Aisling and Paul Jarvis, known collectively as Banyah, told David Hennessy how Normal People helped them write their latest single and growing up as the children of Clannad’s Moya Brennan.
Although their new incarnation Banyah have only just started releasing music, siblings Aisling and Paul Jarvis have been around the music industry all their lives. In fact, you could say they were born into it as their mother is Moya Brennan, singer and harpist of the legendary trad group Clannad. The Grammy Award-winning group are famed for tracks such as the Theme from Harry’s Game.
Both Paul and Aisling were on tour with the famous band earlier this year, a tour that was meant to be their farewell, when Covid-19 saw those final dates have to be cancelled.
The duo have just released their third single Watch You Go which, following Nothing Free and Stuck Under, has been well received for its electronic feel but with a definite touch of melancholy.
“We’ve been so thrilled with the reception it’s gotten,” Paul begins. “It’s been added to some nice playlists online and got a bit of radio play. It’s lining us up nicely for an EP at the end of the year.”
Like the title suggests, Watch You Go is about losing somebody and looking back with a tinge of regret.
“It’s not even necessarily romantic,” Aisling explains. “I think we were both pulling from experiences of past heartache and complications within relationship and stuff like that.
“The big grey areas of love,” Paul adds.
Aisling says, “I think everyone feels that at some point in their life in many different forms.”
The siblings got some inspiration for their track about lost love from a love story that has really captured the imagination in recent months.
Paul explains: “We started writing it before quarantine. We were continuing to write lyrics over quarantine and we were watching Normal People.”
Aisling adds: “We were watching that and it was quite inspiring for a song like that.”
Paul continues: “They captured what we were writing about and we didn’t even realise. This has come through us talking about our experiences but very much off the back of watching Normal People.”
Aisling says, “It was kind of easy to get into the feeling of it after watching something like that.”
Paul says, “It’s such an amazing way of telling a story and it’s outrageously accurate.”
Aisling agrees, “It’s so relatable. You watch it and you’re like, ‘That was me ten years ago at school’. It was very, very real.”
Perhaps the pair should think about asking Paul Mescal to sing on a track as the actor has those talents too.
Banyah’s sound is far from the sound of Clannad with its ambient electronic feel although the Irish traditional influence is certainly there.
Describing their still-forming sound, Paul says, “The melodies might be a little bit trad influenced in parts and maybe the harmonies that we use, that comes through naturally growing up in Ireland with the music.
“Apart from that, we want to keep on making music and throwing ideas back and forth at each other. So far we’ve released three singles and the other stuff we’ve written is also very different so we’re kind of finding it hard to put our finger on exactly what our sound is yet.
“We’re going to keep on growing and we’re not going to stick to pop or say, ‘This has to be this chilled out beat…’ We might release a dancey song or we might release something that has no percussion at all. We’re keeping our options open at the moment.”
The pair were musicians and singers on Clannad’s recent farewell tour. This had to be cut short due to the pandemic and they reveal there were scary times as coronavirus took hold but the shows were still going ahead.
Aisling remembers, “It was crazy because we were relying on Livenation to pull the plug and I think towards the end, definitely the last two or three shows, we definitely shouldn’t have been out anymore.”
Paul agrees, “They were sold out shows but there were empty seats around everywhere. We were literally looking at each other onstage trying to get the energy but-”
Aisling sums up the feeling the musicians had at that moment: “’We shouldn’t be here’. You feel responsible for the safety of all the people that have come to see you and it got a bit strange there towards the end. We were playing London on Paddy’s Day and we only found out halfway through the Bournemouth show on 16th it wasn’t going ahead.”
Paul adds, “We were so looking forward to playing that London Paddy’s Day gig.”
Aisling says, “It was a shame. Everything is pretty much rescheduled for next year and pretty much all the same time next year.”
They are thankful they at least got to play some shows as playing live is something they are not likely to be doing for the foreseeable future.
Paul says, “The majority of people in the creative industries are kind of going, ‘Where’s my next dollar coming from? We’re glad we got to play the gigs we got to play but there’s a whole tour there we missed out on. The rest of this year is getting a bit strange. There’s no work. I think we’ll be looking to get a little part-time job pretty soon to be honest. I used to be a waiter so I might pick it back up again. We’ll see.”
Heather Humphreys will be pleased to read Paul thinking so practically but Aisling is less convinced: “Yeah, we’ll see. I don’t really fancy going back to work in Halfords. It’s the only other job I’ve had.”
In 2014 Aisling released a solo album A Handful of Bad Ideas saw her compared to contemporary artists of the time like Lily Allen and Kate Nash before and is a studio engineer, often producing her mother’s work.
“Funnily enough, we played an online music festival there on Saturday and obviously the only people allowed to be there were the crew and the musicians. We were hanging around with some of the musicians afterwards and talking about how strange it was to even be in the presence of other musicians and see stage crew and set-up, it was just very strange. Everyone was like, ‘This is so weird’.”
Paul adds that the applause is sadly missed, “You finish a song and it’s kind of like, ‘Oh’.”
The duo’s debut single Nothing Free came out last year but it would take a while before we saw a follow-up with them focusing on that when the pandemic put a stop to the touring they were meant to be doing. Paul says, “We always knew we wanted to make some sort of music together but it didn’t just start, ‘Let’s do this’. Aisling came to me and she said, ‘Hey, if you worked on something like this, we could release something the two of us under our name’.”
“The year before we were like, ‘If we ever release something together, we should call ourselves Banyah, like milk (bainne) and spell it phonetically. We released Nothing Free and it took us a while to get together again for the second single. Quarantine has helped a lot with that. Now we’re doing this together and we’re pretty excited now to keep on releasing. It was very natural just because-“
Aisling finishes, “We live together.”
A sentence started by Paul is often finished by Aisling and vice versa telling you the siblings think along the same lines much of the time. They also speak about music with a similar passion.
Growing up surrounded by music, Aisling explains what was surreal seemed like very much a normal childhood to them: “More in recent years we’ve realised because you do grow up and think, ‘That’s my family, that’s normal’.
“I mean I remember being in school, talking to friends and being like, ‘What? Your mum doesn’t go on tour for three months at a time?’ In recent years we’ve kind of realised the significance of the family we’re involved in and their legend status around the world. That’s amazing now to be able to appreciate it.”
As their father plays cello, it was often the family band of parents and children that would play massive events such while Paul and Aisling were still in their teens.
Paul remembers, “Aisling would have been 17 or 18 and I would have been 16 when we played Glastonbury for the first time with my mum. Our mam and dad would bring us to these mad places. There have always been moments where you’re like, ‘Oh my god, this is pretty cool’.
“In more recent times we started playing as musicians with Clannad and all our friends have gone and gotten office jobs and we’re going around the world. We’re like, ‘Wait a second, we have it pretty cool, we’re on tour’.”
Aisling adds: “Our summer holidays three or four years in a row, Mum brought us to Glastonbury and we played Glastonbury. It’s a bit mad telling your friends that that’s the summer holiday you’re going on: You’re not going to Spain, you’re going to Glastonbury.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Paul.
Aisling agrees, “Me either.”
And it seems Glastonbury is a holiday destination that doesn’t lose its appeal no matter how many times you have been. Aisling says: “There’s no possible way Glastonbury can be boring. There’s always something new or a new place to explore. I really love it.”
Paul adds, “I was trying to go back as a punter this year but couldn’t get my hands on tickets.”
“Didn’t matter in the end,” Aisling points out. “The first year we ever played Ed Sheeran was playing the same stage as us and Paul walked right by him. He missed his chance to say hi.”
Paul says, “I was like, ‘I’ll say hi to him later’.”
Not only is their mother an original member of one of Ireland’s best known trad bands, their father was a photographer for NME. Their parents met when he was photographing Clannad.
Paul says, “He’s told us buckets and bucketloads of stories. When we’ve been moving furniture from one place to another, he’s kind of been like, ‘I remember that..’ and just shows us a picture of a superstar. We’re like, ‘I didn’t even know you photographed them’. He’s like, ‘I photographed them a few times’. We’re going to encourage him to have an exhibition now.
“He’s an amazing cello player as well so when we went with our mum to play at Glastonbury or the other folk festivals, instead of my mum bringing her actual band, she would turn around to myself, Aisling and dad and she would say, ‘Let’s just do it as a family. It actually was family holidays as well as going to festivals.”
Has Banyah’s music got Moya’s approval? She’s a proud parent like any other but also one who can be very helpful with feedback.
Aisling says, “Mum is so supportive. We could do anything.”
Paul jokes, “We could just be clapping our hands together.”
Aisling adds, “She would be like, ‘That’s amazing’. She’s so supportive of us and she always has been. She was the one who had us learning piano at the age of seven, she is the reason we’re so musical today. She’s delighted to see us doing it. She has a very good ear, mum.”
While they grew up in Dublin, they still have strong ties to their parents’ home county of Donegal.
Irish family get togethers are often musical but Brennan/Jarvis/Duggan family occasions must be something very special when they include all the members of Clannad and global solo star Enya.
Paul says, “Of all my mum’s brothers and sisters, nine of them, not one of them doesn’t play a thing.”
Aisling adds, “They all have a party piece. We all do something. All the cousins as well. We’re all equal in Donegal, I think.”
What is next for Banyah? Paul tells us, “We’re going to be collaborating with a few people.”
When asked who they’re working with, Aisling jokes, “You trying to get the juicy info? Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande. Beyonce’s flying over actually, yeah.”
Or is that a joke? We’ll have to wait and see.
Watch You Go is out now.
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