Features - Interviews

Clever Things Done Simply: An Interview with Wyvern Lingo


Catching some downtime following a busy few months that saw the release of their stellar A Letter For Willow EP and a UK support tour with James Vincent McMorrow, Bray trio Wyvern Lingo will soon set off for a string of Irish dates across November and December. Ahead of those – as well headlining Jameson’s Bow St Sessions at Cork’s Crane Lane on October 27 – Brian Coney talks to drummer/vocalist Caoimhe Barry about plans for their debut album, the open road and striking a balance between accessible and experimental.

Register for free tickets to the band’s Bow St Session with Pleasure Beach and Amaron + Magic here.

Hi Caoihme. You’ve just returned home following a UK tour with James Vincent McMorrow. How was that?

It was amazing. We got a really good reception from his fans. They’re a great audience to play for and were really appreciative. There was a lot of seated audiences so although at first that made us kind of nervous we actually really got to enjoy it. We just got back on Sunday so we’re going to meet up again for the first time today.

Are there nerves for those bigger shows or is it a case of pure adrenaline?

I guess there’s so many logistical things that nerves, for me, doesn’t really come into it. It’s more a case of wanting to make sure the vibe is there and everyone in the room “gets it” you know? I’d be nervous if I thought something was going to go wrong or something but it’s more a case of making sure it goes as well as it can. The vibe totally paid off wherever we went.

You also stopped off at London’s The Lexington for a headline show. How was that?

It went really well. It was our fourth headliner show there, including a headline show we did there with Hozier before. Any time we do something in the UK we also try to get to London and do a little gig. But that was deadly. It was actually part of a night called White Heat Club with a couple of other bands so it was good to play to their crowds as well.

You’ve got a headline Irish tour in November so you’re straight out back again very soon. Will it be a new set or the same as the UK shows?

During festival season and afterwards we just kept it solid; we didn’t make it difficult for ourselves. For these new shows I think we’re going to be adding a couple of new tracks but we’ll see. We’re going to be doing a bit of recording over the next few weeks so for our own excitement we’re going to be adding some tracks that no one has heard before. With the recent shows and festival, we’re used to doing half an hour sets where you’d just tell people, “We’re Wyvern Lingo, please buy merchandise!” so with these shows we’ll have a lot more time and be able to play our set from the UK and then some. We’re looking forward to it.

Speaking of recording, are you working on a full-length follow length to A Letter To Willow or a single?

To be honest we’re not entirely sure. We’ve been doing a lot of writing and the three of us write so I guess it’s what makes most sense. We’re constantly developing and we’re starting to work with producers and stuff so I don’t know. We’ve definitely kind of starting to work on the new album but I’m not sure what the next release is going to be. I think it’ll be an EP or a single.

I recently watched your a cappella video of ‘Used’. It’s really great. For me, it sort of confirms what I’ve always found with Wyvern Lingo, in that you truly don’t sound like any other band in Ireland at the minute, particularly when it comes to attention to detail with the likes of harmonies, song structure etc. Do you spend time honing that sound?

We do put a lot of work into but it also comes very naturally to us. When it comes to harmonies we generally have to reign it in and calm ourselves down and not just go trigger happy. A lot of the time we get people constantly calling us “the Irish” Staves, First Aid Kit or Haim and I think that’s just people listing girl bands they know. They’re great bands but they wouldn’t be our influences. I guess we just do what comes naturally to us. Our biggest influences are RnB and the whole of rock n’ roll so our music ends up a bit strange because of that…

I’ve always thought your sound is a balance between accessible and experimental. The obvious passion for your craft and the levels of musicianship shines through so well. Is it the intention to get that balance, somewhere between accessible and slightly to the left?

We have to try to reign in the “to the left”. We’ve always love a lot of prog stuff like as Hiatus Kaiyote, King Crimson and friends like Leo Drezden. We got to support White Denim and Hiatus Kaiyote this summer and we were delighted but I guess they’re not the most accessible to a lot of people. But we love all the elements of what they do and we love adding in that ear candy, like throwing in that unexpected chord, to keep it interesting and not predictable whilst keeping to a pop structure.

It’s something you do very well. I was also recently listening to your latest Spotify playlist of tracks you’re currently digging, including Prince, Saul Williams and Dublin’s Bad Bones. Do you find new sounds feeding into your own sound all the time?

All the time. We’re always showing each other different stuff, like “Look how they did this, isn’t that class?” We’re constantly looking at how people do things. I guess we love clever things done simply. That’s the goal, I suppose. New sounds and new ways that people do things. As you say, there’s not a lot of people doing exactly what we’re doing. I don’t think we’re massively original but there’s a lot of people who we’re like, “They get it!” That’s what it’s all about.

You recently played Hard Working Class Heroes festival in Dublin. What kind of importance do you place with those kind of industry showcases?

To be honest, I’m only starting to get my head around the importance of them. After gigs and stuff, the girls would also be very interested in going to chat to people and I would just prefer to lock myself away but now I’m learning the importance of what is called networking. It’s funny at first but it’s really invaluable. Even the word networking makes me feel really slimy. But going out there and meeting people and sharing experience and building contacts. I guess we learnt the importance of that working with Hozier. We were talking to his manager at the time and Karen was like, “You know, we have a band as well…” and now he’s our manager. So we understand now how really important those things are and how there’s no shame in going out there and being like, “Listen to my music!” Otherwise nobody is going to hear it.

You are, of course, on the road quite a lot. What are the pros and cons of often being on the move?

The pros are absolutely meeting new people everywhere you go and making new fans. We always go straight to the merch stand afterwards to meet and talk to people. That’s the main thing. It’s great promotion. People who weren’t expecting to see you, see you. As a support band anyway.

As for the cons: all the travelling. Spending a lot of time in the van but you learn to love that too. It’s a lot of late nights and early starts. It can be tiring but there’s something nice about that too. We’ve only ever done two weeks at a time so come back to us in a few months and I’m sure we’ll have terrible things to say!

Looking at the remainder of 2016 and all of 2017, are you looking at the bigger picture or taking it month by month?

The bigger picture is the album but we can’t really plan for anything. So we’re just taking it bit by bit, just taking it as it comes. I think we’re really going to take our time with the album as we want it to be unreal.

is the editor of The Thin Air. Talk to him about Philip Glass and/or follow him on Twitter @brianconey.