Key will Rock you
Andrew Kavanagh of Irish rockers Keywest on the band’s stunning new album, True North, and their unique bond with their fans. Interview Orlaith Nic Aidhne
It’s been quite the week for Keywest. Their new album, True North, was released at the end of March, and the band are fresh off the thrill of playing a soldout show at Dublin’s Olympia. Indeed, they’re still coming down off that buzz, describing it as a gig lasting two days; a blur of cheers and support from friends and fans.
Thematically, True North focuses on finding one’s true self amidst the noise and clamour of modern life. “It’s a mix of personal reflections and our experience as Keywest,” singer Andrew Kavanagh explains, as he dashes across the city with his phone pressed to his ear in search of somewhere quiet. “It’s our efforts to find where we fit in the industry. Bands have a constant interest in finding out where they’re going and what they’re doing. You’re looking at other groups, seeing the competition.”
“For us, it was finding out who Keywest are and where we fit. But obviously, everybody goes through that – comparing yourself to one person and the other, while being on a path of self-discovery. The quote we settled on for the album overall was finding your authentic self amongst the noise. And that’s because it’s so necessary at the moment. Social media has made everything very messy, creating so much interference, from seeing highlights and the best moments of other people’s lives. But we’re trying to focus on how to be okay with yourself amongst all that.”
As he reflects on the band’s transition from buskers to bona-fide stars, Kavanagh has a noticeable zeal in his voice.
“Our own sound was created on the street,” he says. “The more we played, the more we built towards what we are now. The way we write songs, based on rhythm, all stemmed from our playing on the street. If a song wouldn’t work in that environment, it wouldn’t go on the album.”
This attitude has meant that Keywest have thrived at festivals – where people expect catchy melodies with big beats. They don’t get fazed by the wild surroundings.
“When we bring what we do to any stage,” says Kavanagh, “the translation is huge, because you’re talking about a crowd that’s there for reason. People are drinking, dancing, everyone’s relaxed and having a good time. It has the feel of what we’d do on the street. It gets everyone going and forms a huge connection between the audience and ourselves – which comes from busking, because you have to connect there. Basing our sound around the kick drums and the acoustic guitar is something we’ve always done too. Now we’re just a little bigger, a little better.”
With his personal favourite track on the album being ‘True North’ itself – a song that deals with mental health – Kavanagh says he feels very close to the message it delivers.
“The reaction from fans for the concept has been phenomenal. We’ve been getting messages saying they’ve been playing it on repeat. We’ve got such loyal fans, including some who’ve been with us since our very first show. They tend to be in it for the long haul, like us.”
When asked what plans Keywest have for the rest of the year, there’s a long sigh.
“We’re up the walls with it to be totally honest... Push on, just keep going.”
True North is available now, via Spotify, iTunes, Google 2lay and on %& at Golden &iscs.|