Fermanagh two-piece Laytha released their debut album earlier this month, marking over a year since they first released music under the Laytha name. Formed initially as Taobh Eile, cousins Niamh and Philana have progressed and built on that early promise. The culmination of that is their eponymous full length.
Laytha features the folk duo’s best work with the album’s real highlights largely stemming from their singles including the brilliant and searching ‘What Will I Gain’ to the gentle bounce of ‘Strawberry Moon’. Of course within the nine tracks there’s room for new sounds with spoken word extracts and flowing piano just two such examples. Album closer ‘In This Town’ showcases the bigger scope Laytha have put down here, along the work of longtime producer Declan Legge.
Ahead of an album launch show in the Black Box this Sunday, Niamh and Philana give us an insight into each of the album’s tracks.
Intro (Taobh Eile)
As some people may already know we used to be called Taobh Eile. We decided it would be fitting to introduce our new album referencing that time in our lives, kind of like a bridge between the old and the new. The song itself is a welcome to the album, we wrote the lyrics and asked a friend of ours to translate them to Irish (thank you Deirdre). It was the last song we wrote for the album, inspired by music many of us grew up listening to, songs like She Moved Through The Fair and The Parting Glass, we think that’s why it was simple for us to write in a way.
Daughter was the first song we recorded in the studio with Declan Legge. We had only just written the song the night before and we remember having the lyrics scribbled out on a piece of paper stuck onto our mic stands when recording the vocals. It started with a very simple guitar part and the lyric ‘my grandfather called me daughter.’ Our grandad was an amazing storyteller and the song centred around that, stories shared throughout generations. Musically this song was inspired by Irish artists like Hozier and The Cranberries. Being the only song without harmonies throughout, we had the chance to get creative, especially at the end where our overlapping vocals almost mimic the idea of stories falling through or being passed from generation to generation.
This song was written around the time of Ireland’s referendum on the eighth amendment. It was an incredible and inspiring time to see women all over the island of Ireland bravely share personal experiences and fight for choice. It was something we found ourselves talking about or thinking about everyday and so it was almost impossible not to write about it. The song is stripped back quite purposefully to let the lyrics remain the focus. It definitely drew influence from songs such as Cherry Wine by Hozier. We asked Niamh’s mum to write a poem for the song and each of our parents and both of our sisters read a line. It was important for us to have the voices of different generations and people in the song to reflect how this issue effected everyone (and the importance of coming together to speak up about things that matter to you).
We wrote this song about a dear friend of ours who was having to make some big life choices at the time. We wanted the melody and instruments to mimic the emotions that she (and many of us have) went though, like uncertainty and fear heard in the dissonant harmonies and tremolo strings but also hope and bravery heard in the uplifting and stronger melodies accompanied by bright piano, full drums and full open chords on the guitar.
This song was one of our favourites to write, the lyrics are quite playful and simplistic in a way which made it really fun to create. If there was a way to symbolise an emotion with any aspect of the ocean, we did it in this song. From the lyrics to the melody to the drums, we wanted every element of this song to paint a picture for the listener.
Strawberry Moon was definitely the most challenging to get right both lyrically and instrumentally. It held a lot of importance to us as it is ultimately about dealing with loss and grief but also about being inspired and moved by those you look up to or love. In terms of the sound, we drew inspiration from songs such as Harvest Moon by Neil Young and Canyon Moon by Harry Styles. It wasn’t intentionally written to have an uplifting sound that contrasts the lyrics in many ways but we love that it turned out that way.
What Will I Gain
Laura Marling is the reason this song exists. We watched an interview where she talks about writing a song for your younger self which is what this song is. The guitar is also very inspired by how Laura plays with an open tuning and that gentle folk sound. We challenged ourselves vocally with this song, particularly with our range and techniques that we used, which we haven’t done in many other tracks on this album.
In This Town
We had written the first verse for this song one afternoon together but ended up leaving it alone for quite a while. It wasn’t until we watched the film Beautiful Boy that we returned to the song and the lyrics seemed to write themselves. It was written very simply at first with fingerstyle guitar but our producer Declan had a much bigger idea for the track. He arranged string and piano parts and completely surprised us. The arrangement was so beautiful and moving and complimented the lyrics so perfectly.