Magic of Manran coming to Butefest

Manran.
Manran.

It’s been six years since Scottish band Mànran shot to fame and they’ve been globetrotting ever since.

The release of their debut single, Latha Math, propelled them to mainstream fame, although the traditional folk band fell just short of producing the first Gaelic song to break the UK Top 40 in the 21st century.

Since then, Mànran have released three albums – the latest, An Da La, earlier this year – and have performed on stages around the world.

When I speak to the group’s accordion player, Gary Innes, the band have just completed a 25-day tour of Germany and Austria, and a quick look at their website highlights a packed schedule, with gigs and festival appearances around Europe and Scotland, including the forthcoming Butefest.

“Performing live is what it’s all about,” he says.

“Getting the chance to put your music to people who are willing to come and listen is the main aim.

“Plus, a lot of people say we’re so much better live.”

The band have achieved worldwide success, and have played across the continent, Australia, the US and more.

So, how is it a band that plays traditional Scottish music has won over fans across the world?

“I think it shouldn’t be understated just how popular Scotland is worldwide,” Gary explains.

“We’re a small country but everyone knows who we are.

“People who come to our shows tend to be well versed in Scottish history – the old songs, tunes and stories seem to resonate with them.

“I think that’s why people abroad tend to get into our music.”

Gary says the band have been well-received in every country they’ve visited, adding that the band are most popular in Germany and Denmark, as well as Scotland.

Despite getting to travel the globe, which would be a dream opportunity for many people, Gary says that unfortunately the band rarely get an opportunity to take in the places they visit.

“Sometimes you get a day off but unfortunately most of the time you fly in and fly out,” Gary said.

“You get on a bus, do the show, then it’s back to the airport.

“It’s better to be performing.

“It’s not like a holiday, like people would expect.”

Mànran formed in June 2010 in Glasgow, and Gary admits that he had never met most of his soon-to-be bandmates when he invited them to join the group.

He says that while the band have a better balance now, the experience of trying to make music while getting to know each other helped him develop as a musician.

He said: “It was quite strange because we didn’t know each other.

“It was like a melting pot.

“It’s an experience that opens your mind.

“You have an idea of how something should sound – but then someone says they don’t like it that way.

“You’re trying ideas you wouldn’t have thought of.

“It’s nice but you have to learn to compromise.”

The band are currently touring across Scotland – with a spot at a French music festival in between – before their appearance at Butefest.

Another gig they are looking forward to is over on the east coast at the Byre at the Botanics festival in St Andrews, and it will be special because they’ll be sharing the bill with folk legends Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, a duo who have had an enormous impact on Gary’s career.

He ranks Phil, who also plays the accordion, as one of his inspirations, but admits it was Aly who changed the course of his fledgling career.

“When I was 21, they played at Spean Bridge, where I’m from,” he said.

“I got to play a wee tune with them.

“After, in the kitchen, I was speaking to them and Aly took me aside and said if I wanted to play music for a living I had to get out.

“He told me to go to Glasgow, and that’s what I did.

“Phil was my idol, but it was Aly who gave me the life-changing advice.”

Gary says he began to learn the accordion after hearing his father playing the instrument at parties.

He said: “I started when I was eight. I’d hear him playing downstairs at parties and I’d sneak down and listen from the stairs, until I’d get chased back up.

“That was where the inspiration to play the accordion came from.”