With a UK top 30 album and sold-out appearances at some of Scotland’s top venues behind them, Peat And Diesel are one of music’s more unlikely success stories of recent years.
Emerging from the Western Isles like a Gaelic version of The Pogues three years ago, the irreverent trio are taking their already famed live show all over the UK and Ireland over the next couple of months.
Led by Calum “Boydie” MacLeod on guitar and vocals, with Innes Scott on accordion and Uilly Macleod on drums, Peat And Diesel play Courier Country gigs at Perth Concert Hall next Friday and Dunfermline’s Alhambra on March 19.
Starting a feelgood frenzy
Such is the feelgood frenzy generated at the band’s live sets that early last year they enlivened lockdown by releasing a double album capturing their packed Glasgow Barrowland show in 2020.
It followed on from the studio offerings Uptown Fank and Light My Byre, but the Stornoway lads openly declare that they started out in 2018 expecting to go no further than playing their local pub once a month.
Peat And Diesel songwriter Boydie was a prawn fisherman for years, while Uilly holds down a delivery driver job and Innes works as an electrician.
“It’s definitely been a crazy couple of years for us,” says the accordionist.
“Seeing the band grow and the fanbase along the way, it’s been pretty mental. We’re just three island lads – I don’t think any of us think about fame and the word doesn’t really sit or represent this band.
“Peat And Diesel is all about the fans, it’s the fans that keep driving this band forward and make it what it is today.
“It’s not been easy to cope with it all at times and the more we try and get control of the band the bigger it was getting. We’ve just had to go with it now.”
From wedding band beginnings
Innes and Uilly were in a wedding band before sessions in Boydie’s kitchen birthed Peat And Diesel, with the trio’s love of Highland rockers Runrig and Wolfstone providing a potent musical starting point.
Boydie’s lyrics mix English with a modicum of Gaelic and he has previously explained his songwriting modus operandi as a case to making one short phrase his chorus, and then trying to fit verses around it.
It’s an ostensibly simple strategy that has worked to spectacular effect thus far, exemplified no better than on barnstorming anthem Western Isles and manic earworm Salt And Pepper, both of which are among the many highlights on their debut album released in May 2019.
The songsmith has admitted that singing in his “island voice” took some adjusting to after using a softer accent in his younger days, but there’s little doubt it’s a strategy that has helped win over Celtic rock fans of all ages – particularly those in the far-flung Western Isles diaspora.
“If we can make the younger generation interested in music and becoming musicians then that’s a win for us,” says Innes.
“The kids seem to really have got on board with it and a lot of homes in the Western Isles the kids are driving their parents mad with P And D constantly blaring in the house.
“I think it’s put us out there on the map and got the Western Isles the recognition it deserves – we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
“Growing up, I think we all listened to and loved bands like Runrig, Wolfstone, Island Express, Capercailie, etc. These bands really drove the music scene in Scotland and created some fantastic music.”
No 27 in the UK charts
Light My Byre reached No27 on the UK charts in February 2020 on a wave of “Peatlemania” and Innes says that album points the way forward, with the focus firmly on Boydie’s talents.
“As a band, we had prepared this album a bit more and sat down and actually gone through how we wanted it to sound,” he explains.
“Uptown Fank ended up being the three of us thrown into the studio with no practice or any idea, and just hit record on the computer. Light My Byre became a bit heavier and much more guitar-focused.
“We decided that Boydie would be leading the way – more riffs getting put down, more guitar solos getting added – and we just went with it.”