Hogmanay 2012: Bwani Junction
The indie-Afrobeat quartet are taking the stage at Edinburgh's Hogmanay for the first time
‘None of us have ever done the Street Party before,’ says Bwani Junction guitarist Dan Muir, a surprising admission from possibly the brightest young band in Edinburgh, and one that is going to be playing at that very event this year. ‘Well, our drummer might have, but he’s not too sure. There are photos of him there, but he can’t really remember.’ That’s more like it, Bwanis.
Locally, Bwani Junction have done just about enough to deserve the honour of playing their home city’s biggest music event of the year. The quartet (Muir, guitarist and singer Rory Fairweather, bassist Fergus Robson, drummer Jack Fotheringham – all from Edinburgh bar South Queensferry’s Muir) met and started playing together while pupils at the private Merchiston Castle School, with this year’s debut album Fully Cocked – the cockerel on the cover and the clanging double entendre was by far the worst thing about it – earning healthy praise.
The NME awarded the record eight out of ten and called them ‘a Glastonbury institution in waiting,’ while it was also a nominee for the inaugural Scottish Album of the Year awards earlier this year. At its best it is indeed a great record, shot through with a combination of The Libertines’ on-edge swagger and the literate Afrobeatisms of Vampire Weekend.
‘Yeah, we often get tarred with the Vampire Weekend brush,’ sighs Muir in that heard-it-all-before way, ‘but my dad actually used to manage a band called The Bhundu Boys (a highly successful Zimbabwean crossover outfit in the 80s, before Muir was born) and I would go round and play with their guitarist Rise Kagona from about the age of ten. So I actually picked up a lot of the African stuff from him, even though I didn’t realise it until people started reviewing our shows. Jack’s into a lot of Scottish stuff like Wolfstone, though, and the two different styles go together surprisingly well.’
The band are currently in the Chem19 studios once again with Paul Savage, who produced Fully Cocked and is working on the new record with them. ‘The sound’s come on a bit now,’ says Muir. ‘I don’t think anyone will be comparing it to Vampire Weekend, although no doubt they will because it’s an easy thing to do.’ He sounds at once surprisingly switched-on and slightly jaded about the mechanics of how these things work, but then this band are remarkably mature in clarity of sound and aesthetic for a bunch of 20-year-olds. Press Muir further over the new material and he expresses hope that the experiences of young men their age will resonate more than lyrics they wrote when they were 16.
On the highlights of the year so far, he discusses the gig on top of the Forth Rail Bridge in aid of a video shoot for their track ‘Two Bridges’ and also their second T in the Park appearance. ‘It was in the T-Break tent,’ he recalls. ‘It was the kind of show, you’re competing with big artists on other stages and you don’t think anyone’ll show up, but the tent was full and everyone sang all the words back to us. It felt like being a real band.’ The suspicion is, they’d better get used to that feeling.
Bwani Junction play Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party, Mon 31 Dec.