- 06 May 20
Hunkered down in Ramsgate, England during the lockdown, Irish trio whenyoung tell us all about how they've been coping during the COVID-19 crisis, exploring a new direction on their upcoming second album, and their emotional new single 'The Prayer'.
Almost a year after the release of their critically acclaimed debut album, Reasons To Dream, whenyoung made their highly anticipated return last week – sharing their stunning new single 'The Prayer', in support of Women's Aid UK and Ireland.
Written and recorded in the trio's lockdown base in the seaside town of Ramsgate, England, 'The Prayer' serves as both a moving letter to their loved ones at home in Ireland, and as a universal message of hope and comfort during these uneasy days.
"We wanted to write something for everyone," frontwoman Aoife Power explains. "We wrote it just as lockdown happened over here. It was our immediate response to all the anxiety and everything else. It's partly us talking to our friends and families, but it's also us trying to emphasise with people suffering everywhere, in different ways."
Having left Limerick for London to pursue their career, and spending a number of years working dead-end jobs to support themselves, whenyoung made some major strides last year – releasing their debut album on Virgin EMI and supporting the legendary likes of Nick Cave and Garbage. However, lockdown has proved to be an emotionally trying time for everyone – and has left whenyoung missing Ireland more than ever.
"We were even looking up flights home the other day," Aoife admits. "Obviously it's not a good time to travel now, but we were checking to see when's the next time it will be possible to fly into Shannon, to be with our families in Limerick and Clare. We don't really know when that will be.
"It's strange being away now, but we're also lucky to be in a quieter place," she continues. "We had been in London and we moved down here to Ramsgate at the start of March. It's a much smaller town, and we're by the sea, so we can have a few nice walks. Of course it would be lovely to be at home – but everyone's in the same boat."
The lockdown has arrived at a difficult time for the band – just as their highly anticipated follow up to Reasons To Dream was beginning to take shape. As 'The Prayer' indicates, this new chapter will see whenyoung exploring compelling new directions in their sound and vision.
"When we started writing the second album, we started writing in a different way," Aoife explains. "We started writing in November, after we had finished touring. We made a decision to try to write in a more comfortable space – because the studio where we usually wrote and rehearsed was closing down, and it was also kind of shitty and cold at that time of year, so we just wanted to be at home. For that reason, we started using a laptop more, and experimenting. We started writing differently, and using more electronic sounds, and drum sounds. When it came to writing 'The Prayer', we had already been in that different world, and that different way of writing – but this is a lot different to that stuff. It just flowed out, as a meditative kind of song.
"We’ve recorded a handful of songs for the second album," she adds. "After a few writing sessions in Doonbeg, we flew to Wales and recorded – and then we came back to Ireland to write a bit more. Obviously we don’t know when the next time we’ll get to record will be, but we have an idea of where it’s going, and what we want."
Although lockdown certainly frees up their schedules for further writing sessions, Aoife will readily admit that it's not always easy to focus on creativity during this unprecedentedly stressful time.
"We've definitely taken our time, because we've been been anxious, or unable to work properly," she nods. "We've got a bit of a morning schedule. We all go running – though not all together (laughs). Cooking meals and eating together are really big parts of the day. We're trying to keep on top of writing , but we're also just going with the flow, and not getting too upset if other things become more important throughout the day."
"Lot of artists are getting a bit freaked out," adds guitarist Niall Burns. "There's such an expectation to use this time – and that creates such a pressure, which makes it quite difficult. So we're just working at our own pace."
"Some days are harder than others," Aoife continues. "The more I focus on the news, the more upset I get. So some days I try not to read it at all. We're so privileged to be able to be at home, and we're still in this funny headspace – so I can't imagine how the people who are actually working in the hospitals are suffering."
Of course, being based in the UK during lockdown has brought its own set of anxieties.
"You'd feel a bit homesick, because the way the British government is handling this is just sad," she sighs. "Ireland is doing a really good job. I know some people in Ireland aren't completely happy with the way everything is going, but in comparison with what's going on over here, well..."
Another subject of concern during the COVID-19 crisis is the rise in domestic abuse. As such, whenyoung have made the decision to donate proceeds from 'The Prayer', as well as sales from a limited edition run of t-shirts (available here) to Women's Aid in the UK and Ireland.
"They're charities that are always important to fund – but especially now," Aoife says. "A lot of our team are British, and we often feel like we have to keep them aware that we really want to support Irish things – even though we're based over here. So with this, we decided to support a charity in both Ireland and the UK."
whenyoung's new single 'The Prayer' is out now. Take a look at the video below:
You can donate to whenyoung's fundraiser for Women's Aid in Ireland and the UK here.