop world, where everything seems to move at 100mph, there's something refreshing about a band who pride themselves on their ponderousness. "I don't think we ever set out to be slow," says guitarist and singer Bartholomew Owl. "I think that's just how it progressed. The thing I attribute it to most is not having a drum kit – it suits our sort of set-up more to have slow builds and gradual releases rather than just do three minute pop songs."

In the beginning, Eagleowl was a duo – Owl plus violin/mandolin/ukulele/melodica player Malcolm Benzie. Gradually, however, it expanded to include double-bass player Clarissa Cheong and the harmonium stylings of Rob St John.

The group's debut EP, For The Thoughts You Never Had, was released last summer on Fife Kills: Records and then again in December on Song By Toad.

Most up-and-coming bands are keen to make their early recordings as catchy and radio-friendly as possible, but some of the songs on Eagleowl's debut last for more than seven minutes, and collectively they sound like the soundtrack to the saddest, most beautiful art-house film you've never seen.

"The songs we were playing before we made the EP were actually even longer," says Cheong. "Some of them were 12 minutes long. When we were mixing the album there was quite a lot of debate about how long we should hold certain notes for."

"Yeah," says Owl, "there's one song, an instrumental track, that just has a continuous drone in the background, so there was quite a heated debate about how long the drone should be before the rest of the song kicks in – and then again at the end."

And is there a King of Slow in the group? "I think I would usually be the one petitioning for things to be slower," says Owl.

"If anything Malcolm's the speedier one," adds Cheong. "Not by much though. I think we're all quite happy being slow."

One of the disadvantages of playing subtle, delicate music is that it can often get lost in a live setting.

"We have good and bad gigs," says Owl. "We've had quite a few – especially support slots – where people just sit at the bar and chat. I always try to ignore people when that happens. You just have to assume that at least two or three people there are listening so you concentrate on them rather than let it bug you."

"We're lucky though," says Cheong. "Most of the crowds we get are really lovely. I dunno if that's partly to do with playing with bands we like – I guess the people who like them are more likely to like us."

Eagleowl have certainly done a good job of surrounding themselves with like-minded musical souls. As well as two spots at the Fence Collective's Homegame festival in Anstruther in recent years (Owl: "the Fence guys are really supportive of what we're doing.") the band are one of several currently orbiting around the Edinburgh-based Fife Kills record label, along with My Kappa Roots, The Wee Rogue, Rob St John and Randan Discotheque.

Do Eagleowl feel part of an Edinburgh "scene"?

"Yeah, pretty definitely," says Cheong.

"There's certainly a lot of really good bands playing in Edinburgh at the minute," says Owl. "It feels like a nice wee bunch of people, although not everyone's playing the same kind of music."

Both Owl and Cheong are wary of lazy musical tags, and particularly wary of being lumped together as part of some sort of "nu-folk" movement. Semantics aside, however, there does seem to be some sort of anti-commercial, folk-inflected musical storm brewing over the east coast of Scotland these days – and Eagleowl are right in the middle of it, whether they like it or not.

&149 Eagleowl play the Caves, Edinburgh, 29 January; the Bowery Bar, Edinburgh, 14 February; and the Captain's Rest, Glasgow, 15 February. For The Thoughts You Never Had is out on Fife Kills: Records (