The Kilkennys: Bringing back trad

Kilkennys Bringing back trad

Davey Cashin from The Kilkennys tells Fiona O’Brien how the band has evolved since their last tour of the UK

The Kilkennys have been going for almost twenty years, ‘but don’t tell anyone’ says founding member Davey Cashin, who is preparing for the group’s latest tour of the UK.

Although the band’s line-up has slightly changed over the past two decades, Davey and Robbie Campion still remain, having formed the band while studying in St Kieran’s College in Kilkenny.

“We were all friends, into hurling and sport (Davey has All-Ireland medals for handball), but we discovered that we all had a sort of folk/traditional past,” he says.

Student following

“Our dads used to play in pubs so we knew the songs and we got together and thought maybe we could get a few gigs in pubs.

“To this day my Dad still takes credit for us, that he took us under his wing!

“But he steps away once it comes to any big decisions! We’re on our own then.

“We started to get a bit of a following from people who had been at college with us. and it gradually got bigger.”

“So from there we decided to say we wanted to concentrate on the music and maybe produce a record and we just went for it. Nearly two decades later here we are.”

Kilkennys Bringing back trad

But before the influx of folk music on the mainstream airwaves through the likes of Mumford and Sons and Ed Sheeran, it wasn’t really the ‘cool’ thing to do, so the band were sceptical about broadcasting themselves initially.

“There was a huge folk revival, but before then it wasn’t that popular. Now music is so accessible online, and Ed Sheeran even used a trad musician on his latest album. At least we can say we did it first!”

Davey takes inspiration from the likes of the Dubliners, and many of the old ballads formed the basis for their early setlists.

“Now that we have original material as well, you have to find that balance on stage because you don’t want people going away disappointed because they were expecting to hear the Wild Rover.

The band were initially called Uisce Beatha before they decided to change their name in 2008, and needed something that would be a bit more instantly recognisable, and pronounceable for their European tours.

So, drawing influence from the Dubliners, they went with their home county, and haven’t looked back since. And although Davey, Robbie and Tommy Mackey remain the founding members, new recruit Mick Martin, has been brought in to bring the uileann pipes to the band’s sound, it is always evenly contested when they discuss their setlists for tours.

“It’s always been a democracy. We all bring our ideas to the table and it’s like a band of brothers.

“We are delighted to bring Mick in, we really wanted to up that traditional influence. It was a conscious decision, and it is the first time we are bringing that sound to the UK so we are all looking forward to seeing what the reaction is. He is a scholar of traditional music and brings that element to our folk sound.”

Kilkennys Bringing back trad

For the past two summers the band played at the ‘biggest Irish festival in the world’ in Milwuakee, which was an ‘unforgettable experience’.

“That was great. You have hundreds of bands, and thousands upon thousands of people. They even have a mass, and it’s so strange it is in the middle of America, in Milwuakee rather than Boston or New York or somewhere with an instantly recognisable Irish population, but it draws huge crowds. “I’d say the nearest thing to compare it to is the Cambridge Folk festival.”

Traditional elements

The band are not returning this year, but continue to tour for the summer.

“America is a tough one to crack, even with the organising of a tour. We want to have a new album out soon too, but it is hard to juggle studio time with touring.

“We are a band that seems to be always on the road so we have to be really disciplined to get recording time too.

“We just get a few days here and there which is problematic, but hopefully it will all be ready to go by the end of the summer.”

And for anyone who is yet to see the Kilkennys live, what can they expect from a gig?“

“It’s always difficult to separate yourself from the crowd, especially with modern technology. But we try to be different. We hang on to our roots. We’re passionate about our music, and we think we have our show up to the highest standard since we started on the road.

“It’s high energy, with lots of singing, and we get the audience involved as much as we can. One thing is for sure we leave them entertained and wanting to come back again for more.”

• For more information on The Kilkennys UK tour in June visit www.thekilkennys.com

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