SITTING on a wall, in the car park of Falkirk Grahamston train station are four men who are equally at ease as they enthuse about their craft.

It is clear they are close friends, embattled by a common cause and a shared sense of exactly how they feel their band should sound. It is a position which has taken considerable time and effort to build, such is the ongoing evolution of The Nickajack Men.

A quick review of the band’s previous work on Spotify offers a glimpse of their direction. It is enough to pique interest, but something is amiss. While impressive, there is an absence. The potential is clear, but there is more to come.

Encouraged by this grounding, and with a bit of a point to prove, The Nickajack Men spent the last year developing their sound, smoothing out unwanted edges and sharpening the rest. And after six months of work and a two-week recording session completed, their first full-length album is finally laid down.

Singer and guitarist Lewis White looks back on the band’s journey from a decision to shun individual releases and commit to the full body of work – a record which encapsulates their current standing.

“I feel we have finally managed to find what we have been looking to do,” he tells The Weekender. “We have found ourselves as a band – something we had been working towards before, with the singles and EPs.

“We were at the stage where we could put together a full album, that sort of stands on its own – something that people can relate to and get on board with. We didn’t want a collection of singles, a group of songs that don’t connect with each other. We wanted to put out something that was consistent throughout and which are all good songs. We all feel they are good songs, and we hope it comes across that way.

“Some of the tracks we have had for a couple of years, but they weren’t really ‘singles’ and we didn’t want to release them unless it was on an album. Some of these songs just deserve an album.”

“It is the first time we have heard ourselves the way we really want to sound like. We’ve been getting closer and experimenting. The whole thing fits together – even though there are different styles, it all sounds cohesive.”

It is a sentiment which is echoed by bass player Jamie Burns. He explains: “It is the first time we have heard ourselves the way we really want to sound like. We’ve been getting closer and experimenting. The whole thing fits together – even though there are different styles, it all sounds cohesive.”

The band took the decision to record the album in the Outer Hebrides, unencumbered by the toils and distractions of every-day life. The origins of some songs go back years, while others were birthed in 2019 – as the commitment for a more complete body of work was adopted by all. By the time August arrived, the bare bones were unearthed and process of fleshing out the tracks kicked in. 

“A few songs were done,” guitarist Michael Garner recalls. “But a lot of ideas came out of the recording process itself. For the other songs, we had the skeletons, but we just had to add wee bits here and there. I really liked trying things out and seeing where they went.”

Burns adds: “By the time we went to actually record, we had them all done. But we all added little bits – the things that make a song, a song. It all came together when we were up there.”

Of course, many bands come into their own when the pressure is on to deliver. Having a plan set down and the end goal clear in sight has the capacity to focus artists as they experiment and weave through the whole process.

However, what is palpable is the impact of their surroundings. The group packed up and drove north to Ullapool, hopped the ferry to Stornoway and made their way west to the blessed isolation and serenity of Great Bernera. The tiny island hosts around 250 people, some breath-taking views and – most importantly – Black Bay Studios.

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Moving the recording session hundreds of miles away appears to have had a sobering effect on The Nickajack Men and their ability to get down to brass tacks.

“It was important to have the time,” White explains. “We set aside two weeks for it, as opposed to doing studio days here and there. The first couple of days we used to get everything set up; we got our sound sorted and the drums sounding good. Then we started rattling them all out, maybe a tune a day for a week or so, and then a day or two at the end to go back over it all. It was beautiful, man…the best two weeks of my life.

“For me, it made me realise that I wish I was doing this all the time. Going back to work after that was the biggest attack on my life ever.”

“It’s just a tiny, wee island and nothing much goes on there at all,” drummer Matthew McAlister reflects. “But it’s a great place to record music for anyone looking to do that. We were there for two weeks in August and it was class.”

Garner adds: “We were just away from civilisation and all we did was work on the album for the time we were there. But there was no stress at all; we all knew this was the time to finally do it. We had all worked hard before getting there and that was the time.”

Bass player Burns tells how the band had the option to record in London. But he feels the decision to opt for such rural settings was a stroke of genius. Intensive practice sessions, the two-week recording window and all the pressure to complete the task may well have caused bands to crack. But for The Nickajack Men, the experience has had a galvanising effect.

“We all different tastes and influences. But we all like rock ‘n’ roll – that’s the common ground at the end of the day.”

White says: “The whole thing has brought us closer as a band, especially in the lead up to recording. We changed how we were writing songs. For these new tunes, we all wrote together, rather than, say, me and Mikey writing a song on the acoustic and everyone else adding their bits. We were all involved in it and I think we all shred closer because of that.”

The band find it difficult to convey their sound in words, but it’s clear that fans of Wilco, Kings of Leon and Steppenwolf will be catered for. A strong classic rock vibe is likely to be present, with embellishments from Americana and country.

Garner states: “We all different tastes and influences. But we all like rock ‘n’ roll – that’s the common ground at the end of the day.”

The new year will kick off in fine fashion for the band with a headline set at King Tut’s on January 31. It is expected that a single from their as-yet-untitled upcoming album will be unveiled before then. After that, The Nickajack Men will then take on a spring or summer tour of the UK – though the dream of revelling through the backwaters of rural America may have to wait a while yet. 

McAlister concludes: “This album is better than what we have recorded before: It’s where we are and what we are all about. It just sounds like ‘us’. We’re all happy and confident with what we have recorded. It could not have gone much better, to be honest. So, we’ll just take it from there, and once we get the music out to folk, I don’t think they could deny that it’s pretty good. But it’ll be our statement, when it comes.”