In Conversation with M(h)aol

Meet M(h)aol - the intersectional, feminist, post-punk band of your dreams. We talked to M(h)aol about their origins, their musical inspirations and their brand new single - 'Laundries'!

From left to right: Zoë, Sean, Róisín, Jamie and Connie.

Please introduce yourselves!

Connie: My name is Constance and I play the drums in M(h)aol.

Zoë: My name is Zoë, I play one of the basses in M(h)aol.

Jamie: I’m Jamie, the other bassist in M(h)aol.

Sean: My name is Sean and I "play" the guitar in M(h)aol.

Róisín: My name is Róisín and I am the singer in M(h)aol (amongst other things).

How did M(h)aol form?

Connie: We formed in 2014 after I shaved Róisín’s head. Zoe was friends with Róisín and is a super talented musician so she joined in on bass. Jamie started with us by recording us and then it only made sense to have her as a second bassist/producer extraordinaire. I found Sean in a record shop he works in and he agreed to come to a band practice.

Róisín: Myself and Connie were also going through a period of being *obsessed* with the documentary ‘The Punk Singer’ about Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill. We screened it at the feminist society that we ran, watched it individually, talked about it endlessly. It was a clear a sign as any that art meaningfully impacts on action.

Tell us about your awesome new single.

Róisín: It’s called ‘Laundries’ and it’s about a multitude of things; it’s about female subjugation, the catholic church and the replacement of religion with Neoliberalism within Ireland. It’s also about how those experiences shape political events today, in particular, the situation here in Ireland surrounding Direct Provision. Direct Provision is a system of housing refugees and asylum seekers that is completely unethical particularly during the current pandemic. It’s about what we do in this country with bodies that pose difficult political questions. How past and present intertwine and how unless our past is truly reckoned with, our present will constantly be destabilised (Masi and MERJ are two excellent organisations I’d recommend looking into if you want to find out more).

But it’s also about rage. All our songs to a certain extent are about rage. There are so few situations in life where people who are not white cis-het men can truly express anger in a safe and cathartic way. The song has morphed over the years which was definitely influenced by our respective journeys. I can’t speak for my band-mates but living in New York where there is such a strong history of rebelling and righteous anger, and then moving to Bristol to pursue an MSc in Gender Studies and International Relations, changed my relationship with politics and in particular feminist politics. It forced me to think more laterally about who my feminism implicitly and explicitly excludes. This has 100% affected my lyrics and I can see many more unconscious biases I held even five years ago. So in a way this song, to me, is about personal growth and finding a stronger voice.

Mesmerising stills from the M(h)aol - 'Laundries' music video - click here to watch.

What keeps you motivated as artists?

Zoë: I'm currently finding a lot of relief in creating and staying involved with the band. When we recorded Laundries in Dublin, it was the first time I'd left Cork since the lockdown was lifted and it felt very special being able to meet up and have the chance to record a single with such an important message behind it. Putting together the visuals for the single was also a really good way of staying creatively motivated in this restrictive environment.

Jamie: Art is one of my only escapes from constant depression and anxiety; I suppose not losing my mind entirely and trying to reintegrate with the world has been my main motivation for the last few years.

Who inspires you the most?

Connie: My mam.

Zoe: For M(h)aol projects, I would say I'm heavily inspired by Louise Bourgeois, Carolee Schneeman, Cosey Fanni Tutti and The Raincoats.

Sean: Ditto The Raincoats, The Germs, Slits, Middle Class

Jamie: Connie’s mam.

Róisín: For M(h)aol I would say that Bikini Kill, Sonic Youth and Blondie inspire me a lot. Then Big Joanie, Screaming Toenails and other bands who are doing the DIY queer, punk thing. In my personal life 100% my mom.

Have current world events affected your life?

Connie: I work in music, so that has essentially been completely turned upside down. I’m back in Ireland for the moment, working on things remotely, but it has basically become a cycle of me planning things, finding new ways to do things, and then having to change plans at the last minute. It’s been nice to be back with my family though.

Zoë: Yes, as I'm sure they have for so many others as well. I had been in the middle of a Cinematography MA, which has been completely upended by global events. It's been strange trying to adapt to everything. Mentally, it's difficult to cope in these sorts of unpredictable situations. I've been really appreciative of supportive friends and family, as my life has been reframed around those I care about most.

Jamie: Honestly, the biggest effect on my life has been that everyone else has been brought to my level of isolation and constant fear and, as weird as it might sound, that’s kind of refreshing. Like “I haven’t seen another human being in five weeks”, ya, same. I have channelled all of that into the writing and recording of my own music.

Sean: It's strangely pleasant to have more time but exhausting knowing there are few ways to spend it.

Róisín: I’ve been extremely anxious watching the rolling back of civil liberties across the Global North. In particular with leaders like Johnson, Trump and Bolsonaro. I’m also very concerned for people whose livelihoods depend on close contact, like those in the sex work community, however there has been an extremely encouraging wave of mutual aid. Organisations like SWAI in Ireland and SWARM in the UK are really great and they still need funds (if you’re reading this please donate!!). Personally, I’ve been going through a period of extremely poor health and so the lockdown is a relief as there is no pressure to go anywhere or make excuses.

What does your music bring to this world?

Connie: I hope our music brings an alternative narrative for fans of noisey music who don’t fit the mould of a white cis-het man.

Zoë: Designing the visual accompaniment for the single was a great chance to convey the strong message of Laundries and the feelings that the song evokes. We used some archive footage of women living in the Our Lady of Charity Magdalene asylum in Dublin to authentically humanise the lyrics and emphasise the fact that these were real living victims existing within these brutally oppressive conditions. We also used footage from inside the abandoned laundry in Donnybrook, from which the song was inspired by.

The idea was centred around reflecting the shrouded visions surrounding Ireland's religious history. The truth is obscured by time and shame, and the listener/viewer can only extract its full meaning by confronting it, engaging, and making an effort to understand the song's message. Similarly in politics, nothing in this world is going to change if you don't take the time to investigate these issues by educating and involving yourself. That's what I hope a lot of people take away from our music; a motivation to act.

Jamie: Yeah… what Zoe and Connie said… It’d also be fab for the cis-het folks to be able to get a glimpse of what we deal with as wom*n through the band but hey, I just make a load of noises and Ró says all the words.

Róisín: This is going to sound very grandiose but the point of M(h)aol was always (for me anyway) to do for others, particularly the others who rarely get to see themselves on a stage in a punk gig, what The Punk Singer did for me. Inspiration is an incredible thing and genuinely if I can be the singer of a punk band so can anyone. I have learnt over the years that all you need to do something is the conviction of your beliefs, people you really care about who care about you and a bit of fuck-it-all-anyway-ery. Everything else comes afterwards. Punks can be anyone. Anyone can be a punk.