By James Hendicott
Performing under the name sfiiinx, Siobhra Quinlan is a real rarity in Irish music. While she finds her roots in plenty of mythology, using her music to tell spectacular tales, she takes her grounding in classical techniques, straddling the gap between contemporary chamber pop and classical performative arts.
As she works towards her LP ‘The Magma Chamber’, Quinlan joined us to reflect on her style of music and its place in modern Irish culture, and talk about new single ‘Changeling’.
“It’s fascinating to me that mythology and folklore continue to be echoed throughout popular culture, rendering time or eras irrelevant, as we find traces of ourselves or our stories in archetypes or myths,” Quinlan said. “I also find it fascinating that mythology serves as a framework for us to project the complexity, ugliness and beauty of existence onto, which appeals to me as a medium through which one can exorcise their demons.”
“‘Changeling’ is threaded together by a few different fragments. One of those is the myth of Philomela, which to me, is the most brutal and disturbing of myths. Philomela, has been raped by her sister’s husband Tereus. He then cuts out her tongue to silence her. Unable to speak, Philomela weaves the truth of what happened into a tapestry, which is how her sister learns of what has become of Philomela.”
“The myth continues to darkly tangle itself. The sisters are then liberated from their human existence, and transformed into birds – Philomela, a melodious nightingale, finally, singing freely. Woven with this thread, among other things, is also another myth of sorts in that I found out nearly a decade ago that the meaning of Síobhra is not just a “fae” but a “changeling.” Which I was initially not so cool with, but I have since embraced.”
“I’m not certain that there is a great market for this stuff in Ireland,” Quinlan says. “And I’m not entirely sure where my music will end up finding a home, but it’s not something that enters my mind when I’m creating my work. Whilst it’s certainly not the most industry-savvy approach. I’m comforted by knowing that I’m never playing to the gallery, or bending my musical language to piggyback on to a certain genre, style or audience.”
“I feel my music has become less contrived, and more honest. It took me quite some time to develop a musical language that felt authentic to me, and then even more time to become comfortable and vulnerable in that language.”
“I feel it’s also developed in that I’ve now finally unshackled myself from my classical training, and become acquainted with my “real” voice. It’s not the Olympian beast that classical training strives to unleash and champion, but rather, a voice that feels comfortable with it’s flaws, and human limitations – a voice that matches the honesty of what I’m expressing lyrically, and musically.”
“I suppose my kind of shows differ from a more typical performance in that there is at times a general theme, cause, or brief as part of a festival that must be responded to, and then the musical programme is curated as a reaction to the vibe of the given festival.”
“Just yesterday, I had the privilege of pre-recording a show for the Franco Irish Literary Festival in the Résidence de France that I curated, produced and performed, which will open the festival on April 15th. The theme for this year’s festival is “Refaire le Monde” / “A Better World”, and it was an honour to collaborate with Dairena Ní Chinnéide, Osaro Azams, Anne Nakache and many more on this special event.”
‘Changeling’ by sfiiinx is out now