Cork's electro-pop duo Young Wonder push all the right buttons

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Young Wonder credit the internet for ensuring they can remain in Cork, writes Ed Power

RACHEL Koeman has seen overnight success. Eighteen months ago, the Young Wonder singer was introduced by her boyfriend/manager Brendan Canty to an obscure songwriter from Wicklow.

The songwriter had hired Canty to film a video for his debut single — it would serve both as a pop promo and as a commentary on the assault on gay rights in Russia.

“When Brendan was doing the video for ‘Take Me To Church’, nobody had heard of Hozier,” says Koeman. “Around that time, he played a gig at the Pavilion in Cork. I wouldn’t say nobody cared exactly. You had that thing you often get with unknown artists — people talking through the gig and all of that. Suddenly, the video blows up — and the rest is history.”

Koeman does not anticipate a similarly trajectory for Young Wonder, her electro-pop collaboration with producer, Ian Ring. With the duo shortly to release their first album, Birth, she is simply grateful fans have stuck around for two years, since the group made an initial splash with their Show Your Teeth EP.

“When you’re new, there’s a lot of excitement,” she says. “You have all this buzz. The next time, there isn’t the same impact, maybe. That’s a symptom of the internet. When things die down, you find out who your real fans are.”

Ring and Koeman were introduced by mutual friends. The producer was struck by Koeman’s voice and suggested she come to his studio to collaborate. The musical chemistry was strong and their status was soon cemented by gushing write-ups from websites such as Pitchfork. The sense they had come a long way in a short time was confirmed when they opened for Mercury winners, Alt-J, at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2013.

Of the two, Koeman is the more instinctively outgoing. Fronting Young Wonder comes easily to her: she rarely suffers jitters and is equally at home in pokey clubs or on festival stages.

“It feels natural to be in the limelight,” she says. “I wouldn’t say Ian takes a back seat, exactly. However, he doesn’t like being out front. It’s a good balance. We complement one another.”

A generation ago, Young Wonder would probably have relocated to Dublin or London. One upside of the internet is that now they can have a career while remaining in Cork. This is ideal for Koeman, who still has a day job at a nursing home.

“I’ve worked there for the past five years and love it. Ian does music full-time — the band takes up a lot of his day and he has other projects, too. However, I like the balance. If it works, why change it?”

She lives in Watergrasshill, and studied nursing at UCC, having attended school at Loreto College, Fermoy. “I don’t think it matters where you are now, as a musician. You can get your stuff out there if you do it correctly on the internet. Everything is accessible to everyone.”

Assembled painstakingly across the past two years, the new LP is a departure. The songs feel more considered and reflective — less eager for the listener’s attention.

“You have to progress,” says Koeman. “You want to create something new. We were inspired by our older stuff.

“However, the goal was to write something that was more mature — to write songs that were better than those we had done previously.”

Birth is released May 15. Young Wonder play Savoy, Cork, May 15


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