From the band name, you would be forgiven for presuming that Loch Lomond are a band of elderly gentlemen with wispy beards who reek a bit of spilt drinks and fags, and who play traditional folk songs about leaving behind a girl with long, dark hair etc. You would picture The Dubliners essentially. However, this image is far from the truth. Loch Lomond are an eclectic collective of musicians from in and around Portland, OR, whose fluctuating line up has included about twenty eight members, past and present. Members have ranged from teachers to small business owners, but all have professed a passion for music. In recent years Loch Lomond has settled into a steady six piece, but the one remaining constant has been founder Ritchie Young.
Started as a solo recording project for singer Ritchie Young in 2004, Loch Lomond gained their name from the packaging on a delivery of tapes during the recording of When We Were Mountains, as Young explains: “I wanted to call the band The Mountains, but there were a lot of mountain bands at the time, and I definitely didn’t want to go with that blue-grassy vibe. We ordered some one-inch reel-to-reel tape off of eBay, and when it came from England or Scotland, it had a piece of tape on it that just said, “Loch Lomond”, so we put that in the hard drive when we were saving stuff, and it just kind of became the band name. I didn’t really know it was a lake in Scotland… I knew it was a lake somewhere, though.” Following the release of When We Were Mountains, Young toured the Pacific Northwest; sometimes backed by a band, sometimes solo.
Through the following years and subsequent line-up changes Loch Lomond released a number of albums and EPs to considerable acclaim and even supported The Decemberists on their 2008 tour. However, the band were still not garnering much attention outside their native Pacific Northwest area. That was until the release of the Night Bat EP in 2009, a result of the creative input from the team of producers during the troublesome mixing process of Loch Lomond’s 2011 album Little Me Will Start A Storm. The release housed Wax and Wire, which was featured alongside The Jezabels’s A Little Piece in Danny MacAskill’s spectacular BMX-ing short film ‘Way Back Home’ in 2010. The video became a ubiquitous internet phenomenon, which in turn significantly boosted Loch Lomond’s profile. Armed with this surge of international popularity, Loch Lomond finally released Little Me Will Start A Storm on Tender Loving Empire in 2011 to critical acclaim.
And now comes the difficult part: describing Loch Lomond’s sound. There have been comparisons to early R.E.M, Mercury Rev and The Decemberists. All of these comparisons are not inaccurate, but truthfully the best description I have heard of Loch Lomond is on the band’s Myspace page where, in answer to the set query “Sounds Like?”, the band have simply written “Birds and Bears”. Okay, so Loch Lomond do not literally sound like an Attenborough-esque recording of birds and bears milling about, but they do create progressive folk music that evokes the quiet spaces in the depths of a forest. Their music is full of space, sublime melodies and arresting refrains, often lead by Ritchie Young’s elastic vocals. The melodic instrumentation and supporting vocals all take their cue from wherever Young’s vocals go, which can range from eerie, vulnerable falsettos to deep and resonant lows. Meanwhile, the instrumentation in Loch Lomond has no set genre or direction, as Young elaborates “everyone has such a different background that there are so many different influences from classical, jazz, pop and weird indigenous music that it all melts into one. As for direction, we’re changing, evolving… it’s a natural thing. Maybe in the future, we’ll write something more upbeat.” In this way Loch Lomond create their own unique brand of sombre and touching, yet uplifting folk. And while they may have one foot firmly planted in traditional folk, their heads are definitely in the clouds, constantly exploring new territories.