Lynched are a traditional group from Dublin who mine the songs of their ancestry and interpret them afresh. They were started by the Lynch brothers, Ian and Daragh, as an experimental-psychedelic-folk-punk-duo, but in recent years they’ve added more traditional elements and songs to their repertoire. Daragh plays the uilleann pipes with Ian on acoustic guitar, flanked by Cormac Mac Diamarda on fiddle and Radie Peat on concertina and Russian accordion. They all sing and harmonise together, playing songs that make your eyes glisten and your legs pump like steam engine valves. I saw them recently at The Met in Bury and they were kind enough to allow me backstage after the show to indulge my sycophancy.
LTW – Like a lot of people, my introduction to Lynched was on Jools Holland waiting for Sleaford Mods.
Daragh – I love them. They were the only other band on that night that I thought were interesting.
LTW – What about Burt Bacharach?
Daragh – Credit where credits due.
LTW – Even though you and Sleaford Mods are so different I think of them as an extension of the radical folk tradition mixed in with other influences.
Daragh – Oh yeah definitely. There’s a big CRASS influence in what they’re doing from what I can make out – just taken to a modern era. They’ve got the computer backbeats and all that kind of stuff but what they’re saying and even the aesthetic and sound of them…it’s fucking amazing. And I don’t think there’s anyone else doing owt like that. I don’t even hear it in punk bands these days.
LTW – The Jeffrey Lewis album where he covered all the CRASS tunes is astounding and the lyrics are a lot clearer than the original recordings. Do you think folk songs are the most impactful form of protest song?
Daragh – If you listen to the first Lynched recording that was made about 13 or 14 years ago. It was all protest songs we wrote taking the piss out of authority, taking the piss out of cops, taking the piss out of religion…of other punks. That’s what we started off doing and then got more and more into traditional music, finding protest songs within traditional music and just thinking – man, this is a revelation. When you’re saying those kinds of things in a punk band it’s brilliant but it’s so divided from the rest of society, it’s a ghetto you know? You don’t really have the chance to get the message across. That’s what I found really frustrating.
LTW – The ownership of music is looking more and more outdated. The pop music period has arguably peaked and is now in decline as a ‘business model’. The upside of that is we’ll probably see a lot more music for music’s sake. Passing songs around and not owning them.
Daragh – It’ll become a lot more grass roots I reckon.
LTW – The downside being that more musicians are struggling to make a living. You seem to be doing alright on this tour though?
Daragh – On this tour maybe. The tour we were on this time last year was a totally different story. I don’t know if I should say the country or not (laughs) but we played just around squats and stuff where some of our friends were staying and man…that was just a total disaster.
We’ve been playing for years and we always just pay ourselves to go somewhere, pay ourselves to do the tour. I don’t mind if we go somewhere and play if people are into it and people show but we were playing gigs where five people would turn up. We’d have to hire a sound guy and gear, all for a bowl of vegan slop and a bottle of beer and maybe a shitty mattress to sleep on.
The fact that we were playing folk music and people didn’t recognise that as being punk or something. They were just like – ah that’s some hippy shit. So no one really came out. It was just like no one would even give it the time. If they did give time, maybe they would find some common ground.
LTW – Subcultures will always let you down. I’m not a fashion person but I understand the importance of it to people. It’s just a shame when it becomes more important than the music.
Daragh – I think that kind of stuff is in the nature of scenes. You have to look a certain way, you have to talk a certain way, lick up to the right people. All that stuff. Every scene I’ve ever seen or been involved in any way, that’s part and parcel of it. I think that’s the way people seem to work you unfortunately. So you just have to go your own way and do what you want to do. For us, we never fit into anything; the punks think we’re hippies, traditional people think we’re too punk…you’ve just gotta do your own thing and not care what anyone else thinks.
LTW – Still – you’ve gone from playing squats to fee paying venues in a year…
Daragh – It’s very weird and it’s very sudden. We’ve been playing as band for 13 or 14 years and it’s only been like this in the past year. It’s weird.
LTW – You’ve only been playing as a four piece for a few years?
Daragh – Three and a half.
Radie – That’s the thing, before we were a four piece and before we got together to do songs and record or whatever, Ian and Daragh were still singing – they’d gotten into traditional stuff – they were singing songs just in a more informal setting. It’s not like we (Radie and Cormac) came along and totally changed everything.
LTW – I’ve not heard you’re early stuff but if you can harmonise like that, being brothers especially, I imagine you grew up with it around.
Daragh – Yeah we grew up with a lot of singing about, a lot of family singing together. Not traditional singing but just people drunkenly singing you know?
(With this declaration, I feel brave enough to show off my own skills as an unaccompanied drunken singer. Still on a high from the gig I scan my mind for a traditional song…Ewan Maccoll…Dominic Behan… then I realise that singing a folk song to this group would be like showing Prince how to sing falsetto. My bottle goes and instead I opt for Jocelyn Brown’s ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ taking their silence and avoidance of eye contact as a clear sign of admiration.)
LTW – I CAAANT GET OFF MY HIGH HORSE….ETC
Daragh – When we were growing up that’s the way everyone got along together. When we’d meet up for a family gathering, everyone would sing songs, make their own entertainment and make their own fun. That’s the point. People were capable of entertaining themselves. Now it’s like Xboxes and mobile phones…
LTW – Yeah it’s pretty depressing especially on a day like today (Black Friday).Blame US consumerism! Have you any plans to tour the States?
Daragh – No. No plans at the minute.
Radie – We were over in the US for like 5 weeks. Was that last year?
Daragh – Yeah we went all over from East coast to West coast – everywhere. It was great just driving round America in a van. All down the south. First leg of the tour we had an old time banjo player and singer from West Virginia. Then we were on tour with Blackbird Raum for two weeks.
LTW – They’re the ones who did the HP Lovecraft tune that you cover (Drinking Song from the Tomb). Is that right?
Radie – No that’s Rudimentary Peni. Blackbird Raum are a folk punk band based in Santa Cruz.
LTW – I want to know more about Frank Harte who you’ve said is a big influence. You mentioned him in the Guardian interview last week.
Radie – That was one of my favourite things about that interview, talking about Frank Harte. I was like yeah, let’s talk about him and get people into him. Luckily, I did the right thing and I went and read the comments, which you should never do, but there were a couple of people on there who think Frank Harte’s great and a few who seemed really interested because of that. It was worth having that interview if people got into Frank Harte. He was brilliant. He was a larger than life character in traditional singing especially in Dublin. I think he was the first properly respected Dublin singer as well wasn’t he?
Daragh – Yeah he was someone from Dublin singing in their own accent as before that Dublin wasn’t seen as somewhere that had a folk tradition – or a tradition of its own. Folk lore in Ireland comes from the West. It’s Irish language speaking, rural places.
Radie – English traditional singing was not looked upon as favourably as in the Irish language but Frank Harte was the first when everyone thought – ‘he’s really good’ and also an authority on it because he did such amazing research, collecting loads of songs and putting them together – all his albums had themes.
Daragh – In 1798 there was a rebellion in Ireland. One of the many failed rebellions. He did a whole album of songs about that. One was all Dublin street songs.
Daragh – He did one about Irish fellas who work on the roads over in England.
Radie – The last one he never got to do before he died was one of love songs. He never got to do love songs.
He was a collector that preserved a load of songs and found a load of songs that’d been lost. A lot of his catalogue wasn’t visible to the public for whatever reason, but I’ve heard that’s its now going to be digitalised and available which will be an amazing resource for anyone into traditional singing. This man did amazing research.
LTW – There’s a lot of similarities with folk songs around the globe in terms of melodies and subject matter.
Daragh – That’s what you find with these songs. They’ll have the same motifs and themes.
Radie – Songs migrate and then they change depending on where they’re being sung. It’s really interesting actually to trace songs. There are ways of pinpointing when songs were in certain places. I love seeing like ‘ok this is what happened to a Scottish song when it went over to America.’
LTW – There was a new one you sang tonight that was like an Appalachian murder ballad which you said started off in Europe. Are you planning to record a new album with these kinds of songs?
Cormac – Yeah we’re gonna do a new recording now in the New Year with some of the songs we played tonight.
LTW – I’m a big fan of the Pogues and hear a similar trajectory that you guys have taken from punk to traditional Irish music. Will you be expanding to a septet any time soon?
Daragh – We’re not gonna be getting a snare drummer or anything like that.
Radie – In fairness there’s a snare drum on the first album from a traditional Ceilidh band drummer. I’d like to get him in for the second album actually.
LTW – Your record ‘Cold Old Fire’ was recorded with an Arts Council grant. Do you think it would have been made without the funding?
Cormac – We’d have eventually had the LP but not as easily. We’ve been pretty lucky.
LTW – Is there ever a moment when you’d like to have a label throwing money at you?
Daragh –There’s no need for it. You look at the amount of money people are making. Why does anyone deserve that much money? You sing a song, you haven’t found a cure for fucking AIDS. You’re a singer. Get over yourself ya know?
All words by Nathan McIlroy. You can read more from him on Louder Than War here.