This time last year was a bit of a whirlwind for Bantum aka Ruairi Lynch, who unexpectedly found himself nominated for the RTE Choice Music Prize for his debut album ‘Move’
The musician/producer originally from Cork had found himself at a creative crossroads prior to the nomination. “I wasn't in the best of mind frames musically,” says Lynch, frankly. “I was considering taking a step back or taking a break (from music), but after getting nominated and going through the whole process and getting the feedback for 'Move' it really reassured me and gave me a load of confidence.”
Lynch describes the Choice Music Prize night as being “One of the best nights of my life, if not the best” and credits the nomination with recharging his musical batteries
“When I got nominated initially it was just massive excitement, but then I was also a bit daunted because I had to put a band together for the live show and I suppose there was going to be lots of scrutiny with the press, but the whole experience was amazing for me. I've said it before, but the actual awards show night itself was one of the best nights of my life if not the best, it as just incredible. It gave me a lot of affirmation and confidence to keep going and make more music, work on more projects.
“It's opened up a lot of conversations for me definitely whereas before I would have been reaching out to people and now people are reaching out to me."
“There are no huge names or anything like that, but a lot of musicians are reaching out to me now and asking for help and advice which I'm happy to do.
“I used to teach Ableton (the music software) so I get a big buzz out of helping people develop.”
Having experienced the heightened level of scrutiny that Choice brings, what advice would Lynch give to the current batch of nominees?
“Just have fun, you've done the hard work getting there” says Lynch in his typically down to earth fashion. “It's gonna be a great night. Everybody in the crowd is rooting for you.”
And how does he assess the class of 2017? “It's great to see Marlene Enright in there, she had a great album.” He says enthusiastically before placing his bets on the outcome. “I'd be rooting for Talos on this one. I think he has a good chance this year, it's a really solid album. He'd get my vote anyway.”
He also has kind words to say about Song of the Year nominees Wyvern Lingo who have just released their self-titled debut album.
They are “Really good singers and songwriters,” says Lynch. “They've been at this for years, since they were kids and it's great to see them going to number one.”
Now that the dust has settled on the unexpected storm created Bantum’s debut ‘Move’, Lynch is ready to focus on creating music once again.
“After the Choice nomination I played gigs hard for a year,” he says. “Now I'm comfortable taking a step back and trying to create music again.”
Strangely, for a solo artist, Lynch is forthright about the power of collaboration and his need to be immersed in the influence of others to do his best work.
“I've really been sitting down with other musicians and working on ideas, but not necessarily as Bantum. But Bantum's on my mind as well, I've got some directions I’m thinking about, but I'm gonna look at that over the next year or two.”
“I'm definitely happier in that mode.” Says Lynch when we ask him if he sees himself as a collaborating musician, more than a solo musician these days. “I'm getting older now and the energy moves into different places. Since I’ve been a kid I've been in bands, sitting there writing tunes.”
One of Lynch’s favourite collaborators is neo-soul front runner Loah, who appeared on Bantum’s debut album on the track Take It.
“I’ve spent the last year working on a track for Loah. I'm really excited about that. I've been working with Joe Furlong (Bassist to James Vincent McMorrow and others). Joe, Loah and myself have been working on this track and a couple more ideas that will hopefully work for her as well.”
“Her next single will be the track that I've worked on with her. It won't be a Bantum track,” he says definitively. “It really does feel like a Loah track to me. We talked it through and I'm really excited about it.”
“I can't say much really, you can call it the new Loah project,” says Lynch when we push him for more details.
“Loah and I really agree on loads of music, the influences we talked about when working on it were: Kaytranada, NAO, Jungle. We really honed in on those kinds of sounds neo-soul, funk, hip hop. Kendrick Lemar as well with the ‘Damn.’ album. Even with Joe coming in, I think James Vincent McMorrow is an influence. Joe took his elements to the track in terms of arrangement and keys and stuff like that. We're excited it'll be a radio track."
Apart from the top secret radio-ready banger that Lynch has been constructing with Loah, he’s also been working on a remix for her.
“Hopefully God Knows from the Rusangano Family will be involved in that one. He's gonna put a couple of rhymes on top of it.”
Lynch has also been working on a track with CC Brez and Jess Kav from BARQ and helping out Niall Jackson from Bouts/Swimmers Jackson on the mixing front, but one other project in particular has him invigorated.
“I'm really excited about working with Mark O'Brien from Enemies. He's got a solo project and it's really cool. It's not post rock, it's more a hip hop, Beck vibe. He sings and plays guitar and brings in cool hip hop beats. I've helped him out with mixing and producing that."
Lynch informs us that O’Brien’s project is as yet untitled “…but he's gonna be putting a band together and getting those tracks out soon.”
Another aspect of Lynch’s desire to collaborate with other musicians is his innate need to understand the construction of musical compositions.
“I've actually been doing a couple of songwriting workshops, that I wouldn't normally do just to challenge myself musically.” He informs us in an almost confessional manner, as if he’s let a dirty secret out. “Basically you're working to briefs, so it could be anything from pop to baroque, stuff I wouldn't usually do.”
This also extends to Lynch listening to music that his peers wouldn’t consider relevant, just to see if he can figure out the mechanics of it. “I'm listening to Justin Bieber tracks trying to figure out the arrangement and how they do it. I'd listen to that and I'd listen to Jon Hopkins, it's all interesting to me.
"That Justin Bieber song Where Are You Now? that's a banger” he says with no shame of losing cool points. “I'm loving Janelle Monae's new track she's an incredible artist, Mix and Fairbanks' new track."
"I'm liking what I'm hearing with MayKay and Le Galaxie. I like to keep it fresh, I was listening to ‘Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ by The Smashing Pumpkins on the Luas earlier because they've been in the news recently. It's still one of my favourites. I'm all over the shop, but in a good way” he says laughing.
And who would Lynch like to collaborate with himself given free reign?
“I'd love to sit in with Kaytranada and see how he makes his beats, I'd love to sit in with Jon Hopkins and see his studio setup. In terms of singers Nao and SZA, she’s fucking incredible.
"Solange as well; Sunday at Longitude is right up my street. I think the line-up is incredible, I went there a couple of years ago and saw Action Bronson and Tyler, The Creator and just loved it.”
What can we expect from Bantum’s gig at the RHA? “It's gonna be a clubs vibe, really funky. I'm bringing in some new tracks and a lot of remixes that have been coming out from ‘Move’ and a whopper light show from Le Tissier.”
Surprisingly for Ireland’s number one collaborator there will be no special guests. “I'm gonna keep it simple, I think the set is strong as it is without vocalists. We're gonna keep the flow moving.”
After the RHA gig you’ll be able to catch Bantum at one of Ireland’s new festivals It Takes A Village in Trabolgan, in Cork. “The last time I was there I was five years old so that's going to be fun.”
Bantum's Hennessy Lost Friday at The RHA on Friday 2 March has been postponed since we published this piece.