Dea Matrona: “If we’re having the craic, then that’s good”

The Irish duo on their debut album, their busking roots, and keeping their music career fun

School friends Mollie McGinn and Orláith Forsythe have just released a debut album together. From songwriting at the back of school classrooms to Reading and Leeds slots, the duo have had quite the rise over the last few years, gathering a wide fanbase across the UK and Ireland, and patenting a sound that manages to be both nostalgic and entirely self-identified. For McGinn and Forsythe, putting out this record together was an inevitability.

“It’s definitely been a very long journey,” says McGinn. “We’ve been writing this album really for about three years. We thought about how we wanted our debut album to come across, and we ummed and ahhed about genre and everything. But I think what it stands for is just what we’re all about, and how we probably will never know what our band is genre-wise. It encapsulates all the music that we like, and are influenced by, and just our story so far.”

The album release is accompanied by a headline tour, kicking off the same day the album drops. “We were joking that we can’t celebrate too hard,” laughs McGinn, “but I think we will celebrate too hard anyway. We’ve got three weeks of tour to be okay for so… we’re just gonna have to work with the hangover.”

We caught up with Dea Matrona to talk about the process of creating their debut album, their viral busking videos, and how they ended up producing their own music.  

Dea Matrona - Every Night I Want You (Official Music Video)

You two met in school. When did you decide to start this project together?

Orláith: It really started because when we were teenagers, we were learning a lot of different songs together, and we used to practice in each other’s houses, and then that would kind of annoy everybody. So we went busking so we could have somewhere to play our music, and when we started busking, there were different people that came up and gave us different gig offers. So we kept doing it. Then we started to write our own music, and it’s never really stopped since.

Mollie: We were just too noisy in the house, our parents had to kick us out onto the streets.

Orláith: But it was the best opportunity for us. I think all bands should try busking because it teaches you a lot of things, to be honest.

Do you miss busking?

Mollie: Yeah, we do. I feel like it’ll be something that we’ll do again, just for the craic.

When did you realise that this was something you could make a career out of?

Mollie: I think one of those early weddings or something where someone gave us money for singing. We were like, “Wait, you can actually make a living at this?!”. We did everything for a bit – performing covers on the bar and wedding scene for a few years. Then that all got pulled with the lockdown. That’s when we started trying to be more of an originals band.

Orláith: I think the first moment when I thought, “Oh, people might like this” is when our Belfast show sold out. That was pretty cool stuff.

What was that transition into writing originals like? Did it come naturally to you from the beginning?

Mollie: Yeah, we both always wrote songs individually, and we started writing songs together as a joke. We’d just be sitting in class, writing songs about someone that was annoying us. So when we did decide to take it seriously, we’d kind of already been doing it together.

Dea Matrona - Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac Cover)

What’s your songwriting process like?

Orláith: It’s always very collaborative. It’s not the same anytime we do it; it always takes on a different form. But it’s always the two of us, at the end of it, bashing out ideas, or sitting together and starting something from scratch, or maybe picking up where we left off with the song idea we had once before.

Social media, and particularly YouTube, played quite an important role in your early career. How did that come about?

Mollie: I think it started when we were busking. We would come home and people would put videos of us up on Twitter, and they were really blowing up. So we thought “Oh, this is a cool way to get out there”… We took a few videos on our own and started putting them up on our YouTube as well.

Orláith: We went busking on Christmas Eve 2020, and a video of us on YouTube just blew up. We had no idea why it happened. It just kind of did. I think that was the first time we realised the power of the internet.

Mollie: Or when you started getting recognised in town. When you’re just having a wee lunch and someone says, “Oh, you’re those wee buskers?”

You’ve played quite a lot of major venues and festivals since then. Do you have a favourite of those larger gigs?

Orláith: Mine was the O2 Forum Kentish Town with a band called I Don’t Know How But They Found Me. There were two support acts and we were the first one. We went onto the stage and the crowd went crazy, and I thought that the main band had walked on behind us and were waving or something. But they were actually cheering for us. That was just a really crazy moment. That was our first time playing a huge venue, just after the lockdown lifted. I loved that gig.

Dea Matrona - 'Crossroads' (Cream Cover)

What was it like coming back to that live scene after COVID?

Mollie: Oh, really good. We definitely missed it. It was really weird, after having not played for a while, coming back and seeing all the crowds, but it was definitely very cool.

Orláith: I think the strangest thing was that one of our first gigs back was actually Reading and Leeds. Before the lockdown, we were just playing a few bars in Belfast and busking and everything. That was really being thrown in at the deep end. I still can’t believe that happened.

Did you get a sense in lockdown that this might be waiting for you on the other side of it?

Mollie: Honestly, we didn’t know what was waiting for us. We were kind of worried, because there were no gigs and no anything. We were wondering if we should have a career switch.

Orláith: It was just especially weird because there was a point where you couldn’t play any shows over here, but over in England everything was coming back. It was like a whole different world. We were travelling playing gigs in England, but not here.

When did you guys first start thinking about putting out a debut album?

Mollie: We’ve always been thinking about it. It was just getting the songs and making sure it was right that took a while. It’s always been in the back of our minds that we want to be an album band, but it did take us a while to get to the point where we feel like it’s the right songs and the right vibe.

Dea Matrona - Stuck on You (Official Music Video)

What made ‘Stuck on You’ your pick for lead single?

Mollie: We thought it was a bop! It had a vibe, and it was the one we felt was the coolest.

Orláith: It was the one we took the longest to produce. We sat for months producing that song going, “When is this going to be finished?”. So when it did get finished, it was like, “Ah, I can breathe”. We were kind of wondering how to play the song live, because there’s a lot going on, but we did play it with the band last week and it’s sounding pretty cool.

When did you both begin producing your own music?

Mollie: We’ve always done it, but if you listen back to our earliest stuff, it really wasn’t produced well, because it was our first attempt at producing ourselves. The decision came from the fact that we just couldn’t afford to go to a producer, so we were just gonna have to whip out the laptops and get something done. The earlier stuff we stuck up on Spotify is probably reflective of that. When we started doing it, we were like, “Yeah, this is actually what we like doing,” even though we weren’t good at it. I think we have gotten better, I hope!

Do you ever find it difficult to decide when something’s complete?

Mollie: Yeah. You can go over things as much as you want – that’s the annoying part. A lot of times, if you’re in the studio, you’ve got, like, three vocal takes. But when you’re doing it yourself, you can do it for three or four days and be like, “No, I don’t like it.” That’s where having each other kind of comes in handy. She’ll be like, “Oh, I don’t like it. I want to do it again.” And I’ll be like, “No, it’s good. Just go with it.”

Dea Matrona - 'Glory, Glory (I am Free)' [Official Music Video]

What’s your favourite song on the record?

Orláith: I’m gonna go for ‘Glory, Glory (I Am Free)’.

M: I can’t choose. I’ll go with Orláith’s favourite.

Orláith: When it came about, we were kind of thinking, “Oh, is this a Dea Matrona song? Is it a bit too soft?” Then we thought, “No, this is a Dea Matrona song. We wrote it, and this is the music we like”. I think a lot of people really enjoy it. And it’s the only song that’s ever really made me cry on stage. We were singing it at our show late last year, and the audience just sang really, really loud. We’d just never experienced that before. It was emotional stuff.

What makes a Dea Matrona song?

Mollie: When Dea Matrona write it.

Orláith: It’s a good question, because when we started playing, we were playing a lot of rock covers and heavy stuff. Since those were the videos that went quite big for us on the internet, people think we’re this rock band sometimes, and that’s not really the case. We like a lot of music. So I think a Dea Matrona song is just a mix of everything. I think it’s hard to pin down.

Who are your biggest influences?

Mollie: We obviously do like the rock stuff. That’s where we started off when we were doing covers, but we’re both pretty open-minded when it comes to music tastes. We listen to a lot of stuff and we love discovering loads of modern and current artists as well. We really like CMAT at the minute, and The Beaches.

Orláith: The Beaches are great. NewDad‘s great as well. I think the bands that started it for us when we were getting into music were Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles… maybe Led Zeppelin as well. We just love everything.

When you look five years ahead in your career, where would you say you’d want to be by then?

Mollie: Hopefully on album three?

Orláith: Album five, Mollie!

Mollie: Yeah, we’re aiming bigger here. Album five. Honestly, as long as we keep having fun with it – that’s kind of our motto, that we both enjoy it and don’t view it as a stressful thing. If we’re having the craic, then that’s good.

Dea Matrona’s UK headline tour begins today. Find tickets here.

For Your Sins is out now.