Wyvern Lingo at The Button Factory, 23rd February 2018
Wyvern Lingo are a band that have been at the epicentre of the Irish music scene for several years. The Bray natives, Karen Cowley (keys/vocals), Saoirse Duane (guitar/vocals) and Caoimhe Barry (drums/vocals), formed the band when they were only 15-years old and have been crafting their sound ever since.
Their self-titled album ‘Wyvern Lingo’, which they admit is “long overdue”, is one of the most highly anticipated Irish albums this year.
Shortly after 9pm, the lights dim and the trio walk onto the stage to a cacophony of applause from adoring fans. One of Wyvern Lingo’s most appealing factors is their understated style; each of them are dressed casually in t-shirts and trousers (practical attire for a long show), topped off by their signature hoop earrings.
Without further ado, they launch into the album’s first track Out Of My Hands lead by Karen. The song is just one example of the wide range of subject matter that Wyvern Lingo tackle on the album; Out Of My Hands is a politically charged anthem about Karen’s confrontation with an apathetic man that she met after a homeless demonstration.
Karen is actively involved with activism that campaigns for refugees in Ireland and has made several trips abroad to volunteer at refugee camps. The song gradually merges into Maybe It’s My Nature, also lead by Karen on vocals.
It’s evident, from the way in which the band communicate with each-other on stage, that they have been playing together for years. They seem to be so in tune with one another that they’re capable of predicting each-others’ next move without a side-wards glance.
For a friendship, let alone band, to stand the test of time the way that theirs has is an impressive feat. This contributes to their performance in that they are a relaxing presence on stage; when Caoimhe experiences technical problems with her kick pedal, Karen distracts the audience with ease while the crew solve the issue.
Visually, the whole show is a spectacle to behold; an impressive light show accentuates the highs and lows of each song while the back wall displays a variation of visuals, all created by Caoimhe. These visuals consist of floating geometrical shapes, colourful paint strokes and bright red embers swaying gently to the beat.
The screen also serves a narrative purpose; before they perform Beast At The Door, Caoimhe treats the audience to a short video that she was shown in primary school (which she describes as “terrifying”) that inspired the song. The animated clip follows the tale of a beast disguised as a woman who tricks a family into visiting her so that she can gobble them up.
In contrast to the predominantly uptempo songs that dominate the set, Tell Him is a gentle ballad about a romance destined for failure. Rather than share the lines, in most songs either Karen, Caoimhe or Saoirse take the lead vocal while the others add harmonies and backing vocals. It’s always a danger with several singers in a group that one will over power the others, however, the girls are sympathetic to each-other’s vocal space throughout the show.
As the set progresses, the eclectic mix of genres that it covers grows and grows; the songs span pop, rock, indie and folk – When I Can (Rubbish) even has a reggae feel to it. Letter To Willow and Running prove to be two of the most popular songs of the night, with the audience singing along to most of the lyrics. Used, the first track of the encore, is also a high point of the set with only a haunting drone as accompaniment for most of the track, which leaves room for the girls’ intricate vocal melodies.
The lead single from the album I Love You, Sadie marks a triumphant close to the night against the backdrop of a gorgeous blend of pigmented colours. It’s easy to hear why it was nominated for the Choice Music Prize Song of the Year; its a delicious blend of 90s R&B, soul and infectious drum beat, renders it impossible not to dance to.
Wyvern Lingo’s album launch affirmed that they are indeed one of the freshest talents that we have at the moment. With a stunning debut album (an early contender for album of the year) as lyrically profound as it is musically intricate, they are a great source of pride for Ireland.