HOW DO YOU BEGIN TO DESCRIBE the music of Injuns, a thrilling young band from Skye who frequently squeeze more ideas into one song than most bands manage on an album? "Bluegrass, reggae and derelict music hall in a hallucinogenic fury" is their own attempt.
Here's mine: imagine if Billy Joel and Stephen Sondheim decided to try and make folk music together, but occasionally got distracted by an unexpected mutual love of hip-hop and Prefab Sprout. The result: a band who sound as if they would be as at home writing a Broadway musical as they would be playing a ceilidh.
Injuns' live shows can be as unconventional as their music. Their first London gig was a Creative Industries party in the V&A. "It was a very strange, James Bond setting," recalls the band's Leighton Jones. "We were standing on one side of this enormous lake in the museum, and on the other side were lots of people in bow-ties, eating canaps. It was the first time we'd been to London. Dave, our bass player, had just joined. He was like, 'what kind of band are you?'"
Injuns have also provided unlikely tour support for Scottish electropop success story Mylo. "We were the first band on," recalls Jones. "It was so funny. Hot Chip were playing after us. I did get the impression the audience were thinking, 'What on earth is going on? We came here to see DJs.'"
What connects these shows is a surprising family relationship - Jones's songwriting partner, Hector MacInnes, is Mylo's brother, a connection which helped bring Injuns to the attention of the London event's organisers. "It only gets mentioned if people ask," MacInnes says. "But to an extent I'm less wary of people knowing because the music is so different. There's no danger of any bandwagon accusations."
Growing up together on Skye, the MacInnes brothers often made music together. "Our parents both play and sing very well. They were tolerant enough to buy us a drum kit one year, which was a pretty brave move." But their musical styles diverged radically. While Hector was in Skye, playing "weird songs" in pubs with his friend Leighton, and collecting band members along the way, Myles was in Glasgow finishing what would famously become Elton John's favourite album and make him an international star. A few months on, Hector was visiting their sister in Cambodia when one of Mylo's band suddenly got in touch to ask if he would play drums for them. "I got a phone call at three o'clock in the morning when I was very drunk. When I got back I was immediately thrown into this world of touring."
"I was like, oh no, what's going to happen with the band?" recalls Jones. "He was away touring with Mylo for seven or eight months around the world. But it's great when something like that happens, because it gave me a bit of a kick up the arse. When you see that kind of massive success is possible, it's a wake-up call."
Luckily for Jones, MacInnes had no intention of abandoning Injuns. Instead he spent much of the tour making connections with music industry insiders, "slipping some Injuns chat to them". Unlike Mylo's radio-friendly pop, though, Injuns are not an obvious sell for a record label, as they soon discovered. "We got a little bit tired of people saying 'It's good but it's just not commercial'," recalls Jones. "We already know that. It's not really the point."
So, using their newfound knowledge and contacts, Injuns decided to go it alone. It seems to be working out quite well. They performed at T in the Park last year, and will play the main stage of the Skye Music Festival in May. In Scotland, Radio One and XFM are championing them, and their song Forming a Skin was voted "song of the year" on Gaelic radio station Radio Nan Gaidheal, ahead of The View. "We're thinking of putting a sticker on the album saying that," grins Jones.
The album in question is a collection of wonderfully eccentric songs called Lionel, It's a Complicated World, released on the band's own label, Great Northwestern. Don't ask them to explain the title. "I like the name Lionel," says Jones. "It makes me think of interesting people ... Lionel Richie. Er, Lionel Blair." A pause. "I'm trying to think of all these great Lionel stories now and I can't think of any." And the "complicated world" part? "I think it is a complicated world," he says, reasonably.
At some expense, Injuns will launch the album with a party at the Talla Mhor on Skye, on its release date, 31 March. There will be a home-made buffet, whisky-tasting, and a bus service from Glasgow for the fans they have picked up since moving to the city two years ago. "We're getting our own brand of beer made up, called Lionel's," says Jones. "The slogan on the label is 'Complicate your world'. We'll have support from local bands, and an Injuns raffle and DJs."
DJs? A certain famous member of the MacInnes clan, perhaps? "We're not even going to say the M word," frowns Jones. "Loads of people would come and they'd all be like, 'Who are this rubbish band?'"
• Lionel, It's a Complicated World is released on Great Northwestern on 31 March. For details of Injuns live dates, see www.myspace.com/injunsofskye.