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General News / August 14, 2020

Lankum discuss ‘A National Disgrace’ and the future of Irish music

General News / August 14, 2020

Lankum discuss ‘A National Disgrace’ and the future of Irish music

Ahead of their innovative new theatrical performance ‘A National Disgrace’ in The Abbey Theatre, Katie Gartland sat down with RTÉ Choice Prize winners Lankum for a chat about their immersive new show and what the future of Irish music looks like.

Since lockdown, we’ve all been hungry for a night out with live music, so who can say no to a “bizarre psychedelic version of going to a gig”. Lankum – Radie Peat, brothers Darragh and Ian Lynch and Cormac Mac Diarmada, along with undisclosed guests, have been working on a new form of a live-streamed concert. The band will be joined by a range of undisclosed guests throughout the night. ‘A National Disgrace’ will take place tomorrow night from the Abbey Theatre.

On Tuesday afternoon, Radie Peat and Darragh Lynch joined us to speak about their upcoming gig. Slightly pink in the cheeks from climbing the six flights of stairs up to the District Offices (as I am every morning), we chatted around a table in a small side room. A window with a view overlooking the quays and the Liffey sat behind Radie.

We began by discussing Saturday’s Abbey Theatre gig, ‘A National Disgrace’ which will be live-streamed to viewers. Radie explained that Lankum is taking advantage of the medium by creating an immersive experience for the viewer at home. The band were able to “explore new possibilities” that aren’t usually available at a live gig. Saturday’s gig will begin in the taxi ride to the Abbey, driven by Darragh and Ian’s taxi driver Dad. Radie has urged viewers to plug their laptops into speakers in order to get the full experience of the concert. Though the band will be playing to an empty theatre, they say that vacant seats “will suit the selection of music we’ve put together for it. I think it will be a bit eery and a bit spooky”, said Radie.

‘A National Disgrace’ took its name from the evening of the 11th of February 1926 in the Abbey. After the showing of Sean O’Casey’s A Plough in the Stars, the audience were outraged and began to riot. Yeats took to the stage to diffuse the chaos, screaming “you have disgraced yourselves yet again!”. Darragh said that the turmoil and history of the Abbey partly inspired of Saturday’s gig. He said that before O’Casey’s play was shown, a board member of the theatre was worried about losing their government subsidies due to the prostitution and bad language in the play. Lady Gregory replied, “given the choice between the subsidy and our freedom, I choose freedom”.

One of Lankum’s last stints before lockdown was their NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Darragh described the band’s chaotic journey to NPR’s Washington D.C. offices as the “maddest two weeks” of his life. From late visas, to broken down vans to cancelled flights with an RTÉ Choice Music Award thrown into the mix alongside the threat of the oncoming global pandemic- Darragh’s depiction of their journey as the “first half an hour of a horror film” was very believable.

Thankfully, the band arrived home to Dublin safe and sound. Since lockdown, Lankum have only performed once together during the Other Voices ‘Courage’ series. “It was so strange to just do our job again… It felt incredibly good to play music together.” Radie admitted that she “was starting to get a bit starved” because she could only play music on her own during lockdown. Unlike Darragh, who thoroughly enjoyed the peace and quiet of the last few months, Radie seemed to be slightly restless. Laughing, she said that she usually has a “prevailing sense of doom” and that COVID has confirmed her fears.

Since Lankum’s first album, ‘Cold Old Fire’, which was released in 2013, the band have been a key part old Ireland’s music scene. I asked them how they thought the future of the scene would look. Radie said how flawed the music scene is for musicians worldwide; “It’s very hard to make a living even before all this from music.” She mentioned how angry she was after seeing a statement from Spotify CEO Daniel Ek recently. Ek said that musicians can’t release music “once every three to four years” anymore.

Most musicians make the bulk of their money from touring, which they can’t do now. However, their music is still being consumed.

“Music and art is helping people through this and people need to think about how are they going to pay the people who make that stuff… I’d love it if there was this massive overhaul and people got paid for their work.”

Lankum are at the forefront of Irish music. They’re carving the way for a new wave of young Irish musicians and exploring an alternative path of performance in a different world. We’re thoroughly looking forward to experiencing their live stream tomorrow night.

Grab your tickets here.

Photo: Ellius Grace