“It’s so fun to make music. It’s like magic”: A conversation with Kingfishr
With only eight songs to their name, Kingfishr has made waves in the Irish folk scene worldwide; the trio, which is comprised of Edmond “Eddie” Keogh (vocals, guitar), Eoghan “McGoo” McGrath (banjo, miscellaneous strings), and Eoin “Fitz” Fitzgibbon (bass, guitar), are already filling big name venues like the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, which impressively sold out in minutes. The past couple of days since their UK and Ireland tour announcement, as well as the release of a new single called Vancouver, which is a cinematic tune based on an encounter with an ex-girlfriend at the airport, has caused a rush of excitement, both with fans and the band themselves, and the future of Kingfishr is promising. The band comes across as quite elusive; a conversation with the three felt necessary, and luckily they were willing and able to have one.
Hi guys! How are we doing this morning?
Edmond Keogh: A little bit of a slow start…
Should we start small then?
Eoin Fitzgibbon: Yes, I love small talk.
Alright then: you guys are so mysterious, I would just like to point that out…no Wikipedia page, minimal BandCamp page…couldn’t find a single thing about you!
EF: The way we like it. We’re mysterious people.
EK: I would love a Wikipedia page! I’m gonna be honest.
Well, why not? You guys have nearly 500,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, you’re selling out venues like the Olympia. That’s super impressive, congratulations.
EF: About the Wikipedia page…do we have to make it ourselves?
EK: Can someone make us a Wikipedia page?
To continue on with the small talk, what’s a silly fact about yourselves?
EF: There’s one for McGoo here, that is surrounding us.
EK: It’s one that Joe (PR Executive) was privy to.
Eoghan McGrath: House plants.
EF: He’s got them everywhere. Every room has so many houseplants, and it started about a year ago when the band first took off. Let me make something clear: I’ll cut up a pepper, he’ll take the seeds and try to grow peppers.
EM: Yeah, I grow them upstairs. There was a time when I grew onions and garlic, but they died, so…
Rest in peace.
EK: We can make a Wikipedia page for them.
Forming a band is a difficult feat; how did you guys meet?
EF: College – we all did electronic and computer engineering. We did a masters in that, and between fourth and fifth year is when we actually started the band. And when we finished college, we released our first song. Took a complete left turn, we do not do engineering anymore, but we have to credit the University of Limerick Computer and Engineering department. Myself and Eddie lived together for the last two years of the course. We started writing some tunes in the house while procrastinating from studying, and McGoo lived down the road. We thought “This guy can play the banjo really well. Let’s take this song to him and see what happens.”
So what made you choose to play the banjo, McGoo?
EM: It wasn’t really a choice. When I was really young, around five or six, I was gifted a guitar for Christmas by my godfather. I was very good at it, but my parents couldn’t find a guitar teacher, so they landed a banjo on my lap, and at the same time, a fiddle on my sister’s, and they said “Play that, it’s almost the same thing”. I grew up playing Irish music my whole life, and competed.
EF: He had such a bright future until myself and Eddie came about.
It’s interesting when you think of the banjo, you might think of American country music, and you guys are more of a folk-rock mix.
EK: I think we have probably caught the crest of a wave in Ireland in particular – maybe not the crest, but we’re involved in some way – in sort of an Irish folk revival. Since the time of the Dubliners, that whole era from the 60s to the 80s, trad was so insanely popular. It became so saturated as an art form so it fell off, as many movements do; they become “uncool”. The whole thing is cyclical, it always comes back around. Maybe in the last two to three years, the whole Irish folk or trad scene has had a bit of a moment with the likes of John Francis Flynn; so many people who are bringing a more contemporary viewpoint to the whole thing, which is class to see. So whichever way we can bring the Irish or trad way, we do. It’s class to be a part of that story.
Vancouver was released on Friday 10th November. The lyrics are quite personal, and the backstory is interesting. You could probably make a movie out of it. What was the writing process like? Music before lyrics? Or vice versa?
EK: That was all Fitz.
EF: It’s always a new thing…if a new thing pops up in the room, whether it be a new tuning, or a new guitar, or a piano or a keyboard, something tends to pop up off it. I think on that particular day, there was a new electric guitar sitting in the corner, and I was just messing around with it. Eddie had been talking about the story behind the song. That’s how that started. Generally, with writing songs, and this one is no different, lyrics are Mr Keogh’s job, he tends to do most of the lyric writing. Myself and McGoo play different beats and figure stuff out. Either Eddie will write something, bring it to us and we sit in a room or we’ll all do it together. There is no real written recipe, every song is different. For Vancouver particularly, it was me in a corner picking at the electric guitar and Eddie was writing away. McGoo was actually playing the mandola for that one.
EK: We are definitely interested in pushing the boat sonically in different places. I don’t want to blow too much smoke up McGoo’s arse, but he will play literally anything with strings. He’s honestly just insanely talented. It would be just remiss of us to not try as many different things in as many different places and see what sounds good. That’s part of the craft, that’s why it’s so fun to make music. It’s like magic. While also being conscious of our roots, it’s great to dip your toe in different spaces and come away with new ideas.
Because you guys are relatively new, with your first release being two years ago, have you felt like you’ve found your general sound? Can you see yourselves branching out into a different genre, or relatively sticking where you are?
EF: I think we’ve had four or five different ideas in terms of sound. We’re able to do anything, which is kind of worrying.
EK: I do think there should be a consistency in what you’re trying to say, at least from album to album. I mean, the whole Radiohead thing is a classic example of that, where if you set your mind to an idea, and really explore that, then say “I’ve said everything I want to say in this voice”, then turn around and come at it from a different angle, with a different set of tunes, maybe with the same words from a different perspective.
It’s quite early on in your career together, and with your first single flowers-fire having nearly a million streams, and your second eyes don’t lie having 1.2 million, how has blowing up so quickly felt?
EF: Oof. We’ve definitely had conversations about how difficult it has become from time to time, but we’re doing something that is indescribably cool. We’re not so obsessed with “blowing up”, more just getting the opportunity to do this for the rest of our lives. We’re having the time of our lives, just three best friends, and we’re very grateful. If that means we blow up to do it, then I’m very very grateful we’ve had that. It’s been difficult from time to time, a lot of work goes into it and it’s intense, but it rarely feels like a job.
EK: It’s funny, I kind of struggle with the whole idea of monthly listeners. It’s hard to get a defining metric for your success at the moment. You have people that could have ten or 20 million monthly listeners, but they may not be selling as many tickets. You get put into these big playlists, and you say we have half a million monthly listeners, but I don’t even know what that means! The whole Olympia thing…that’s a dream of a dream. Selling out the Olympia was always like “If we do that, we’re an actual band”, and I think that’s as far as my brain was willing to let itself get to when we started. Now we’re in the twilight zone.
EF: The open road.
EK: Yeah literally. This past week has definitely had the most impact on me for different things. For me, it’s more the tickets. It’s hard to gauge 500,000 monthly listeners, but the tickets we’re doing, that’s real. That’s people standing in front of us.
EF: When we did our first ever tour, the Irish tour in October, every gig we went to there were people coming over from the UK to see us. We tried our best after the gig to meet everyone, and the fact that people come all the way over, pay for the ticket, the flight, the accommodation, just to come to see us, was an indescribable feeling and hard to describe. The only word is grateful. It’s happened quite quickly, and everything we’re doing is so new that every time you turn a corner you’re shocked by something else and you don’t know how to comprehend it.
Which song would you say you’re most proud of so far?
EF: Mine changes from week to week.
EM: Does it have to be something we’ve released yet?
EM: We’ve got a song called Shot in the Dark, which is basically about us quitting our jobs after college and taking this big jump into the music industry, which has become a special moment at live shows. We like to put the PA off and go into the crowd. It’s like a personal moment, and like Eddie said, it’s kind of magic that we’ve been able to capture part of the story in a song.
EK: I’m going to go with eyes don’t lie, final answer.
EF: I’ll finish his explanation; it’s the first song we ever wrote as a band. Myself and Eddie were living together when we wrote it. We had written a few songs separately. When you show songs to people and they might say “Oh, that’s lovely”…but when we made eyes don’t lie, the housemates were like “Yeah. That’s good, you should do something with that”. So it has a special place in our hearts.
EF: Just for the sake of being different from the other two lads, I’ll say something different. I’ll say flowers-fire, it was the first song we released and it kind of started us on this. When we released it, we had no help and no one with us. We have some friends who are in a band, and they had given us some advice, but other than that we hadn’t. We ended up on New Music Friday UK, and we were able to talk to some people who could help us, and it just tumbled from there.
What or who is a big musical inspiration for you as well? Whether it be production-wise or writing-wise.
EF: They change all the time. I think every song we’ve made has a different reference for it. We send over playlists for the producers. Every time it’s full of random artists. We make stuff the way Kingfishr sounds, but each reference is from a different place. McGoo’s references are all Irish folk and trad-based. Like, he wants the banjo to sound or feel a different way. Or Eddie would want the vocals to sound light and airy like Bon Iver. I suppose Bon Iver is definitely one that comes up. Alt J were one for a while. I also love Hanz Zimmer, I always listened to him while studying.
EK: Can I also add Colter Wall? Oh my God, he is unbelievable. He literally sounds like a train. His lyrics are insanely godlike. He’s just so good, I’m a massive fan.
EF: Come back to us in two months and these answers will all have changed.
Who is your dream collaborator?
EF: Dead or alive? Do they have to be alive?
They can be whoever you want…Did that make it more difficult?
Ok, we’ll stick to alive then.
EF: I would love the lovely lovely vocals of Florence from Florence and the Machine.
EM: I mean, if we were smart, we’d say Taylor Swift.
Well, she’s got songs with Bon Iver…you never know.
EF and EM: That’s true. Very true.
EF: So is Taylor Swift your answer?
EM: Yeah I’m going with Taylor Swift.
EF: Alright McGoo’s going Taylor Swift.
EK: You know who I’d love to collab with? Nicholas Britell. He did the Succession theme tune. He does a lot of film and television scores. He’s a genius. I was thinking about sending him a message, I’d love to even just talk to him. I wonder if he’s ever worked with a band before.
Do you believe in guilty pleasure music? If so, who is your guilty pleasure artist?
EM: I have a playlist on Spotify called “sexy banjo covers”. A couple of bands in America have covered a lot of pop hits, and everyone hates it. I don’t know why. It’s just magical.
EF: For me, I actually don’t think I do. I just wander around aimlessly on Spotify. Maybe it just depends on my mood, but I don’t have a specific guilty pleasure.
EK: I might say Tom Jones. You know he has 38 studio albums?
EF: Rank them.
Final Question: album when?
EF: We’re thinking about it…there’s so much music we’re just sitting on. Every time we rattle off new songs, it’s like “Oh, you forgot this one, this one, and this one”. I guess we’re just trying to figure out what we want to say on our first album. And of course, when you figure that out, then you’ve got to do the recording part of it.
EK: I think all of the albums I really love were so clear in their vision, and everything about them was so true to whatever that theme was. It would just be a disservice, maybe, to launch yourself without that. Music has changed now, where it’s just inverted, where you release an album and you’re done, maybe then go and tour it. I think we’re reaching a point of critical mass where we know what we’re saying. Even conversations in the last two weeks, that we were never really having before, where it’s like “for the album this”, or “for the album that”, where it’s a natural progression of something coming into focus, whatever that is. Between the three of us, we can feel it.
Thank you so much again for your time. It was great meeting you guys and getting to talk about everything that is Kingfishr. Good luck on your tour!
For further information on their upcoming tour, visit Kingfishr’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Vancouver here: