M(h)aol – a feminist post-punk band pronounced ‘male’ – are a poignant hit of noise that amounts to one of the most interesting emerging bands of 2022. Deeply political, the five-piece, who manage to make things work despite being based in five different locations across the UK and Ireland, have been going since way back in 2014, but only recently started releasing a notable volume of music and gaining a significant public profile.
The brilliantly abrasive band launched debut EP ‘Gender Studies’ last year, and have an album on the way. They’re also touring, including a date at Whelan’s in early August. Vocalist Róisín Nic Ghearailt is a key part of the sound: a fiercely political vocalist who, in a live setting, is backed by some incredible use of the loud/ quiet dynamic that adds to the abrupt messaging. We catch up with Nic Gheatailt just as the band absorbs their growing stature.
“My goal with the live shows is to make people who have felt alienated or isolated feel like it’s okay,” Nic Ghearailt says. “I think what a lot of people miss [in our music] is that I always try to end the songs with something positive. My message might be that, yeah, you shout at me in the street, but that’s okay because I like this version of myself.”
“With ‘Asking For It’, the whole song is about victim blaming and rape culture and stuff like that, then at the end of the song I say ‘I’m not going to let this define my whole life’. I think because people are hearing a bit of shouting, they’re missing that every single song has a strong theme of hope.”
There certainly is a lot of shouting and aggression in M(h)aol’s music, and it’s wonderfully poignant and punchy. Nic Ghearailt’s lyrics are close to poetry, largely based on personal experience, and a visceral statement to the world. At her most abrupt, in tracks like ‘No One Ever Talks To Us’, she has the power to provoke thought and shock in a single turn of phrase.
The band have even cultivated a sense of mystery, in particular through a track that’s less than a minute long, called ‘Kinder Bueno’, which is available only on the sold-out vinyl EP, and as such is difficult to hear, and has gathered a bit of a cult reputation around its live performances.
“The album, when it comes, will be called ‘Attachment Style’,” Nic Gheartailt says. “I was thinking about how the only people I know with fully secure attachment styles are straight white men. Everyone else has some level of anxiety, as our environment teaches us to be highly vigilant. For me, moving from Ireland to New York, and then to Bristol, was intensely nourishing, as I found these groups of like minded people, queer spaces.”
“The album will end with a six minute song that’s like nothing we’ve ever done,” she continues. “I have a poem that I do live, about gender anxiety. I’ve found in the post punk scene, this kind of stuff is not really represented.”
“I hope that people will get a sense of being comforted from the music. Nothing changes until it changes, and it’s an important part of what we do to be inclusive and mindful. Things can change, things do change for the better all the time. That’s what we’re all about.”