BARQ have had a fantastic debut year in 2016, playing festivals across the country, collaborating with fellow Irish artists and releasing standout singles throughout.
The band are absolutely no strangers to the music scene in ireland, having played with many artists over the years, which has helped them gain a lot of talent, skills and knowledge of the industry. It seems to be the four of them together as one have created a little community in itself too.
Stephen (guitar) and Tommy (drums) met while studying Jazz in college. They were working on many different music and corporate events, while also working on a hip-hop covers project Gin & Juice. Stephen had met Neil (bass) beforehand while studying in Ballyfermot and Jess (vocals) through mutual friends.
The foursome worked with different outfits and line-ups before, but it was when they started Gin & Juice they started to develop a sound. They asked Jess to join in on the covers band to rap because she could sing too. She agreed, although she’d never rapped before, and that was the beginning of BARQ.
It was in the early days of their cover band that they realised their arrangements of these songs already sounded like an original band.
Eventually it got to a point where they thought it was almost silly that they sounded like an original band but were still playing covers. One day they collectively decided to just have a go at writing something which would make them a band. Gentle Kind of Lies was one of the first songs they wrote.
We caught up with Tommy Gray, Stephen McHale and Jess Kavanagh, unfortunately minus Neil Dorrington, to chat making their own music, who they’d love to collaborate with and what makes them happy.
They perform at the Jameson Bow Street Session in The Sugar Club on January 26, with Soulé and Booka Brass Band.
How does it feel to be making your own music now after being in many different line ups in the past?
Jess: It’s amazing how terrifying it is actually, because you spend so many years having that 20 feet from stardom thing being a backing vocalist. And being a little bit of a front person when I collaborated with Paulie (Lethal Dialect). But definitely putting our music out there and collaborating creatively, and putting my heart and soul into lyrics and performing that… It’s a whole other level of terrifying, but a whole other level of fulfilment.
Stephen: Yeah I totally agree with Jess, at the start because we had been working on the music in isolation, we wanted to have everything ready to go before we started gigging and before we started approaching anyone or DJs about it.
So we were in a room by ourselves in a bubble writing songs for ages. Then it does occur to you just before you put out a song or do the first gig… What if this isn’t good? What if we’re wrong? What if everyone doesn’t like it. Which was a worry initially but the response was so overwhelming which was so lovely and encouraging.
Who would you love to collaborate with dead or alive?
Stephen: David Bowie
Jess: Georgia Anne Muldrow
Tommy: Flying Lotus
Collaborative: Kendrick Lamar
What makes you happy?
Tommy: Doing what we want to do, it’s not the easiest thing at all, financially and time wise and existentially to write music and to be like is it good. Or to struggle to write music.
It’s tough, I mean at the age we’re at, people are getting married and going on holiday… Buying another new car, all of that stuff. But that isn’t for us. And in a way if you don’t think about it clearly, that stuff can make you feel like, what am I doing? I’ve bags under my eyes and you’re getting home at 6am sometimes and then you get up at 10am and then you have another full day of working. And we’re doing all sorts of things in music to support ourselves financially and trying to grow BARQ at the same time.
It’s only when you stop to get some clarity and you think… This is exactly what I want, and finding your way through all of that is what makes me happy.
Stephen: I guess kind of what Tommy said there with getting a song out, you feel a bit weird or a bit tense and then you have this burst of a love of songs when you’ve finished it’s a massive relief.
So that’s what feels good, getting songs done and released. And then normal stuff like hiking. Which Tommy and I have done a lot of together. Doing stuff like that is great because you come back to normal life and you’re relaxed after not playing music or on the laptop. And you just feel relieved after talking about loads of shite that is going on in the world. You get a release physically and mentally.
Jess: I’m not as much of a ‘dooer’ releaser like these guys, like I don’t need to do things, I’m happy to just sit there and saying ‘all of these things are wrong… Give me wine’.
I think it’s massive privilege in being able to stop. There are so many people in the world that are working things like 50 hours a week just to get by so we’re so lucky that we get to wake up at sometimes 10am and be like… I’m going to have a cup of coffee and just look out the window and have a think about the day.
And then sit down and do creative stuff. I have that ability to do that. For anyone that is working 9-5 and works crazy shifts like chefs. So just to have that privilege to stop and think and to evaluate and to be thankful and to have all those emotions and to have the time to process them is a really amazing thing.
And we’re seeing it in Ireland, a lot of people there that are taking the leap to do what they want to do, and it’s causing this social change. People are starting to care about these things and get involved in talks and protests which is really nice to be apart of in Dublin and having the opportunity to sit back and watch it. And then also be involved.
BARQ play the Jameson presents Bow St. Sessions with Booka Brass and Soulé in The Sugar Club, January 26th. Tickets are free, to get your’s click here.