Interview by Barry Egan
You can tell a lot about a band by their favourite albums of all time. Hotly tipped Irish act BARQ’s choices are nothing short of intriguing. Choose Your Weapon — Hiatus Kaiyote. Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill — Lauryn Hill. In Rainbows -— Radiohead. To Pimp A Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar. BARQ lead singer Jess Kav combines all of the above, and none of the above, in that she has an individual style as a singer and as woman. “The guys” — she says of Steve McHale and Tommy Gray — “possess the world’s only known Bancello. It’s an instrumental Frankenstein of a cello with a snare drum forced into it’s belly to form a beautiful but terrifying beast. It’s an affront to God.”
Jess — who is an affront to mundanity — adds that while at a party in a mansion in Bray, the band were perfecting a newly invented dance-move “and in the process someone fell and split their head open on a piano. It was a bloodbath. The dance is now called ‘Danger dance.’
The Danger Dance notwithstanding, Jess grew up in Dublin listening to Erykah Badu, Motown and the aforesaid Lauryn Hill. “It has definitely influenced how I sing.”
“While working together as a hip hop covers band, we developed a unique approach to instrument sounds and arrangements. After having a light-bulb moment, we decided to apply this approach to our own songs and so a BARQ was born,” says Jess of their formation last year, adding that BARQ means lightning but “we also enjoyed the onomatopoeic element to it as well.”
BARQ’s new single Gentle Kind Of Lies, explains Jess, is about dealing with “rejection and the various states you go through when your ego has been bruised.”
“Self reflection, resentment, anger, self denial, begrudging acceptance, etc. In the video, my make-up makes my face look split through the middle to emphasise the internal struggle between your emotions.”
This sometimes epic inner battle is found on another new song, Bear from the band’s self-titled EP out in May — which Jess wrote about losing her mother Liz Kavanagh to cancer.
”You were the bear that fought my corner,” she sings.
Why was she the bear that fought your corner?
“She worked in The Purty Kitchen and Whelan’s,” Jess answers, “so she introduced me to music and the live music scene from a very early age. She taught me the importance of independence and having a fulfilling life which is why I pursued music as my vocation.”
“A mother’s protection is an important thing. This is what I touch on when I discuss her in this song. Rejection, loss and coping mechanisms to deal with all of life’s curve balls are the themes that run through the EP. All important parts of life that everyone can identify with.”
What goes through your head when you sing Bear?
“Emotional catharsis through music is something I get in every song I play. Particular lyrics don’t necessarily bowl me over, otherwise I would be unable to perform. The overall performance of a gig is what helps me with emotional release. I have not written lyrics specifically to work through something on stage.”
I ask Jess to describe what kind of person she is.
“What am I? Irish people hate saying nice things about themselves. But I also don’t want to be annoyingly self-deprecating. So you have put in me in quite the pickle here. Emotional bag of meat, keeps coming to mind. Nice and simple”
“Or as Tommy [the drummer in BARQ] said of me: ‘A human surrounded by humans for better or for worse, trying her best to be a human with varying degrees of success.'”
Windmill Lane Sessions: Paul McDonnell