Dublin duo Hvmmingbyrd only started out in 2016, yet their steep learning curve, delicate harmonies and intensely moving sound has quickly established them as a real Irish act to watch.
Deborah Byrne and Suzette Das’s music has featured on TV shows Made In Chelsea and Striking Out, as well as on H&M’s playlist, despite their having released less than half a dozen tracks to date. With the duo working as a self-producing DIY act and proud perfectionists, an average track takes hour upon hour of studio time to construct.
“I’ve learnt not to put anything out until we’re completely happy with it,” Byrne tells us. “That’s been an important lesson. Papillon, which we put out in March, I still love that. We’re new to production, so it takes time, but it’s important we get it right. We find it very hard to let go of a song.”
Their latest, ‘Prisms’, came in the wake of the Belfast rape trials, and explores the darkness faced up o by many women in 2018, and the slow process of being able to speak out. It’s a subtle track, its lyrics loaded with love for women, but dripping with angry undertones come the chorus, and crammed dense with meaning.
“It started in March. The rape trial really upset us, and we went to the protest,” Byrne explains. “We left really moved, there were a lot of people in tears. There was a lot of anger and sorrow for the woman involved, and a sense that things might change. Pretty much every woman has experienced sexual attacks to some extent.”
“We felt like writing a love song to the women in our lives, something tender. It’s all lovely in the bridge, just hinting at the dark side, before going into full-on darkness at the end. It’s about the idea that sometimes the brightest lights can attract the most darkness if that makes any sense. It’s tender, but there’s anger there, too.”
“I feel like there’s been a shift, particularly in the last year or two,” Byrne adds. “The Me Too movement and the way people talk about sexual violence has really changed things. We feel a bit more empowered, but there’s still a lot of pain about stuff that has been left unsaid for so long. As weird as it sounds, it feels strange to be heard.”
In the musical sense – as well as the gender-respect one – Hvmmingbyrd are finding it increasingly easy to be heard. They can’t quite trace how their music traveled to H&M stores, TV shows and some high-profile Spotify playlists, but Byrne suspects the three are connected, and thinks the signs are promising.
“We’ve talked about an album, maybe next year, maybe the year after,” she says. “We have 45 minutes of material now, ready for this summer’s shows, and that’s taken 6 months to prepare. It’s a bit of a step up. I guess it is an album, length wise, but you need a bit of backing to actually do it.”
“We’ve learnt how to do the electronic stuff from scratch over the last couple of years,” Byrne explains; astonishing, given the quality of the band’s use of their media. “We were looking for a way to make the sounds we wanted to just the two of us. It’s quite a change, but the song writing’s still the core of it.”