Banríon’s Airport Dads graces the Irish music scene

Shaping a world where vulnerability is strength, the dynamic four-piece’s first effort is raw, established, and remarkably memorable

Airport Dads, Banríon’s premier EP, is an album about inertia: feeling hindered by geographical distance, missing your friends but being unable to fix anything, the process of healing but still aching. Banríon’s eleven-minute debut is a mature yet joyously youthful piece of indie-rock excellence, with frontwoman Róisín Ní Hacéid spearheading a sound that is both sunny and ethereal while penning lyrics that are both confessional and powerful. The band are a Dublin-based four-piece also featuring guitarist Ivan Rakhmanin, bassist John Harding, and drummer Michael Nagle – all recruited following the release of Ní Hacéid’s solo single Bins. They have cemented themselves as a staple of the music scene within Trinity, performing at Ent’s February Battle of the Bands semi-final in Bello Bar, but they are rapidly gaining prominence elsewhere. By trailblazing local venues such as The Workman’s Club and Whelan’s, the band are quickly establishing themselves as the latest rosy addition to Dublin’s thriving rock scene. Embracing the ethics of DIY culture, the EP was recorded in Nagle’s home in Connemara with the drummer mixing, mastering, and producing the release. While this is a method that could serve as a detriment to their sound, nothing about this effort feels derivative – the lo-fi nature of the recording creates a dreamy ambience that pairs sonically with the album without fault. With Nagle and Harding’s respective jazz backgrounds, it makes for an eclectic spin on the sound of the rock-revival, a genre that needs such regenerative and beneficial change.

The EP’s leading single and opener, Yesterday’s Paper, is an expertly-crafted piece of jangle-pop perfection the band’s opening attempt to effectively carve out their musical expression for the greater Dublin scene couldn’t be more true to their sound. Ní Hacéid’s vocals are undeniably vulnerable, but her refrain of ‘I wanna know what to say’ is a crescendo with a significance beyond musical dynamics. The song is rooted in the persistence of memory and insecurity that is attuned to the inevitable emergence into adulthood a world of second-guessing one’s actions alongside the paralysis of nostalgia. The song’s  music video, directed by Anna Heisterkamp and Charlotte Keegan, is equally as lovably lo-fi, with imagery centred around the self-reflection integral to the EP’s theme. It feels ill-suited to compare Rakhmanin’s guitar noodlings to the likes of Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan, or Ní Hacéid’s world-weary yet optimistic drawl to that of Julia Jacklin. Yet with a sound this secure and established, they aren’t standing in the shadows of giants, but rather, standing alongside these indie darlings. While “up-and-coming” is a valid descriptor, they prove every bit as influential as the likes of these names which have kept the genre new and exciting over the last five years.

 “Yet the theme of the frustrating duality of emotion is something that remains timeless; where there’s love, there’s ultimately grief.” 

Bunkbeds is the EP’s slow jam. Centred around a central raw guitar motif, it proves that repetition is power when it comes to creating a soundscape this ethereal and lulling, a credit to Nagle’s subtle production. Set to be a shoegaze-tinged lockdown anthem, these motives of loneliness and regression couldn’t have arrived at a more appropriate time. Yet the theme of the frustrating duality of emotion is something that remains timeless; where there’s love, there’s ultimately grief. The song is resotative, both musically and lyrically. Among these sobering realities, Ní Hacéid’s vocals are both pacifying and potent. The very same point could be made for the collaborative sonic environment that she and her bandmates have created. By taking these tender themes integral to the ennui of your early twenties heartbreak, loneliness, emigration, uncertainty alongside Ní Hacéid’s own personal experiences as a disability activist, paired with a neatly curated and delicate yet rich instrumentation, they have created a world where vulnerability is strength, an emotional experience that must be commended. 

Female heartbreak in music is typically branded as adolescent or weak. The closing track, Ouchie, feels like a reclamation of this sadness and judgement for the greater good. An atmospheric and moody approach at deciphering this concoction of conflicting emotions while exploring the incontestable desire to heal is coupled with the loathsome cocktail of self doubt. As the guitar hazily glimmers through, paired with Harding’s remarkably slick yet subtle bass fills, the song proves to be an act of reverberated catharsis. Ní Hacéid’s declaration that she’ll “do what the boys do,” and “do it better,” is a headstrong affirmation of recovery and power and a visceral statement of resilience in the greater context of the Irish music scene. The EP release coincides with Linda Coogan Byrne’s report on the gender disparity among Irish artists played on Irish radio stations, revealing that female Irish artists are statistically underplayed with only one Irish radio station achieving a perfect gender balance. Ní Hacéid has been critical of similar imbalances within Irish music circles. This exclusion paves the way for not only the homogenisation of Irish music, but the homogenisation of lived experiences within Irish music – a disservice to the burgeoning diversity that the Dublin scene prides itself upon. This album is physical proof that within the growing underground scene, there is a collective of female artists in our country that deserve recognition on the basis of unsurmountable talent itself. 

 “Airport Dads shows that Banríon knows their sound and knows exactly what they want.” 

While this is a short release, it is so laden with promise, stellar musicianship, and admirable candour to the extent that this has me incredibly excited and optimistic for a musical Irish future with more Banríon. Airport Dads shows that Banríon knows their sound and knows exactly what they want. While inertia is the case thematically, nothing about this band is inert.