Exciting Irish DJ/Producer Krystal Klear — named thus because “once I thought of it I didn’t want to think of anything else” — brought his wonderfully house meets disco meets that-amazing-time-he-remixed-Justin Timberlake sound to Dublin’s Trinity Ball last month. I had a quick chat with the man behind that Sky Ferreira remix.
Live instrumental music – particularly that of the acoustic variety – is always kind of fascinating. People can’t exactly sing along, and so the audience is left to immerse themselves in the sounds. You engage with the music in a way that is perhaps less immediately comprehensible. This is especially interesting when the venue is the Twisted Pepper, and the instrumental musicians in question are the captivating duo of saxophonist Colin Stetson and violinist Sarah Neufeld.
Big things are on the horizon for Karen Cowley, Saoirse Duane and Caoimhe Barry, the three members who comprise Wicklow group Wyvern Lingo. Their speciality lays in stunning vocal harmonies and propulsive, sweet melodies that seem to infuse healthy doses of pop, rock and R&B in equal measure. The girls might be familiar to you via their associations with Hozier (they recently toured with him and used to provide his backing vocals), but having just completed their first Ireland-wide tour, the trio are very much worth paying attention to in their own right. I had a chat with lovely vocalist and percussionist Barry ahead of their Trinity Ball set:
Can you tell us a bit about how Wyvern Lingo first formed?
We got to be friends in secondary school, we all bonded over music […] I guess initially it was stuff like Led Zeppelin and Joni Mitchell, Thin Lizzy, Queen – you know, like 60s, 70s rock and folk. And then also R&B stuff – so stuff like Lauryn Hill, Destiny’s Child. And then I guess we’ve always been playing music together.
How did coming to college affect the group?
We got the band name while we were in secondary school but we’ve really only been the band that we are now for, say, the past two years. We all kind of did the college thing, and then Karen and I did the backing vocals with Hozier. I should be in the fourth year of college right now, but we went on a touring stint with Hozier and I just didn’t go back to college. I decided to give being in a band full-time a go – we’re all doing it full time now, and we’re all giving it our best effort!
How was the Irish tour?
It was amazing! They were intimate gigs, and everybody that was there was really involved, we got to talk to people afterwards. It was a lovely experience, a really nice first touring experience – we had a lovely crew and we just had the best time! I think it’s just our favourite thing to be doing right now – to be on the road, playing gigs, having the craic!
What can we look forward to in terms of upcoming releases?
We’re gonna do another EP. We started recording that at the end of last year, but these things always kind of get knocked on or they don’t always go to plan. The plan was to release the new EP in spring time, but now it looks like it’ll be summer time – hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.
How will the new EP differ from the last one?
I think our sound has matured a bit, or certainly changed from the last EP. Just before we started to record that EP I had literally just started to play drums properly, about two weeks before. I always had a drum kit – I spent my confirmation money on one – but I live in a terraced house so it was just kind of sitting there. We did a gig in October and it was the first time Saoirse played electric guitar at a gig, Karen just got her synth bass. We were getting session musicians in on the last EP, but we’re making the sounds happen ourselves on this one – we’re getting really excited!
Would you have been to Trinity Ball before? Do you know what you’re in for?
I’ve never been, but Karen did the orchestra thing a few times. I have heard that it’s an interesting affair! To be honest I have no idea – I imagine it’ll just be like a festival, except everyone’s wearing suits.
What can we expect from your set?
We’ll try to keep it energetic – a lot of the stuff that we’ve been writing is possibly a lot more energetic than the last EP, so this is definitely going to be upbeat. We’ll do one or two new songs, but some of the old ones too, which we’ve kind of revamped. It’s definitely gonna be a fun gig.
Who else will you go and watch?
I’d really like to see Basement Jaxx, that’d be deadly. I know Little Hours are playing too, and they’re always class. I’m looking forward to it!
Photo by Ellius Grace. Interview originally for the Trinity Ball Guide.
Surreally, last month saw Drake gushing on his Instagram over old-school underground grime DVDs and the “#legend” that is Wiley. Meanwhile, Kanye West brought a huge contingent of UK grime artists on stage for two of his recent London performances; including the Brits. It seemed that innovatively boisterous, brash, bravado-filled genre — made most popular by artists like Dizzee Rascal and collective Boy Better Know — had gone a bit quiet in the past couple years, but recently it’s become apparent that grime is very much alive and well. Can this resurgence in global interest really be considered as a renaissance of the scene itself?
There is a palpable air of excitement in the Sugar Club. The seats are filling up, the drinks are flowing, and fairylights are glimmering around a stage laden with the instruments of much-lauded Wicklow trio, Wyvern Lingo.
Opening with the charming support of Loah (one of our Plec Picks of 2015), it is hard not to be blown away by the incredibly talented, always-smiling singer. Loah has a powerfully lilting, versatile voice, which is particularly remarkable when she sings in Sierra Leonean language Sherbro for the gorgeous ‘Cortège’.
“I’m just trying to impress my dad,” she grins, pointing him out in the audience. These are sweetly intricate, rhythmic art soul songs. “Imagine having to follow that,” remarks someone sitting near us, and they have a point – playing after such a beautiful set certainly seems to be a daunting task.
As soon as Wyvern Lingo take to the stage, however, it is apparent that there is nothing to worry about. There is a seamless confidence in the way they burst into their first song of the night – the title track from their EP, The Widow Knows. It is immediately clear how much the group have progressed since the release of that EP last year. Everything is fuller and more polished somehow, and it’s a delight to hear.
Ibeyi — pronounced “ee-bey-ee” — (something of course only discovered via embarrassing initial mispronunciation), is derived from ibeji, the yoruba word for a divinity of twins believed to have special, spiritual powers. This is fitting given that French-Cuban 20 year olds Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz are indeed twins, with a musical output that seems to reference the soulful Nigerian praise songs of their ancestry as much as it does contemporary, haunting electronic and hip hop. Signed to the prolific XL Records, their eponymous debut — out this month — serves as a reminder as to why, in an age of internet-induced, maddeningly short attention spans and Spotify playlists, the album format has retained its relevance. Captivating, cohesive, familiar yet entirely fresh, there is a strikingly accomplished sense of warmth and shiver-inducing elegy that listening to Ibeyi evokes.
The only New Orleans-style brass band in town, Irish eight-piece Booka Brass Band are renowned for their raucously engaging live performances. Their reputation for pop covers precedes them – we’re talking ‘Crazy in Love’, ‘Talk Dirty to Me’ and even a tasty little rendition of supreme Destiny’s Child hit ‘Survivor’.
All of which is why, on paper, the idea of this – their debut EP – might seem a bit hard to swallow: can the incredible, tongue-in-cheek vivacity of their live show truly translate into a cohesive original recording?
The answer, thankfully, is yes.
Right from the swelling intensity of opener ‘Make That Do Noise’ through to the swinging, spiralling richness of ‘Legion of Boom’, the BBB EP certainly has a lot to offer. The former of these two is an absolute storm of a song. All fast-paced drums and stupidly danceable refrains, ‘Make That Do Noise’ recalls the likes of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble in its sheer enticing energy. Meanwhile the latter track starts all soulful and melancholy before crescendoing into something quite glorious.
It is apparent how clearly the group are aware of the potential of each instrument, and what works best to create the most striking, complementary harmonies. Indeed, from its forlorn, military-esque fanfare opening into the ending cascade of triumphantly forceful sounds, ‘Legion of Boom’ is everything you might hope for from said title.
The previously released ‘Nute’ is a sweet and subtle number, with its slow, nuanced build into an enthrallingly full timbre of sounds. All of this is underpinned by an intriguing, almost Bossa Novan sway in the bass. Title track ‘BBB’ is probably the jazziest song on the EP with its jaunty percussive shuffle. It is a pleasantly upbeat listen, though it fails to reach a satisfying conclusion.
As debut EPs go, the BBB EP is a solid start. It is a bold, brash and wonderfully polished early taste of an act with longevity beyond their live reputation.
We hope that the Booka Brass Band keep on making that do noise.
The BBB EP is available here.