THE confusion in Ian Lynch’s voice is unmistakable. “We’re touring the UK at the moment and a lot of the audiences are aged 60 or over. It’s weird -— in Ireland, we get loads of young people. This is a new thing for us. We weren’t expecting it.”
Lynched, the group Ian founded with brother Daragh, came up through the Dublin indie scene. But they are nowadays a ‘trad’ act, performing folk music with a raw, jagged edge. At home, people are sufficiently savvy to appreciate folk comes in a multitude of guises — that it can be visceral and impassioned rather than twinkling and mystical.
In Britain and the US, though, crowds are quicker to pigeonhole. This has led to moments of awkwardness for Lynched, especially when playing to sentimental Irish-Americans expecting soppy renderings of ‘Danny Boy’ and so forth.
“We’ve performed at Irish American bars in the States and I don’t think they really got what we were doing. Often they wouldn’t even listen. One time, the owner of the venue had to come out and tell the crowd that he had been to Ireland — that the music we were playing was real Irish music. They had needed convincing. They didn’t get it.
“What’s interesting is that in San Antonio we played to a room of Mexican punks. They were super respectful and totally into it. When you’re playing in an Irish bar and the crowd is talking over you — that’s tough.”
Still, such misunderstandings have not impeded the progress of the quartet, completed by old friends Radie Peat on tin whistle and Cormac Mac Diarmada on fiddle and banjo.
Lynched recently caused a stir on Later…With Jools Holland and have been feted in the UK press as a rising force in Irish traditional music (one website lauded them as the “Irish folk stars who are more punk than punk”).
“We weren’t nervous about Jools Holland,” says Ian. “We were in the studio from 10.30 in the morning. You rehearse the song many times through the day. By the time it came to recording the show we just wanted to get it over and done with. The best bit was that we were performing in the same episode as Sleaford Mods, who are one of my favourite groups.”
Ian and Daragh started out playing bare-boned punk at house parties and in squats. Their drift into folk music was essentially accidental and came via the protest singer Ian Campbell and Frank Harte, a semi-obscure compiler of Dublin street ballads.
“I was into The Dubliners and The Pogues in my teenage years,” says Lynch. “But it was only as I got into my early 20s that I discovered the uilleann pipes and really got into traditional music. It was all quite new for us — traditional music isn’t something my family was into at all.
“Dublin folk owes a lot to its environment and that’s definitely part of the appeal,” he says. “There’s a black humour — and earthiness that you might not hear elsewhere.”
Slow-burn anger was the defining sentiment of their 2014 debut, Cold Old Fire. Recorded when the brothers were on the dole, it chronicled their frustration over the sense that their lives seemed to be going nowhere.
The punk overtones are not an affection, says Lynch.
“It comes through quite subconsciously. It’s just the sound we make. It’s nothing we think about actively. It is merely one element that informs our music.
“Our tastes filter out in different ways. It’s best to go with it rather than think too deeply.”