Lankum's Radie Peat on new album The Livelong Day and Irish launch shows
Award-winning progressive trad quartet Lankum are gearing up for a run of Irish dates celebrating the imminent release of their third album, The Livelong Day. David Roy quizzed singer/accordionist Radie Peat about making the record and the Dublin band's remarkable run of recent success
HI RADIE, are you looking forward to the upcoming album launch shows and have the band played much of the record live before?
We have, but only in the last few weeks. We went over to the World Music Festival in Chicago and aired some it there just to kind of get used to it in a live setting and we've also been rehearsing a lot too.
We're really excited about playing it for Irish audiences, because we haven't played any of it here yet.
Also, we have Junior Brother supporting us for all the Irish dates. We think he [Ronan Kealy] is great – Ian [Lynch, Lankum vocals/uillean pipes/tin whistle] played us Hungover at Mass in the van a couple of years ago and we were all like, "What the – what is this?!"
I was really happy to see him nominated for a couple of RTÉ Folk Awards [Radie won best folk singer and Lankum won best folk act at last year's event] there, because he's very hard working and he's also trying to do something new – which is really hard in music.
How happy are you with The Livelong Day compared to 2013's debut Cold Old Fire and 2017's Rough Trade debut Between the Earth and Sky?
The first time you make an album, you don't even know what you sound like, really – it's a whole new experience. Then, the second time, you're kind of still evolving. The more you do it, the more you get kind of a shorthand going just because you're so used to playing with each other.
We're all really happy with The Livelong Day because we had a very clear and united vision of what we wanted from the get-go. Also, our live sound man, John 'Spud' Murphy, was on board from the very start. He recorded and mixed it – everything sounds the way we imagined it might sound and that's down to him being so excellent at his job.
Spud knows us and knows what we want and also has great taste himself. He's produced and recorded some of my favourite Irish albums of the last 10 years. So it all kind of came together for us.
What was the writing process like?
As usual, we brought everything to the table, be it partially written or fully written new songs, and obviously the traditional songs are a big part of our albums as well.
Anything that gets a finished or partially finished arrangement gets recorded. We usually bring far too much music to the table, so then we start selecting – because it's not just a collection of songs, you're hoping that it will work as a full album.
The Livelong Day opens with your sombre 10 minute long reworking of The Wild Rover. What can you tell us about the way you approached this classic trad tune?
That was one of the ones we all got very excited about, and Spud as well. We got the lyrics and melody for it from Louth-born singer Dónal Maguire's version, and he got it off another Louth singer, Pat Usher.
It's a very interesting thing when there's a song you've heard for your whole life and not thought much about, then one day you hear another version and get an emotional response from it for the first time ever.
The first time I heard [Dónal's version], it suddenly seemed real, like it was actually someone's sad story rather than just something made-up for a bit of fun.
So we had that in mind, to try and let people hear what we heard when we listened to it for the first time – it's familiar and yet totally unfamiliar at the same time. You tilt it on its head a bit and kind of go, "Oh, OK, it's actually about this".
The arrangement is a lot of fun to play because it's all about building up the tension – and it's so much fun to do the release at the end then, because the audience might not know it's coming – but we do! It's definitely fun to play live.
The album also includes a couple of really strong original songs in the climactic Hunting The Wren and recent single The Young People. What can you tell us about the latter track which deals with the topical issues of mental health and suicide?
Daragh [Lynch, vocals/guitar] actually dreamt the chorus of that one –"when the young people dance they do not dance forever/ it is written in sand with the softest of feathers". He literally woke up and recorded it straight into his phone – the recording of him is really funny because he was really still asleep. He actually thought it might have been from another song.
It wasn't though, so then he came to us with the verses [about the aftermath of someone's suicide]. It was funny, I hadn't heard the chorus as being about that, but when you put it with the verses it made a lot of sense. They seemed to contrast and gel at the same time.
I think it's a good song and I hope that people feel that it's sensitive as well, because unfortunately I think it's something a lot of people will have personal experience with.
Daragh would say that it's more about appreciating your friends and the people you care about while they are around, because you never know how long people are going to be around. No-one knows what's going to happen tomorrow.
The past couple of years have seen Lankum enjoying considerable success. Have you been enjoying it?
I always say it's like a weird train that we accidentally got on. We didn't really know what we were getting into when we made our first album, none of us could have predicted what happened – but it certainly keeps life interesting.
It's really hard to be a band and make albums and try to get a living out of it, so we've been very lucky in terms of the exposure we've gotten. I mean, our first ever television thing was Jools Holland – we'd never done telly before, so that was a real baptism in fire.
In the early days we felt a bit like we were playing catch-up, because I don't think we felt ready. Then, it was a case of "better learn fast!", whereas these days we've been working hard at it for seven or eight years. You just kinda figure out how to do it all, y'know?
Playing the gigs never feels like work because we all really love music – the thing that makes it feel like work is the travel, which unfortunately is just part of the job. That was all a bit new, as was learning to do things like interviews!
But once you sit down on stage and you have your instrument in your hand and you're making the music, that's when everything makes sense.
:: Lankum, tonight, Dolan's Limerick / October 19, Roisin Dubh, Galway (sold out) / October 24, The Empire Belfast / October 25, Dublin Vicar Street (sold out). Tickets via Lankumdublin.com. The Livelong Day is out on October 25, pre-order at Roughtrade.com