WHEN a debut album takes a band to a serious next level, surpassing all hope and expectation, opening doors left, right and centre, cultivating a significant fanbase and paving the way ahead, there is only one thing they can do… a follow-up.

The chronicle of Mason Hill’s 2021 LP is littered with adversity, but the end product was nothing short of a rousing statement of intent. It lifted the band from regional prospect to a greater level of national appeal. They topped charts, turned heads and were even able to record and release a live show based on the album when they played The Garage last year.

Even so, the wheels continue to turn for the five-piece. They have already started work on album #2 and are determined not to simply re-trace old ground. A real change of pace in terms of style and direction is on the cards as they seek to draw upon all manner of inspiration. But, so far, the process has been a joy to behold for the band’s singer Scott Taylor.

“It’s been absolutely awesome,” he tells The Weekender. “We’ve recorded two so far – we went into the studio to get a wee hands-on with the producer to see if it was a match made in heaven, which it was. So, we’ve got two done and we’re hoping to get the other ones done soon.

“I’m loving it. It’s basically still us but just a tiny bit heavy. We’ve found some new sounds and we’re changing a few keys around but it’s just so definitely us, but with a bit more progression. It’s been so fascinating to experiment with our sound.

“Against the Wall was a budget album… every penny counted. No messing about, go in and get the job done and let someone mix it. This time, we’ve had a bit more freedom, so we’ve been really enjoying that.

“It’s us – a little bit heavy, but also a little bit pop-y. We write what our influences are and those influences change over time. Ten years ago, it was classic rock – but now it is more, well, genre-less. When James or I see or hear someone we respect, we can take a little inspiration from them. We don’t really to be put into these genres – classic rock, hard rock, metal – just… rock.”

Against the Wall edged into the UK album charts when it was released a little more than a year ago. It was spearheaded by the title track and fellow singles in DNA, Find My Way and Broken Son.

“It blew our minds,” Taylor adds. “It had been a long-time coming, something like seven-odd years of effort to get that album out. But it just did so well – so much better than we could have asked.”

With an accomplished album, and perhaps a few new tracks to showcase, Mason Hill make their return to MonsterFest later this year to headline the Thursday evening Fringe. The quintet played the Inverness festival in 2018 and will join the likes of Marco Mendoza, Gun, North Atlas, Forgetting the Future and Bastette this time around.

Taylor recalls: “We played MonsterFest before and were early on in the day. This time, we are a bit higher up and I’m looking forward to experiencing that and doing an even better show.

“And Gun are playing, too. We love them; they gave us one of our first big opportunities when we were a lot younger, and they asked us to support them at the Barrowlands. That got us a lot of new Glasgow fans, and gave us the ability to sell out other venues in Glasgow – we always thank Gun for that. It’s always fun to play with them.”

The early days of Mason Hill are punctuated by shows away from home and, to an extent, the band share a small piece of history with Inverness. They made their way to Highlands in 2016 to play a show which became a bit of an unofficial launch gig for their self-titled debut EP.

No doubt, their next venture to the city will be decidedly more emphatic as they top the opening night’s billing. Nevertheless, for Taylor that first visit was huge for the band’s apprenticeship.

He reflects: “It was back in the day when Mason Hill was essentially a covers band and we had, about, four original songs. Hootenanny’s in Inverness was one of the only places that would book us but we had to give them, like, a three-hour set.

“It was before a gig was actually a gig – it got me and guys away, up to Inverness, we got a hotel room and all that. We were just loving life. And yeah, I guess, we did release our EP there – to a crowded room who no clue who we were and no care in the world about what we were trying to sell them.

“We were the house band: “Play Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “turn that rubbish off” when we try to play an original song. But we had to go through that. If you can deal with audiences like that then you can deal with anything.”

MonsterFest takes place from Thursday, October 27, until Saturday, October 29, at Eden Court, Inverness. For tickets, visit www.eden-court.co.uk/event/monsterfest-2022