Play: The Last Battle - Oh Best Beloved
Despite being best described as low key nu-folk loveliness, in terms of band inter-relationships The Last Battle are more akin to Swedish megastars ABBA.
The multi-instrumental Edinburgh six-piece (or septet, as they sometimes are live) only played their first gig in October, but have already earned gushing praise from several corners, including UtR regular Bart Owl.
"We started with the idea that if we could get a thumbs up from the bands we respected and admired, then we'd be doing something right," says frontman Scott Longmuir. "So when Bart from eagleowl approached us and said he loved what we were doing that was a wee goal scored! We've now got him playing on one of our album tracks, which we're pretty chuffed about."
Longmuir, along with bassist Paul Barrett, had been part of an art-rock band which they were becoming "increasingly frustrated and bored with" until the middle of last year, and it was from the ashes of that partnership that the genesis of The Last Battle emerged.
"The songs I'd been writing of late were a bit folky and seemed to have a lot of scope for adding more instruments to them," Longmuir explains. "So I started going round to Paul's with the new songs and we'd demo them in his front room using an old drum machine and a 12-track, purely to see if we could enjoy making music again."
And the ABBA connection? "We decided if we were going to do the band thing again, we'd include the people closest to us – take them along with us," says Longmuir. The rest of the band consists of Barrett's other half (Flora McKay) on cello, Longmuir's (Ella Duncan) on glockenspiel and melodica, her sister Arwen on joint vocals and "an old school friend (Liam O'Hare] gently stroking a snare drum". Live, the band are often joined by Barrett's flatmate Stephen Kerr on electric guitar.
Originally published on the Under the Radar blog
Despite the name's military connotations, the band are named after one of CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. "I was getting sick of trying to come up with a band name as all mine were crap, so I left it to someone else," says Longmuir. "One day Paul sent me a text simply saying 'The Last Battle' – taken from the book he was reading – so we just went with that.
"We hear a lot of amusing stories that some people expect us to be some sort of up-for-it punk band. We're about as up for it as a packet of digestive biscuits."
Musically, the band's influences avoid up-for-it punk in favour of more melodic acts like Malcolm Middleton, Arcade Fire, Emmylou Harris, Sufjan Stevens and Bright Eyes, with a dash of traditional folk. "Non-musical influences would have to be Leith itself," Longmuir adds. "There's something very inspiring about the place, especially down by the shore.
"There's a lot of very talented musicians down here too, like Hailey Beavis, some of Meursault, Kays Lavelle, eagleowl, Alan Oates and Unicorn Kid – who's just signed to Ministry of Sound. There's definitely something in the water… of Leith."
But it's not just the locals who impress Longmuir. "The Scottish scene is really strong right now – I'm really into Remember Remember and French Wives... Of the newer bands we've played with from Edinburgh, for me, Conquering Animal Sound, are the ones who've impressed me the most.
"Frustratingly, outside Scotland all of this seems to fall on deaf ears which really riles me," he adds. "It got to the point that I actually wrote a couple of silly letters to the NME about the lack of Scottish bands they featured, and to my surprise they printed them. Now, if only they'd actually write something about the bands other than patronizingly print my futile letters…"
The Last Battle are currently putting the finishing touches to their first album, Heart of the Land, Soul of the Sea. "It's a loosely themed concept album about two entirely different people that fall in love knowing it's doomed from the start," says Longmuir. "We're chatting with a few labels just now about putting it out at some point this year too, which should be around June.
"Some of our newer songs are veering away from the more traditional songwriting style," he adds. "We've been messing around with the old drum machine again that started this all off, putting it through guitar pedals and generally upsetting the girls, which is not recommended."
Catch The Last Battle live at the following dates, and check their MySpace for more shows:
12 Mar: This is Music @ Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh
27 Mar: Trampoline 3rd Birthday @ Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh
31 Mar: Maggie's Chamber (top of 3 Sisters, Edinburgh)
18 Apr: Carter's Bar, Morrison St, Edinburgh