Wicklow’s rising stars talk to Cliodhna McGirr about primary school, tour stories, and their long-awaited debut.
Huddled around a radiator in a pool hall one cold January morning, I speak to Karen Cowley, Caoimhe Barry and Saoirse Duane of Wicklow band Wyvern Lingo. Their self-titled debut album, to be released on 23rd February, is described by Caoimhe as “alternative pop influenced by rock and R&B.” This broad description reflects three talented musicians combining forces to create music that simply cannot be placed under one single genre, and it sounds great.
Remarkably, the band members have all known each other since primary school. They fondly look back on an important moment in their friendship: ‘First Aid’ in sixth class, where they looked after younger kids who had fallen in the yard. How did they do this? “We used to sing songs,” says Karen, accompanied by a firm “you’re grand,” yanking the fallen up by their arms.
Their long history allows these women to be completely trusting in each other, and this shows in their song-writing as they spill their hearts into their work. “We’re all very honest and always talk things out,” says Caoimhe. “A lot of the songs on the album are really delicate and personal…they touch on issues that are important to us.” All three contribute to the song-writing, mostly depending on what is going on in their lives or whatever profound thoughts are racing through their minds.
They describe hearing crowds sing their songs back to them as “amazing,” “shocking,” and, as Saoirse so eloquently puts it, “totes emosh”.
The topical ‘Out of My Hands,’ for example, touches on the refugee crisis, the eighth amendment, and gender inequality. The song was inspired by a conversation Karen had with a man in a pub one night about refugees, where she was met with a “current of apathy.” The song is written from this man’s point of view, and it is uncomfortably relatable for the listener. “It’s natural to feel ‘it’s out of my hands, there’s nothing I can do’…but you also need to check yourself,” says Caoimhe. “[It’s about] training yourself to think about things in new ways.” Karen, who is involved in refugee activism, says she often sees these attitudes in Irish people. “It’s their defence mechanism… The song is about people not wanting to engage.”
“People in Sweden don’t really dance that much.”
We talk about ‘Maybe it’s My Nature.’ This song, as Karen describes it, deals with “having a wandering eye,” and the feelings of guilt that come with that. The idea for this song came from thinking about “not being able to reconcile how you’re feeling and how you might be behaving, with depictions of women in literature.” A self-proclaimed poetry buff and fan of early twentieth-century writing, Karen says, “it’s really hard to read all that stuff that you used to think was God-like and then realise “wait a minute, there’s a pattern here, every woman that’s mentioned is a so-called absolute heartless bitch, for pure reasons of unrequited love.” I find that really interesting how that might have informed… how I act and how I think, and feelings of guilt.” The song itself is sharp, witty, and excellently produced with powerful harmonies throughout.
Wyvern Lingo are clearly confident in themselves as musicians, but they remain modest. They describe hearing crowds sing their songs back to them as “amazing,” “shocking,” and, as Saoirse so eloquently puts it, “totes emosh.”
“I would love if me and James Blake could just sit down and cry in a room for a while and sing a song together.”
At times our interview feels more like overhearing a chat amongst friends, and it is a pleasure to catch glimpses into their close relationship. They describe a gig they played in Sweden where the crowd was “intently staring at us and very polite,” and how “people in Sweden don’t really dance that much.” Caoimhe explains that this relates to a dancing licensing rule in Sweden. At the gig, she jokingly said to the audience, “You know it’s cool if you guys dance… or is it? Will you guys get kicked out?”
During a discussion on collaborators, Karen remarks that she would love if she and James Blake “could just sit down and cry in a room for a while and sing a song together.” Her bandmates laughingly encourage her with Caoimhe saying: “I actually think that if you tweet that at him, it’d be pretty hard for him to resist.”
“It was a real Mary-Kate and Ashley moment.”
At one point in our chat the three simultaneously break into song, the age-old classic ‘Cheerleader,’ while recounting an incident after a gig in Paris. They tell me that their taxi driver was blaring the song, and they loudly joined in. “These lads on mopeds were cruising by, singing along,” says Caoimhe. “It was a real Mary-Kate and Ashley moment.”
As Saoirse tells me, “we’ve actually started a podcast, because we talk so much.” With the interview coming to a close I ask if they have anything more to add, and they’re quick to reply: “preorder the album.” Caoimhe sagely adds that we should follow them “on all the social media lads.” Message received, loud and clear.
Wyvern Lingo launch their self-titled debut album at Button Factory on 23rd February.