Brilliant musicians, thrilling performers, free-thinking visionaries and all-round good chaps as well…small wonder Lau are regarded as the epicentre of the new folk boom. And they’ve got shelves groaning with awards – they are four-time winners of Best Band at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for starters – a forest’s worth of ecstatic reviews and breathless plaudits from excited audiences in various outposts of the world ringing in their ears to prove it.
Their journey started with three blokes sitting down to play a few tunes on fiddle, guitar and squeeze-box at a kitchen table in Edinburgh one day in 2004. Since then Lau has not merely become one of the great success stories of the last decade – and a barometer of the fast-changing and increasingly all-embracing face of British folk music – but also a byword for an exceptionally creative community, inspiring a boldly varied and richly colourful array of offshoot bands and projects wielding daring ideas with a myriad of musical styles and unlikely collaborators.
Lau’s burgeoning CV now encompasses EPs with the exceptional singer songwriter Karine Polwart and electronica innovator Adem; concerts with everyone from rock legend Jack Bruce to Northern Sinfonia; and an open-minded approach to recording that ranges from their own complex but eminently accessible tunemaking to the startling reworking of Dear Prudence included on an all-star remake of The Beatles’ classic White Album.
“We’ve never wanted to repeat ourselves,” says Aidan O’Rourke, master fiddler from Oban, whose extra-curricular exploits include two majestic solo albums, founding membership of the big band Blazin’ Fiddles, trailblazing excursions into jazz, world, Gaelic and classical music and fiddling to the fore of another magnificent supergroup, Kan. “We’re folk musicians but firstly we’re musicians with a love of different styles and we don’t think we’re cheating on anybody by drawing on that. We all love and play a wide range of music but what we have in common is a deep love of hardcore traditional music.”
Having worked closely with Calum Malcolm on previous albums, Lau adopted a different tack on 2012’s Race the Loser, enlisting the production services of Nashville’s Tucker Martine, noted for his work with Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, R.E.M and Laura Veirs. All these influences might make some worried that they’ll lose focus, but O’Rourke assures us that Lau is “not going to become an electronic band. We’re a folk trio and always will be…”