Music left in the Shadows : Interview with Tramp lead singer Siânna Lafferty

Siânna Lafferty is a 20-year-old musician from Lifford in Donegal. She is the lead singer and guitarist for local band Tramp. The four-piece group have been together for little over two years.

Saturday, 5th June 2021, 12:59 pm
Sianna Lafferty (photo by Nance Hall).

Restrictions on social gatherings has halted live entertainment for over a year. Tramp, like many other musicians have had a major setback in getting their music heard.

Siânna has always explored the arts and continues to write music. “I started music at a young age. I really, really loved singing and performing. I started doing open mic nights in Bennigans. That was the start I suppose,” she said. “I got close to Fionnbarr the guitarist and we started doing stuff together ourselves, just the two of us. Then we got asked to join the Skanks, which was a really punky band. I started doing a wee bit of solo stuff, which was quite different as well. If I’m writing myself, it ends up being a bit sad and folky.”

Many gig goers and musicians in the north west have lost a big aspect of their social life by being withdrawn from basic freedoms like dancing and singing. Derry has always had a significant band culture which has created numerous collaborations. The people here influence one another. Siânna says that seeing local bands performing live ‘blew her mind.’ “I fell in love with all the bands who would’ve been playing, like Foreign Owl, Baire, Scenery and Sugarwolf.” She said. “All those individual artists, seeing them at open mics, playing in Bennigans and Sandinos, that just like blew my mind. I was like ‘oh my god, I have to be here more’. It is mind blowing how much talent there is, and individuality too. You can tell there is so much originality. There is storytelling in their lyrics, in their abilities and interests. It’s an amazing place for music.

Tramp band get together (photo by Sianna Lafferty)

“My go to, like number one idol, since I was about 12, was Lana Del Ray. Looking back, that’s a wee bit problematic. I mean I still love her songs; I still love her music. But I don’t know if she is the healthiest person to be idolizing as a young person. Some of her lyrics probably wasn’t the most empowering to listen too as a girl going into a woman. I know there is a lot of controversy with her music and stuff, but that’s a whole other big thing. She was my number one, and I really, really loved Amy Winehouse. That kind of jazz vocal ability, like Billie Holiday.”

Tramp’s last gig was back in 2019 at Hallowe’en. Until the pandemic hit, the band where hopeful of performing and recording more original material.

Their sound is a fusion of both classic and modern styles. Siânna’s strong vocals are reminiscent of 1960’s stars such as the Ronettes and the Crystals. “It’s funny, I hated doing music in school. The theory was just... naw! nope! I never did it for GCSE or anything,” she said. “I was listening to a lot of reggae at one point. The rest of the band got influenced by their own taste of music, which changed completely again. I can’t really tell where all the influences are, but I know we all have very different ones, and they merged together to be something weird I suppose. We do we have plans. We were in the process of recording our song Frankenstein, but we’re all shielding at the moment. Our plan is that whenever it is safe enough we are going to record it ourselves the best we can and release it as a single. I couldn’t even put a date or guess on it yet, but that’s our plan. To do as much home recording as we can and then whenever we get money saved, we’ll go to a proper studio.”

Recalling her own first foray into music, she adds: “I got a guitar from Santa whenever I was 13. But I didn’t really play until I was about 15 or 16. I started to actually learn songs and get over the pain of the strings. I did a couple of things in the Alley Theatre in Strabane whenever I was around 17.”

Tramp band 2 (photo: Sianna Lafferty).

It is often forgotten the pivotal role music plays in the development of young people. Nightlife has suffered through a lack of entertainment and events. Musicians like Siânna remain hopeful that live music will be with us again, although she admits “it will be a crawl,” to get back where we were before. “It still kind of feels like the void. But at the same time, there is a bit of hope. They have them experimental festivals, the big open air gigs with people being tested. I am seeing gigs happen like Fatboy Slim, he is playing in Belfast, and Idles are having outdoor gigs in Bristol. It’s an extra kind of pain for the people putting them on to get all the regulations right and get enough numbers. It’s a weird one, there are options coming up hopefully. I wish I had a wee crystal ball right now.”

Siânna believes that people had ‘unrealistic expectations,’ during the first wave of Covid 19. A year on without local bands gigging has been catastrophic for new talent in particular. Groups like Tramp have yet to reach their full potential, especially without the support of a live audience. “Don’t give up on us. I know we haven’t really got our feet on the ground yet,” she said. “We started to take off in bit of a bad time. But there is stuff coming and we want to keep making more stuff. Don’t give up on us just yet because I feel like the energy is depleting for music.

“Be easy on yourself. If you’re a musician or just starting out, don’t put any pressure on yourself to be something that was been pretty much impossible for the last year and half.

“Stop with the pressure, everyone is trying to survive and the music will come. The inspiration will come, and the energy and the time will come back. You have to get your life back before you can have an output.”