Renewable energy concept album powers Orkney folk band Fara as they play at WemsFest

At a time when most of the UK is worried about their energy bills, Scottish quartet Fara have released an album which unwittingly taps into one of the hottest topics of the moment.
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The folk act’s new album, Energy Islands, is fuelled by their native Orkney’s revolutionary role in renewable energy.

The band fuses the talents of three fine Orcadian fiddlers and vocalists – Jeana Leslie, Catriona Price and Kristan Harvey – alongside stand-out Highland pianist and newest member Rory Matheson.

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The band formed in 2014, with Rory joining in 2019: ‘He's from Assynt in the north west of Scotland, so there's a lot of similarities where he's from and the Orkneys, he’s fit in nicely.’

Fara play in Chidham as part of Wemsfest on October 1, 2022. Picture by Euan RobertsonFara play in Chidham as part of Wemsfest on October 1, 2022. Picture by Euan Robertson
Fara play in Chidham as part of Wemsfest on October 1, 2022. Picture by Euan Robertson

Kristan explains the idea behind their third album: ‘We kind of had this idea around renewable energy right from the get-go. All of these tunes and songs that we've written, they were all written for an album, they were all written very much with that in mind. It's really cool that it’s the first time we've had a sort-of concept album.’

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The Orcadians – as they are known – have become entirely energy self-sufficient, with the archipelago of islands of Scotland’s north-east coast, producing all their own energy from tidal, wind and solar power.

‘It's funny now because they've encountered a new problem,’ says Kristan, ‘what to do with the excess electricity they produce? They're working on all kinds of systems to store it rather than waste it, so that's what they're working on now. It's an amazing feat for such a geographically small space.’

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One of the album’s tracks which piqued this listener’s interest, given our location, is The Hampshire. However, it refers to HMS Hampshire, which was sunk off Orkney in 1916 – not the county. She sank after hitting a mine with the loss of 737 lives, including Lord Kitchener, on a diplomatic mission to Russia.

‘We were looking for a reflective piece. Quite a few pieces on the album are based around ideas of power and quite strong, quite dramatic. We thought we'd like something a bit slower, and that piece was written a few years ago. I was asked to write a tune to commemorate 100 years of the sinking of HMS Hampshire.

‘I come from a place called Birsay in Orkney and the ship went down just along from my house off Marwick Head.’

While the group consider themselves an Orkney band, the original quartet had all headed to the mainland as teenagers to go to college, and brought back various influences with them when they started Fara.

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However, wherever they play now they find that they can’t leave their home too far behind them: ‘We find every single gig we do, whether it's the bottom of England or wherever in the UK, there's always one or two folks there from Orkney – and they always come and say “hello”, which is lovely.

‘We're totally blown away by the support that we get all across the country and we can't really believe it.’

Fara are playing Chidham Village Hall, near Chichester on October 1. Go to wegottickets.com.

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