A LITTLE FOLKY, a little twee, and host to an ever-evolving palette of stunning harmonies and surprisingly punchy, ‘kiss with a fist’ lyrics, the evolution of the wonderfully-named Dublin folk-pop act Mongoose has been a sight to behold.
Made up of four friends drawing on very different musical backgrounds, there’s an open, shared approach to songwriting and a ‘capable of anything’ feel to Molly O’Mahony, Ailbhe Dunne, Muireann Ní Cheannabháin and Cara Dunne’s music. That happy variety feels particularly prevalent on their latest release, second album ‘Suck The Wound’.
“It’s very much rooted in folk,” O’Mahony says of the new album. “We had a synth set up, guitars, cello, all of this. We didn’t set out for the album to be anything in particular, really, it’s a big melting pot of our ideas. There’s everything from pretty heavy going rock to jazzier stuff, a South American ballero, and then some more trad influenced stuff. We didn’t know we’d written a ballero until we hired a South American musician to play on it, but apparently it is one. The whole thing is a mix of all our tastes.”
There’s a real confidence to the way ‘Suck The Wound’ comes together; a faith that the disparate influences can untangle and melt into a coherent and memorable whole.
“Everything is a little bit more extreme on it,” Dunne says. “It does feel like it’s an album, as opposed to disparate songs. We had a flugelhorn for the first time, that was an exciting day at the studio! We had more time with it when we were writing, but then we just recorded it, mixed it, and it was done. It was very much about recreating our live sound, with the vocals are still very essentially to it.”
Harmonies – beautiful, soaring ones and darker, mood-setting ones – are right at the heart of what defines Mongoose as a band, and they’re here with abundance.
“Tonally, we’ve got a lot darker. It covers those middle twenty years that are a wee bit turbulent, trying desperately to mature. Or trying not to,” O’Mahony says.
“‘Body and Soul’ is a little track I wrote after coming home from the festival, and it feels like the cross point of three different stages,” says Ní Cheannabháin. “It’s like there’s a mix of sounds from different stages, noise from the bars, that kind of thing. It’s from a time that Cara and I shared a poncho in the rain. That doesn’t rhyme very well, so it’s jacket in the song.”
In the past, Mongoose have gone openly political, but this time there’s far more of an element of personal discovery.
“This one isn’t pointedly political. It’s a very personal album this time, unlike the old Repeal the 8th song,” Ní Cheannabháin continues. “I think it’s all of the political spectrum making its way into how we experience things, if anything. In one of the songs I’m in the middle of renting a house, and that uncertainty is almost a stressful thing. Those kind of things make their way in, but we don’t really pointedly talk about those things, apart from how the political affects the personal.”
“‘Higher Ground’ is all about feeling, all about being lost and directionless,” O’Mahony says. “A lot of that is political climate. I feel like I’m pushing on and not able to make a living. It’s the state of the nation, sure. It works its way in there. The climate influences what you write, and sometimes really resonates with us, then you end up marrying the two together.”
For all the hefty content and fun-loving asides, though, Mongoose have depth and a really distinctive, memorable style. They’re set to soar.