Lankum (formerly Lynched) - on meeting Christy
Ian Lynch saw a familiar figure approaching him purposefully in a Dublin pub and immediately felt apprehensive. Sometime before, Lynch and his brother Daragh had taken one of Irish folk legend Christy Moore’s hits, Ride On, and given it a rather less respectful treatment than its writer, Jimmy McCarthy and Moore might have wanted.
Lynch’s version kept the same tune but spoke about how demeaning it was to be on the dole. It was meant as a joke but here was Moore, asking if Lynch was with the band Lynched who had done that song Sign On.
“I thought he was going to deck me or something,” says Lynch down the line from Copenhagen where Lynched are continuing what seems like a non-stop run of concerts as their star continues to rise. “But he just kind of chuckled and said, Yeah, good stuff and walked on.”
Moore couldn’t have been too bothered about the lampooning because a few weeks later Lynch and his band mates, guitarist-brother Daragh, concertina player Radie Peat and fiddler Cormac Mac Diarmada, found themselves in wholly less tense, if surreal, situation with Moore.
“There was some talk about us working on a song together but it hadn’t come to anything because our idea was to slow it right down and Christy’s take on it was much more upbeat,” says Lynch. “I didn’t think too much about it and then he said he fancied coming over for a song and there he was, sitting drinking tea and eating ham sandwiches in our living room and singing away. I kept thinking, this isn’t happening but it was a sign, I suppose, that we were being accepted.”
Lynched as a band have had to get used to being accepted over the past year. A spot on Later with Jools Holland last October catapulted them from playing small venues and struggling to fill them to selling out every gig almost overnight.
A few weeks later they were introduced onto the Royal Albert Hall stage at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and if they wondered if they might have fetched up at the wrong gig and misjudged their place in the folk firmament (they were nominated for three awards – Best Group, Best Album and the Horizon award for up and coming young talent - but won none of them), then a tribute from English folk godfather Martin Carthy put them right.
Carthy informed them at breakfast the following morning that he considered them the best thing to come out of Ireland since Planxty, the group formed and fronted by a certain Mr Moore in the early 1970s.
“I’d never watched the Jools Holland programme before and I had no idea what a big deal it was to appear on it,” says Lynch. “And I’m glad because knowing what it can mean to people’s careers beforehand would have freaked me out. Just that one spot on a programme that had Burt Bacharach and the Sleaford Mods on it opened doors we never thought we’d even get to knock on.”
The Lynch brothers began playing music as punks, seduced by the DIY aspect of the movement. Then Ian came across a traditional music session in a bar and thought, here was the ultimate DIY music. People were playing the music they loved for the sheer enjoyment of playing it and he was hooked. He later discovered that some of the musicians who play in pub sessions get paid but by then he had fallen in love with the more political songs sung by the Dubliners and Christy Moore, reasoning that these were similar in outlook to his punk output.
Lynch also became fascinated by the uilleann pipes and took lessons at Na Píobairí Uilleann, Dublin Pipers Club. He’s since gone on to take a masters degree in Irish folklore and spent a year as an intern at the Irish Traditional Music Archive, a completely different route into the music from that of Peat and Mac Diarmada, who have been immersed in traditional music since they were young children.
“We’ve come together from opposite ends of the spectrum but we’re all equally determined to get the music right,” he says. “I never imagined for a minute that I would be playing this music for a living. When Daragh and I started out we’d play anywhere – in squats, on a bus – anywhere we could find an audience, and if we got a bed for the night and a bottle of beer, we were quite happy. We got around. We played in Mexico, Australia, Scandinavia, all small scale stuff, but now, mostly thanks to the Jools Holland show, it’s like we’re in a whirlwind and we’re just trying to keep hold of the reins.”
From the Herald, October, 2016