Ko­jaque brings sound of Ire­land’s soft youth to Sauchiehal­l street

What’s on ... mu­sic ... the page that makes your week­end rock

Evening Times - - GOING OUT -

He’s sold out gigs across the UK and Ire­land and even sup­ported Lana Del Rey, but is yet to be signed. Who is Ko­jaque, the mys­te­ri­ous man mak­ing mu­si­cal waves, writes CARLA JENK­INS

KO­JAQUE has sold out Dublin... four times.

Al­though his first al­bum, con­cept project ‘Deli Day­dreams’ which told a week in the life of a Dublin deli worker who “con­tem­plates love, life and lone­li­ness in the lead up to the annual work Christ­mas party” was cen­tred on life in the Ir­ish cap­i­tal, it seems that Dublin has had its fair share of sell­ing out on Ko­jaque too.

“It’s not easy to live here full stop,” says Ko­jaque, known to me as Kevin Smith, a 24-year-old fine art grad­u­ate hail­ing from Dublin sub­urb, Cabra.

“Es­pe­cially if you’re try­ing to make mu­sic. I don’t know how the phe­nom­e­non works – there seems to be a lot of amaz­ing stuff com­ing out of Ire­land, and I’ve been say­ing this for the past three years, and in that time it’s got harder to live here.

“It’s up­set­ting, com­ing from Dublin, to see how the place is be­ing shut down and made into one big ho­tel. Peo­ple feel pow­er­less. When it’s so con­fus­ing and so ex­pen­sive to live in, when you spend all your time work­ing just to pay rent, I don’t know where peo­ple get the time to make what they make.

“Ire­land is progressiv­e in some ways, but it feels like sleight of hand to those that live here. It’s go­ing to take a rev­o­lu­tion to get pow­ers of the peo­ple, the same way it was with the Re­peal the 8th move­ment, Yes for Equal­ity. It’s not the gov­ern­ment, it’s the peo­ple that make stuff change.”

In the last year, Kevin has made big waves, even be­ing named on NME’s list of es­sen­tial artists for 2019.

Grad­u­at­ing from the Dublin In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy with a BA in Fine Art, where his grad­u­ate ex­hi­bi­tion Love in Tech­ni­colour won the RHA School Grad­u­ate Stu­dio Award, he used his stu­dio space to move onto his next project – Deli Day­dreams, cre­ated with his own record la­bel, Soft Boy Records, and his mu­si­cal part­ners in crime Kean Ka­vanagh and Luka Palm.

Since then, they have sup­ported Lana Del Rey at Malahide Cas­tle, and Slowthai on his Euro­pean tour only last month, as well as sell­ing out his own UK and Ir­ish tour in May. And now he’s back, play­ing Glas­gow’s Garage, as well as dates in Manch­ester, Bris­tol, Leeds and Brighton.

“We’re start­ing the tour in Glas­gow. I can’t wait, I love Glas­gow, it’s good fun. The shows have been good ev­ery­where, I find.

“There have been tonnes of high­lights, this year,” says Kevin, al­though he sounds less en­am­oured than one would ex­pect. “Things pick up and you travel more and stuff starts to blur a lit­tle bit,” he ex­plains.

“You don’t have time to re­flect. I’m try­ing to move for­ward and not live in the past, but you do have to sit down and pat your­self on the back some­times. So, yeah – it’s been a mad year, but it’s been in a good way”.

Lis­ten­ing to Ko­jaque’s mu­sic is like lis­ten­ing to an un­heard pocket of a city with plenty to say. His anger and con­fu­sion around loss of his city, com­pounded with the brother­hood emerg­ing from his la­bel, is some­thing that is chan­nelled into Ko­jaque’s out­put – his film, the de­but al­bum and the fol­low­ing mix­tape ‘Green Diesel’ made with Luka Palm.

“I’m a project-based artist, and that’s how I like the work,” Kevin says.

“I get eas­ily dis­tracted and I get bored of things quite quickly. Once I have a project done I start look­ing at the next one, rather than sit­ting back and re­hash­ing the same record ev­ery year.”

‘‘ Ev­ery­thing we’ve achieved is off our own backs, we’ve done it our­selves

Ko­jaque is yet to be signed, but the mat­ter is al­most in­evitably im­mi­nent. I put this to him: he seems un­fazed.

“Ev­ery­thing we’ve achieved is off our own backs, and we’ve done that our­selves.”

Soft Boy Records was born in 2015. Since then, it has bought them cult-like sta­tus in Ire­land where it is not out of place to see some­one em­bla­zoned with the logo on Dublin’s Grafton street.

“I thought that I’d love to start a la­bel, so I just mes­saged Kevin on Face­book and was like, ‘I have this idea we could start a la­bel, and it would be like a faux-la­bel,” says Kean, who will join Kevin on stage this Sun­day.

“A ve­neer from which we could do busi­ness… just to put mu­sic out that way.”

“The way we sing with the Dublin ac­cent, you get the naysay­ers and in­dus­try heads think­ing that it won’t travel and I just don’t think that’s the case,” adds Kevin.

“Peo­ple are clued into good mu­sic.

“There are tonnes of amaz­ing things about Ir­ish peo­ple and I don’t see why it should be any dif­fer­ent to any other mu­si­cian.”

For now, it is work­ing. Peo­ple are lis­ten­ing to what Ko­jaque and these Ir­ish voices have to say about the place they come from, if it lets them down or buoys them up.

It res­onates, here in Glas­gow, where many of the young peo­ple feel the same.

Kevin, Kean and Amelia Mc­Conville model Soft Boy Records’ of­fer­ings in Trin­ity Col­lege, far left. Left: Ko­jaque

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