They’re new to the Irish music scene, but there’s a substantial story behind SYLK. Having met and dreamed of forming a band as teenagers, they take their inspiration from the mood of 80s synth acts and dingy post-punk, and focus heavily on their atmospheric live show.
The result is a distinct mood, one that fits with smoky backrooms, shoe-gazing slow dances and textured energy. They’re also a distinct part of what they view as an increasingly boisterous queer scene, and in the process of bedding in some great collaborations.
I spoke to the duo in the build-up to festival season, to check out what they’re all about…
You call your music Darkwave, which I understand is a type of underground electronica. Tell us about it…
Yes it is. And we want our music to take you underground, to somewhere dark yet somewhere vivid and energetic. Our tone is inspired by the underground darkwave culture of the 1980s, with the beginning of bands like Depeche Mode & Joy Division. When we listen & learn about past movements in music, like dark-wave, which stood out to us as it has such a mix – new wave, synth-pop, post-punk & gothic rock, we wanted to let the past inspire us while creating something new with it too.
Our sound is inspired by popular culture, we use a lot of synthesizers in our songs, experimenting with them by putting them sounds through loads of different guitar pedals, usually with a lot of distortion! We also record a lot with an electric baritone guitar to create ambient textures and then a lot of vocal manipulations too – something that we really explore after being mind blown by music concrete of the 1940s. We have a love for heavy bass lines and massive minor textures and we think this comes through in a lot of the music we create right now.
I haven’t seen you live show yet but I’m told it’s quite a trippy, spaced-out experience. Is that what you’re going for?
Yeah it is! We aspire for our live shows to be an immersive experience – we want to connect with people and in that time let them forget about everything and get lost in the music, to feel the unknown, an adrenaline buzz, to feel excitement. Our live show is the most important thing for us, we love how it feels to see an artist/band we admire and we wanna create that for our show. When we write our songs, we craft them around our live vision.
Tell me about ‘All In Ur Head’, and working with Daragh Locke…Are there more collaborations coming down the line?
We met Daragh last year when Bebhinn (producer/instrumentalist) was getting tattoo’d by him, it was a pretty long tattoo, so it took maybe 4 hours and over that time they realized quickly that they both had a passion for music, they both got excited talking about music and playing each other tracks they’d been working on, when Bebhinn played Daragh All In Ur Head he said right away he felt he had something for this, we were playing Electric Picnic Festival a day or two later so the band (Bebhinn, Taylor – Vocal/Songwriter, Fiach – Visuals) were all staying together that night to practice, when we got back after the tattoo we sent Daragh the track, we thought he might get back in a few weeks but when we woke up the next day we had a message from Daragh from like 4am with the whole verse recorded and done, it made the track for us, we couldn’t believe it. Daragh has so much to express and it comes to naturally to him, he’s such a lovely guy and we have jammed a lot since and felt a lot of feels hearing the things he writes, its really cool to meet somebody through music and then become proper friends with them.
We also have a few other collaborations coming soon that we are super excited about. We have been working with artists that are close to us and inspire us. We have songs recorded with Tanjier and Alex Smyth – we met both of these guys through supporting them at shows, they are unbelievable and we have been friends with them ever since the first shows we’ve done with them, they have been so supportive of us so we feel so lucky that we finally created some music with them, the two of us (Bebhinn / Taylor) fight over who is their bigger fans.
We have a few other collaborations down the line to come as well, it’s been a great learning experience to write with other people and it’s the most fun because you get to hang out with your friends and create something together. We (SYLK) have been best friends for years, we actually met at a concert when we were 16 and to make music was our dream back then and it’s what brought us so close as friends. When we think back to then it feels surreal to be in this band together now and see how that dream has come through for us.
I understand you make a lot of your music tucked away in bedrooms, recording and adapting things as you go along. How do you find the DIY thing? Any plans to step away from it and head for studios?
We love the DIY way, I think because it’s how we began as SYLK it’s a way of creating that’s close to our hearts now.
We have recorded a little in studios and there really is nothing like the vibe of being in a studio where artists have created something special in that same room. Bebhinn studied a masters in audio production in London and then moved back to Dublin to work in a recording studio for a while around the time SYLK began, so our first ever session was actually in that studio, but I think for SYLK we really hit on our sound when it was in our DIY set up.
For us working in our bedroom in the dark with our neon lights lit is where we love to express our creativity. Our ideas for songs usually come with some sort of visual idea and I think this DIY atmosphere works so well for us to trigger these things, the recording sessions feel like an experience in itself. Usually, we record as we go and there can be a lot of ‘lets just hit record & see what happens’ for Taylor, this is with lyrics, harmonies, melodies and sometimes those bits end up being the best parts of a song. We definitely will record more in studios in the future though, especially with vocals since we don’t have the best vocal mic or interface and the vocal stand barely works! So it would be cool to record somewhere that had great mics to try out, lots of analogue synths and nice guitar amps. We actually recorded our track ‘Liquid’ with the vocal mic in a little box held up by two bottles of water. We love a professional sound and we are always trying to strive to produce a better track but at the same time we also like not being in anyway technical and just letting the music making you feel a certain way drive it.
How do you go about playing with those vocals live?
In the past, we’ve had a vocal processor and we have also have run vocals it through plugins in Ableton. We want to explore new ways of doing vocals for future shows, since in our sound is very electronic and in our recorded music there is usually a clean vocal, but then lots of manipulated vocal layers it would be cool to do something more experimental with this, but right now usually it is a lot of reverb and delays in parts, we have been lucky with really great sound engineers who have been amazing at sensing the music and automating the reverbs and delays live as it goes. Bebhinn also has lots of the more unusual/manipulated vocal samples for each track cut up and loaded into the sampler and triggers these live as Taylor sings.
What parts of your personalities do this band enable you both to put out there?
We are both pretty shy around new people, performing on stage brings out our inner confidence. We are able to create music that is inspired by what we feel or don’t feel (from full to empty!) and to have this expressive art-form right at our fingertips is something that we are blessed to be able to do. Our music is a collection of different parts of our personality. We like playing around with creating beats and making songs out of fun ideas. Like our song ‘u’ for example, that song takes on an altered persona, which is very opposite to our own true personalities but we love that song and its so fun to perform that song because its as if we are playing a role on stage to be these alter egos. Then we have songs that are coming from the deepest parts of us, which is scary to put out into the world but it feels good to share this. Something we always bring it back to is making music that we would just love to hear, even though it’s a really simple concept it can be easy to forget this. When we are at a party or out with our friends we think about how everyone is feeling and we want to try to have people feel like that when they listen to our music. We are our truest selves when we are on stage.
How have you found the process of trying to break into the Irish music scene?
There is a very warm and welcoming Irish music scene and we have been so lucky to meet some of our best friends from it. We have also found some of our new favourite bands from being within the scene too. We were lucky to get lots of gigs when we started out and there is a lot of opportunities here for people who put themselves out there. I don’t think we had a clue how to go about it when we began, and we probably still don’t but we are so excited to keep making music, playing new shows, new venues and making new friends! For us, we want to keep expanding where we play so that we can meet new people, play more gigs with cool bands, get inspired and let our music reach more people. We are so proud to be a part of the Irish music scene!
When you messaged me, you described yourselves as “a darkwave electro-pop female queer duo,” which is pretty damn descriptive! It is noticeable to me how since the marriage referendum, Irish people seem much more comfortable owning the ‘queer’ label (great!), and I’ve loved seeing the rise of acts like Pillow Queens in particular. Do you think there’s still a ‘normalisation’ (horrible way of putting it, but I can’t think of a better one!) factor to putting yourselves out there labeled in such a way? Have things changed in the last few years?
Haha, it is a pretty long line of words to describe a band! We looove the Pillow Queens! They are brilliant. That is true, it is amazing to see how each year there is more kindness, more acceptance and more support for the LGBTQ+ community. We are so proud to be around for a time of change and awareness. I know it’s not like this everywhere and it’s truly heartbreaking how different it is in other parts of the world for the LGBTQ+ community.
We describe our music as queer because want to help, we want to support a community we are a part of, we want to help in absolutely any way we can, we want to be open, it’s personal to who we are and we want to reflect who we are using the platform we have as a band, in hope that others can also feel brave and ok to be proud of exactly who they are. It’s not always easy and unfortunately it can be an ongoing-struggle to accept who you are, for us we turned to music, so to now see so many wonderful artists now being comfortable in owning the queer label it is genuinely so heart warming. Sakima is another artist we really admire who has a massive LGBTQ+ narrative in his work.
I’m sure you get some interesting musical comparisons – I noticed Nialler went for Massive Attack, which is a huge compliment to any emerging band. Who would you like to be compared to?
Yes, that was a pretty surreal compliment! I remember that moment so well when Niall posted that article, it was our first rehearsal and we were practising away in our sitting room for our first show, Fiach had brought all these lights and a light desk (something we laugh about now because we did not expect from our very first practice to have Fiach show up with this type of vision with lights and I think this really made a crucial element of SYLK) , we were practising ‘Am I Alone’, Taylor singing ‘lose my mind, lose my mind’ on repeat while Fiach triggered the strobe each time and Bebhinn triggered the kick drum & an octave lower layer of Taylors voice. And then we get the notification of that article, all three of us started jumping around the room, it was so exciting, we didn’t expect it and it is amazing to have his support from then, he has been brilliant to us since the very beginning. But hmmm that is a hard a question!…
I feel like when it comes to comparisons, we definitely think it would be such a compliment to be compared to any artists that we admire. There are so many of them, but even just their journey is inspiring and to be compared to how hard they work and the reasons why they want to connect with people through their music would be cool. Since we met at a gig and have such a love for live experiences and live music being compared to someone based on our live show would be nice, maybe more so than comparing us musically. For example, we adore the live energy and live productions of people like The 1975, Crystal Castles, Charli XCX, Banks. Lady Gaga. to name a few! Our music wouldn’t really be too similar but visually and atmospherically, their live shows are ones that have stood out to us in the past.
Let’s imagine for a moment that there was a SYLK ‘manifesto’. What would it say?
Know your POWER, Exude Confidence & Feel Human Connection.
Are there any topics you’d really love to cover in your music?
Usually, we write music from the sounds we’ve created rather than lyrics or topics, a lot of tracks actually start off on the piano, which we then craft, experiment and change drastically in Logic. It would be cool to explore making more music with topics in mind first. Would love to explore some films really in-depth and then write music based on how those films make you feel and exploring the topics that the films may be portraying. Would be really nice to make more music about being yourself, loving yourself and having inner confidence, maybe in abstract ways of trying to express this feeling through the sound rather than through the words.
I’m sure you know there’s a vodka called SYLK, from Canada (they even capitalise it!). Any relation/ great love?
Hahaha no relation at all, but wouldn’t say no to a free bottle!
What are the plans for the rest of this year? Can we expect a few more singles? Is your summer looking busy?
We’re hoping to release some more new music this summer. We have 6 new songs recorded that we want to release so we just need to add the finishing touches to those and choose which songs we would like to focus on first. We have some gigs lined up that we are excited about and we’re also busy preparing for the Beatvyne Music x Tech conference in October in the RDS which we extremely happy to be involved in. We also would like to plan some gigs for next year in the UK – we have never gigged in the UK before and it is something that we have wanted to do for so long so we are going to focus on this!
Keep up to date with SYLK here.