Quiet Lights Festival welcomes Lankum: A cherished art!

Ronan Leonard chats to Lankum’s Radie Peat about the band’s songwriting process and why album-making is not a dead art form.
Quiet Lights Festival welcomes Lankum: A cherished art!
Lankum: Play Quiet Lights Festival in Cork.

Ronan Leonard chats to Lankum’s Radie Peat about the band’s songwriting process and why album-making is not a dead art form.

Lankum released their third album ‘The Livelong Day’ on the Rough Trade Record Label last week to great acclaim from all quarters, the rest of the year and beyond sees the band touring in support of the record, and they come to Live At Saint Lukes as part of the Quiet Lights Festival on Saturday 23 November. Radie Peat - who was awarded Best Folk Singer at the 2018 RTE Folk Awards - spoke excitedly of their return, “we first played Cork about 5 years ago in the Cork Community Printshop, that was my first time ever in Cork, I’ve such strong memories as it was such a great gig. I’ve loved the audiences and bookers in Cork, we’ve always been taken care of. Something about touring, especially Ireland, is you have ‘Tour Friends’, you sort of make good friends with musicians and people very quickly, and you don’t see each other often but when you do it’s great; you might not see them for two years but straight away you are the best of friends. Like in Cork, I’ve a few places to wander, getting food in My Goodness in The English Market, or looking in Mother Jones Flea Market.”

Having had such a positive reaction to their previous two records Radie and the rest of Lankum were conscious to not think about people’s expectations when they started work on this new album, “it’s always healthy to not think too much about what people will think of it, our criteria is ‘do we really find this exciting?’, we really try to forget anyone else’s possible reaction to it at that point, we are still deciding what we might or might not do at the stage in the process.”

According to Radie how the band prepare and record songs has no set working method, “sometimes we throw the kitchen sink at it and play and play, then take a break and then have a more thoughtful approach and say “I think this bit worked” or “that part had a good idea there” till we get to a point where we all feel like we’ve done a song justice. Sometimes that can take quite a while, however sometimes a song arrives and it’s already very clear what needs to be done, and not much changes from the first listen to recording it. But we have the same approach to all the songs, the traditional ones as well as the ones we write, we aren’t afraid to completely dismantle them - nothing is a given, there’s no assumption of who will sing it, there’s no rule that there should be a particular instrument on every song. That’s how we work, everything is up for discussion. That’s how we feel you get the best out of the song.”

Preproduction for the new album required focused preparation by Lankum, as Radie continued, “it’s a similar balance of traditional pieces and songs composed by us, with a slight tipping of balance towards original songs - it was the same process as our previous albums - we bring everything we would like to try on the table; some songs that we’ve maybe been hearing for a while; songs we’d been writing together; and songs we’d been working on our own. there’s always way too much music… we play everything a few times, record everything that makes it to being a finished piece, then start selecting from those. We did record other songs that didn’t make this album, maybe it’ll be an EP another time or something, I really would like to release them at some point. Just for the flow of this album those songs didn’t make much sense.”

Considering their opening song on ‘The Livelong Day’ is a version of ‘The Wild Rover’, Radie knew that they would have to really put in the effort to find a good take on the song, “I’m sure when people saw the words ‘Lankum’ and ‘The Wild Rover’ before they listened to it that some people would have groaned, but we heard a version of it sung by Dónal Maguire, which he’d learned from a singer called Pat Usher. Like the song was fun but it never really struck a chord with me I never felt an emotional connection to it until I heard Dónal sing it with that different melody, the extra verse makes the song more like a lament, a lament for a lost life from an alcoholic. All four of us are very immersed in Irish folk music and we were all moved by Donal’s version, so there was something there for us, so we did a musical arrangement from what we heard in it. I do hope our version stands up and other people revisits that song as if they’ve never heard it before.”

Radie and the rest of Lankum are definitely fans of the long form album, “some music industry people say ‘the album is dead just release singles and EPs" and I think that’s really sad, it’s like telling an author you can only write short stories and never a novel. We made this as a full album, we go from one point and continue on to another point and then another point at the end. We’ve done that with all our albums, this one is a full listen, fifty six minute listen start to finish.”

Lankum play Live At Saint Likes on Saturday, November 23, as part of the Quiet Lights Festival which runs from Friday 22 to Sunday 24 November. More details on the festival can be found at www.quietlights.net and tickets can be bought via www.uticket.ie

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