Song doesn’t quite remain the same for Wyvern Lingo

The Bray trio’s impressive debut shows how they’ve evolved from their early folky days with Hozier into an outfit playing sinuous funk-pop, writes Ed Power

Wyvern Lingo play in Cork, Limerick and Galway in the coming weeks.

GROWING up in public has been a fun but exhausting experience for Irish alternative band of the hour, Wyvern Lingo.

“Our growth has been very very visible,” says singer and drummer Caoimhe Barry.

“Sometimes we’ve changed from gig to gig. It was only after we met our manager and our label that we started to realise what kind of group we want to be.”

Bray friends Barry, Saoirse Duane and Karen Crowley started out playing folk pop with their pal Andrew Hozier-Byrne, but with their self-titled debut album they’ve evolved impressively into a sinuous funk-pop outfit, equal parts influenced by Destiny’s Child, Pixies and Laura Marling.

The key to the transition was single ‘I Love You Sadie’, a glimmering R&B affair that has proved a powerful calling card and notched up impressive traffic on YouTube.

“It took a bit of nudging for the label to come around,” says Barry. “They weren’t taking the bait immediately and it made me doubt myself a little. Karen was quite adamant it was going to be a hit. We finished the song and I felt it would be a sneaky little banger on the album. Once the label heard the finished version they were adamant it would be the first single.”

Wyvern Lingo first came to attention collaborating with Hozier, the Wicklow singer who conquered the world with his 2014 single ‘Take Me To Church’ (the share the same label, Rubyworks). Friends with Hozier from school, they’ve all played and toured with him and had a front row seat as he rose from obscurity to become the most streamed artist on Spotify.

“In the early days, he supported us,” says Barry, laughing. “We’ve known him a long time. We’ve always been very supportive of each other’s music. It was pretty crazy seeing it all take off. I played with him on his first tour of the US. It was my first time in America and his too. If you write a song like ‘Take Me To Church’, you can become a global superstar, but that’s not our fate, I feel. We’re a little more alternative.”

They are slightly ambivalent about their name. A ‘wyvern’ is a dragon-like reptile from folklore and unless you’re a hardcore Dungeons and Dragons player you may be unsure how to pronounce it, much less what it signifies. They plucked the moniker from a dictionary while performing at school in Bray and if occasionally regretful about the choice, they take comfort in the fact it is google-able.

“Any time anyone knows what a wyvern is, it’s like what game do you play, nerd?” says Barry. “I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons. We were like teenagers when we named the band. We’ll just land on a word in a dictionary.

“At the time, we were listening to a lot of Thin Lizzy and Led Zeppelin, bands with gobbledygook names. We were like ‘Grand, we’ll just go for a name like that’. We were performing at school and the teacher was putting us under pressure not to be ‘Karen, Caoimhe and Saoirse’ again.

“So it was a case of, we’ll pick a name and we can change it eventually. Two-legged dragon, half bird, half lizard, it can paralyse with its eyes — we can’t pass that up.’”

Wyvern Lingo have played support slots all around Ireland. If you’ve been to a gig in Dublin this past three years, you’ve probably encountered them. Artists often consider curtain-raising a thankless undertaking, but Barry and her compatriots have an admirable work-ethic and looked upon supports as an opportunity to hone and expand their sound.

“On our first EP, I wasn’t even playing drums,” she recalls. “Since then, we’ve been getting better and better and that’s informed what is happening at our live gigs. Starting out, we weren’t ready to release an album or to tour to the level we will be this year.

“We’ve had lot of trial and error, but we glad we took our time. This record is the one we always wanted to make.”

Wyvern Lingo is out now. The band play Dolan’s Limerick, Friday; Live at St Luke’s Cork, Saturday; Róisín Dubh, Galway, March 9; Source Arts Centre Thurles, March 10.

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