IT seems incredible to think that Elephant Sessions have been celebrating their 10-year anniversary this year. It feels like no time at all since the then fresh-faced youngsters burst on to the traditional music scene with their stunning debut The Elusive Highland Beauty.

That album propelled them on to the festival circuit and ever since their live shows have been some of the most electric and exciting anywhere. They followed the success of their debut with All We Have Is Now, which enjoyed similar success before 2019’s What Makes You.

With each release, the band’s distinctive mandolin and fiddle-driven sound has become more rounded, more accomplished and more exhilarating.

Now, the band have released what is surely their most rounded album yet, For The Night.

The album is filled with innovation and ambition yet remains true to their unique sound. It is more an organic evolution than a revolution but the effect is startling.

Funked-up bass lines and contemporary percussion drive each tune, with nods to drum and bass, modern electronica and floor-filling house and techno.

For mandolin player Alasdair Taylor, the album represents the high point of the band’s journey so far.

“I think we’ve had three albums of kind of finding our feet and our sound,” he says. “This album is like the culmination of where we’ve been trying to aim for.

“We’ve got a lot in there that people will recognise as our sound but we’ve pushed it in a lot of other ways soundwise and instrumentation wise.”

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The band were key in the production of the album, working alongside producer Duncan Lyall, and their growing confidence in what they are trying to achieve is evident throughout.

“We were heavily involved in the whole process,” explains fiddler Euan Smillie. “The album was written as it went along so a lot of the elements only came together in the studio.

“We worked with Shona Aitken, who wrote the string parts for most of the album, but for the production we worked with Duncan, who produced it and was such a good influence.

“He brought so much to the table and we just gelled. He clearly had the same vision as to what we were trying to aim for and it was class to work with someone like that who we’ve looked up to for quite a long time.

“It all came together so well and it was a really enjoyable studio experience.”

There is an undeniable energy to the album that is infectious and much of that can be traced back to the Covid lockdowns. Being unable to play in front of an audience for such a long time clearly affected the band. But more than that their entire way of earning a living was becoming so precarious that the band – Smillie, Taylor, Seth Tinsley on bass guitar and synths, and Greg Barry on percussion – had no idea if they would ever be able to return to the stage.

For that reason For The Night is unashamedly upbeat.

“We had a lot of pent-up energy coming out of Covid,” says Smillie. “We’d done nothing for two years. But we’d had a lot of time to think about where we wanted to be and what we wanted to do.

“So we thought ‘it’s our fourth album now, we’ve been together 10 years, we have the confidence now’. So we just decided we should dial everything up to 10 and just go for it.

The National: Elephant SessionsElephant Sessions (Image: Elephant Sessions)

“We’d had these ideas in our heads but had never pushed them quite so hard.

“I think it’s the best work we’ve ever done. I’m really happy with it.”

That fact should some as no surprise to those who have followed Elephant Sessions. Each offering has proven to be better than its predecessor as the band have matured and grown in confidence.

Taylor agrees. “With each album we’ve grown in confidence,” he says. “And some of these ideas we’ve wanted to do for a while but maybe it took something like a pandemic and being out of action for a while to really know that this is what we want to do and to then have the confidence to do it.

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“I’d totally agree with Euan that this is our best work.

“I’m absolutely buzzing with how it’s turned out.”

While the album was born out of the pandemic, the enforced hiatus from playing live – the lifeblood of a band like Elephant Sessions – was difficult to endure.

“The same as for everyone, I guess, it wasn’t the easiest couple of years,” says Taylor. “I think every musician would agree.

“There were doubts as to whether we’d get to work again. So the music on For The Night is filled with longing for long summer festival nights, big nights out and just the desire to have that back.

“Most of the writing on this album was written during 2021 when we could only occasionally see each other, so I think Covid played a huge part. We used that pent-up energy to create something that will hopefully give people those big moments that they were missing.

“It’s unbelievable being back performing, seeing people in fields again. Just amazing.”

The band now have a double header of rescheduled gigs – at the Ironworks in Inverness on Thursday, where they were invited to perform as young unknowns all those years ago, and then Glasgow’s Barrowlands on Friday.

“It will be our first time playing the Barrowlands,” says Smillie, “and potentially our last gig at the Ironworks.”

Smillie is from the Black Isle while Taylor was brought up in Inverness itself.

The closure of the Ironworks to make room for a hotel is going to be difficult for the band, admits Taylor.

“It’s going to be an emotional one. We’re all feeling that one. It’s somewhere we’ve grown up going to as young teens – playing there as a young band who probably had no reason to be on that stage yet they gave us the chance – to performing there regularly. It’s been a huge part of our journey and we’re truly gutted about that.”

After the emotion of Thursday, they will then face the full on euophoria of a sold-out Barrowlands.

“We’ve been building up to that one for a long time,” says Smillie. “It’s going to be wild.”

It is a gig that is sure to be worth the wait. Elephant Sessions continue to be one of the finest live bands around in any genre. And they have renewed commitment to their craft as well as the self-confidence to fully realise their musical vision.

They know that this is what they want to do, and after 10 years together and two years of a pandemic, they are reinvigorated like never before.

“It was such a testing time during Covid,” says Smillie. “We all had to do other things. There was something kind of peaceful about that and you could find yourself settling into that rhythm.

“But as soon as we started playing together again and playing the new stuff and writing this album, we realised that this is absolutely what we want to do and we were so committed to it coming back.

“We’re all really driven, we’re delighted to have the new album out and we’re excited about the future.”

It is a future that continues to look bright.

For The Night is available to buy on CD and vinyl, and to stream and download now. Elephant Sessions can be found on stages across Europe and UK throughout the year.