Never Mind the Bishops: Singing Back to the Church in Ireland

Illustration By Neave Alouf

By Orlaith Darling

Throughout Ireland’s whole sorry Catholic history, art has been a mode of resistance and a vehicle of change.

From doomsaying the supposed “immorality” of popular music to Anti-Jazz Campaigns to Public Dance Hall Acts, the Church has historically done their utmost to create a homogenous and compliant Catholic people. 

And yet, Irish artists through the ages have resisted. Diagnosing what they saw as a tumour on the freedom and creative potential of both individuals and groups in Irish society, they sang and wrote and played what they wanted in spite of the opposition. Who could forget Sinéad O’Connor ripping up a picture of the pope during a cover of Bob Marley’s “War” on SNL in 1992, or her searching, chilling unaccompanied rendition of “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” in 1993, or her dressing up as a priest for the 50th anniversary of The Late Late Show, her iconic buzz cut paired with a crucifix and dog-collar?

What we have here, for your consideration, is a timeline of this creative resistance – sparse at first, but gaining momentum from the foundation laid by artists like O’Connor.

Today, we see a generation of musicians emerging in Ireland who understand the necessity of representing groups previously marginalised by dominant modes of power. Many of the artists listed here were born or came of age in an Ireland where the Church still held vestigial  – if rapidly diminishing – authority. Mostly born in the ‘90s or ‘00s, they were baptised to get into the local National School and probably had (as I did) regular calls from the parish priest in their primary school class.

But these Millennial and Gen Z musicians also grew up in a society characterised by growing levels of disgust at a Church who treated women, children, and minorities as subhuman. They are part of a generation who voted Yes Equality, Yes to Repeal and organised protest concerts at the pope’s 2018 visit. Put it this way: if Pope John Paul II had a comeback tour, if he tried his “young people of Ireland, I love you” shtick today, he wouldn’t get such a warm reception from this crowd.

The songs gathered here offer an alternative lens on the interlinked histories of the Church and the Irish state. Some are mainstream, some are not. Some are by established artists, others come from emerging voices. Some speak directly to injustices perpetrated on the innocent and vulnerable by the Church, channeling serious Sinéad O’Connor energy. Others completely ignore the Church, instead choosing to celebrate minority identities vilified by Catholic doctrine. Some seize hold of the religious iconography we grew up with and subvert it, and others simply sing about the Church in an irreverent way.

All of them, however, demonstrate the power of music and narrative to represent, reprehend and speak truth to power.

All of them represent  – thank Christ  – a changing Ireland.

“Gay Girls” — Pillow Queens (2018)

Dublin indie-rock group Pillow Queens frequently draw on Irish cultural, religious or political lodestones for topic matter – they have even been described as “Tayto punk.” The queer 4-piece’s 2018 single “Gay Girls” is no exception. From grass-stained Communion dresses, to brown paper chip bags repurposed as bishops’ hats, to the substitution of flying saucer sweets for the host, to Cadet red lemonade becoming Communion wine, this song and its video subvert the religious at every turn.

Playing on the trope of the First Holy Communion, the music video (dir. Kate Dolan) opens with a young girl in a white dress. Outside the bedroom, her parents argue, their hands paused in poses of prayer and open-palmed supplication. As the first verse closes, the girl escapes through the back door, stumbling on three other girls – also dressed in white – gambling with their Communion money.

As the multi-vocal choruses build, there is a heightened sense of collectivity in the “gay girls” and the sisterhood portrayed in the video. In this way, the song is a clever riposte to our societal construction of childhood, innocence and femininity – these chicks are far from silent, pious supplicants. As the lyrics entreat “Marie, Marie, Maria” to “Tell me where to find you when I lose my way”, the girls’ runners under their dresses and the craic they’re having totally contradict the idea that they’re lost. Instead, the connotations of “fallen” female sexuality – of “losing my way” – is repurposed as an intentional escape, an exercise in collective female agency.

Musically, as well as visually, the track draws on religious motifs and subverts them. We go from the plaintive Gregorian style melisma of the opening “Holy / Are we” to a group chant of the final chorus, amplified as though in a church atrium.

The generally easy, melodic rock vibe is occasionally broken by piercing, high-pitched guitar riffs and vocals straining through a megaphone – another reminder of the activism and protest movements on issues like gay marriage and abortion, both causes about which Pillow Queens themselves were vocal.

Ending with a key change, and an assertive descending arpeggio motif, the track is decisive and confident – a refusal by the “gay girls” to be defined by the iconography they harness and repurpose for their own ends.

“Nothing Compares 2 U” — Sinéad O’Connor (1990)

Did you know this was a cover of a Prince song?

Me neither.

It seems so much Sinéad O’Connor’s own, her plaintive vocals winding their way through all the sustained synth-strings and making it something new.

O’Connor is a well-known critic of the Catholic Church, and her run-ins with theocratic Ireland started young – at 15, she spent a year and a half in a Magdalene Asylum after she was caught shoplifting.

While her music is not always political as such, much of O’Connor’s public appearances, interviews and performances have featured overt criticism of the Church, particularly its dealings with women and children.

Is it too much to say that there’s a mixture of sacred sincerity and religious pastiche underlining everything O’Connor does? 

She stares into the camera in “Nothing Compares 2 U,” looking like a nun without her coif crossed with a 1940s Hollywood starlet. In one breath, she tells Gay Byrne she would be a priest if she couldn’t be a singer, and calls the pope evil in the next. She is ordained as a priest, and then begs three popes in a row to excommunicate her. If O’Connor has struggled to reconcile different aspects of herself and the society she finds herself in, she’s not entirely wrong to link her issues back to a Church who, in her own words, consistently abused, undermined and distrusted women like her.

O’Connor is a complex woman, but she should occupy a special place in Irish music for her voice, her presence, and her consistent bewilderment of the expectations put on her.

“Take Me to Church” — Hozier (2014)

Ah, the single that launched a thousand anti-pope protests.

The endearingly shy, alluringly anti-Church poster child of the Irish millennial generation.

His ponytail, his Breton tees and nonetheless strangely feral appearance, his visceral guitar playing.

God bless Hozier.

I have heard some strange recitations of the lyrics of this, perhaps Hozier’s best-known song. Through and through, it’s an anti-clerical anthem, yet somehow “the shrine of your lies” translates to “every Saturday night” in the mouths of the baying crowds at his gigs.

The song will forever be associated for me with the gay marriage referendum of 2015 – shout out, as well, to “Nina Cried Power,” whose video makes me cry, remembering May 2018. 

“Take Me to Church” spells out, in no uncertain terms, the hypocrisy of the Church. It pulls you into a sensual retelling of a relationship embroiled in the discourse of sin. It begs forgiveness and defies those who would presume to grant it. Hozier tells us to take him to church like he’s asking for a fight.

“Take Me to Church” is a tribute to the generations of Irish people who were steeped in the doctrine of damnation, who had the purity of love poisoned for them. But also, it promises hope, it reminds us of our humanity: “There is,” Hozier croons, “no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin.”

This is a song, in the midst of all we have overthrown and all we have yet to dismantle, which “command[s us] to be well.”


“Holy Grail” — Denise Chaila (2020)

From day one, Denise Chaila has not been shy about speaking truth to power. From blasting open misogyny in the music industry to tackling racist misconceptions of “Irishness,” the Limerick artist’s grime-y music looks right in the eye of those in charge, and then corrects them.

“Holy Grail” is no different.

From the opening brassy motif to Chaila’s supremely assured vocals, she is the boss here.

You only have to read her lyrics – or anything she’s written – to get a sense of her intense intelligence. Her rhymes are metaphorically rich and conceptually tight, flowing from one linguistic gem to the next.

Having already amply demonstrated her lyrical proficiency in her macaronic songs – easily melding Irish and English – Chaila builds on this with her effortless harnessing of religious imagery in “Holy Grail”. She is fluent in Biblical language, of “olive branches” and “chilling like Luke” – as she proclaims, she’s “got Genesis in my chromosomes.”

Her central hook is an entreaty to Galileo, the father of modern physics who was renounced on suspicion of heresy by the Church in the 1600s.

She coyly instructs the master of planetary observation to aim his telescope at her Holy Grail – but she’s not interested in just being watched. She wants to tell him all about it, too. If she opens the track by saying that she “lost the plot,” she still manages to “flip it.” Chaila has previously stated that she’s not interested in “self-flagellation” in her music, and her confidence is captivating.

She knows the language of religion, she knows the narrative of history, but she is in charge of her own destiny. When she tells us “I am the author / I am the / I am the –”, Chaila stops just short of calling herself the way, the truth and the life.

And what is there left to do but answer: all hail.

“Death Sentence” — Alien She (2017)

Released as part of the “Goodbye 8 Campaign”, Dublin experimental outfit Alien She’s track makes no bones about its beef with the Catholic Church.

True to its title, the single repeated note refrain “DEATH SENTENCE” is sung dozens of times. In caps.

And, just in case it wasn’t clear who was meting out death sentences to whom, the music video comprises a spectacularly creepy moving image of a nun, floating unnervingly in the foreground, backlit like a camera roll negative.

The song opens with a solo guitar, which sounds like it’s being de-tuned. This feeling of being cut adrift, of being unmoored, is continued throughout the track. The seemingly straightforward 1, 2, 3, 4 drumbeat is constantly messed with, with the result that, as the song trips from one section into the next, from jostling chorus to punchy verse, the listener has to focus to keep up with the changing terms of the rhythm.

This feels intentional. 

It might appear raw and messy but, within the anarchic chaos, there’s real musical prowess on display here. Drumming diversions, shifting time signatures, counter vocal riffs, contrapuntal guitar – this track is richly textured. But there is also a strong sense of centre – a centrifugal (if frantic) force driving it home. This is not the type of song you hear playing in the background of a bar – it demands your full attention.

And Jesus, don’t get me started on the false end – you check whether the video has glitched and there’s a spectral nun slowly crossing herself on your screen. 

A song that will linger on.

“Hungover at Mass” — Junior Brother (2016)

I wanna say we’ve all been there, but I have not (thank the lord Jesus).

The very idea of dragging myself through our national lip service – standing, kneeling, sitting, genuflecting – with rapidly souring alcohol swirling around the pit of my stomach makes me wanna vom.

Which, of course, is exactly the position Junior Brother finds himself in, pegging it down the aisle for fear of boking on the old biddy next to him in the pew.

I’m obsessed with the thrashing, brash acoustic guitar in this track. I am in love with his forthright, yet also self-abashed, vocals. There is something alluringly no-nonsense about Junior Brother’s approach to music-making – I give you the EP title, Fuck Off I Love You.

This take-it-or-leave-it attitude seeps into his performance. He makes no effort to disguise his accent, his face is steady and expressionless to the point where he could be the lad at school giving an ill-advised rendition of a risqué song in a music practical. His voice feels trad-sy; its condensed flatness sounds – dare I say it – sean nós-y. 

But Junior Brother skimps on the grace notes and somehow delivers much more oomph.

One area, though, where he clearly draws on this folksy heritage is in his lyrics – the man is a consummate storyteller. Local idioms, colloquialisms and turns-of-phrases all find their way into his writing whether he’s “trying to get the head straight” or “nearly fucking sprinting.” Not to mention the Catholic guilt – “Does God want me embarrassed?” he wonders, “Does Jesus have me cursed?”

I defy you to listen to this song and not feel an acute wave of sympathy for the poor lad, a grimacing memory of a similar incident you’ve buried.

We’ll never know if he makes it out in time to throw up in a flower bed – “How long’s this fucking church?” – or whether there’s clean up in aisle six.

Whatever the outcome, I doubt the parish priest is impressed.

“Laundries” — M(h)aol (2020)

Socio-political commentary – particularly that of an intersectional feminist persuasion – has always been central to M(h)aol’s musical and conceptual project.

The post-punk four-piece released the single “Laundries” in October 2020, just three months before the release of the 2,865-page report into the Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby Homes.

From the off, the track is classic M(h)aol, the pulsing repetition of a single note creating an eerie feel which is only heightened by the addition of a waspish guitar drone.

When the rhythmic bass-snare combo kicks in, there’s a sense of momentum which pushes the listener through the singer’s forcefully realised sense of outrage at the legacy of the Catholic Church.

Unlike the steady progress of the drumline, however, there is – as the Commission proves and as the last lyric proclaims – no progress for the survivors: “A decade and a half is never enough / sometimes these cases need a woman’s touch.”

If M(h)aol does anything well (which they do), it’s the wholeness of their artistic vision, which melds politics, music and visual aesthetics to realise a bigger meaning. 

“Laundries” as a song is brought to another level by the accompanying video by Zoe Greenway, which curates footage of women in Our Lady of Charity Magdalene Asylum in Dublin and an abandoned Laundry in Donnybrook. The black and white archive footage of women – dressed in white and dancing in religious pageants – is overlaid with swirling, disorientating washes of acid colour. Against the thrumming build of guitar and drum and the harsh vocals, the women twirl in a kind of dans macabre. This, the video seems to say, is the dystopia we created; this is the nightmare we can’t seem to wake up from.

M(h)aol wants to use their music to “redress historical violence.” But they know that this violence continues, and that we in contemporary society are cut off from the deepest depths of historic suffering. This is what the combination of lyrics and video seems to get at – with its multimedia interjections obscuring the archive footage, we cannot fully reach the women themselves.

But we, in the present, can still scream on their behalf.

“The girls are so pious,” the singer tells us of the women on screen:

“They shut up and put up.”

But these women won’t.

“I Love You, Sadie” — Wyvern Lingo (2017)

“I Love You, Sadie” is an undeniably boppy song, the type that makes you want to dance in a small smoky venue, ginger beer and bitters in hand.  

The opening snappy drum machine and perfectly pitched, layered vocals are what this Bray all-female trio does best. Shimmery guitar reverberates around every chorus like a peal of laughter. The band members are smiling throughout the music video – they bounce their shoulders and nod their heads along to the music.

It feels like a celebration.

And this is part of the song’s genius.

Any expectations we have around female vocal music are utterly subverted by this track. The backing vocals may be swoony, and it certainly wouldn’t be amiss to add some hip sways and finger snaps. But, as the lyrics remind us, Wyvern Lingo is “no ceramic doll.”

Against its poppy aesthetic, the track’s topic matter is deep and dark – Sadie is “undercover,” she “dare[s] not show your colours off,” she’s scared of “what they might say of you.”

But against this fear is a joyful confidence.

The speaker knows what it’s like to be “paranoid” – she tells us “she was just a little girl / who wanted to be a little boy.” But after all, she says, you can’t let people’s expectations “bother you at all.” You’ve “got to let go.”

Against the soft, panning vocals, then, and the serious themes of the song, the ending refrain “Yes, I wanna give my love to you” starts lower and more insistent. The repetition of the word “Yes” feels joyous in the context of the queer topic matter and the legalisation of gay marriage in 2015.

As the lyrics flash across the screen in the pop-arty music video, we are reminded of the power of narrative and personal stories in the context of testimony-driven activism in Ireland recently. When people speak to their experiences, silences are broken and oppression is lifted.

And then, like Wyvern Lingo, we can dance.

“The Kids Are All Rebels” — Lenii (2020)

Lenii’s 2020 single totally contradicts the artist’s Insta bio: “Nothing really matters.”

The song’s lyrics read as an anthem to Gen-Z activism across a range of issues, especially in the context of sweeping social liberalisation in Ireland over the last five or so years.

“We’ll take to the streets,” Lenii warns the powers that be in her (again to the Insta bio) couldn’t-care-less tone.

Her vocals are fluid and ethereal and the track definitely has mainstream legibility. The simple, muffled guitar triad recalls ‘90s grunge, and the goth pop vibes evoke the likes of Billie Eilish.

But this mix of references doesn’t do justice to Lenii’s fundamental defiance to those “in your ivory tower[s]” “getting high off a power trip.”

The TikTok generation is vulnerable and compassionate – “feeling kinda helpless” – but they’re “breaking your rules, baby / we’re making history.”

Bishop Brennan definitely would not approve of Lenii’s defiance. But he’d better watch out, ‘cause Lenii is gonna kick him up the arse.

And what’s even better?

She couldn’t give a fuck about you and your outraged sense of moral decorum.

“Say that we’re young, dumb and being too aggressive?” Lenii asks.

Okay, boomer.

Ireland’s Whole Sorry Catholic History: A Brief Synopsis

In 1934, Bunreacht na hÉireann – whose drafting was presided over by the patriarch of modern Irish Catholicism, Archbishop John Charles McQuaid – enshrined the “special place” of the Roman Catholic Church in Irish society. For the following decades, Ireland operated as an effective theocracy, the distinction between church and state perilously thin.

In 1946, Pope Paul VI called Ireland the most Catholic country in the world.

In 1979, Pope John Paul addressed 2.5 million Irish faithfuls at events in Dublin, Drogheda, Clonmacnoise, Galway, Knock, Limerick, and Maynooth. At his Mass in the Phoenix Park, he rhapsodised about “how Divine Providence has used this Island on the edge of Europe for the conversion of the European continent.”

In 1992, it emerged that Bishop of Galway, Eamon Casey, had had an affair and a son with an American woman, Annie Murphy. In 1993, she appeared on The Late Late Show with Gay Byrne, where audience members accused her of lying about the father of her child, of depicting the Bishop “as a villain,” and of bringing “rubbers” into Ireland. In response to her allegations that Casey “harangued” her to have her son adopted, Byrne put it to Murphy that Casey did so because “he didn’t have faith in your capacity to look after the child.” The interview closed with Byrne telling Murphy: “if your son is half as good a man as his father, he won’t be doing too badly.”

From the 1990s, revelations of the systematic abuse of children in Catholic-run schools, industrial schools and other institutions mounted.

In 1996, the last Magdalene Laundry for “fallen women” shut its doors on Sean McDermott street; in 1997, the last Mother and Baby Home closed.

In 2005, the Ferns Report found that bishops in the diocese of Ferns, Wexford, failed to keep known paedophilic priests away from children, and that sexual abuse of children had been treated as a moral – rather than criminal – issue by the church hierarchy.

In 2009, the Ryan Report found that the Department of Education had failed to investigate allegations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse as well as neglect at Church-run educational institutions from as early as 1936.

In 2013, the Irish government agreed to pay €58 million to survivors of the Magdalene Laundries. The four religious orders responsible for operating the Laundries stated that they had no intention to contribute to the compensation fund.[1] In 2014, the UN Human Rights Committee demanded that the Vatican compensate the Magdalens, who had performed free labour for the duration of their internment in the Laundries.[2]

In 2014, historian Catherine Corless’s work shot to the top of the national media agenda. Corless had, since 2011, been attempting to draw state and media attention to the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, having uncovered 796 death certificates for babies born there. Noting the lack of corresponding burial records, Corless later found that these children had been interred in a mass, unmarked grave in a septic tank on the site.

In 2017, it was reported that the Vatican had failed to pay the €1.3 billion owed to the Irish state for compensating survivors of child abuse in Church-run institutions.[3]

In August 2018, it was revealed that, of the 1,300 priests accused of sexual abuse of children, only 82 had been convicted.[4]

In 2020, the archive of records pertaining to the Mother and Baby Homes were sealed by the Irish government, making it virtually impossible for babies born there to access information about their birth mothers.

In 2021, the Commission of Investigation into the Mother and Baby Homes Report was released and subsequently widely criticised for ignoring the testimony of survivors and alleging that there was no evidence of forced adoptions. Taoiseach Micháel Martin subsequently blamed “Irish society” for the horrors meted out to survivors by the Catholic Church.





Bandcamp Friday: Our Recs for April

By Clare Martin

Happy Bandcamp Friday! Honestly, if there’s anything good to come from the seemingly unending pandemic, it has to be Bandcamp’s decision to waive their cut on every first Friday of the month (more specifically, 8am GMT Friday to 8am GMT Saturday). We love buying music and band merch, and it’s even better knowing that every penny is going towards the artist.

Bandcamp Friday is handy for supporting your favourite musicians or finding new artists to love. We couldn’t possibly hope to cover every single Irish act selling their tracks and wares today, but we’re highlighting some below in case you need help narrowing down your purchasing decisions. 

Aoife Nessa Frances

Fresh off her appearance at SXSW 2021, Aoife Nessa Frances has plenty of merch to offer: t-shirts, tote bags, vinyl, and CDs. The limited edition white vinyl pressing of the singer/songwriter’s debut album Land of No Junction is definitely not one to sleep on. 

Beauty Sleep

Besides CDs of their debut album Be Kind, Belfast duo Beauty Sleep are also selling prints of the record’s cover art on Bandcamp. They’re bright and colourful and even sport a hand-painted “reminder to be kinder to yourself” on the back.


We’re staying in the North but heading over to Derry, where pop-punk group Cherym are selling their super cool “Abigail” t-shirts (which come with unlimited streams and downloads of the single). 


“I Love You But I’m In A Bad….Mood” is a pretty universal feeling, and also the name of Dublin-based Jafaris’ 2020 EP. The hip hop artist is selling face masks and jumpers emblazoned with the EP title, as well as vinyl of his celebrated debut album STRIDE.


If you haven’t listened to JyellowL’s stellar debut album 2020 D|Vision, now’s your chance to pick up a copy of the record on vinyl. The rapper also has face masks and prints of the atmospheric album cover art on the go. 


“Ghost a post-punk boy today” are words to live by, which is why M(h)aol put this timeless mantra on a tote for you to purchase. 

Problem Patterns

Belfast four-piece Problem Patterns are selling their 20-page zine Good For You, Aren’t You Late?, as well as a “Big Shouty” bundle of a cute t-shirt and the titular digital track. 


Pop-funk group Toshín are a joy to behold and to rep in the t-shirts they’re offering today. The Dublin band are also selling tote bags with “Get Your Life” written on them.

March Music Roundup: Our Favourite Tunes This Month

March may have felt like another shitty notch in the COVID belt, but the one silver lining has been all of the brilliant music by Irish artists. From the RTÉ Choice Music Prize broadcast to the numerous St. Patrick’s Festival live streams, we weren’t left wanting for entertainment. A closed-set performance may not quite itch the same scratch as in-person gigs, but they’ll do for now.

Even more impressive, though, is the sheer output by musical acts that soundtrack our daily walks or dances around the kitchen. Check out some of our favourite music releases from March below, which are also on the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

AE Mak — Class Exercises EP

The new EP Class Exercises by Aoife McCann, better known as AE Mak, serves as a tribute to the house-parties-that-never-were, thanks to the pandemic. McCann pushes herself on her self-produced release, heralding the start of a stranger and even more wonderful era from the avant-garde pop artist. — Clare Martin

Ailbhe Reddy ft. Sacred Animals — “City Unfolds”

Ailbhe Reddy, whose debut album Personal History received an RTÉ Choice Music Prize nomination, teamed up with Wexford native Sacred Animals on “City Unfolds” to add some moody synth pop to her folk-infused sound. Reddy conjures up the image of a lonely cityscape at night—“Oh, street’s empty / Back of a taxi / Stretching before me”— on the melancholic track. — Clare Martin

Awkward Z. — “TRAPPED”

Awkward Z.’s latest single may be called “TRAPPED,” but the South Africa-born, Wexford/Waterford-based rapper proves that his creativity is anything but stymied. Over guitar and robust trap beats, the Anomaly Collective member recalls triumphing over personal struggles: “I was trapped in a dark place / and I made it / I can’t tell you how much I spent / now I save it.” — Clare Martin

Babylamb — “Mister Magic”

If you’re hankering for some colourful bubblegum pop euphoria, look no further than Babylamb and their effervescent single “Mister Magic.” The queer four-piece—made up of Tobias Barry, Rían Stephens, Laoise Fleming, and Cian King—bring their playful attitude to this sugary, incredibly catchy tune. — Clare Martin

Clannad ft. Denise Chaila — “In A Lifetime”

Celtic pop group Clannad’s re-release of their song “In A Lifetime” featuring Denise Chaila (filling in Bono’s role from the original 1986 single) is a moving intergenerational musical effort. Over haunting harp and with Poison Glen as their atmospheric backdrop, Moya Brennan and Chaila’s voices weave a beautiful tapestry. We’re so used to Chaila’s quick-witted rapping, but “In A Lifetime” reminds us of her impressive vocal chops. — Clare Martin

DYVR — “Holding Back”

The electro-pop track is the first off DYVR’s upcoming EP Part 3 and serves as a lush, thoughtful look at “the masks we wear in order to feel like we’re part of the world,” they explain. Glittering synth propels the melody forward and the thumping beat rattles in your chest, urging you to move. — Clare Martin

Gender Chores — “Night in the Woods” 

Landlords are bastards,” shouts grunge-punk band Gender Chores on their latest single “Night in The Woods.” Drawing influence from the riot grrrl manifesto, the Co. Down group blend loud guitars, hard-hitting drums and direct lyrics to bring awareness to socio-political issues. The track nails that familiar feeling of not being able to afford rent in an accommodation market designed to exploit: “For 1000 a month / you could live in this shoebox.’’  — Ellen Pentony

HAVVK — “No Patience”

Led by frontperson Julie Hawk, HAVVK return with the second single from their upcoming album Levelling. No stranger to political and social themes (“Always the Same,” “Glass,” and “Once Told”), the grunge-rock trio’s song “No Patience” is more introspective and personal. — Ellen Pentony

Lenii — “Straitjacket”

Lenii’s dark, heady pop single “Straitjacket” is both hypnotic and unsettling, with the melody on the chorus careening off the tracks. “Zip me up just to shut me down / Too loud so you shut my mouth,” the Cork artist sings in her high, crystal-clear voice, recalling how society often treats those who dare to break the mould. — Clare Martin

Maria Somerville — “Seabird”

For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have the sea within 5km, Galway artist Maria Somerville has you covered with her atmospheric cover of Air Miami’s “Seabird.” Just put on your headphones, close your eyes, and drift off on imaginary waves as Somerville serenades you with her gorgeous voice.  — Clare Martin

M(h)aol — “Asking For It”

Intersectional feminist band M(h)aol—made up of Róisín Nic Ghearailt, Constance Keane, Jamie Hyland, Zoe Greenway, and Sean Nolan—tackle rape culture head-on with their powerful single “Asking For It.” All proceeds from the song will be donated to Women’s Aid. — Clare Martin

NewDad — Waves EP

NewDad—made up of Julie Dawson (vocals, guitar), Áindle O’Beirn (bass), Sean O’Dowd (guitar), Fiachra Parslow (drums)—weave together Waves shoegaze-tinged tracks with hazy guitar and drums that oscillate between laid-back and stirring. Their dreamy slacker rock has arrived just in time as we’re getting that grand stretch in the evening. — Clare Martin

Pat Lagoon — “Put It Away”

Snappy drum machine and pensive guitar open up Waterford artist Pat Lagoon’s latest single “Put It Away.” The rapper and singer gets vulnerable on the track, opening up about his own self-doubts and the self-destructive desire to compare himself to others with lines like, “I’m just surfing a wave / Don’t know if I’m paving a way / I got some friends that are local / Got some feens going global.” — Clare Martin

Susie Blue — Boys Boys Boys EP 

Derry native Susie Blue mixes dream-pop with grit and emotion on the EP Boys Boys Boys. This is the first release to be self-produced by Blue, working alongside Jonny Woods from alt-rock Belfast band Wynona Bleach. The result is a crossover between SOAK, CHVRCHES and Ailbhe Reddy. Boys Boys Boys is packed with thick synth, layers of guitar, electro-drums, and a lot of proud queer yearning. “May God Forgive You” and “Pretender” are particular stand-outs.  — Ellen Pentony

Saint Sister — “Karaoke Song”

Saint Sister (Morgana MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty) have released their poppiest single yet, “Karaoke Song,” inspired by a night out two years ago when the pair celebrated MacIntyre’s birthday by singing Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb” in a Parnell Street karaoke bar. The track comes from their sophomore album Where I Should End, out on June 25th. — Clare Martin

Soda Blonde — “Small Talk”

“Small Talk” throbs with ‘80s-esque synths, reminiscent of other retro-inspired acts such as Tennis. O’Rourke’s voice is the real show-stopper here, though, beautifully conveying yearning and evoking the likes of Caroline Polachek. — Clare Martin

sohotsospicy and darkmavis — sodarksospicy EP

It would have been easy for Irish DJs to feel disenchanted with the closure of venues and to stop producing altogether, but sohotsospicy and darkmavis have delivered a body of work that makes one hopeful for the state of the Irish electronic scene. The insatiable beats hit off some neural groove rendered in a basement club pre-pandemic. — Doireann Ní Dhufaigh

Sprints — Manifesto EP

There’s something so familiar and authentic about the music Sprints make. Their lyrics are to-the-point, unpretentious, and accessible.  While their EP Manifesto doesn’t make explicit references to Dublin or Irish culture, Sprints offer relatable observations of what it’s like to live in the capital right now. — Ellen Pentony

Tolü Makay — “Used to Be” 

Since the release of her cover of the Saw Doctors’ N17, the Nigerian born Offaly artist has captured the heart of the nation with her rich, soulful vocals. She brings much needed diversity to the Irish singer/songwriter landscape, which has been largely dominated by white men in recent years. Her latest release “Used to Be” is a heart-breaking piano ballad about letting go of someone you once loved. — Ellen Pentony

M(h)aol Release New Single “Asking For It” in Support of Women’s Aid

By Clare Martin

Your pace quickens, your heart races. The headphones tucked over your ears are silent; you need to be able to hear any movement near you. Your hand grips your mobile, ready to dial. 

This horrific routine is all too familiar for women and nonbinary people the world over. We’re taught it as children, before we can fully comprehend the systematic, misogynistic violence we’ll be subjected to for the rest of our lives. According to the Irish Times, more than half of Irish women avoid using public transport after dark out of fear for their own safety. It’s an exhausting existence, made worse when the blame is shifted from the perpetrators of such attacks to the victims themselves.

Intersectional feminist band M(h)aol—made up of Róisín Nic Ghearailt, Constance Keane, Jamie Hyland, Zoe Greenway, and Sean Nolan—speak to this experience on their powerful new single “Asking For It.” While the song was written a couple of years ago and initially due for release in May, the post-punk group shared the track early considering the ongoing conversation around violence against women and nonbinary people, especially in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard. The Irish outfit have long woven activism into their music. Their 2020 single “Laundries” highlights how the Catholic Church and the powers that be have abused women in Ireland for generations: “The shame of our secrets / the stain of those days.” 

On M(h)aol’s latest release, low, droning guitar and insistent drums fill the air with a sense of sinister dread. The song pulses with righteous anger. Lead singer Nic Ghearailt sings with growing fury over the course of the track, “Was I asking for it?” The answer is a sharp, resounding no. 

All proceeds from the song will be donated to Women’s Aid. Listen to “Asking For It” below or purchase it on their Bandcamp.

State of the Scene: Irish Music in 2021

There’s some real cosmic fuckery going on in the Irish music industry right now.

The scene is more exhilarating and bursting with talent than ever, but we’re unable to pack into sweaty, beer-stained venues to see these homegrown acts play live. Nonetheless, the past 12 months have provided us with a bevy of phenomenal musicians and bands to guide us through an objectively shitty year, whether it was Pillow Queens’ stirring rock or Denise Chaila’s captivating, hook-laden rap.  

Despite the abundance of new and ground-breaking music, we’ve been disheartened by the relative lack of coverage of artists who didn’t fit the generic mould of being straight cis white men. We wanted to start this magazine (Blog? Website? Online publication? Take your pick.) to combat the status quo. Last year, the Why Not Her campaign exposed the staggering disparity in how often Irish women and artists of colour are played on the radio. Women only made up 11% of Ireland’s Top 100 Airplay Chart in the latter half of 2020, while men and gender collaborative efforts made up 85% and 4% of the chart, respectively. 

To kick ourselves off, we asked people active in the Irish scene the same three questions to see how they feel about the state of our island’s music. For obvious reasons, all of these interviews happened digitally, whether over Zoom or email, but their energy and excitement was still palpable even through pixelated screens.


Bitch Falcon lead singer Lizzie Fitzpatrick’s voice is a formidable force, burning bright throughout their debut album, Staring at Clocks. The Dublin band’s sound oscillates between grunge and punk, with songs often culminating in a cathartic maelstrom of furious guitar and pounding drums. With sonic power like theirs, it’s no wonder their record received an RTÉ Choice Award nomination. 

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Lizzie Fitzpatrick: In terms of marginalised communities, people in Direct Provision don’t really have that much of an outlet. It’s only really up to individual bands that are trying to offer a bit of a leg up. People living in Direct Provision are really restricted from integrating into the community, which is really shit. There are different things that can help, like I’ve seen gigs where it’s free for people from Direct Provision because otherwise they can’t really integrate at all. You’re not allowed to earn any money in Direct Provision and you can only get 20 euro a week to keep you going, and that includes your food. So in terms of marginalised communities, I think that it’s really down to the artists themselves to reach out, which can be admirable that some artists take it upon themselves to do that, but I don’t think people know enough about it. I would love to see a bit more of putting the hand out there. People from Direct Provision are really left on their own to put themselves out there.

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

LF: I think we need more opportunities to develop music, like government-funded rehearsal studios or production studios. That way there’s more access for all types of people to kind of come in and really use music as a community project, rather than it being something that’s kept exclusive where, you know, you can’t record anything unless you have a friend who can just do it DIY. Otherwise, it’s quite expensive and it’s quite daunting to get into, so I would love to see a programme where they make it far more open and accessible for people to even see the inside of the studio or produce ideas. It’s really scary when you first go in. You don’t know what to ask for and it’s all like, You only have eight hours left, so you better have it perfect, and you don’t know what to do. It’d be cool to have more learning opportunities in the music scene.

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

LF: I love Pretty Happy from Cork. They’re this mad indie rock band, but they have little experimental parts to them. They’re like the Pixies when the Pixies were mental. Not straight up stuff, more just fucking mad, I love them. I like Silverbacks and I like NewDad from Galway, they’re pretty cool. They’re chill indie. And then I like Shifting. They’re heavy, stoner-y doom rock from Dublin and Cork. The music is pretty intense and screamy, so you wouldn’t really think it’s the type of music their name suggests.


Galway rapper Maimouna Salif, better known as Celaviedmai, has opened for the likes of Lil Wayne and Mac Miller, but she’s a star all her own. She mixes the incredible confidence on her give-no-fucks anthem “Reckless,” with a keen sense of vulnerability on her collaboration with Nealo and Alan McKee “Questions” when she confesses, “I almost lost my life / Wish I would die / So many tears I cry.” Her candor and brilliant bars are exactly what Ireland needs right now. 

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Maimouna Salif: I think it’s flourishing. When I started originally, there weren’t that many artists, but now I feel like people are coming out of nowhere, which is great. I love the fact that we’re now building a small community and I think, especially for women, our voices are being heard a little more than they used to be. I also see a lot of queer artists getting a lot of shine. An artist I actually love right now is Bobbi Arlo. She’s a queer artist, as well. I love that there is more diversity and that there’s also more shine on LGBTQ artists. 

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

MS: I’d like for urban music to get more shine. When you go to other places, like in the UK, urban music is very mainstream. Here, DJs or radio stations will be like, Oh, we can’t play this because it’s too something. They don’t really say it, but they do say it like, It’s too urban, it’s too hip hop, it’s too rap, or whatever. I can’t wait until urban music is popular music and it can be played continuously on the radio, especially local Irish urban music. I hope that changes very soon. But so far, we have a great community. I think people uniting and even doing collaborations is pushing it towards a change.

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

MS: Bobbi Arlo. I love Nealo. Can I say four? Tomi Keni and Tomike. I came across Bobbi Arlo last year, but I know she’s releasing a single soon. I’ve been stalking her a little bit on Instagram. Her music is really, really good. She has a song called “Berries,” I think that song is just the vibe. She is part of the LGBTQ community, and then Tomi is part of the LGBTQ community as well. We did two songs together: “Cake” and “Lose Control.” He’s just amazing. I can’t wait until he actually gets the shine he deserves. I think being a male gay artist in the urban community—even just rap—is still not somewhat accepted. There is still a big gap there, so I hope he gets the shine he deserves because he’s really, really good. He’s a great songwriter and just an overall amazing artist. 

And then Nealo, I did a song with him called “Questions,” and he has an amazing album. He’s from Dublin himself and he’s just so good. You need to actually go listen to the album. It actually hits you right in your soul and you’re like, Oh my gosh, I know it was emotional before but now I’m actually crying. It’s just so heartfelt and emotional and I feel like everyone can relate to this album even if you haven’t gone through the same experiences. 

And then Tomike—I’m telling you she is next to blow up. If I were to say Queen of R&B, I would say Tomike. I think she just needs that bit more of a focus from the Irish industry and then Ireland will be on the map when it comes to R&B. She released a song called “Hit Me Up” recently, but one of my favourite songs from her is “You Don’t Really Rate Me.” I think the reason why I relate to that song so much is because sometimes I just feel like the underdog, like no one really cares—not like music-wise, but just in life. Sometimes you feel like, Oh my gosh, does anyone even notice me like, do I even exist? But then the song gives you a feeling of, You know what, even though you don’t notice me, that’s fine. I’m still the baddest bitch. It’s gangster but R&B at the same time. I love that song so much. And then her song “Hit Me Up” is like you’re talking to a guy or girl or whatever, saying, Just call me, okay, this is a vibe. She’s a very versatile artist and I can’t wait to see what she releases throughout the year. Sorry, I go so in depth when I talk about people, but when I love an artist, I’m just so obsessed. I feel like I know them like at their core, but I don’t, but I do.


With their gorgeous, lemony vocals and penchant for intimate storytelling, DYVR (aka Adam Cleaver) follows in the footsteps of artists like Blood Orange. The Belfast-based musician uses dark, pop-inflected electronica to explore their multifaceted queer identity. DYVR’s music is sonically seductive, but also challenges our preconceived notions of gender and sexuality. 

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Adam Cleaver: As a relative newcomer to the Irish scene, I suppose my perspective is kind of interesting on this. I’d say one of the biggest feelings I have is that representation is something that seems to be a big conversation in Ireland right now. Like with so many countries, there are questions to be asked about why there have previously been so few artists in the public eye who are from backgrounds other than the cis-white-heteronormative one. It’s important that we have fair representation, because we all deserve to see people like ourselves achieving in the world. With all that said, the scene is so exciting in Ireland right now—I’m seeing so much incredible work being made by people who are celebrating their unique identities and that is just so inspiring. 

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

AC: I think I would just love to see even more of the work that has been started. What we’re seeing in Ireland is just the beginning of a story that hopefully leads to a more inclusive environment for all types of people.  As a queer artist, I would love to see more artists who own that part of their identity—and there is always room for stronger ties at local level between charities, activist groups and artists which I would also love to see more of.

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

AC: This is always such a tricky question because there are so many exciting artists in Ireland! I would say I, like so many, have had a spell cast on me by Denise Chaila—her music is so inventive and unique and I am a total super fan! I’m going to include Cherym in this list—they just capture so much joy and energy in their songs and I’m totally in love with them. Lastly but in no way leastly, I want to mention my label buddy St. Bishop—we’re both a part of a community called Veta Music and honestly every time he puts something out I’m like, How the hell am I working alongside such a freaking talented person?!


Constance Keane’s project Fears connects to Ireland in a way that feels ancient but also sounds incredibly modern, her haunting vocals floating over pangs of otherworldly synth. Fears’ debut album, Oíche, will be released in May, but Keane has plenty of other projects keeping her busy. Besides playing in the post-punk outfit M(h)aol, she also co-founded Tulle Collective in 2020, a record label run by women and aiming to uplift underrepresented artists. 

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Constance Keane: I think the Irish music scene at the moment is incredibly exciting. I feel like there’s been a huge shift in the past maybe two years. I left Dublin five years ago when I was 22 and moved to Belfast, but I feel like the Irish music scene and even just the Dublin music scene is very different to the one that I left. When I was playing shows at that age, it was very rare that I would be playing a show with another woman on the bill, even just a woman in a band on the bill. It felt very different. It was predominantly white cis straight men with guitars. And yes, there’s still a lot of that, but I think now with the explosion of an Irish hip hop scene, it’s amazing to see Black creativity being celebrated in Ireland. I think that’s hugely important. It’s amazing to see women being celebrated on their artistic merit. I feel like there’s a lot of women who are very much like claiming a space and doing it in a way that they want to. They’re putting themselves out there and are taking control of their own narrative and their own identity as an artist. The whole visual aspect of it is all being considered as well and I feel like it’s being controlled less by the status quo at the moment. 

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

CK: No men. [laughs] No, I would like to see women being put on more of an international stage. I’m so excited watching what’s happening with Pillow Queens at the moment. To me, that’s so encouraging. They are getting the credit that they deserve outside of Ireland now. A lot of the time the music scene can be quite inward looking and it feels like a huge jump to get any kind of international praise or international coverage, and the majority of the people that do are men. I think that there’s been such an image of what the UK wants from an Irish band over the last few years, and that does not necessarily involve women or Black people or people of colour. I would love to see the other people from Ireland who are doing amazing things get the credit internationally that they deserve. I found it really discouraging when I came over to London two years ago and listened to the types of Irish acts over here that everybody wants to talk about, but I think that it’s starting to change now. I think that thankfully people are opening their minds to the fact that there are acts from Ireland that aren’t just white men in bands and ill-fitting trousers.

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

CK: That’s so hard. First of all, I’m gonna say Maija Sofia. I’m obsessed with her. I’ve never met her in real life but I have had a vision of us being friends for like, a year and a half now. Who knows, maybe she won’t want to be my friend in real life [laughs], but I think her songwriting is absolutely incredible. I think the way that her songwriting is informed by historical events and literature and stuff is really insightful. It feels like there’s so much context behind her music and to me, that gives it so much depth. She has an incredibly honest voice and I find myself going back to her album Bathtime once a week. I just think it’s absolutely incredible. Almost every playlist I make, I have to put a Maija Sofia song on, so I’m super excited to hear stuff that she’s been working on over the past year. 

I’m really excited about a band called Pixie Cut Rhythm Orchestra, led by Sarah Deegan, who’s just an incredible musician and lyricist. She has a way of saying things that’s so direct, but so relatable in how direct it is. She just put out a song last week, “I Didn’t Love You when I Said I Did and I Don’t Now,” and I think it’s her best one yet. The second that I heard it, I was just like, This needs to be heard everywhere, by everyone. I’m very excited to see her and the band live as well, because I’ve never seen them live before, so hopefully towards the end of 2021 I’ll be able to do that. 

And then the third act I’m super excited about is CMAT, just ‘cause she’s amazing. She’s the kind of person who is taking control of her own artistic narrative. She is so true to herself and the stuff that she’s passionate about and she does things in a way that convinces you stuff is cool that you’d like never even thought about beforehand. She taps into the part of me that was obsessed with Fearless by Taylor Swift when I was 16 and listening to a lot of very bad pop punk music, but randomly feeling so drawn to that slight country twang and being confused by it. CMAT is just an absolute boss. She works her ass off. She knows what she wants. She goes for it. She writes about things that could be quite upsetting, but keeps her sense of humour throughout, which is something that you can bring into your actual everyday life. I try a lot to laugh through bad things that are happening, and to me like listening to her music is very empowering in that way.


Cork producer Kelly Doherty performs as Gadget and the Cloud, crafting dreamy, experimental electronica that ignites the imagination. If you haven’t listened to Doherty’s music, you’ve probably read some of her work in District Magazine, Bandcamp, or Nialler9, to name a few publications she’s written for. 

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Kelly Doherty: I think the Irish scene is really interesting at the moment. I think it’s very exciting. We’re seeing the start of a lot of new scenes that might not have existed in such a structure before. Obviously there’s always been artists doing cool, interesting things, but I think in terms of community building and very tight knit scenes, we’re at an exciting point, whether that’s like the Irish hip hop scene—that’s blowing up at the moment—or the experimental music scene and everyone who’s attached to the general circle around like Dublin Digital Radio, etc. There’s just this really interesting sense of community and support and it’s getting so much attention, even from outside of Ireland. I think there’s a lot more opportunities than there were before to get a gig. Doesn’t matter what type of artist you are, as well. Féile na Gréine and Open Ear both very much actively encourage experimental artists and give them a platform that I think would be quite hard to get before this point, so I’m finding that quite exciting. 

I think that if you’re looking at marginalised groups, it’s interesting. In the experimental music scene with groups like Gash Collective and Gxrl Code, there are spaces where you can exist as an artist and not feel like you’re an outsider, because there are other female DJs or queer DJs that you’re working alongside. I think, particularly for myself, my entire Irish music experience has been in a very safe bubble. I learned how to DJ through like a Gash Collective workshop. I played a Women’s Day Party for my first ever DJ set. I’ve worked very much within that structure and that scene, where everyone’s supporting each other, which I think is really nice. 

Once you step outside of very specific spaces, there is quite a lot of work that does need to be done. I think potentially we excuse ourselves on the grounds of we’re Irish and our scenes are small and they’re new, and people aren’t being as critical as they could be of where they operate in terms of marginalised groups and inclusivity with collaboration. The Irish hip hop scene is a big one for me in terms of, obviously we have people, like Denise Chaila, who are doing amazing work. But I watched a documentary about the Irish hip hop scene quite recently, and one of the things that was being repeated in it was that unlike the US hip hop scene, sexism isn’t as much of an issue in Irish hip hop. I think there’s a problem when you have that mindset because if scenes are starting up, that’s the perfect time to step in and make sure you’re creating inclusive spaces. When you’re way down the road and the established leads of the scene are established leads, it’s a lot harder to make those changes. I think there should be stuff that people are a bit more conscious of at this moment. Denise is such a big figure in like Irish music at the moment, so it’s quite easy to be like, Okay, there’s gender representation, and there’s representation because she’s a person of colour. But then elsewhere, you’re still seeing things where you’ve got all-male lineups for gigs or collectives. I think there’s quite a lot of collectives operating in Ireland at the moment where everyone is a lad and they have maybe one female social media person or something. And I don’t think people do that on purpose. I think a lot of the time it is, Me and my five friends all really like DJing and therefore, we started doing this thing together, and it’s kind of blown up a little bit. And that’s fair enough. A lot of the time, it does come from your personal circle. But I think once you start getting a bit bigger and start getting a bit of a reach, it’s important to like, look and say, Am I just surrounded by people who look the exact same as me? Or could I be giving opportunities to people who aren’t the same as me, but don’t have that foot up because they’re not in an inner circle or an inner clique? Sometimes there’s unintentional exclusivity and that needs to be worked on.

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

KD: I think more collaboration with people outside of your friend group is really important. There are so many different people around the place with really interesting skills and talents, but if you’re standing out on your own, and you didn’t happen to go to a school where there were four lads who’re all into the same thing, it’s a lot harder to break through or get that first initial gig. So I think people should be conscious of that and go out of their way to not just work with people they know, and that also applies in terms of location. If you’re based in Dublin, it’s a lot easier to go to a gig where there happens to be a music journalist there or it’s a lot easier to go to a gig where there’s someone who’s connected to a small label or something, and therefore you can get that “in” because you’re someone who’s quite charismatic, but someone who’s making just as good, if not better music elsewhere doesn’t have that inlet. So I think we need to be conscious of the responsibility to reach out to different groups of people and not just pick who’s standing right next to you at any time to collaborate or work with. 

One thing that always needs to be paid attention to—and that I don’t think gets enough attention anywhere realistically—is sexual harassment at gigs and in live music settings, or creepy guys and bands who get a pass because everyone thinks they’re sound. I don’t think we’re very good at holding people accountable. I’m very used to like a set bubble of stuff like Gash Collective gigs where it’s quite an open space, and it would be easy to speak up if something did happen to you at one of those—not easy to speak up necessarily, but there’s the support structure there if you did need to speak up because someone said something bad to you or something bad happened to you. I think that that needs to be replicated amongst other music spaces, that holding accountability for people who do bad things, even if they are your nice friend, because it’s just all about keeping those spaces open. I don’t know if you heard about the “Ask for Angela” thing, but it was a small campaign running in Cork for a little while to raise awareness about sexual harassment and assault at gigs and on nights out. I think replicating that type of thing across the music scene or something could benefit everyone. We might have a small scene here, but as we can see from American scenes or with the UK, there are always so much stories around sexual harassment and sexual assault and just because our scene’s smaller, it doesn’t mean that that doesn’t happen. I think because the scene is small, it’d be hard to speak up about stuff like that happening because everyone knows everyone. I just think that trying to have a safety net for that type of stuff should be number one, especially now as well, because we have this time to reflect on what live music and what our scenes look like. I’d hate to think that we take this break away, and we’d go back to the same type of flawed issues that we would have had before. This is the time to reflect and ask, How do we restructure club nights to be inclusive and protect people from from things like sexual violence? 

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

KD: Okay, so the first one—and I can’t stop raving about them, I actually interviewed them a couple of weeks ago—is NewDad from Galway. If anyone will listen to me talk for more than two seconds, I’ve been talking about how much of a stan I am. I think they’re absolutely brilliant. Their music is so good, they are so young, and I could see them headlining Reading and Leeds within a few years. I’m pitching all my bets on this. Who else? My brain is occupied with NewDad. Lighght is a producer from Cork, Eamon Ivri, and I think he’s just about to put out another release. He makes quite experimental, boundary-pushing electronic music that has club elements, but also these very beautiful, orchestral-y, ambient-y type pieces in there. He’s a workhorse as well, like the amount of music that man puts out, and every release is great, so heavy recommend for him. And Cork love, as usual. Sohotsospicy and Dark Mavis are working on collaborative music at the moment. Both of them are DJs, and I really appreciate the DJing work and their sets and stuff. So the two of them coming together is a collaboration that I think is a huge one to watch out for. 


Beloved Kildare hip hop duo Tebi Rex draw you in with their catchy tunes, but underneath the earworms is a whole lot of heart. Their latest single “Oh It Hurts,” released in late February, is the perfect sing along for anyone feeling heartbreak of whatever variety. They’ve rightly received international attention since their track “I Never Got Off the Bus” was featured in the BBC/Hulu adaptation of Normal People in spring of 2020. We spoke to one half of Tebi Rex, Max Zanga, about his experiences in the Irish music industry. 

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Max Zanga: Good question. I guess it’s a mixed bag, because obviously I’ve had some good experiences and some level of success, minorly in comparison to a big artist, but within the scene. So it’s always a mixed bag, because I often get told—and I think that it’s definitely true—I’m in a band with a straight white dude, so I get away with stuff to a certain degree that maybe I wouldn’t if I was just me by myself. That’s the beauty of Matt. I always joke about that, Oh, we formed the band so I could get rich off his white privilege, because he’s the definition of a “good boy” and so accessible and marketable that even in terms of interviews, I don’t really do them. I let him do that kind of stuff and run the socials because he’s very accessible. I feel being a marginalised artist to a certain extent, you almost feel you need to be more accessible to be successful, especially with rap. I think there are certain beliefs or assumptions made if you’re a rapper. I always use the example of Jafaris as probably one of the biggest rappers in the country, but Jafaris for the most part has to be perfect and has shaped himself as perfect. There are expectations put on you when you’re Black and doing rap at that level where I feel it’s definitely easier and there’s less pressure if you are seen as the norm. Once you’re outside the norm, you’re trying to constantly prove that you deserve to be in the space you’re in, or that if you’re in a space you won’t make anyone too uncomfortable or stir things up, make it weird for fucking white people.

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

MZ: I would like to hear more diversity in terms of stuff that’s being talked about. I think that’s so much to do with the music news in this country as well. Ireland has this really weird thing where if people don’t understand the genre of music and they don’t like it, they just don’t write about it, which I think is super, super odd because these genres that people don’t understand or aren’t familiar with are usually ones that have marginalised people. I think it’s so funny that up until recently, about a year or two ago, you had these guys making drill in Drogheda getting a million streams on YouTube, but the people in some of these Irish blogs and magazines, they don’t understand or listen to drill—which is fair, you don’t have to listen to drill or even understand it. But then you have this music and these artists who are making massive waves, getting all this love in the UK and getting written about in the UK, and no one’s talking about them over here, which is so bizarre. 

I feel like that’s across the board, even on a Dublin-Kildare level. I’ve been written about in Dublin magazines and London magazines and blogs, but not a single Kildare outlet or newspaper. I feel like if someone did some shitty indie band here they’d be like, Fine yeah, we’re putting on the paper. Oh, man, these Kildare guys, they’re such big things, and shit like that. I’m like, bro, we went to Eurosonic, like, fuck. So yeah, I definitely think there should be more diversity in what music is reported on, but I’m also saying, be critical. I don’t think that by virtue of me making a certain type of music or being from a certain area I’m above critique. You don’t have to love my shit. You can hate it. But I never understood people ignoring stuff they don’t understand, which is so indicative of the Irish music scene. What’s the last bad review you heard about Irish artists written in a magazine? Like, it’s weird, man. It’s always really bugged me that I people are just ignored if they’re not what people are familiar with. It’s very odd. You know, maybe because Ireland’s small and you really don’t want to be like, Hey, this guy’s like, this album sucked, and you see that motherfucker the next week out and then it’s like Oh, shit. Y’all are writers, you get that, it’s like, you know, it’s an art form in of itself, it’s integrity in of itself. And no one’s being mean, you know. If some shit doesn’t slap to you, it doesn’t slap to you.

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

MZ: Okay, so Rebecca Locke. She a furry, she wildin’, but she’s great. Really great, just brings this automatic energy and it’s dope. Txmmy Rose, in my opinion, is probably the best rapper in this country. He’s so, so, so talented. Coolest guy ever. And then you have Daire Patel, who’s another Kildare native. He’s half Indian, half Irish and definitely can attest to that experience. He makes really good sad boy music, but not like sad boy in the kind of whiny way, but sad boy but like, Oh, this guy is actually a sad boy.


Perhaps one of the most sorely missed aspects of Irish music are the festivals, buzzing with new acts to discover and random acquaintances waiting around every corner. Shauna Watson founded the woman-centred festival We’ve Only Just Begun, as well as an accompanying directory of women and non-binary people in the Irish music industry.  

NF: How do you feel about the current Irish music scene, especially as it relates to marginalised communities?

Shauna Watson: I could deep dive on this all day! In terms of talent and originality, the Irish music scene is the strongest it’s ever been. There are so many artists pushing boundaries and redefining the landscape of Irish music. However, I think the Irish music scene can be quite exclusive and gatekept at times and which makes it less accessible or penetrable specifically for marginalised communities. Some artists have to work much harder to be heard which is really sad because we are all losing out on some incredible music as a result. 

Having said that, there is hope in some of the movements for both gender and racial equality that we’ve seen over the last couple of years. The Black Lives Matter movement saw a lot of challenges to racism in the industry which was long overdue. And the gender disparity radio reports started a conversation in the mainstream about radioplay for women and gender minorities in Ireland. There are organisations and communities that have formed to connect, support and give a platform to under-represented groups but there is still a long way to go. 

NF: What would you like to change about Ireland’s music landscape?

SW: I would like there to be greater representation of women, people from diverse backgrounds and gender minorities across all facets of the industry – in board rooms, onstage, backstage, front of house, etc. There are so many things that need to be done to achieve this but there are two prominent factors for me. 

The first is for everyone working in the industry, regardless of gender, race or class, to realise that it’s our collective responsibility to make our industry more accessible to under-represented groups and not to be left to those groups to do the work themselves. Whether you’re the CEO of a music company, a runner at a show or the drummer in a band it’s up to the entire industry to level the playing field for everyone. 

The second thing I think needs to change specifically for the Irish music industry is for professionals to look outside their own networks and circles when hiring and booking talent. There is such a culture of hiring who you know to work on projects and when your inner circles lack diversity then your team is going to reflect that. We need to stop safeguarding opportunities and give people outside of our own networks a chance to at least be considered. Imagine how much more vibrant and inclusive our industry would be if we removed those barriers!

NF: Who are three Irish artists you’re excited about right now and why?

SW: Aby Coulibaly I am so excited about. The two singles she put out last year just stood out so much for me and her latest single “Long Nights” is on repeat. She’s cool and effortless and supremely talented. 

Kynsy is another artist who released some of my favourite tracks of 2020. If you haven’t heard of her I would definitely recommend checking out her EP released in January this year Things That Don’t Exist.

And of course Pillow Queens. Like a true indie band they’ve been grafting hard for many years and they’re finally getting the international recognition they deserve.