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Ireland’s next big thing

Eoghan MacMahon of HAWKE the BAND told David Hennessy about the story behind their latest single, why music and culture can adopt a better message around taking action against mental health issues and being a cousin of Leo Moran from The Saw Doctors.

The London- based Dublin act Hawke the BAND act were only formed in 2019 by friends Eoghan McMahon and Richie Power and it was not long before Aslan frontman Christy Dignam proclaimed them “the next big thing”.

The band have played UK festival slots, playing alongside other young breakout acts such as Jake Bugg and Tom Grennand and have just signed a publishing agreement for three of their songs with The Nucleus.

The guitar-led indie rock band had just made the move to London last year only for the pandemic to stop them in their tracks.

But rather than standing still, the band have remained busy throughout the year releasing singles such as Molly, Gonna Be Alright and Pinch Me (Am I Dreaming?).

Their latest offering Limo was inspired by an incident that happened in a car park one night when they were playing a charity gig alongside the Hollywood star Ray Wintstone.

Eoghan told The Irish World: “The first time we met Ray Winstone was also the first time we ever got near a limo – Ray was a true gent, a top lad.

“We had all attended an event at the London Hilton and, after a great night of partying we eventually left.  Or at least we thought we were leaving, because we got stuck at the Hilton underground car park’s sole exit barrier in our €400 battered Irish Ford Focus.

“Six limos and their drivers stuck behind us were apoplectic and, after ten more minutes passed without us moving, they were going totally nuclear.

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“We didn’t have the money between us to pay the outrageous £50 parking fee as we were skint – it was a charity event so we hadn’t even charged a performance fee for our live set at the event.

“But the guy wouldn’t let us through.

“We were begging and pleading to let us out of the car park.

“Next thing, some sheikh whose limo was right behind us jammed his head in our car window and screamed blue murder at us to pay up so he could leave.

“We told him we hadn’t a pot to pi*s in for the tenth time so he fired a £50 note at us and roared all the way back to his car.

“He was furious, he was absolutely furious.

“I just remember thinking to myself, ‘This is mental’.

“Thankfully our engine didn’t give out and we got on the A5 back to our ex-Travelodge in Dunstable for another night with five sleeping in a one-bedded room.

“A night to remember for sure, and I’ll never forget my first up-close limo experience.

“I swear to God I’ve never come through a weirder experience in my life.

“That was honestly for me a big part of the tune, just thinking about that experience with Ray, being stuck down there with no money for the car park.

“I was thinking, ‘You know it’s actually crazy the amount of money that is out there. Some day we’ll have a bit of money for a nicer car for ourselves and a little money for car parking.”

Not being able to gig for the last year has been difficult for the lads.

But while it has been great to return to the stage, Eoghan says he has learned not to push himself too much as that takes a toll.

Eoghan says: “We just feel lucky to be over here in the UK and we feel lucky to have a semblance of respect from the powers that be.

“For me, personally, having no gigs the last year and a half was just a real killer.

“It was just really bad, depressing.

“I’ve come to the opposite stage of it now where we’re having a load of gigs.

“At one stage I had to just pull it back because we were doing too much.

“I was getting to the stage where I was getting panic attacks on stage, just from taking on too much.

“It’s been zero to a hundred in no time.

“That has been definitely a bit of a wake-up call that you can’t put your body through that because going onstage is a really physical thing, you know?

“We were playing. I think it was the third gig of a four-gig day.

“I got halfway through the set.

“I was like, ‘I can’t do this. My body is literally freaking out right now.

“It was like a physical panic attack.

“It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced and I had to literally stop the set and go sit out the back on kegs.

“That was a kind of reminder just about trying to push yourself too much.”

This was not Eoghan’s first experience of any kind of anxiety. He explains it has long been an issue that he has only recently had treatment for.

“One minute I’m up and the next I’m down. I used to think it was like a bipolar sort of thing, it actually wasn’t.

“It was actually caused by ADHD and not being able to manage myself.

“I realized that it was actually a lot of the hallmarks of ADHD.

“I recognised all the symptoms in my daily life that was just not going well because of- I don’t want to call it an illness but a difference in the brain

“The issue is caused by not being able to regulate my daily life, causing these mood swings, where I was getting so depressed.

“I went and got checked out.

“I went to a psychiatrist.

“He gave me the diagnosis and I got medication.

“For the longest time, I was completely against medication.

“I’m talking about the last 15 years of my life, since I started going to counselling sessions as a child.

“But since starting this medication, my life is incredibly better.

“I’m able to manage it better, I’m able to think properly and I don’t have all these up and down swings anymore.

“It’s been fantastic.

“The anxiety is really lessening now because I’m able to understand a lot of the problems.”

Eoghan believes mental health issues are only going to spiral in a world of social media and if people aren’t encouraged to tackle them.

“A lot of our people our age are dealing with a lot of mental issues.

“We live in a world where we’ve got Instagram, and Facebook.

“They know that Instagram is bad for kids, it’s bad for your mind. It causes a lot of issues and this is the first generation growing up with that built into us where something happens good or bad, you put it on Facebook, ‘See what I get..’

“That’s a very negative way to think about the world, everything is on display the whole time to everyone else.

“And so, that causes a lot of problems.

“And there’s a lot of mental issues around and I just feel like, you know, there isn’t a lot of positives (to social media).

“There’s a lot of acceptance that depression and anxiety are jut the modus operandi.

“That’s just how it is while our music is kind of saying, ‘Look you can get yourself out of these bad situations’.

“Myself I’ve got a lot of experience with anxiousness and I have had the experience of trying to get out of that.

“We’re not given in popular culture and music enough of a belief that we don’t just have to accept these issues. We’re always told, ‘It’s okay not to feel okay’.

“Which is great but what about, ‘It’s not okay to not do anything about it’.

“People have a lot of issues and it’s so sad that they feel like there’s almost nothing they can do about it. It’s just how it’s gonna be.

“That’s what we’re trying to say with our music, ‘Don’t just swallow what the media, popular culture has given you’.

“There’s a massive amount of politics in music, which is great, because  music is a lot of the time a great avenue for politics.

“But telling people to externally do things like save world hunger or save the planet or whatever it is- although that’s a good thing, nothing wrong with that- I felt a lot of that is very difficult for people to put into practice.

“We want people to fix themselves rather than going ahead and moaning about something you can’t really do much about it.

“As a collective we can do things. We can vote people in and whether that works is another question.

“But at the end of the day, if  each one of us do improve our life to a certain extent, it would have much more of an impact than sort of intangible things, all of the crazy issues you hear artists telling people to worry about.

“If you talk about a band like U2, who are my favourite band ever, sometimes I go to a concert and I’m like, ‘Man, these are issues are… Just shut up and play the music because none of us can do anything about it’.

“As much as I love Bono, that’s just the difficulty there.

“Whereas we kind of feel the message in our music is, ‘You can actually make a difference. You have got to start with yourself first.”

The previous single Molly had a similar tone to the well known Galway Girl and was about a girl that Eoghan and desperately wanted to see again.

“A lot of people love that story. It’s weird.

“Every time I get up onstage and tell that story, they either want to know does Molly exist or whether I’m talking about drugs.

“They want to know what her real name is.

“Anytime I get offstage, they’re always asking about that song, ‘Who is that?’

“I didn’t really expect that when I wrote it.

“It always gets interest and I’m always wondering why.

“Imagine you’re in a band like Coldplay and then you’re coming offstage thinking, ‘New album sounds great’. And people are like, ‘Yeah, but what’s the story with Gwyneth?’

“That’s what it’s like in a silly, parallel universe way.”

We have to ask, has he heard from ‘Molly’? “Funny enough I was only texting the girl today. But she has a boyfriend now.”

How does Eoghan like London? “I absolutely love it.

Although Eoghan doesn’t play GAA with Éire Óg club, he does join the craic afterwards and sometimes playing a tune by a well known relative.

“I go down to the pub afterwards, Gertie Browns

“There’s a bit of a crowd of us that go down and drink them out of house and home.

“It’s interesting. My second or third cousin is in the Saw Doctors.

“I was playing N17 in Gertie Browns at a bit of a session.

“One of the lads took a video and I sent the video to Leo (Moran, Saw Doctors lead singer).

“I said to him, ‘N17 is going strong in North London’.

“He text me back, It’s probably in N17 (post code), is it?

“I don’t know what the exact separation is but he’s my cousin anyway and the last time I saw him was at the funeral of my grandmother back in Galway.

“It was honestly a lovely experience.

“My grandmother died there just before COVID.

“I remember she had Alzheimer’s and dementia for the last ten years and it progressively got really bad to the stage where she only knew my dad.

“She recognized me if I was there but not really.

“Maybe she would know it was some relation but wouldn’t honestly know me.

“We went down to the funeral.

“I was expecting a small enough ceremony but the place was thronged.

“There were three or four hundred people that I hadn’t seen in ten, fifteen years  and that I never, ever would have thought would have all shown up.

“But the whole town showed up down in Galway in remembrance of the woman that she was.

“It’s a lovely thing to think that you’re 20 years down the line with Alzheimer’s and you don’t know a single other person, people will come out and that’s a really lovely thing.

“And it was just so great that that happened before the pandemic.”

It was still early days for the band when Hawke the Band won a competition to play as special guests of local heroes Aslan at Dublin’s 5,000 capacity Iveagh Gardens.

They were so astonished to win that Eoghan could not quite convince Richie it was true.

“Richie’s first gig was an Aslan gig back in the day.

“We’re massive fans.

“I was driving down to Galway. I got a call from a number I didn’t recognise, ‘It’s Denise, Aslan’s management, do you want to come play with them?’

“I was like, ‘Bullsh*t, this is definitely a prank call’.

“I called Richie and I said, ‘Are we free because Aslan want us to play Iveagh Gardens?’

“And he was like, ‘Yeah right. Come on, man. We have stuff we need to get done today, stop playing around’.

“I said, ‘No, I’m actually being serious’.

“It was funny. He literally wouldn’t believe me after five or six times of me telling him.

“It was huge for us. It was absolutely massive.

“And then we were standing backstage and Christy says, ‘You guys really know how to do melody’.

“Even now when I’m feeling a bit unconfident, I just remember him saying that.

“It was such a lovely compliment and a really great way to start off the band.”

The single Limo is out now.

Hawke the Band play Luna Lounge on Thursday 21 October.

They also play The Grace in London with Elijah Miller on 10 December.

For more information, you can find Hawke the Band on social media.

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