BARQ join the music trail at Other Voices in Dingle this weekend and have gotten a great reaction to Bear, their latest single which they kindly issued on Bandcamp for a pay-what-you-want price. I caught up with singer Jess Kavanagh to hear about their music – soaring vocals with edgy guitar sounds or agrosoul, as they’ve dubbed it – and putting herself out there in terms of social commentary and activism, creativity, collaboration and coping with loss.
Things are getting very busy for BARQ. “It’s all go!” Jess says. “We have a load of exciting things coming up for December and early 2017. Other Voices this weekend, which is one of our favourite festivals. Incredible vibe in a beautiful place. Then we’re supporting Wyvern Lingo who we love to bits so it’s brilliant to be able to support our friends who also happen to be the best singers and players we know. In 2017, we will be touring for the first time in the spring – we are really looking forward to getting around the country and playing. We will also be playing our first international shows as well, which is turbo exciting. We went into the studio in September so we will be releasing those tracks before the tour is announced so loads of awesome things in the pipeline…”
We have been lucky to align ourselves with other creative people who are similar to us, we are experimental and are comfortable exploring darker elements of consciousness. While also having a sense of humour and being a little twisted! James’ pieces really drew me in for that reason and I really wanted to work with him.
When I showed Tommy, Steve and Neil his work they had the same reaction. I felt the same way when we found Crooked Gentlemen (directors), incredibly talented guys with an affinity for dark humour and amazing visuals.
We wanted to release Bear with a strong visual element as the lyrics are inspired by the dreams I had after my mother passed away. My mind was attempting to come to terms with the loss and shock, so the dreams were vivid and at times very disturbing. Instead of attempting to repress the images, I tried to put them in a poem and get it out of my head, so to speak. It provided an opportunity to work with James and to collaborate his drawings into a music-video and then into physical artwork. It’s very moving to see a poem about loss, evolving into a song, an art-piece and a music video.
I lost my mother 10 years ago and the poem was written soon after her death, so this creative evolution really highlights the journey I have been on and the amazing people I have met. It’s been quite a journey, I’m very lucky.
Personally, it is a part of how I express myself. I am more than aware that posting things on social media is not the be-all solution, but raising awareness is important. The next step is really taking action and moving forward. A great example is 10,000 Missing Children, who have an end-goal to protect refugee children. They used social media as a tool to raise awareness, which was then picked up my mainstream media. It then got traction from politicians. We now have 200 children from Calais coming to Ireland which is brilliant and I think they have just increased the number. It shows how we can work together and use social media as a positive tool for social activism.
I was lucky enough to write about my views on Repeal The Eighth movement in Hot Press. I mentioned Direct Provision and how immigrant status can stop a person from leaving the country, as it seems not a common point of discussion, which I find strange. Living on 19 euro a week will make it impossible to provide for your family, let alone have any more children. Having resident status may mean you would be deported back to your country of origin (my friends in her late 20s just got citizenship, she has lived here since she was 12) if you left Ireland without the right papers. Assuming anyone can just leave the country to terminate a pregnancy is a warped and untrue perspective. I have always been opinionated, which fuels the lyrics of our songs. Without our strong convictions our music would sound very different. It feels strange for me and the guys not to use any platform at our disposal to raise awareness for things we find unjust and at worst detrimental to humanity.
Q. Any particular ways or instances you can identify that making art or enjoying art made by others has helped you through difficult times or helped you understand yourself (or the world) better?
It’s pretty much been the main thing that has kept me going. Listening to music has always been a constant in my life when finances, family, love and my own sanity have not been. It has given me release and given me strength throughout my life. I think I was always in awe watching vocalists scream/emote into microphones as a teenager. The rawness of watching Skunk Anansie, Lauryn Hill, Rage Against The Machine and more recently, Kendrick Lamar. I wanted to be able to do that.
I lost a massive chunk of my confidence when my mother died. My father had passed away years before so I felt very alone and very fearful on embarking on my adult life without any guidance. I was 30 when we released our first single. When I was 21 I would have told myself 30 was too late. Which is just ridiculous! Writing songs with Tommy, Steve and Neil and performing them have been some of the most rewarding things I have ever done, for my mind and for my soul.
Q. Any other Irish artists you’d like to big up at the moment?
YES! Zaska, Soulé, Spudgun, Naoise Roo, Jafaris, Harbouring Oceans, HAWK. Big thanks to The Strypes, Wyvern Lingo and Soja for letting us support them and SOULÉ and Carly Coonagh for supporting us in 2016!
Q. Do BARQ have a game plan going into 2017 and beyond about what you want to achieve?
It’s very fulfilling when the audience relates and connects with the tunes so we’re looking forward to connecting to a larger audience internationally in the new year. We want to be able bring our live show abroad. We want to continue writing and getting better and better.