AFTER A stunning performance last autumn on Later…with Jools Holland, and a whirlwind tour of Britain, Ireland's latest folk sensations Lynched have seen their popularity soar.
The Dublin band, who received nominations for Best New Folk Act and Best New Folk Album in the 2015 BBC 2 Folk Awards, will show Galway what the fuss is about when they play the Róisín Dubh on Tuesday June 14 at 8pm, as part of the Galway Sessions festival.
Lynched combine distinctive four-part vocal harmonies with arrangements of uilleann pipes, concertinas, Russian accordion, fiddle, and guitars. Their repertoire spans humorous Dublin music hall ditties and street songs, classic ballads from the Traveller tradition, traditional Irish and American dance tunes, and their own original material.
Formed as an experimental-psychedelic-folk-punk-duo by brothers Ian and Daragh Lynch circa 2000, the group has gone through various incarnations and taken part in a number of musical projects, including recording for movie soundtracks and TV documentaries. The current format however, is considered by all four members to be the most focused, productive, and musically exciting to date.
As their interest in traditional music and song grew, Ian and Daragh began to attend sessions around Dublin, where they became friends with Cormac MacDiarmada and Radie Peat. When Ian began work in the Irish Traditional Music Archive, after completing a folklore master's degree, he had the opportunity to record in the ITMA studio with friend, colleague, and in-house technician Danny Diamond, whenever a spare evening presented itself.
Ian and Daragh asked Cormac and Radie to provide some backing vocals and instrumentation on “one or two songs” but they quickly realised there was a special musical chemistry between them and the group quickly became a dedicated four-piece.
Around this time Lynched were granted the Arts Council’s 2013 Deis Recording Award which enabled the recording of their album, Cold Old Fire which was released in 2014. Although fundamentally an album of traditional Irish song, heavily influenced by Frank Harte, Planxty, and The Dubliners, subtle traces of the group’s collective influences can be detected, from American old-timey music, ambient techno, and psychedelic folk, to black metal, punk and rock'n’roll.
The album garnered numerous rave reviews; ‘the most exciting album of traditional Irish song in decades’ (Tradconnect.com ), "a unique and thrilling contribution to Irish folk" (Look Left magazine ), "passionate, utterly engrossing" (fRoots magazine ), "seamlessly weaves together a punk energy, slow boil neo-folk darkness and plenty of real old time Dublin street grit into one beautiful whole" (Kithfolk magazine ).
Since making Cold Old Fire, Lynched have toured the US, played numerous music festivals, and performed alongside Dick Gaughan, Andy Irvine, Lúnasa, and Sharon Shannon.
The band’s latest appearance was at the recent Orkney Folk Festival and I just managed to grab a few minutes with Ian Lynch as they were about to make their way to the Scottish mainland for a show in Glasgow.
“We’ve had a great few days over here,” he tells me. “We’re just packing up now and getting ready to leave, it’s been a busy few days with lots of gigs and sessions.”
I ask Ian whether the busy round of tours and festivals Lynched have undertaken in the past year or so have generated fresh influences on their sound. “I don’t think so,” he replies. “We still get inspiration from the same things we have done before; traditional singers around Dublin and Ireland, listening to old field recordings from all over the country. I don’t think the travelling around other countries has seen us picking up new influences on our music.”
His mention of old field recordings prompts me to ask Ian about his time at the Irish Traditional Music Archive and what kind of discoveries he made there.
“It really broadened my understanding of areas of the music and the song tradition,” he declares. “It really was an education while I was working there. I came across some really great collections, one in particular which was made in the early seventies by an English couple called Jim Carroll and Pat MacKenzie. They recorded a lot of Irish Travellers who were around London in 1973; they got an absolutely huge collection of field recordings that were made from a lot of great singers from the Travelling community. I spent a good many hours in the archive listening to that collection and I have to say it was a big influence on me.”
Whereas one might expect a some-time music archivist to emphasise music’s tradition Ian and the band also have a punk ethos which would suggest a certain irreverence toward convention. I ask him how he blends these two strands.
“First and foremost we’d have a great respect for the singers and the songs and the sources that we take the songs from,” he notes. “But when it comes through the filter of us putting music to the songs and making arrangements it’s whatever sounds correct to us. The music that comes out encapsulates all the different types of music that we are into and that all plays a part. I think there’s a way of balancing the two, where you are bringing some innovation to the music but still remaining true to and respectful of the material itself.”
It was last October that Lynched performed on Later…with Jools Holland and their appearance immediately raised the group’s profile. “Absolutely, it shot up overnight,” Ian confirms. “We noticed a big difference straight away. That was just before we went on tour in the UK in November and it was all sold-out gigs, and I’d say most of the people there hadn’t been aware of us before the Jools Holland appearance so it really changed our fortunes for the better.”
With Lynched continuing to build on the acclaim for Cold Old Fire with storming live gigs, fans will be delighted to hear they have also commenced work on their next album.
“We’ve been working on a new album for the last few months and we started demoing some new material two weeks ago,” Ian reveals. “We’ll hopefully have something to show by the end of the year. We’ll keep the balance much the same as it was on the first album. On Cold Old Fire there are a lot of songs from different aspects of the tradition – older ballads, music hall numbers, humorous songs, and ones we composed ourselves so we’ll be looking to keep that balance on the second album.”