WHEN Glasgow indie pop band Golden Grrrls split in early 2014, drummer Eilidh Rodgers and guitarist Rachel Aggs realised they enjoyed playing together too much to close the door on each other. Since launching their debut EP at Mono, where Rodgers can often be found on shift behind the counter of Monorail, the record shop nestled inside the notable vegan venue, Sacred Paws have largely dug their own path.

As Aggs explains to The National days after their Strike A Match was named Scottish Album of the Year, the pair's airy blend of African highlife and post punk was initially forged for the hell of it; to uplift and entertain themselves and their friends without, she says, “stopping to worry about whether or not other people would accept or 'get' it.”

That simple creative joy is in evidence on the record, a compact and remarkably consistent half hour album produced by Tony Doogan. Known for his work with Belle and Sebastian and Mogwai – whose Rock Action label were quick to offer Sacred Paws a home - Doogan's relaxed sense of mastery suited a band who didn't need mollycoddled, just a shot of confidence and the wriggleroom to allow their dynamism to sparkle.

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“Tony is magic!” enthuses Aggs, “he was so open and encouraging with us experimenting with other sounds and instruments in the studio. It was Tony who pushed the idea of a getting a proper brass section in and their arrangements of the parts I wrote were so cool.

“I feel like in future we will be way more ambitious in the studio now we know what's possible. Castle of Doom is a great studio and Rock Action were so generous with how much time we could spend there.

“It never felt rushed or compromised and I think both of us are so used to the complete opposite when it comes to recordings. Usually you are in a position where you feel scared of trying stuff in case you waste the engineer's time, but Tony never made us feel like that.”

“It was great to hear what we sound like properly,” agrees Rodgers, after telling The National she heroically got her shift changed at Monorail so we could chat. “We both come from a more DIY background, so to hear us with some overdubs and bass, it was a case of: 'WOW! We are this kind of band.'”

The National: Eilidh Rodgers and Rachel Aggs from Sacred Paws Credit: Brian Sweeney

Revelations aside, Rodgers took a little convincing on the inclusion of the bass. Teaching herself on an electric kit her long-harangued father bought her (“it must have been a weak moment,” she laughs), the beginnings of her highly unique, athletic style formed during repeated plays of the soundtrack to That Thing You Do! Tom Hanks' canny 1996 caper following the rise and fall of a one-hit wonder pop band in the early 1960s.

“My sister had given me the cassette when I was about 13,” Rodgers says, laughing again at the memory. “I played along to it a lot. And the way I taught myself was to follow the guitar, not the bass. Still, I do like the bass on the album.”

Another growth spurt came after a personal lesson from Chris Corsano, a free-thinking, internationally-acclaimed drummer known for his work with free-jazz dudes such as Evan Parker and psychedelic drone outfits Six Organs Of Admittance and Rangda, two bands who've made the rafters shake at Edinburgh's Summerhall this year and last respectively.

“Along with Jim White, Chris Corsano is one of my favourite drummers,” she says, firstly referring to the man who's whipped Australian instrumental band Dirty Three into shape for the past 25 years. “He [Corsano] was living in Edinburgh doing a PhD [in the early/mid-2000s] and I just asked him. He was like: 'I can show you some things but it's up to you to make them your own'.

“I think music is something that you have to find your own way with and that was a really positive experience for me.”

Just as Rodgers was “blown away” when she first saw Aggs play with Trash Kit, one of the two London-based bands [the other being the austerity-bruised Shopping] the guitarist was a long-time admirer of the drummer's chops.

“Before I joined Golden Grrrls I was a huge fan of Eilidh's drumming, so I was really excited to start something a bit wilder and weirder with her,” she says. “The melodic bass lines I learned in that band really opened up my guitar playing and definitely fed into what we do with Sacred Paws. I also loved the way Eilidh and Ruari [MacLean, vocalist/guitarist with Golden Grrrls] would sing different lyrics over the top of each other.”

That vocal interplay is as key to Sacred Paws's distinct appeal as their loose musical alchemy. At turns melancholic, vulnerable, consoling, defiant and disappointed, Rodgers and Aggs's lines play off each other in a charming pseudo dialogue. When they twist to meet, the harmonies are exquisitely bittersweet.

“Often we'll both be singing away before we've worked out what the other person is singing about,” Rodgers explains. “It'll generally be a case of both of us singing about our lives and it comes together somehow into what's hopefully a more cohesive song. Maybe most of my lyrics are negative and Rachel's are positive, I don't know. I've often wondered if there's an unconscious thing going on there.”

That “somehow”, that “unconscious thing” is beyond mere economic value: a creative partnership forged on close friendship. Largely separated by 400 miles, Rodgers and Aggs sound like the archetypal Solid Pals, the confidantes who come together two or three times a year to put the world to rights and paint the town day-glo. It's natural then, that many Sacred Paws songs contrast tales of struggle and doubt with an impulse to forget it all and dance.

“Sacred Paws is definitely cathartic for us,” says Aggs. “I hope that our songs have a bittersweetness that is useful. I don't find music cheers me up or helps me keep going unless there is some kind of struggle involved. It's about accepting and dealing with all of life's pains and frustrations but also dancing onwards in spite of them.”

That sense of resilience was momentary lost when Aggs said she felt she “didn't belong” on the stage of Paisley Town Hall last week as BBC Radio Scotland DJs Vic Galloway and Nicola Meighan named Strike A Match the Scottish Album of 2017. Rodgers seemed too stunned to say anything at all.

The National:

“It was a huge shock and I could barely say a word,” Aggs explains. “I think what I meant was that we have spent our lives, as this band and in other projects, always operating on the fringes and on the underground of the music industry.”

“It's also awkward to win a prize for doing something we have never considered to be competitive – we had a lot of friends on the shortlist whose music we admire so much.”

“We were more really touched to be longlisted and then shortlisted,”says Rodgers. “It felt like it'd be good because someone we knew would end up getting some recognition, like Ela Orleans who we think is great. But there was a point where our friends were like: 'You might really win it' and all of a sudden I got really nervous and said to Rachel: 'Can we not go home now?' That feeling is not why we started the band but obviously getting the award was amazing.”

Hopefully the pair now have a spring in their step; however non-competitive their personal ethos, the recognition afforded by the award, and the £20,000 prize money are well deserved. Rodgers and Aggs were right to stick together, even when it seemed few were listening.

“We worked really hard on this record, and we are very proud of ourselves,” says Aggs. “I think it's easy for musicians to feel very undervalued and there are so many great bands that get overlooked. “That said, the SAY Award shows a lot about how well Scotland looks after and appreciates musicians.”

Of course, it's all massages, lapdogs and limos for the pair now they are Pop Stars.

“It feels business as usual,” says Rodgers, noting the shop floor needs mopped. “Rachel had to get the train home the next day, and we're back to running just to keep on top of things.”

You and Aggs and me and the world, sister. To hell with it for a while; records like Strike A Match are rare and affirming, more of us could do with the jangle of Rest or Everyday being a part of our lives. Calm it tiger, it's early days yet. But it'll happen.

“A woman did recognise me on the train, saying: 'did you just win an award?'” Aggs says. “I don't think she had actually heard our music, she just saw a photo from the ceremony on her Facebook and was like: 'Hang on, this person is sitting in front of me!'”

Strike A Match is out now on Rock Action Records

Sacred Paws and the impressively reinvigorated Ride support Mogwai at the SSE Hydro, Glasgow on December 16, 6.30pm, £36.90 plus booking fee.

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