The Livelong Day

The Livelong Day

On an exquisite, portentous set that challenges folk’s past and present, Lankum found fresh confidence. “We mean what we say and we mean what we’re doing,” Daragh Lynch tells Apple Music. “On the first two albums, we would have the songs pretty much fully arranged before we went into the studio. This time, we were confident enough that we could go in and experiment. It’s a lot of work we put in, and at times we worried it wasn’t worth it. But now it all feels worthwhile.” That work is evident in the results: The Dublin four-piece has reimagined traditional standards as sinister, winding epics, and the band’s own compositions thrum with instrumentational invention. Here, Lynch and Cormac MacDiarmada take you through The Livelong Day track by track. The Wild Rover Daragh Lynch: “We decided to tackle the song after hearing a version by Dónal Maguire, a folk singer from Drogheda in Ireland. Of course, we’d heard hundreds of versions over the years—from The Dubliners to The Pogues—as it’s such a popular Irish drinking song. But we wanted our version to make it really obvious that we’re singing about someone who is destroying their life for alcohol. Ian [Lynch, Daragh’s brother and bandmate] did a lot of research into the song and discovered its origins: It started life as an English anti-drinking song but somehow ended up almost the polar opposite. We spent a long time chipping away at it until it made sense sonically. We’ve been trying to push that traditional Irish drone sound since the first album, but working with John ‘Spud’ Murphy [the album’s producer] allowed us to push it to the extent we would like to.” The Young People DL: “The chorus popped into my head as I was waking up one morning. I was in a semi-dream state, still in the middle of waking up. It felt like it should have about a hundred people singing, with a Scottish feel to it. Similar to those old songs with a lot of people singing, ‘Go, lassie, go.’ Thematically, the verses are very dark but the chorus also gives it that lift. We then sat down, the four of us, and came up with the instrumental section in the middle. The final crescendo where we just repeat the chords and build instruments on top was a lot of fun in the studio. I remember Spud bringing in some hand bells which Radie [Peat, bandmate] had a great time playing.” Ode to Lullaby Cormac MacDiarmada: “It started off with Radie just playing some chords on the harmonium that really reminded us of a track off the first album that Daragh came up with, ‘Lullaby.’ We started building little pieces from there. We would throw around a lot of atmospherics at it, and then Spud would make sense of it.” DL: “This is definitely one of the ones where we experimented most on the album. We threw the kitchen sink at it and then built it up in the mixing stage. That shimmery, ghostly sound you hear is Cormac playing the vibraphone with a cello bow.” Bear Creek CM: “I’d heard this off Ron Kane, an American fiddler who spends a good bit of time in Ireland, and we came up with our arrangement.” DL: “We did a lot of rehearsing in Liberty Hall. It’s a legendary Dublin building through its attachment to the Easter Rising in 1916 and the workers’ rights movement. The most difficult part was trying to figure out how to slow from the first old-time American tune into the next and give it a really nice build for when the second tune hits.” CM: “It’s such a hypnotic style of music. It’s literally condensing the hypnosis into a few bars, repeatedly.” Katie Cruel DL:” This was originally arranged in around 2015 for a TV pilot about a post-apocalyptic Ireland. We were asked to arrange a lot of music with a really amazing DJ and producer duo from Limerick called Deviant & Naive Ted. Sadly, the show never got made, but this was one of the pieces we had, which is why it really does sound apocalyptic. There’s a barren wasteland kind of sound to it. And Radie’s vocals are just brilliant here. She’s not a very tall woman, but she has one of the loudest voices I’ve heard in my life. Spud would put three or four microphones in front of her mouth just to get as big and wide a sound out of it as possible.” The Dark Eyed Gypsy DL: “This is one of a couple of tunes we have where I at least try and play the guitar as gently as possible so that when Radie comes in with the bayan—which is a Russian accordion—you nearly get a cello sound from the blending of the reed and the strings.” The Pride of Petravore DL: “It totally started life as a joke where Ian taped two tin whistles together so he was getting this drone sound out of them.” CM: “I basically retuned my viola to where the bottom string became a grumble. All tone was gone, so all you’re getting is texting and rattle. I started just doing a rhythm and eventually Ian began playing over it. It felt like a palate cleanser after the ridiculous amount of recordings of the old-time tunes that we had laid down. It was just instant: We were really excited and started throwing stuff at it. But it definitely did start life as a total joke.” DL: “We were just really taking the piss out of a standard traditional tune that you hear everywhere. Radie was playing this out-of-tune, wonky honky-tonk piano in the control room, then we’d add accordion on it, then some trombones sounding like elephants. It’s still a bit sinister, though.” CM: “We always imagined it marching orcs out to war.” Hunting the Wren DL: “A few years ago Ian was asked to play at a concert at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin by a woman called Lisa O’Neill [Irish folk musician]. One of the stipulations was that he had to play a couple of original pieces of music—but it was only three weeks away. They turned it into a challenge where they set each other topics to write a song around. Ian told Lisa to write about Violet Gibson, who was an Irish woman who went to Italy to assassinate Mussolini [the result, ‘Violet Gibson,’ appears on her 2018 album, Heard a Long Gone Song]. Lisa challenged Ian to write about these women who lived communally in makeshift huts and shelters on the Curragh of Kildare over a century ago. They were accused of being prostitutes and alcoholics and were apparently despised by the local community and treated horrifically. But they all looked after each other’s kids as if they were their own. There was a lot of help from Spud to completely deconstruct the arrangement, and we put in all this mad percussion. We were shaking buckets of rocks, we were banging gas canisters with hammers, brushing off some giant cheese-grater-looking thing.”

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