Comedy and theatre have long been mainstays of the Fringe programme, with theatre, opera and classical music the preserve of the International Festival – and rock and pop a rarer occurrence all round.
As the Fringe has made room for cabaret and spoken word in recent years, it is the International Festival that has stepped up to become the unlikely but very welcome home of popular music, with new director Fergus Linehan adding an imaginative contemporary music strand to the programme to rival the fondly remembered days of the Fringe’s Flux festival, when the likes of Nick Cave added a bit of an edge to the line-up.
This year, artists such as Canada’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Iceland’s Sigur Rós and Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour will rub shoulders with a strong Scottish contingent, including Emma Pollock, former singer with The Delgados and current recipient of much acclaim for her latest solo album, In Search of Harperfield.
“With this album I threw out a lot of presumption about how I write and took inspiration from everything from the Great American Songbook though to jazz via contemporary, spikier pop,” she says. Despite her broad musical background, Pollock admits to being “slightly surprised but absolutely delighted” at her inclusion in the International Festival programme.
“I really like what they’re doing this year,” she says. “They just seem to be upping the game, in that everyone’s invited. If I’m being honest, I didn’t feel like that before. I had always associated the International Festival with being a little bit more distant and traditional.”
Last year’s pop interlopers, including Sufjan Stevens, FFS and King Creosote, were enthusiastically embraced, and now Pollock is relishing the opportunity to play to an audience who may not be familiar with her finely wrought indie songwriting. “It’s like being invited round to someone’s house – you trust their taste, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that artist,” she says.
Along with her fellow former Delgados, Pollock still runs Chem19 studios and Chemikal Underground Records in Glasgow, mentoring and championing a succession of much-loved Scottish acts, including Mogwai and Aidan Moffat, who also feature on this year’s EIF bill alongside other home players such as Karine Polwart and James Yorkston.
“There is always a responsibility, in the curating of an event, to recognise where it comes from,” says Pollock. “Why not showcase what’s on the doorstep? Because we’ve been celebrating what Scotland has done for so long, there’s no reason to stop now, given everything that we have.”
Words: Fiona Shepherd
Picture: Jannica Honey
Emma Pollock The Hub, 25 August, 7pm