We caught up with Cork-born recording artist Yenkee to hear more about his musical background, current projects and how he got his track ‘Cannibal Tree’ featured on the TV series ‘Normal People’. Watch Yenkee perform live on over on our Instagram on the 28th May at 7:30pm.
For those who don’t you know, can you introduce yourself?
My name is Graham Cooney and I’m the guy who writes and produces all the music behind Yenkee.
What’s the story behind the name ‘Yenkee’?
Someone told me my music was very American once and I didn’t have a clue what that meant. It’s a bit of a nonsense word – if you keep saying it over and over it starts to sound weird. It seemed to fit my sound.
You started recording at the age of 15, how has your sound evolved since then?
My sound was very derivative of the bands I was listening to. Every song I would write would sound different to the last depending on what band I had been listening to that day. Over time I’ve learned to find my own sound and make things sound more like me. It took me a while to find my own voice as an artist.
What does your current recording setup look like?
I record in my bedroom with one or two mics, a reel to reel tape machine and a classical guitar I got for my 10th birthday. I like to keep things very minimal – it’s what I’m most comfortable with and it works for my songs.
We’ve heard that a lot of your influences go back to 60s and 70s rock. Is there anyone in particular who inspires your music?
Jonathan Richman is a huge inspiration for me, especially in how he conducts himself on stage and in interviews. He just has fun and never seems to take things too seriously. Musically though John Martyn, The Kinks and Randy Newman would be some of my biggest inspirations from that era.
Congratulations on having your track ‘Cannibal Tree’ featured on the soundtrack of the series ‘Normal People’. How did this come about?
I think the makers really made an effort in getting independent Irish artists featured on the soundtrack, which is really cool. A few of my friends had read the book and loved it so it was cool to get the opportunity to feature in it. It’s become a huge hit, obviously, so that’s cool.
We love your latest double-single release ‘Shiver-Shake / Future Failures’. What’s the story behind the tracks?
Thanks! Shiver Shake came about from me being stressed out about the feeling of instability that comes with being an artist, and also just a general feeling of anxiety about society. In a way, Future Failures is the antidote to Shiver Shake – it’s about the things that can help to get you through the struggles and the hardships of life.
You’ve worked on a lot of EPs and single releases. Are you looking to release an album soon? If so, what would you hope to achieve through a larger body of work?
I’ve been working on an album for the past while but I always have a few different projects going – EPs, singles etc. I want to make sure my debut album is as good as it can be before it’s out there in the world. My favourite bands are album bands and the idea of putting out a coherent collection of songs that are all attached to each other in some way is very exciting.
Why did you decide to set up your own independent record label Bride Valley Records?
It started just as a joke, but as time goes on I’ve taken it a bit more seriously and contemplated adding other artists to the roster if they were interested. Maybe some day!
Imagine you were playing the middle slot in the gig of your dreams next week, who would you be supporting and who would be opening for you? Where would you be playing?
Jonathan Richman would open up and Johnny Cash would headline. I’d try and get Randy Newman to DJ at the after party.
Any exciting plans for the remainder of 2020?
Keep making music, watch loads of movies and gonna move country to London.
Go-to playlist at the moment?
Jake Longstreth’s New Age and Ambient. Check it out on Spotify here.
What can we expect from your live acoustic set on our Instagram on the 28th May?
New songs, old songs, me maybe drinking a beer. I’ve been testing out some new ways of performing so hopefully I’ll get to try those out. I can’t wait!