Dublin duo Elkin told David Hennessy that while their career was only starting to blossom before Covid- 19, they took the time to find out who they are as an act.
Dublin-based female duo Elkin combine thought-provoking folk lyrics with alt-pop production.
Made up of Ellen O’Mahoney and Carla Ryan, the genesis of the band can be traced back to secondary school in Dunboyne when they bonded over music as 15 year olds.
The duo launched themselves in 2019 with singles like Green Eyes, Cut My Tongue and DIY, as well as releasing Fall So Easy, a collaboration with Cork producer 1000 Beasts.
With the Covid-19 pandemic putting a halt to their plans of performing live for the last year, the duo spent the the time writing and recording a collection of singles, ANTHOLOGY.
Their latest single Tokens celebrates memories from their early 20s as they wanted to capture the nostalgia felt when a song reminds you of somebody in particular.
Of course, it was written during lockdown when everyone was missing someone.
Carla says: “Even when you hear an opening to a song that maybe a boyfriend or girlfriend or a loved one sent you: The minute you hear that song, you get transported back to that time, so that’s what we tried to capture.
“Maybe this song will be that for other people.
“When we were in lockdown, I was living my parents, El was in the apartment.
“So we would spend pretty much every day on FaceTime to each other writing songs.
“And then when we weren’t writing with each other on FaceTime, we were writing separately ourselves and then we would bring that to the next session.
“And it kind of came from talking about our nights out and memories that we have.”
Ellen adds: “It’s just that weird nostalgia, where you still have the music.
“We wanted to try capture that in in this single and have something a bit dreamy and summery.”
Their previous single Clothes was more hard-hitting.
With a chorus that included the lines, ‘To want attention, to want to flirt,
‘That doesn’t mean she wants your hand up her skirt’, Clothes addressed the unwanted sexual assaults and treatment young women have to put up with.
Ellen says: “You do reach that point where you’re having conversations with your friends like, ‘I remember I was out one night, and this just random guy did…’ whatever.
“And if you’re talking about that all the time, why wouldn’t it make its way into your music naturally?
“It’s something we’re passionate about. And something that needs to be spoken about.”
Carla says that although they haven’t got many opportunities to play the song live, she has seen it resonate.
“You can see people listening to the lyrics, which is really important to us. We spent so long trying to get them perfect.
“When you see people really listening to them, and then also vibing to the music, that’s great.
“I think people get it.”
While they say they are not in a good place to judge if they have been on the wrong side of gender bias in the Irish music business, they say they are glad to have each other for support in certain situations.
Ellen says: “We say that we’re quite lucky that there’s the two of us going into situations all the time, because no one’s gonna really put you down or try gaslight you because we’re both able to see what’s going on and stand up for each other.”
The girls have recently played the Louth festival Vantastival and their sold out show at Dublin’s Button Factory which had to rearranged numerous times.
Speaking before those gigs, Carla says, “We haven’t gigged in so long.”
Ellen says: “At Croke Park over the weekend, they had 40,000 people there.
“Yet we’re not allowed to have more than 50 people at a gig.
“So everyone’s getting very frustrated.”
Carla adds: “Yeah, it’s getting a bit tense between the art people in the sport people. They would beat us in a fight so easily, but we would write a decent song about it.
“So it’s something and hopefully by the end of the year, maybe they’ll actually let us do our job again.”
But the girls are reluctant to get excited about any shows until they know for sure they are actually happening.
Their Button Factory show has been rearranged a few times now.
Carla says: “To be honest, I think we’re at the point where you just don’t get excited for anything.
“I don’t think it will actually hit us until we’re there.”
The duo met as girls in secondary school and have now been writing and singing together since the age of 15.
Ellen says: “We grew up in the same town in Meath and went to school together and always knew of each other.
“When we sat beside each other in science in third year, we just kind of got talking and realized that we listened to all the same music and we both kind of wrote a bit but didn’t really show anybody.
“And it just kind of went from there.
“I think we really just gave each other the space to go, ‘Okay, this thing I’m doing at home on my own, I can actually try show other people and we can do this together’.”
Now both aged 24, it is now nine years Carla and Ellen have been collaborating.
Ellen would study English and music at Maynooth while Carla studied drama at DIT. Both can say their bringing something from their degrees to Elkin.
They now live together in Dublin.
Ellen says: “We spend so much time together we are just forming into one person.”
Drawing inspiration from the likes of Joni Mitchell, the duo began to make their mark in 2019 with singles like Green Eyes, Cut My Tongue and DIY.
The self-managed duo received growing support with Elkin being selected to perform at showcases such as Whelan’s Ones to Watch, Music Cork and Ireland Music Week.
Ellen says: “In October 2019, we played our headline show in Whelan’s and it sold out six weeks in advance.
“It was just magic. All the hard work is worth it for those moments.”
2020 saw O’Mahony and Ryan continuing this momentum with new release Win Win alongside performances at OutPut Showcase in Belfast and Other Voices Music Trail, Ballina.
Carla says: “2019 was such a great year for us.
“It felt like things were finally in motion for us.
“And that kind of followed us into the start of 202o.
“We were like, ‘Oh, my God, this is it’.
“And then the world shut down.
“But we kind of took that time to take a step back and go, ‘Okay, who is Elkin? What do we represent? What do we want our music to sound like? How do we want to present ourselves?’
“So we’ve spent a lot of the last year just writing as much as we can and having a lot of conversations about who we are as a band.
“You have to figure out all that stuff. And we did.”
So who are Elkin? How would they describe their music?
Ellen says: “We’d be alt- pop but we definitely bring in some folk and punk elements into our lyrics and into what we want to say.”
Elkin were looking to make their way over to London when the crisis hit last year.
Ellen says: “We were planning to go over to London for some meetings just before Covid happened.
“So hopefully, we absolutely will.
“We’d love to come over and like play some gigs.”
Carla adds: “Hopefully we will be there this time next year.
“It was really shite because it felt like things were really progressing really naturally for us.
“And it was just like, ‘Oh, wow, these doors are kind of starting to open. This is so cool’.
“And then Covid happened.
“Well, those doors will still be there or different doors will open.”
The single Tokens is out now.
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