The first thing and the last thing that grabbed me about Cryptic Keys, when I sat down with them, is their enthusiasm. It’s an infectious aura that may in part explain why the band are hard to ignore at the moment.
With the final of the battle of the bands looming I sat down with all of the bands over coffee and talked about their music and plans.
Cryptic Keys are a three piece featuring Dail MacDonald and Rhia Innes on vocals and Mike MacGillivary on guitar, who describe themselves as an “up-beat acoustic band” quoting influences such as The Civil Wars, Boyce Avenue, Ray Lamontagne and John Mayor.
The band started life as “Live Willy and the Disappointments”, albeit in jest for thirty seconds, until deciding on their current moniker, which was cemented by some impressive logo design work by band friend, Brendan Harvey.
Speaking with the three of them, there’s obviously a close bond between them, which kind of explains how the band’s resilience despite Dail moving away to London for a couple of years and Mike working off-shore. Mike explains “when Dail came back, we just got together again and put pen to paper.” Rhia joined to complete the trio after a suggestion by a friend.
The band debuted with a Market Bar gig two and a half weeks after they started playing together and has been followed by a clutch of gigs including Hootananny and of course their charge through to the final of The Eagle Battle of the Bands.
Gigging is obviously a priority “anybody offer us a gig” Dail says without hesitation “we’ll take it”. “We love it, it’s really good fun a really good feeling” Rhia adds “we will literally play anywhere it’s an amazing feeling being on the stage, sometimes you forget you are speaking”. That good feeling is particularly easy to maintain “especially when everybody’s been so complimentary about us”. It is genuinely hard to find a bad word for the band who have brought a different perspective to the Inverness scene.
“The stuff that we are doing is different” Dail comments in the context of some of the more prominent music on the local scene at the moment, “If you want to start this game you’ve got to be different”. However Dail adds that it was not by design “it just seemed to happen… just the way it panned out, once we made a couple of songs it was , let’s just keep doing this”.
With the female perspective, Rhia observes that some of the songs are “like a conversation coming from two perspectives, coming from two points of view”, or “like an argument” Mike notes adding that the two contrasting vocals “gives us a slight advantage”, referring to standing out.
Mike talks about the process “we put all the focus on the lyrics and the story behind the song”. As with the creative process the result can be unpredictable “sometimes you start with something and end up with something totally different.” Dail volunteers “I do a lot of the song writing” revealing one of the tricks of the trade “It kinda would be two o’clock in the morning drunk and Mike will have a little riff and that sounds like an idea, the Rhia will come in… and it will go from there”. “It always involves drinking Jack Daniels.. he’s a good pal of our is our Jack” there is no irony in Dail’s voice.
Bringing a seriousness to the discussion Rhia emphasises the individual parts that each member of the band brings in the song making process “we’ve all got something that we all do to bring the finished song together.” Added to this is the sense of cohesion “we know what the song should sound like, we’re all on the same page” Mike adds. Although saying that, and using “Jumping Trains” as an example Dail explain that some of the best tunes are spontaneous “it just happened”. Indeed Dail explains that the songs are mostly taken from their own life stories, with “Jumping Trains” holding a particular poignancy for him. The track has received a great deal of attention online with a thousand plus plays so far “it’s awesome”.
The Battle of the Bands is an obvious focus for the band at the moment and there seems to be a genuine humbleness about the progress they have made “there’s so much talent in the area “ Dail observes, with the band agreeing, using an example Fort William based “Hired Guns”, “they’re totally young” coming from the not old at all Rhia, worries me a little.
As for the future for the band, well gigs are top of the agenda and after that possibly recording.
Even after some time (albeit brief) with the three of them you can’t help but being caught up in their enthusiasim and perhaps their is no cure.