In the seaside town of Bray, Co. Wicklow, there is a buzzing music scene at the moment. The latest act to emerge from this scene is Wyvern Lingo – a trio consisting of Karen Cowley (keyboard and vocals), Caoimhe Barry (drums and vocals) and Saoirse Duane (guitar and vocals). They are on the brink of unveiling their self-titled debut album. Across a long marmoreal table in Roberta’s, I discussed all things music with Karen and Caoimhe.
The band’s history goes back a long time; they met before secondary school and realised each others’ love of music. At this point, they were in awe of classic rock like Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and Fleetwood Mac. Later on, they became avid listeners of nineties Rn’B – ‘we were absolutely fed on Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys and TLC’. The album is an accumulation of material written over their many years together; Caoimhe remarked that ‘there is a lot to go back to in terms of what makes the best album’. ‘Snow II’ is a rerecording of a track from 2014 while ‘Used’ comes off an EP.
Wyvern Lingo’s music has an eclectic authenticity to it. It is a smooth yet complex hybridisation of styles. There is a soulful feel to it which sounds sleek and modern. Caoimhe says ‘it’s got the chunky accessible production that a lot of music from the nineties would have had. There is a rock edge to it; I call it alternative pop influenced by rock and Rn’B’. They further described the record as an emotional rollercoaster. But underneath it all, it captures who Wyvern Lingo are as people.
While there are political and social messages on the album, they are subtle in a way that depicts the band members’ feelings. According to Caoimhe and Karen, the album is the world as they see it; a collection of their own experiences. ‘There are a couple of songs’ Karen reiterated ‘that happen to address social issues but it’s always through something that has actually happened’. The second single from the album, ‘Out of My Hands’ is about political apathy channelled through a personal experience. Caoimhe added that ‘our music and our vibe is bogged down in sincerity’. They have a podcast on SoundCloud that explains the meaning of the single ‘I Love You Sadie’ – which is nominated for the Choice Song of the Year.
In their hometown, Wyvern Lingo were playing gigs aged 16. Karen told me ‘when we were teenagers, there was this big underground gig scene’. As they graced Battle of the Bands competitions, they gained momentum. But what attributes does Bray have that have rendered it such a fruitful location for musical talent? We have already witnessed Fionn Regan and Hozier, who also came from the coastal settlement, gain fame. There is an electric scene, Karen pointed out, in the Harbour Bar which holds small gigs and is the band’s local. Furthermore, Caoimhe had a theory that ‘within Bray, there are a lot of different terrains. You’re so close to the countryside but then you also have one foot in the city’. Karen believes that the small community helped give the band opportunities.
The trio embark upon a headline tour consisting of 22 shows which will see them jump across the pond to the UK and subsequently to Germany. They have gained popularity playing live when they toured with Hozier and James Vincent McMorrow. ‘They are both talented people and their audiences are great’ said Karen. ‘We got massive exposure in the UK’. Caoimhe particularly revelled in supporting McMorrow whose fans were attended by ‘music lovers’. ‘When you go to a James Vincent McMorrow gig you sit down and you listen and we got that response from everyone at his shows’.
When recording music, Wyvern Lingo don’t write songs placing an emphasis on how they will sound at prospective live shows. Karen exclaimed ‘we stopped ever thinking that the live aspect should be in your head in the studio. It just should not. You just do what’s right for the song’. Caoimhe continued saying that ‘it’s good to have upbeat songs for sure because you know that that will create an atmosphere when you’re playing them live and you get to jump around the place. But I wouldn’t say we write with that in mind’. The band uses a lot of technology and trickery during concerts; ‘it makes it more exciting for us and more exciting for the audience’.
With a sound that will appeal to both music cognoscenti and mainstream audiences, their self-titled album is a polished, well thought-out piece of work brimming with potential. Wyvern Lingo do look set to become major players in the Irish musical stratosphere.
Their self-titled album is released on Rubyworks Records on February 23rd. They will play a Tower Records in-store gig the same day followed by the album launch show that evening in the Button Factory.
Adam Bielenberg – Music Editor