Talisk’s Mohsen Amini talks festival performances

The Scottish band plays KC Irish Fest Labor Day weekend
Talisk Credit Agnieszka Straburzynska Glaner 10

Talisk. // photo credit Agnieszka Straburzynska-Glaner

With their high-energy instrumental folk, Scottish trio Talisk were a highlight of February’s Folk Alliance International conference at Crown Center, so it was particularly thrilling when it was announced they’d be back this fall as part of the Kansas City Irish Fest over Labor Day weekend, because it’ll allow a bigger audience to see them when they play alongside the Red Hot Chili Pipers, the Elders, Gaelic Storm, Carswell & Hope, and more.

Mohsen Amini on concertina has been in the band since it began in 2014, and now plays with Benedict Morris on fiddle and guitarist Graeme Armstrong, and we reached out to him via Zoom at his home in Scotland to talk about touring the States and playing fests two days after he and his bandmates returned home after nearly two months on the road.

The Pitch: Your appearance at the Folk Alliance conference really grabbed our attention, as well as that of a lot of people. What is it like for you all , playing a conference/festival like that?

Mohsen Amini: Super different. It’s good and we get a lot outta it. It’s great. It’s not like a normal gig. You can’t really do the same sort of thing. We have a light show that we tour around with us most of the time, and you’re not allowed to change the lights over in Folk Alliance, so you kinda miss half the show of Talisk. You’re getting just a sample of it.

I mean, it’s good and it’s great for what it does. It’d be great if we could move a couple of lights around, that would be brilliant. But no, it’s fun–we’ve been before and we go to a lot of conferences, so we see a lot of our old friends there, as well. It’s quite fun to catch up with everybody.

Even in that sampler version, it was really interesting because Talisk is a very visual band in terms of performance. Is is that like something you do because the music is instrumental–a visual aspect for folks to hook onto?

Yeah, I suppose. I mean, it’s what every band does. Every band has a visual place in it, and if you go into mainstream music, every single thing is choreographed. It’s just keeping up with the Joneses really, to be honest.

Seeing the three of you on stage, it’s such an interesting thing to just watch you taking turns, getting up, and switching around and all of that. How do you choreograph all of that–or is it just in the moment?

It’s just in the moment, but the moment happens every second of it. It’s not put on. I suppose it’s just how we’re feeling and how we’re going for it. The way I’ve always played music is you give what you get or you get what you give. If I’m not giving energy to the crowds, then they’re not gonna give anything back to me.

I played one gig once, years ago, where it was quite a workout and I thought, “Maybe I’m working too hard,” so then I just didn’t do any of that. I just kind of sat. That lasted about three sets and then I was like, “Nah, you need, you need the show. You need the show every single time.” It’s just something I get a caught up in the moment with and the crowd feed off it in a really, really good way and then, when we’ve got lights involved as well, they just accentuate the energy that we’re giving off. So yeah, it works in a good way.

You play a lot of festivals, but what is a festival gig like for you all and how do you adjust your sets for festivals versus a standalone performance?

They’re all pretty much the same. We started taking–not so much in America, but more so back home–a big lighting rig, so we’re trying to emulate what our festival would be like, but at our venues. We do the same sort of thing at a festival as we do at venues. There’s just a lot more people at the festival. There’s not much of a change. It’s a funny question, ’cause we try and keep all of our shows as consistent as possible.

Sometimes in America we have sit down shows and in the UK, but we’re slowly trying to refine the way we do our show and get them all standard, but yeah, we just go for the exact same energy that we normally do. You don’t get more or less, other than the fact that festival, there’s hundreds or thousands of people.

Do you find a difference between shows in America and shows back where you are?

The main difference as as being able to tour a light show because the shows in America are a little less produced than the shows back home–actually a lot less … Well, they’re getting better produced next year. I think we’re gonna change it all up and be giving the same amount of production to America as we are back home but it’s just so expensive to tour America because of the visas and the flights and everything that is entailed in that.

But generally you get the same sort of vibe from a performance from us in both places. I used to think crowds in America were more up for it straight away, but as we’ve got on, the crowds back home become one more up for it straightaway as well. They’ve all slowly got melted into the same pot, which is really cool.

Maybe a couple years ago, I would always say America were very up for it straight away. That’s probably leveled out with the fact we’ve got lights back home, so I wonder if we get lights in America, it’ll be even more hype. I’d say America are bubbly and ready for action, which I love.

Talisk play the Kansas City Irish Festival over Labor Day weekend, September 1-3, at Crown Center. Tickets available here.

Categories: Music