Ilenkus hit Cork on tour for new E.P. Hunger on April 7th. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with guitarist Josh Guyett.
It’s been a long road for Galway mathcore/prog outfit Ilenkus, from their beginnings seven years ago in and around a then-fervent hardcore scene in the West. Today, with two long-players under their belts and their dues more than paid on the live slog around the country, the band is ready for the next chapter in their story, opening with new 7” EP Hunger, released this month following a digital release in November. Josh Guyett, guitarist, speaks on their reaction to the record being out. “We’re delighted to finally have the EP’s in our hands, they look beautiful and we’re generally very happy with how well they turned out. It’s always a privilege working with James Sheridan and I think his art really shines through on this record. The process from writing the riffs to completion takes such a long time and so much work from many different people, that the main feelings we’re experiencing are probably satisfaction and relief! I guess we’re also feeling pretty proud of ‘Hunger’. Personally it’s my favourite out of all of our records so far.”
Heavier on riffs and lighter on dynamic, Hunger sees the band focus their considerable energies in one musical idiom, a contrast from the ambition displayed on previous long-player The Crossing. As much out of desire for change as for expedience, the band kept it concise enough this time to go on a wax platter. “It was a conscious decision for us to focus more in one direction for this release. Where we have previously spent a lot of time working on songs, these were all written in a relatively short period of time. We tuned down our guitars and set out to write something a little more to the point. The recording and mixing was all done by Aidan Cunningham (Murdock) and that made the process so smooth. Aidan really understands this type of music and was super-easy to work with as a result. We gave him a brief and some references in terms of sound, and he just got on board with the whole thing. The mastering was then done by Brad Boatright in the States and we couldn’t be happier with the final result.”
Previous records have also had social/political connotations whereas tunes like Hunny Bunny come directly from the more personal, seemingly. How have the themes changed in recent times? “I think we toyed with some of of these kinds of lyrical themes on old tracks like Devourer, but this time around we eliminated any obvious political or reactionary imagery. Instead we aimed to tell a story. This record is more of a social commentary than a political one. It primarily deals with human nature and issues surrounding mental health. The story is about an individual spiraling out of control and losing their grasp on reality. We all have darkness, rage and secret desires inside ourselves. This story is about someone who can’t keep them buried inside any longer.”
The E.P.’s physical release has been stewarded by several labels in a few different territories, all split-releasing. Guyett explains the exact arrangement. “In terms of labels, we’ve been lucky to work with WOOAAARGH and Tjueto Cvlt from Germany, Smiths Food Group DIY from The Netherlands, Icore Produzioni and Vollmer Industries from Italy and Feast here at home in Ireland. There are plans for a larger European tour as soon as we can set aside some time for it. We’re also now working with Black Sheep Agency in Glasgow as our booking agent, which is fantastic as it allows us to focus a bit more time on things like writing new music. So yes, more touring is on the horizon for sure.”
At home, the release is being overseen by Feast, a label/gig promotion collective including members of the band. Guyett is one of its founders, and is quick to outline his vision. “I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a label for a couple of years now, so it really felt like a natural progression for Feast. We’ve expanded from running gigs and the odd tour to helping bands release their music. That could be done through financial assistance, taking records for our distro, giving advice, sharing information and a host of other things – we’re just trying to help bands raise their profile and become self sufficient. Obviously Hunger is our first release with Feast, but we plan to get involved with another two/three records this year. For now we will only be working with Irish bands. Part of our vision is to be a platform from which some of the often overlooked, quality Irish bands can showcase their work in a professional manner. We’re currently setting up our website and shop, that will distribute a handpicked selection of Irish records, as well as the projects that Feast is involved with more directly. This is not a typical record label format. Instead of putting up all the money for releases. because we physically can’t do that, we’re offering a range of ways that we can assist musicians. Fundraising, PR, pressing, contacts and networking, booking and even just being an extra set of eyes or ears. Our goal is to help develop bands and showcase their work. This year we hope to work with Belfast’s Hornets, Destriers from Dublin and Cork’s Bailer.”
Irish metal seems to be in rude health again, and Cork is finally catching up in recent years after an extended period of silence throughout the recession. The band have always found a home Leeside, though, and their connections run deep. “To be honest, the scene in Cork has always been good to us. I remember our fist ever gig down here in The Quad in 2011 – it was way more hopping than we were expecting. Things may have quietened down all over the country for a few years, but live music and especially heavy bands seem to be on the up again. Maybe it’s a reaction to the current political climate… or maybe these things just go in cycles. One way or the other it’s a great time to be playing in a heavy band. New promoters and bands keep popping up and the one of the really cool things is how the community is developing. People are happy to work together to help the scene. Like our Cork gig on the 7th is a co-promotion between Cosmonaut and Pyre. It’s a group of cool people coming together to create environments where bands and artists can viably ply their trade. That’s what helps the scene; community, working together and building a collective of people who share the same ideas. It’s a pleasure to be a part of.”
Ilenkus are playing the Poor Relation on Parnell Place on April 7th to launch the Hunger E.P. alongside a rake of other bands. What are the band’s thoughts heading into it? “This Cork gig is the first show of our Irish dates and one of the gigs I’m looking forward to the most. The lineup in incredible. We’ve got Destriers, who hugely impressed me at their recent opening slot for Oathbreaker (in Dublin). Then Partholón, who are a deadly new Cork band, featuring members of our old friends Five Will Die. Horse, another awesome band made up of friends and musicians from cool acts like Fat Actress, Kawtiks, Ghost Of Medina and Waiting Room. Then finally we’ve also got our mates in Bailer, who’ve been carving out their own niche for the past few years. Even just having all those bands in one place is gonna be fun for us to get to hang out! We’re excited about this show. A lot.”
With an ambitious long-term plan for the band, the question next is how to get there.“Next up for us is hopefully a UK tour in August. We’re planning 10 dates up and down the country. I also imagine we’ll do a headline Dublin show in the next while and possibly some live video recordings. Musically, we’re working on new material all the time, so with any luck we’ll be back in the studio before long. After that who knows…”
Ilenkus play the Poor Relation on April 7th. Support from Bailer, Horse, Destriers and Partholón. Tickets €10, available at tickets.ie and participating Centra/SuperValu outlets.