As the guitarist of Bray’s most exciting musical offering to the world since Hozier, Saoirse Duane tells Aisling Kraus about the journey from school concerts to Electric Picnic.
Still full of the joys of two outstanding Electric Picnic performances, almost three weeks later, Wyvern Lingo have hardly stopped to catch their breath before diving headfirst back into the pursuit of stardom. They’re not a new band, but it’s just in the last number of months that Saoirse Duane, Caoimhe Barry and Karen Cowley have experienced a significant acceleration in their rise to fame. Between touring with Hozier, signing a record deal with Irish indie label Rubyworks, recording in Germany and thrilling festival crowds, it’s been a whirlwind year for the trio. With a new single set to launch and an extensive tour of Ireland all in the next couple of months, the roller coaster won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
Even still, the remarkable achievements that Wyvern Lingo have made recently don’t seem to be getting to their heads. As Saoirse Duane chats about some of these victories, she appears down to earth, and in more disbelief than any onlooker about how smoothly “everything just fell into place” for the band.
Hailing from Bray, guitarist/vocalist Saoirse, drummer/vocalist Caoimhe and keyboardist/vocalist Karen have been writing and playing music together since their school days. The fusion of three disarmingly powerful voices, skilled songwriting and musicianship and an extremely broad range of influences from Led Zeppelin to Jeff Buckley to Rihanna, makes for a refreshingly unique and memorable sound. Having grown up together, the chemistry and understanding between the three musicians is utterly natural. “We’re all so comfortable with each other, we can say anything to each other,” Duane explains. “We’ve been doing it for years at this stage, so it’s just part of the friendship.”
“We shared the stage with FKA twigs and Villagers… It’s like ‘oh my God, we’re a real band.’”
The story behind the band’s striking name isn’t quite as elaborate as one might expect: “we needed a name really quickly for a Christmas concert in school, so we just got it out of a dictionary”. This is an accurate representation of how seriously the three members had been taking their career up until recently. This changed drastically a little over a year ago, when “Karen finished her college degree and I was changing job… We were all just like, ‘do you know what, why don’t we do it? Let’s just give this a shot.’”
At this point, the group began giving music their full-time attention and before long, things began to snowball. “Our manager happened to see us at a gig and he got us a record deal — we signed a couple of months ago with Rubyworks. It’s been really hard work: Monday to Friday, nine to five band practice and gigs on the weekends. But it’s paying off.”
As is the case with so many aspects of Irish life, moving up in the music industry has a lot to do with who you know. Wyvern Lingo have the good fortune of being able to call the star of the most recent Irish music success story an old friend. Touring as an opening act for their mate Andrew, known to some as Hozier, was a golden opportunity to convert thousands of music lovers into Wyvern Lingo fans. “Hozier’s crowds are very sound, they’re generally there for the music and it’s lovely to support a friend. We’ve known him for years and we’re so lucky to have him.” However, support slots have a very different feel to headline gigs, Duane notes. “With the support slots, everybody’s there to see a different band, so we’re like ‘please listen to us!’”
This year’s Electric Picnic appearance was an entirely different experience for the trio, however — Duane even goes so far as to flag it as the highlight of their career so far. “We were amazed at how many people turned up, it was unreal. It was just a real proud moment, a ‘we’re doing the right thing!’ kind of thing… We shared the stage with FKA twigs and Villagers… It’s like ‘oh my God, we’re a real band’. I just can’t get over the amount of people that were there.” The realisation of the scale of what is happening for Wyvern Lingo is a welcome one for its members. “It’s a bit breathtaking… You just have to take it all in as you go along. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to do what you love for the rest of your life, hopefully.”
“We’ve been doing it for years at this stage, so it’s just part of the friendship.”
Virtually the only challenge that Wyvern Lingo have faced in their rise in prominence has been some small instances of sexism as they interact more with the music industry. They are not the first all-female band to express frustration at being repeatedly gender labelled by members of the press. This is an issue which has become increasingly relevant since many ‘all-female bands’ such as HAIM have crossed the bridge from the indie world into the mainstream of late. “If it was [an all-male] band, they wouldn’t go ‘all-boy trio’. We had this interview once and [the interviewer] turned around and said, ‘so which one are you?’ Like, ‘are you Scary Spice or Baby Spice?’ kind of thing. You wouldn’t say that to a bunch of lads! So we struggle a bit with that.”
A new single entitled ‘Subside’, revealed on SoundCloud on 23rd September gave fans an exciting preview of the fruits of many months’ labour. The sultry, gritty track will be Wyvern Lingo’s first single released on Rubyworks, and exposes evidence of further ventures into the world of R&B. This transition from the airier, more folk-inflected tones of The Widow Knows EP, to a groovier R&B sound drenched in attitude, has affected all of their new musical creations, Duane explains. “We’ve kind of gone away from the whole folk aspect of it and just focused on what we grew up with and what’s actually secretly hidden in our songs. The Widow Knows EP was a little bit R&B but not half as much as what we’re producing now.”
In this deeper exploration of Wyvern Lingo’s musical roots, their wish for the new music is that listeners find it to be accessible. “[I hope] that the music actually means something to them — that they can relate to the songs, that would be the best thing. Just that people get us.”
‘Subside’ will be released on iTunes and Spotify on Friday 27th November. Wyvern Lingo play Whelan’s on Saturday 28th November.