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Keeping ‘er lit

Dea Matrona: Oralith and Mollie.

Mollie McGinn of Belfast rock duo Dea Matrona told David Hennessy about their new single, biggest UK tour to date, and the departure of her sister Mamie from the band.

Since forming in 2018, Belfast rock duo Dea Matrona have been making a name for themselves in Northern Ireland and much further afield.

After first finding viral success with their Fleetwood Mac covers, they would then prove themselves with original songs like Siren Song, Hard On Yourself, Won’t Feel Like This Forever and Make You My Star which soared to No.1 on both the Irish and UK iTunes Rock Chart.

They have reached over 250,000 followers on social media and racked up over 8 million views on YouTube.

They have shared the stage with big names such as The Black Eyed Peas and Van Morrison. They have supported the Eagles of Death Metal on a tour of Europe.

They have certainly come a long way since they were busking on the streets of Belfast playing covers of songs by Led Zeppelin, Cream, Aerosmith, and Chuck Berry and other 60s and 70s acts they are inspired.

Their name as Dea Matrona means ‘divine mother goddess’ in Celtic mythology.

Made up of Mollie McGinn (23) and lifelong friend Orlaith Forsythe (22), the duo have toured Europe and are preparing for their own headline tour around the UK in May.

The band was originally a three piece but drummer Mamie- Mollie’s sister- departed last year.

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The Irish World spoke to the band when they were on their biggest UK tour to date supporting the Kris Barras Band, the ladies are also about to make it stateside for the first time for the SXSW festival. Since we spoke they have also announced their biggest UK and Ireland tour to date.

Mollie told The Irish World about the current tour: “Every night has been so fun. You know, we’ve been playing the crowds of 3- 500 every night, a lot of the time more.

“They (Kris Barras band)’re a really lovely bunch.

“They’re really sweet to us, we’ve been treated really well and we’re getting on very well with them.

“It’s been really fun and I can’t believe it’s halfway done now.

“That was our halfway point last night and we’re not even tired yet.”

The band have been winning fans among blues- rock band Kris Barras’ audience if social media is anything to go by.

Does Mollie get any impression of that? “I do get a sense of it but usually I try and stay off social media as much as I can but we get the vibe.

“We love to chat to people after our shows.

“We always try and make a point of going out to the merch stand or taking pictures with fans who come up and get the reactions and stuff which is always really nice.”

Dea Matrona release the single Get My Mind Off this Friday.

“It’s a different one and it’s been really fun to play live as well.

“It’s about trying to forget about somebody and not been able to shake it off.

“We’re definitely really excited for people to hear it.”

The new track follows Red Button and So Damn Dangerous.

Red Button, their most recent track, was also their darkest to date as it detailed watching the world fall apart around you with a chorus that asks, ‘Who’s gonna hit the red button?’

The band said about the track: “Red Button is written from the perspective of observing the world tearing itself apart and being brought to a self-inflicted end in an apocalyptic state. It’s dark, it’s serious and it’s probably our favourite song we’ve written yet.”

Mollie says: “Red Button is definitely our darkest song lyrically and I think the lyrics speak for themselves and we like people to interpret them on their own, but it’s probably the one we had the most fun with.

“We were almost nervous about playing it on tour because of the lyrics and stuff.

“But so far it’s been one of the songs with the best reaction, it goes down really well live.

“I don’t know if it’s unexpected but it’s really cool and it’s going down very well on Spotify as well.”

The girls have already played a lot around Europe. Going through their social media you can see pics of them on stages in France, Holland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland to name a few.

“We really love traveling.

“It’s great to be  in these places and playing to audiences that know your music and to see t shirts in the crowd.

“We were playing in Estonia and Latvia last year which are really kind of random places and there were still Dea Matrona t- shirts in the crowd and it was just so cool.

“And I think with this tour, what’s really different about it compared to previous things we’ve done is just how long it is.

“We have never been on tour for such a long time.

“I think it’s a six week tour and then we head to America for two weeks.

“And then we’re on tour again after that but I can’t announce who with yet.”

The girls may have never played in America until now but they already have fans there.

“We haven’t played in America, but we’re really looking forward to it because we do have a big online audience in America.

“I think half of our online following is from America.

“So we are really looking forward to going over to SXSW and hopefully making connections that allow us to further tour in America because it’s definitely a market that we would love to hit.

“I’ve never been to America. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a flight that’s longer than three or four hours.

“I’m really excited about it.”

The Irish World first interviewed Dea Matrona back in 2020. One big change since then is that they were a trio then but it was in February 2022 that the band announced that original drummer, and Mollie’s sister, Mamie McGinn was leaving to continue her education and focus on other interests outside music.

Certainly an adjustment, was it a shock? “Well, it was definitely something to get used to but it wasn’t a huge shock.

“We did know it wasn’t for Mamie.

“She loved the busking but she just wanted to do her own thing and follow her own path which we were all very supportive of, we want her to do what she wants to do.

“And in terms of onstage, it was different playing with new drummers but we just keep on going. That’s our motto, keep ‘er lit.

“We just love to keep the show on the road, keep playing and it’s been really fun and the tour’s just been going really well.”

Could there ever be a return for Mamie? “Me and Orlaith would definitely keep the door open for Mamie if she did want to come back but I don’t think she will because music isn’t for her, it wouldn’t be her passion and she just has other interests outside of music that she wants to pursue and we really are really enjoying playing at the minute and we are really excited about things.

“Me and Mamie were always really close and got on really well. It was me who persuaded her to go busking with us at the start anyway. She always loved busking but I always kind of knew and so did she that it wasn’t her calling so that was always understood with us anyway.

“So it never really came as a big shock when things got more serious that she wanted to go her own way because I always knew her interests were elsewhere.”

And just because Mamie is not playing on them anymore does not mean that she has had no input in the latest releases.

“She is the band’s biggest fan. She actually did the artwork for our single Red Button and she did the artwork for our new single coming out, Get My Mind Off. We’re still keeping her on board in some way.”

Mollie and Orlaith originally met in school, bonding over their love of Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles.

The school friends would perform under the moniker Orlaith and Mollie before adding Mamie to the line-up.

They honed their skills busking on the streets of Belfast which is also where so many of their viral videos were shot.

“We (Oralith and I) used to mitch off class and play tunes and we just discovered that we both had the same music taste and it’s definitely how we bonded together.

“I would get into Led Zeppelin and then Orlaith would get into Led Zeppelin.

“Oralith would get into Fleetwood Mac and then I would get into Fleetwood Mac and we always play off each other.

“Still we’re always on a very similar wavelength when it comes to music taste because we spend so much time together.”

Was listening to Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin a bit rare at a time when many of their peers were getting into Justin Bieber? “It definitely was a strange one.

“I don’t even know how it came about necessarily either.

“I can’t remember why I got into Led Zeppelin. I think it was just randomly through YouTube guitar videos learning a riff.

“I think Fleetwood Mac might have actually been from American Horror Story or something.

“We discovered these bands online and we both just really liked them and it all went from there and we kept discovering more music.”

Mollie grew up in a musical house as her father was in a band.

“My dad had a strong love of music.

“It’s a help when you’re getting into music and you’ve got a dad who is a good musician.

“It did help to have a household who were supportive of me wanting to go into a music career and stuff.”

Was it always going to be music for you? “For me it was always music.

“I never really pictured myself doing anything else.

“It’s always been a really strong passion of mine.

“I’ve never looked back either, it’s always been the way.”

Mollie and Oralith were 16 and still in school when they decided to start taking their music to the streets.

“We just decided in class that we were going to try, go out busking at the weekend and it became a sort of regular thing because it went well that we decided we were going to do it every Sunday.

“It was definitely a really fun way to start and then I was able to convince Mamie to come drumming with us as well, and that lasted for about two or three years.

“There is a lot to learn from busking in terms of even getting people’s attention.

“It was definitely very fun back in the day.”

Videos of them playing would soon viral with former Eagles guitarist Don Felder said, ‘These girls can really play!!!! I LOVE IT’.

“It was really unexpected to be honest.

“We just went busking because we loved music.

“We never actually set out to have a band or anything.

“It was just me and Orlaith as friends.

“We initially just called ourselves Orlaith and Mollie and then we just decided to put up some videos someday.

“And then gradually a few years later when Mamie joined, the buzz did keep building.

“We were getting big people like the guy from the Eagles commenting on us and people like Imelda May sharing our videos.

“It was all very exciting and led to bigger gigs and stuff.”

The girls have shared the stage with big names like the Black Eyed Peas and got the personal endorsement of Van Morrison himself.

“It’s mad.

“It’s such a diverse bunch of people as well going from supporting Van Morrison to Black Eyed Peas, I don’t think there’s many people who can say they supported both of them because they’re so different to each other.

“We supported Van Morrison last year. He saw a video of us playing Gloria and he actually requested as well when we supported him that we go up and have a chat with him so we did get to chat to Van the Man and he was just telling us how he liked our cover of Gloria.

“We were talking music and he signed Orlaith’s record which I was very jealous of because I didn’t bring my Van Morrison record.”

Mollie says supporting Van Morrison was ‘a pinch me moment’.

“It was a real honour two nights back to back in Derry in the Millennium Forum so a really cool venue as well.”

What has been your greatest career highlight so far? “It’s hard to say but I do think our gig in the Limelight last May.

“It was packed out.

“We were coming home from our European tour and then playing to such a huge home crowd was such a really big moment for us.

“We’ve got a bigger headline date to announce soon in Belfast as well which we’re really excited about.”

The dates have now been announced so see below.

Something that has been raising eyebrows on this tour is how Mollie and Orlaith swap instruments every so often some saying they have never seen such a thing onstage.

“Yeah, we swap.

“We didn’t realise it was unusual when we started.

“I guess when we were 16, it kind of started because when we were busking we had a cajon and an acoustic guitar.

“And the person playing the cajon’s hands would get really sore and cold.

“So we would swap between cajon and acoustic and then when we started bringing the bass your back would get sore playing the bass so we would just swap and we never realised it was weird until we started doing bigger gigs and the sound men would look at us funny when we swap.

“But it was just something that naturally happened and we just haven’t ever decided to stop doing it.”

Get My Mind Off is out now.

Dea Matrona tour the UK and Ireland in June. They play The Hug & Pint in Glasgow on 16 May, YES (Pink Room) in Manchester on 17 May, The Key Club in Leeds on 18 May, District in Liverpool on 20 May, The Bodega in Nottingham on 21 May, The Black Heart in London on 23 May, The Louisiana in Bristol on 24 May, Bearded Theory Festival in Derby on 26 May, Whelan’s in Dublin on 2 June and Mandela Hall in Belfast on 3 June. 

For more information, click here.

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