2016 is not a year that will be looked back on fondly by many, but amid the international political turmoil, and high profile (premature ) passings which began with David Bowie and concluded with Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, there was a need to grasp hold of any shaft of light which came our way.
For Irish music fans - particularly those into indie-rock and electronic pop - 2016 saw the virtual coronation of All Tvvins - Conor Adams (vocals/bass ) and Lar Kaye (guitar/synths ) - as arguably the most exciting new band in Ireland, while their debut album, II VV, confirmed and expanded upon the promise contained within their early singles. Not surprisingly, II VV made No 2 on the Irish charts, was included on many Best of the Year lists, and was last week shortlisted for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize Irish Album of the Year 2016, alongside The Divine Comedy, Lisa Hannigan, James Vincent McMorrow, and Rusangano Family.
For All Tvvins guitarist Lar Kaye, the reaction is deeply satisfying. “We’re delighted to be honest,” he tells me during our Tuesday morning interview. “It’s something we’ve been working on for so long - days, weeks, years - going through all that hard work, getting the right mix, and everything that goes into an album, so, when we launched it, to see people buying it in Tower Records was great.”
All Tvvins are a band for the future, with their eyes firmly fixed on their next developments. “There are a couple of things Conor and I have talked about, but nothing firm yet. We just want to keep making music and to keep doing it, and that’s the main daily goal.”
However the long process of creating an album means whatever new music is on the way, it may not come out via the album format. “We are working on new stuff, we never take a break,” Lar declares. “The album took such a long time. All we want to do is release more music, rather than spending another couple of years waiting around for another album. Maybe we’ll release as we go.”
From their early gigs in 2013 (“Our first show was headlining Hard Working Class Heroes, from that it was obvious we had jump started completely” ) and debut single ‘Thank You’ in 2014, it was clear All Tvvins were something special. That the duo had already paid their dues on the circuit - Lar was guitarist in Wexford math-rockers Adebisi Shank, while Conor was vocalist with indie band The Cast Of Cheers - meant they had the experience and know how to take it to the next level.
“Being that bit established definitely helped us as we’d already made contact with people we knew who could help build us up,” says Lar. “We learned a lot from years of playing in different bands, writing with different people, taking all that in. We learned how much work is needed regarding touring, and not having much money, and just getting on with it. We had gone through the industry stuff and knew what not to do. The only thing we definitely decided, was that we didn’t want to do what we had done before. We knew we wanted to do something different and had more areas for exploring. We’re glad with the way it’s worked out. It feels like a good time to be playing this style of music.”
All Tvvins stripped down sound fuses the immediacy and sparseness of new wave, the atmospherics of electronica, and the hooks and melodies of pure pop, while still allowing Lar room to roam on guitar, with a style drawing on post-punk, metal, and post-rock.
“I started getting into guitar when I was at school,” says Lar. “I was seven and learned basic chords. From there I became obsessed with it, staying at home and practicing loads. My parents were cool enough to buy me an electric guitar and buy me effects pedals. I was also going to see bands as a kid, getting more into the effects and what you could do with it. Vinny McCreith [Adebisi Shank bassist] was a big help in telling me what aspects of my playing stood out and to embrace those aspects.”
Lar’s style is characterised by a skilful dexterity, but also by a tasteful, and imaginative use of effects, suggesting U2’s The Edge is an inspiration. “The Edge has been a massive influence, especially in the use of the delay and effects pedals. He is the king of all of that,” says Lar. “Johnny Greenwood also stood out to me. He made the guitar sound so f**ked up I couldn’t understand it, but that’s what I loved about his playing.”
Working in a duo with Conor has also shaped Lar’s style. “In All Tvvins, the focus is much more on the vocals,” he says, “so you have to know where your place is and where to come in and to let the vocals be the main thing.” And he remains open to continually developing his style. “I still look up guitar lessons on YouTube every day,” he says. “There’s still things I’m figuring out.”
All Tvvins have been open about their diverse influences - Conor has cited Peter Gabriel, Queen, The Police, as well as Wild Beasts and Caribou - and revel in the taunting iconoclasm of name-checking the likes of Justin Bieber, and covering his song, ‘Where Are Ü Now?’
“We love that song,” says Lar. " We’ve had a couple of sessions with friends who were asking, ‘’What are you doing that for?’ but it's just music. We like it, but you don’t have to. We listen to a lot of BBC Radio 1 playlists as we’re interested in hearing what people are listening to, even if we don’t like all the songs being played. We might still be able to capture something from it. We don’t feel embarrassed. You can’t help but be influenced by other musicians.”
The future looks very good for All Tvvins, but as veterans of the music scene at this stage, how do they maintain the enthusiasm that keeps them ambitious and looking forward?
“We know what to do as we’ve been doing it for so long,” says Lar. “It feels like a mindset and it can be quite gruelling, so on tour, I watch a lot of documentaries on bands, to induce the enthusiasm back, but we are quite lucky to be in a position to be in a band and not having to worry about jobs and that seems enough enthusiasm to get up every day. I worked in jobs before and every day at work I just wanted to be in bands, so you have to remember that.”
All Tvvins play the Róisín Dubh on Saturday February 11 and Sunday 12 at 8pm. Tickets are available at www.roisindubh.net, the Ticket Desk at OMG Zhivago, Shop Street, and The Róisín Dubh.