Oralith Forsythe of exciting Belfast rock trio Dea Matrona told David Hennessy about how the band got through lockdown, why reality TV wasn’t right for them and following in the Beatles’ footsteps by playing in the Cavern Club in Liverpool.
Since forming in 2018, Belfast rock trio Dea Matrona have won themselves admirers in Northern Ireland and much further afield.
The all-female trio found viral success with their Fleetwood Mac covers as well as proving themselves with original songs like Siren Song, Hard On Yourself and their latest single Make You My Star.
Made up of sisters Mollie and Mamie McGinn and lifelong friend Orlaith Forsythe, the band’s style and music are both inspired by 60s and 70s rock ‘n’ roll. It has been said that they look like cast members from the film Almost Famous but they are set to be famous with no almost about it.
Since a video of them playing went viral, they have gained thousands of fans on Spotify and over 28k Instagram followers. Hot Press say: ‘Dea Matrona appear every inch the future of Irish rock and roll’ while former Eagles guitarist Don Felder said ‘These girls can really play!!!! I LOVE IT’.
The girls are already living up to their name as Dea Matrona means ‘divine mother goddess’ in Celtic mythology.
The girls were set for a busy summer of playing festivals only for the pandemic to put these plans on the back burner.
Orlaith, who shares vocal and guitar duties with Mollie, tells us they have tried to make the most of it but can’t wait to get back to playing live.
Oralith told The Irish World: “We had to find a way of making music while isolated but we came through it and we’re working on songs now hoping to get back on the road soon.
“We really really are dying to get back on the road. We just love to play music so when it all kind of stopped for a bit we were a bit annoyed.
“We had headline shows coming up in the Limelight in Belfast and Dublin, all over the place, we were hoping to get over to Liverpool, Manchester and London so all our plans were just put on pause but hopefully next year we will get back.”
The group have used the time wisely with their song Won’t Feel Like This Forever coming out of lockdown.
“I feel like it has been a chance to connect and do a bit more writing and try out things we wouldn’t necessarily do, experimenting with different sounds and things like that.
“We actually wrote a song over lockdown and recorded all our parts separately and kind of assembled it in isolation. Then we were able to come together and do a video for it. It was something different.”
With a video shot in a big meadow and the three members spread out, you can see the social distancing in the song’s video.
“It was that weird time when you couldn’t go near anybody so I kind of had to keep my distance from Mollie and Mamie in a big field. It was good fun.
“It got a great response. I feel like it really hit home with some people, it won’t be like this forever.”
Their last single Make You My Star came out in July but had been planned for earlier.
“I think we wrote Make You My Star in November last year and our plans were to put it out in April to coincide with our tour. We were going on a tour of the south of Ireland in April and then lockdown happened.
“For us it was really a song that captured the essence of our live act. When you come and see our shows, they’re quite high energy and I think Make You My Star is quite high energy as well.
“We definitely want to do an album. At the minute I think we’re just trying to lay down a few more songs and find out what sort of sound we should go for in an album and kind of just enjoying the process rather than forcing it on ourselves too much.”
Mollie and Orlaith originally met in school, bonding over their love of Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles, with Mollie’s younger sister Mamie later completing the line-up on drums.
“We both had a very strange music taste for two sixteen-year-old girls at the time. One day we were going through our playlists in school and I found out Mollie had the exact same music taste as me. It was all Led Zeppelin,
Fleetwood Mac and from then on we just started hanging out and jamming. It just evolved into a band. That’s really the origin of it.
“We’re definitely old souls. People always think, ‘Oh, you must get that from your parents’. My parents didn’t listen to Led Zeppelin or anything like that so it was very, very random that two people in the same class had that kind of music taste but I’m really grateful for it.”
The school friends would perform under the moniker Orlaith and Mollie until the line-up was completed.
“Me and Mollie started our wee duo, I think it was 2017. Then the year after Mamie joined us on the drums.
“It’s been really fun. Sometimes I think it’s hard to think it’s even been two years because music’s fun for us. We just love playing music and we’re all good mates so it really just comes naturally that we want to get out and play and write tunes. I don’t always think that it’s been two years to be honest.”
And it is not so long ago that they were in school. The band is so young that the youngest member, sixteen-year-old Mamie, was due to sit her GCSEs this year. It is only a couple of years since Oralith and Mollie finished school and decided against further education in favour of pursuing music.
“We did our A levels and neither of us really wanted to go to university. We both just wanted to give music a shot. I don’t regret that. It’s been going really well in the few years since we left school now.”
While they have impressed with their musicianship, have they encountered ignorance or condescension that is directed at them because they are three girls in a male industry?
“We’ve had it quite easy so far because it’s just so normal to us. We don’t really think of ourselves as three girls playing all the time. I suppose some people might be surprised when they see three young girls busting out rock music but for us, it just worked out that way that there’s three girls in the band.”
The girls honed their skills busking on the streets of Belfast which is also where so many of their viral videos are shot.
“If you can go out and play on the street, I think you can play anywhere. You’re not standing on a stage, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got. Usually there’s a big statue in the middle of Belfast and if we’re playing beside a statue we’ll jump on top of it with our guitars and run around so anywhere can become a stage if you think about it.
“I think Belfast is becoming a really good busking spot. It’s kind of almost on the same par as Dublin in a way. There’s a lot of great bands around the town at the minute. We’re hoping to get back out busking again because we really just want to play to be honest.”
The girls got to follow in their idols’ footsteps by playing in the birthplace of the Beatles, The Cavern Club in Liverpool.
“It was amazing. It was last summer we went over to the Cavern and did a residency and because we love the Beatles, it was almost like going on a pilgrimage. It was like going to church. We love Liverpool and I would love to get back and play there.
“It really really was a ‘pinch yourself’ moment. We literally were standing on the same stage that they played on so it was really incredible.
“It’s really amazing. It’s hard to explain but you get that really cool feeling that the Beatles have been there. It’s an incredible place.”
Could the band see themselves relocating to another UK city like London in time? “For now Belfast is our hub. I’m really thankful for all the people in Belfast who come to our shows and support us but we definitely would like to branch out: Liverpool, London, you never know.”
The band recently covered Roll With It for Hot Press’ tribute to Oasis. What is it like for Orlaith to share the band with another set of siblings? “We’re all really close so I think it makes it quite easy to be honest because Mollie and Mamie are sisters. It’s all very easy to organise things. It works out very well, I think.”
Dea Matrona are due to play a string of dates on both sides of the border in December and Oralith is still hopeful these will go ahead.
“Things are kind of changing every day. It can either be possible or not possible, you just don’t know so I’m holding out some hope that we’ll get back out on the road soon but whatever will be will be.”
The trio have been asked to appear on reality TV on numerous occasions but never felt it was the right move for them.
“We have been approached by The X Factor a few times but it’s never really been something that we’ve wanted to do. For some people it works out well and they get their foot in the door but I think we’re just content doing what we do our own way.”
Make You My Star is out now.
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