When he’s not strapped to his illustrator’s desk, our very own Darragh Lynch can be found strumming out bawdry folk ballads with his band Lynched. With their new album streaming today, Rashers Tierney sat the talented git down for a chat.
Yiz are just back from a tour of the states. How did that go? Did you get feted high and low?
Yeah, we’re just about over the jetlag. It was amazing. We saw most of the country in just 6 weeks. New York down to Tennessee, Texas to New Orleans and back again, then through New Mexico and Arizona to California, up through Oregon and then home from Seattle. There were lots of long drives, looking at amazing scenery out of a van window, lots of drinking and singing, lots of absolutely legendary people and musicians (most notably Morgan O’ Kane and his band), and overall the reception was amazing. The only relatively negative response was in Pittsburgh where the applause was pretty thin on the ground, but we think they might have all been stoned out of their minds. They bought loads of merch anyway.
We were invited into bakeries and steak houses to eat whatever we wanted, played in an eccentric oul’ one’s gaff in Nashville where Johnny Cash and Townes Van Zandt used to hang around playing in the sitting room, played in a social centre run by Native punks in Flagstaff, hung out with neo-pagans in California, recorded in a top notch analogue studio in San Francisco on folk-punk band Blackbird Raum’s new album, saw a load of old mates we hadn’t seen in 8 years up in Washington, and loads of mad shit in between. Definitely not the worst way to travel.
This album has been in the pipeline for quite some time. What went into making it?
Jesus, two years of blood sweat and tears. Ah, me and Ian have been singing around for years and we always ended up doing duets with harmonies and all at the trad sessions we went to, so when he got a bit of work in the Traditional Music Archive on Merrion Square, we decided to head in the odd evening to the studio there and Danny Diamond (the archive technician and resident sound geezer) would record us.
Then we asked our mates Cormac and Radie to do a bit of fiddle and concertina with backing vocals on one or two songs. Then we all got very excited about how it sounded and became a 4 piece, then chanced our arm at an Arts Council grant.
We got that and so officially booked a full week and a half in the studio in August last year. Then we drove ourselves demented mixing and mastering it for 4 months with James Eager (a very patient man).
We also got Glyn Smyth in Belfast to do the artwork because he’s absolutely amazing, but has quite a long waiting list, so by the time that was ready and back from the printers it was March of this year. So from the first session with Danny, in October 2012, to the launch this year, it’s been the guts of 2 years. All four of us have been pretty dedicated to it though, so I hope that shows.
Cold Old Fire’s a song about Dublin in the recession and just boozing through it. Am I right?
Not particularly about boozing through it. It’s more of a snapshot of Dublin and how we felt about it at the time of writing. It began as the brainchild of my good friend Cian who was staying in my gaff at the time, looking for work. The “recession” was just kicking in and we were catching the first glimpses of how shit it was all about to get. He later bailed to Berlin, along with thousands of others.
I suppose it’s about trying to keep a sense of pride, and looking for others doing the same, while all this increasingly dehumanising shit is going on around you. And it still is, for that matter.
It describes us as “cattle at the stall” and “looking for signs that Dublin’s heart is still beating.” Are you not on the whole loving Dublin buzz so?
Ah, I’ve huge love for Dublin. Even more so than I used to I’d say. The cattle at the stall part is about queuing at the dole office and the post office week in week out, and how dehumanising it can all become.
The Dublin’s heart part is about the fact that everyone seemed so passive and accepting to what was being blatantly done to them. People were going balloobas in Greece, Spain, France or wherever, while a lot of the time here, people just seemed to be shrugging while their souls were ripped out right in front of their eyes and used to wipe rich people’s arses. I don’t know. I do love Dublin though, with all its depressing warts and all.
One of you worked in the UCD folklore department. Part of this seems to cross over into the music. What I mean is, you almost take an archival approach to what you do. Bringing old Dublin songs to life again? Like the Daffodil Mulligan one?
Yeah, Ian has a folklore masters and then worked in the Trad Archive as I said, so he’s the resident song nerd. It’s great to have that knowledge, because there’s so many fantastic songs out there that not many people know about, and the ones that people do know about have been beaten to death a thousand times over, so that no matter how great they are, they’re just not that much fun to hear anymore. That’s why they play songs on repeat to prisoners in Guantanamo, cos it’s no fun.It drives them demented.
It’s nice too when you’ve been singing a song for a while and someone finds a new verse from some old manuscript or one of the older singing circle people or whatever, which has happened to us more than once. ‘Daffodil Mulligan’ we got from Barry Gleeson’s CD ‘Path Across the Ocean’ back in 2008 or so. I just thought it was a fabulous song and so started singing it. I only later found out the buzz with it, that it was written by Harry Donovan as a sequel to ‘Biddy Mulligan’ the famous “Pride of the Coombe”.
I like it as well because it strikes a familiar chord with me. I have a family history of people selling fruit, veg and fish on Thomas Street, going back five generations as far as I know. My auntie still sells there on Saturday afternoons. It’s pretty cool that Barry has agreed to do the release gig with us too, cos he’s been a bit of a hero of ours since we found that CD.
Can you tell me about the Little Tommy Tucker song that you play live? For a while you thought ye were the only folk that knew that song, until you met a certain character who did his time in the Curragh Camps for IRA membership?
It’s mad with songs like that. I got it off a woman called Lily Caffrey, who used to drink in the Ha’Penny Bridge Inn every Sunday and get up and do a few songs. She hasn’t been there in a while… either have we actually, ever since the owner and staff were horrifically rude to my mother just before Christmas, but that’s a different story. Lily was one of the last residents in the Crampton Buildings before the Council shifted everyone.
I think they’re the last original residential flats in Temple Bar or something like that. Last I heard she was up in some new building and wasn’t well enough to make the walk on Sundays. She was hilarious to talk to, apparently she was recorded singing on the Ha’Penny Bridge for the Late Late Show years ago, and also used to request tours of the Mansion House whenever there was a new mayor, saying she’d never seen it before. She said she’d just wink at the security guard and tell him to keep his mouth shut.
The song is great and I started singing it out and of course my aunties sang along, but when I asked what the words were and how they knew it they couldn’t tell me anything. Same as your man in the Cobblestone. I think it was your man Noel Hughes. They all can sing along when you sing it, but you’ll be hard pressed getting any information on it. Might take a trip down to the archive and see if they have anything…
What’s the rest of the lyrical content of the album like? And who writes them?
There’s loads on there. ‘Henry My son’ goes back to the 1600s and is about a fella who’s wife poisons him. There’s a H.P. Lovecraft poem set to a jig, an English Gypsy one about being a family of alcos, the famous ‘Salonika’ from Cork which we changed slightly to be about Dublin (sorry, langers!), ‘What Put the Blood?’ which is a mad old Traveller song about killing your brother, ‘The Old Man from Over the Sea’ which is about riding oul’ lads that you don’t like, an ancient Traveller version of ‘Scarborough Fair’, an original one about going mental, an Incredible String Band cover, ‘Cold Old Fire’ which we talked about earlier and an old sailor’s love song.
The art work is very distinctive. The person that did that is fairly accomplished in his own right. Tell us more.
He’s a genius. Glyn Smyth at ‘Stag & Serpent’. We knew we were going to ask him from the start cos we’ve known him years and, more importantly, because he’s fantastic at it. He’s very into magic and occult symbolism, every part of the imagery means something. The grate behind the woman is where the Poddle meets the Liffey, and where Dublin got its name. The knot work is half Viking and half Celtic.
The underground river represents the hidden matriarchal lines of our family on Thomas St. etc. Coincidentally he was in a punk band back in the day with Harry Bradley, who’s playing at our launch, the name of which is probably not fit for print…
Catch Lynched and some special guests down in the Button Factory on Sunday May 25th. Also, check out the playlist of daycent trad Darragh threw together for our Networkawesome.com takeover.
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