M(h)aol is out for world domination. The feminist punk entourage consists of Róisín Nic Ghearailt, Connie Keane, Jamie Hyland, Zoë Greenway and Sean Nolan, and has captivated audiences with the dissonant and abrasive soundscapes of their debut album Attachment Styles. The five-piece have elbowed their way to the front of post-punk noise and claimed it for the “girls, gays and theys”.
Returning home after a successful outing at SXSW, M(h)aol are not slowing down. Known for their bewitching performances, they are barrelling across the country, embarking on their national tour leaving only queer joy and cathartic release in their wake.
We caught up with the feminist post-punk five-piece before their sold-out show in The Workman's Club Cellar to chat all things influences, touring and, of course, attachment styles.
For those who are unfamiliar with M(h)aol, can you tell us a little about yourselves and how you came to form M(h)aol?
Connie: I formed the band out of frustration about how I was being treated as a woman in the Irish music scene and I had hope that it could be a more inclusive place. While I still think there’s plenty of work to be done, I do think 9 years on, celebrated Irish music is more than five lads with guitars.
Zoë: Connie assembled us with her magic.
Individually, what album inspired you to start making music?
Róisín: There was no album for me, although I love music and always have. I think I was extremely influenced in my performance style by seeing The Noisettes at Vicar Street and Marina and the Diamonds when I was 17. They are both such physical performers and I found it so exhilarating seeing them as a teenager.
In the early days of M(h)aol I was very influenced by a live video of Joy Division performing Control. With this bout of shows I watched the video for Dance Dance by Fall Out Boy a lot too. I recently saw a band called Divino Nino play and I was really struck by how they incorporated salsa moves into their live performance.
I saw Muna play twice last year and they really ignited something in me. I love how much they all interact with each other and how much movement they incorporate into their shows.
I’d never seriously thought of making music before but at 21 I would genuinely have done anything Connie asked me to do so when she asked me to be in M(h)aol I of course said yes! In general I’m continually inspired by the new alt-RnB scene and how artists like Ivy Sole, JunglePussy and Charlotte Adigery fuse politics and personal stories.
Zoë: The Raincoats - Odyshape / Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness / My Chemical Romance - Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge
Jamie: loveless - my bloody valentine
Bricolage - amon tobin
Geogaddi - boards of Canada
All of Koji Kondo's video game soundtracks (especially LOZ: Ocarina of Time)
M(h)aol has been a prevalent force in the gig scene for the last seven years, how does it feel to release your debut album into the world to such a positive response?
Róisín: Since we’ve released the album we’ve been getting so many more messages from the girls, gays and theys which is incredible because that’s who I wrote the lyrics for! I’m so glad that it's connecting with people. We’ve played a good few shows where people have been really really dancing and that’s always been my dream too.
Zoë: I think it’s pretty crazy getting to be on stage and play all these songs for people. We’re just five friends who created this music together, so it feels really special to get to share that and have it meet people’s eyes and ears in such a positive way.
I would describe the lyricism in Attachment Styles as candid and unflinching. How do you channel such authority into your songwriting?
Róisín: Thank you, that’s such a kind thing to say. The lyrics are a direct extension of the way that I talk and am. Honesty, earnestness, kindness and a sense of humour are an excellent antidote to loneliness. I spent my teens and early twenties fantastically lonely and what I discovered is that being honest both with ones self and others opens space for better connections and more honesty overall.
Connie: Kim, my dog who I wrote ‘Kim Is A Punk-Type Dog’ about, was fairly unflinching so it only made sense to immortalize her that way.
The album has many thematic paths, yet the overarching theme is Attachment styles, how did the theory of attachment become such a vital part of the overall concept of the album?
Róisín: My sister has three kids and was looking into Attachment Styles a lot and I really look up to her so I then started looking into Attachment Styles too. I read a book called Polysecure and in the book the author, Jessica Fern discusses how the theory of Attachment Styles overlooks the impact capitalism and the patriarchy and other systems of oppression have on us and how we relate to each other. And that made me think a lot about connectivity and joy.
Attachment Styles is dense with queer joy and panic. How important was it for you to explore queer identity in the album?
Róisín: Extremely important. I am queer, I’m in a queer relationship, M(h)aol is a queer band, I exist in a wider queer community. There was no way it couldn’t not have been about queerness. There’s still this impression of Irish women abroad that we’re repressed etc etc although this is changing thanks to bands like Pillow Queens who are doing great things to get the Gay Irish Agenda out there. I wanted to write a really explicit album about the minor currents of queerness and also things like going down on people on their period.
The lyricism on the album is incredibly strong, but the sonic textures on the album are almost addictive. How did you come to achieve that signature M(h)aol sound?
Connie: We’re incredibly lucky to have Jamie in our band. She’s a really important force of creativity in interesting Irish music, and she records and produces all of our stuff. I’d say a good chunk of our “signature m(h)aol sound” is coming from her way of producing. We record live, all in the room together, and I think that does add a sense of urgency to it.
Zoë: Yeah it’s such a lovely feeling being present in a room together, playing and experimenting with sounds, I love it so much. I feel like we all bounce off each other with our instruments in such a curious and fun way and it’s nice that we're always really encouraging with the stranger sounds, namely the beloved horror piano.
Jamie: Playing music should be exactly that, playing. We learn so young that play is for children and that we have to grow up but play is such a creative endeavour. Fostering an atmosphere where we all felt comfortable to play with each other, share any idea that comes to us and to encourage our imaginations was key to the process. Sonically guiding everything is really interesting for me, I'm inspired less by "music" and more by the sounds of the real world and of the fictional worlds that are built with music.
Ever since it was shown to me, I have been fascinated by the impact of a soundtrack to visual medium. The same scene can be rendered terrifying, comforting, otherworldly or hyper-realistic by changing the sonic backdrop. Once a tune was starting to take place I had such fun imagining the world that the lyrics and music would be placing the listener in and trying to lean into or away from the comfort or discomfort that might be expected. Ró had a very strong brief for Period Sex; wasn't necessarily confident with the undeniably sexy funky style I had to play built but once the sound world came together I could see exactly why it could be no other way.
How has the Attachment Styles tour been so far? Does it feel like a full circle moment to close the tour back in Dublin?
Róisín: I can only speak for myself but absolutely. We just played Galway last night and it was a very queer, very rowdy audience and it brought me so much joy. I wrote the lyrics of this album for the queer kids in Tralee and Castlebar and Ashford. For the girlies that are on a redemptive arc in Ennis and the fidgety kids in Shankill. It feels incredibly special that it's connected with people.
Connie: Getting to sleep in your own bed after a show is an incredibly underrated experience so I’m fairly excited about that.
Zoë: I’m from Cork so I will be closing my circle tonight! So long everybody!
What can we expect to see from M(h)aol in the next year?
Connie: We’re currently in the middle of our Irish album tour, and in May we head across the UK. Early June we’re off to Europe which is really exciting, playing festivals mainly.
Attachment Styles is out now via Tulle