IT HAS been an extraordinary 12 months for Wicklow trio Wyvern Lingo. They have re-invented their sound and struck out on a new musical path, played to their largest audiences to date by supporting Hozier and James Vincent McMorrow on their British tours, and began the preparations for their highly anticipated debut album.
“It’s been a lot of work,” guitarist Saoirse Duane tells me during our Monday afternoon interview. “But it’s paying off, we’re getting there.”
The year began with that unexpected change in direction, when Saoirse, Caoimhe Barry (drums ), and Karen Cowley (bass/synth ), released their second EP, Letter To Willow, in March. In stark contrast to the folk influenced prog-rock of their debut EP, The Widow Knows, Letter To Willow was full of snappy, uptempo r’n’b rhythms and indie-pop vibes. Saoirse explains the change as being the difference between the band’s confidence and ability then, as opposed to now.
“The Widow Knows was basically, say I’d write a song, and I’d bring it into the group, we’d just record it as is there and then,” she says. “We’re all songwriters, but we weren’t able to work on that EP as much as we’d have liked. Willow is more us writing as a band and having the time to do it. We’re also much better on our instruments.”
She acknowledges there is “a lot of R’n’B influence” in their sound now, as well as more “rock, indie, and electronica”, and she cites Alt-J; the Dublin born, London based solo artist Bonzai; and British electronic producer Mura Masa, as current listening and inspiration. “That’s where we always heard our sound going,” she says. “We’ve expanded our sound and are having the craic with it and playing around more with it. I think we’re doing the right thing.”
The band are currently writing new material and will begin recording what is likely to be their debut album in February/March. “It’s going to be like the Letter To Willow EP, it’s that new vibe we are going for, but it’s bigger and better than that,” says Saoirse. “We want to put together the best thing we have ever done, we are putting our heart and soul into this, and hopefully we’ll release it next summer.”
The origins of Wyvern Lingo go back to the trio’s school days. A story does the rounds that the band was formed through a mutual love of Led Zeppelin III, particularly the song ‘Out On The Tiles’. The reality though, is rather more broad-based. “That’s a myth,” laughs Saoirse. “We were all in school together, but not many people in our class were fans of classic rock. That was how we came together, started playing together, and writing together.”
That togetherness is as close personally as it is musically. “Karen, Caoimhe, and myself are like sisters,” says Saoirse. “We grew up together, we don’t bicker and argue, not even sisterly bickering, we want the same thing, we’re a team.”
There is however a kind of inadvertent link to Led Zeppelin through Saoirse’s choice of guitar. She and Jimmy Page both swear by the physically small, but sonically and iconically mighty Gibson Les Paul.
“I’m very lucky as when I first started playing my mum, before she passed away, bought me a Gibson Les Paul,” she says. “My older brother was in a band called Big September, and when they broke up, I basically stole his guitar, which is a Fender Strat. For acoustic I have a Martin and a Tanglewood. I love my guitars and everyone is jealous of my delightful beauties.”
The band are close friends with fellow Wicklow musician Hozier, who played his part in spreading Wyvern Lingo’s name by asking them to accompany him on his recent British tour. It saw the Wicklow women play to sold-out audiences in venues like Birmingham’s O2 Academy, London’s Brixton Academy, and the Manchester Apollo.
“It was a slap in rate face every night!” Saoirse declares. “Thank God we could only see the first couple of rows, otherwise it would be terrifying, but we were lucky to have that experience. It was amazing playing to thousands of people and his fans were very supportive and liked our music. It was a good match.”
Hozier has also been a font of information as the band make their way through the music industry, and the trio are grateful for his support. “He’s amazing,” says Saoirse. “Karen has been on his album and sings with him on the song ‘In A Week’. Every question we have he answers, he’s been so helpful to us, with his time, his creativity, he’s really looked after us. He’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. There isn’t a bad bone in his body.”
Away from music, the band have also been a driving force in the 10,000 Missing Children campaign, run by the Bray Refugee Solidarity group. The group recently released a video, featuring contributions from Hozier, Little Green Cars, and others, to raise awareness of missing children in the current refugee crisis.
“That’s Karen, she’s an organiser of the 10,000 Missing Children campaign,” she says. “They were horrifed by the situation and were determined to do something about it. That’s going really well, and she also works for Not On Our Watch. She’s doing amazing work.”
To close a successful 2016, Wyvern Lingo begin an Irish tour next week, which includes a date at the Róisín Dubh. “We’re really starting to build a fan base in Galway,” says Saoirse. “Every time we come back we see more and more familiar faces in the audience which is great, and of course Gugai is a great guy, he looks after us all the time.”
Fans can also expect the live show to be something of a new experience. “We have a lot to show off in the Róisín Dubh, it will be a different show,” says Saoirse. “We’re messing around with electronic stuff and just getting into that vibe, but we keep the live band feel as well, I think that’s what makes us different.”
Wyvern Lingo play the Róisín Dubh on Saturday November 26 at 8pm. Tickets are available at www.roisindubh.net, the Ticket Desk at OMG Zhivago, Shop Street, and The Róisín Dubh. See also 10000missingchildren.wordpress.com.