New documentary to chart fairytale rise of modern-day 'Western Isles punks'
They are the Hebridean folk heroes who went from jam sessions at home and their local pubs to selling out Glasgow’s iconic Barrowland Ballroom within the space of just 18 months.
Now a new TV documentary is set to portray Peat & Diesel as 21st century “Western Isles punks” whose rise to fame is compared to the likes of Lewis Capaldi and Gerry Cinnamon.
The fly-on-the-wall programme, which followed the band for months around Scotland, reveals how maverick songwriter Calum “Boydie” Macleod, started dreaming up the band’s celebrated “nonsense songs” inspired by life on the Isle of Lewis at late-night parties in kitchens and garden sheds.
He recalls how the band became an overnight sensation on social media in the Outer Hebrides after one of the first home-made videos they made was posted on Facebook and was viewed 25,000 times overnight.
But the fisherman, whose rousing songs often feature snatches of Gaelic phrases, also opens up on his struggles to cope with his new-found fame and how he regularly heads out to sea on his boat for “therapy”.
The 90-minute film,which will be shown on BBC Alba on Friday, charts the rise of “Peatlemania” as Boydie, electrician Innes Scott and delivery driver Uilleam “Uilly” Macleod attempt to juggle their day jobs with recording an album, heading out on tour and grappling with their growing demands of their popularity.
It features footage of the band playing at festivals in Benbecula, Skye and Stornoway, where they are mobbed by schoolchildren at a meet and greet event and given a main stage slot at the Hebridean Celtic Festival to try to accommodate demand. Backstage footage reveals their nerves before taking to the stage at the Barrowland show in January, when they made a sold-out debut at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.
Robert Hicks, the band’s promoter, says: “What is it people are latching on to? I think it is just so left field and in Boydie you’ve got the ultimate frontman. He’s a lyrical genius.
"They fall between so many cracks and that’s what make them special. You can’t pigeon-hole them. "There are four and five-year-olds clamouring to get their parents to take them to see them but they have 70 and 80 year-old fans as well. They reach the full demographic.
“Nobody could have foreseen what has happened. It’s easily to liken them with Lewis Capaldi and Gerry Cinnamon and how their rises have been meteoric.
"But those guys put in the groundwork, did the small shows and it built up to the point where it just exploded for them. Peat & Diesel have skipped that bit. They immediately sold out the Barrowland.”
Speaking at the Skye Live Festival, former frontman Donnie Munro tells the documentary: ""Everyone is now talking about Peat and Diesel now, especially young children. The reason behind that is that their performances are full of fun.
"What I really enjoy about them is that they remind me of punk bands that were on the scene years ago."
Keith Morrison, who produced the band’s two albums, says: “If they over-rehearsed it would be too forced and take some of the magic away. You can’t make it too good. You can’t fix errors or rip the soul out of it.
“The best thing to do is just stick a microphone in front of Boydie’s face and just let him rip and go absolutely nuts. The other boys are very experienced musically. They know what they’re doing and adapting to his magic.
“I could make him sound like an angel, but it would absolutely destroy it.”
Boydie tells the documentary that he started playing guitar at the age of nine, but switched to the accordion for several years, before returning to his first instrument as a teenager.
He recalls: “I used to go into the pubs when I was a lot younger than I should have been. I used to get a shot of whoever was playing and do a few songs. I’d end up going back to parties and sitting in kitchens making up things about whoever was at the table or in the toilet, or whatever was going on in the room. I’d just blast out a song. There was many a night we’d be locked out we’d spent the night in the shed playing tunes and making up silly songs.
“It’s always been about the music for me rather than the songwriting. I’ve never classed myself as a singer or songwriter. A lot of people write songs about something. I make the music up and just put whatever in to fit around the music.
“I’m doing it back to front compared to most people. There are some lines I come up with that a lot of people can’t make any sense of. But I know in my head what I’m talking about – they make sense to me.”
Innes Scott, who juggles his band duties with working at Stornoway Airport, tells the documentary: “It’s definitely Boydie’s lyrics that have made the band. Sometimes when he writes songs I’m just shaking my head as I think they’re daft, but I know people are going to love them. Half the time I can’t believe we are actually playing them, but people go mad for them.”
Recalling the way the Peat & Diesel became overnight sensations, ‘Uilly’ Macleod says: "When we put up one of Boydie's videos on Facebook it was like an explosion."
Boydie recalls: "I woke up in the morning and there had been 25,000 views or something daft in the space of eight hours. This was after a Tuesday night. I don't have a clue who the 25,000 people were who were awake in the middle of the night. I thought I was the only one."
Filmed on his boat, which is based in Stornoway, Boydie discusses the pressures of his new-found fame.
He says: "Trying to keep a band happy, a boat happy and a woman happy...they're not the three easiest things to keep going.
“With the band going on, it's still good to come out on the boat and get away from from people for a while, even if you're not catching anything. It's like therapy."
Speaking before taking the stage at the Barrowlands, he adds: “When I started playing the guitar I never thought I’d end up here at all. It’s absolutely bonkers.”
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