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The Great Escape Festival: In Conversation with Dea Matrona's Orlaith Forsythe

Image provided by Hot Press

2022 is going to be a big year for Dea Matrona. Having cut their teeth as teenage buskers in the streets of Belfast, they’ve amassed a steady fanbase over lockdown. Next year, they’ll be taking their 70s glam rock and classic rock-influenced sound to the Great Escape Festival, as well as several festivals overseas. I sat down for a quick phone chat with the band’s guitarist and bassist Orlaith Forsythe, where we talked about the creative process, building confidence, and how much she’d love to collaborate with Stevie Nicks.

What was the writing process behind your most recent single, ‘Stamp On It?’

‘Stamp On It’ came about during lockdown, strangely enough. It was a very collaborative song to write—we started with the bass riff and just took it from there. It’s actually evolved to be one of our favourite tracks to play live, which is really cool. We always get a really good reaction when we play it live, I think it’s my favourite one of ours to date.

Do you think that lockdown has influenced your writing process and sound? Is ‘Stamp On It,’ a big evolution from your older works like Away From the Tide?

I think lockdown, in a way, gave us a space to decide what direction we wanted to take our music in. We had all this time. I think a notable thing about ‘Stamp On It,’ is that it fuses genres much more than our earlier stuff, which I really like—it’s fresher. That’s probably why it’s my favourite. It’s very different from Away From the Tide.

How would you describe your music's sound in three words?

It’s fun, it’s retro, and it’s us.

It’s always great to see young women making original music. What advice would you give to new, young bands? Do you think there’s much of a scene for young musicians at the moment?

There’s a great scene in Ireland right now with lots and lots of bands coming through, which is great to see. I think my best advice to people would be that you have to put yourself out there. If you love what you’re doing, just start writing songs and making videos… I think the best thing for us was when we started busking, it really got our confidence up.

Is that how the band started? Did it just evolve naturally from jamming together?

The band started by accident. Molly and I, who play guitar and bass together, went to the same school and we figured out we had the exact same music taste. We started playing all our favourite songs together at the weekends, a lot of Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac. Once we’d learned enough songs we’d go busking and get gig offers, which gave us a boost towards making more music together.

Where does the band’s name come from?

We found it in a book, and it stuck with us. It’s from Celtic mythology, and it means Mother Earth.

What can people expect from a Dea Matrona show?

It’s high energy. We like to go mad a wee bit when we play. People should hopefully expect to have a good time.

If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?

That’s a good question. For me, definitely Stevie Nicks. Molly and Amy would probably say Paul McCartney and I’d be up for that too.

Your Away From the Tide EP cover was really visually vibrant—what role do you think aesthetic plays in your work?

We’re into the sounds of the seventies, and that plays into our style. We like to incorporate that into our band. Away From the Tide has a very psychedelic cover and the EP was kind of experimental, too.

There’s definitely a revival of that kind of sensibility. What current bands are you excited by?

I really love HAIM and Greta Van Fleet. Maneskin is doing some exciting stuff right now. There’s a good band coming up in Ireland called Inhaler, too. There’s a great scene at the moment with guitar music. If you look at pop music at the moment, a lot of artists have a 70s or 80s influence, which gives the music an interesting flair. Harry Styles, for example, is quite influenced by the 70s.

I’m thinking about this whole idea of referencing the past. Ten or twenty years down the line, which artists do you think will be looked back on as defining the current sound?

As I said, I love what bands like HAIM are doing because not only do they have great tunes but they’re really harnessing their live act, like their festival sets. There are a lot of really great bands at the moment.

How did you develop your live performances? Was it a struggle to initially build confidence considering you guys were quite young when you started playing or did it always feel natural playing in front of an audience?

It was quite gradual. When we were busking in Belfast we were restricted to an acoustic guitar and a drum which you have to sit down to play, so we didn’t really have the confidence that we have now. It has been a thing that’s come from playing over and over again at different venues. The great gigs we’ve played since lockdown have given us the confidence to have fun and be ourselves on stage.

Who do you think is your most unlikely influence as a band?

I’m gonna go for the Beegees.

What would be your dream gig lineup?

Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles.

What’s the process like for making videos?

In our videos, we like to play live and do them all ourselves, but for 'Stamp On It' we had Ciara McMullan shooting it, who does a lot of photos for our gigs. We just like to capture our lifestyles really.

How do you feel about the idea of becoming signed and growing as a band?

That’s something we’re open to. We were lucky that over lockdown, remarkably, we built upon a fanbase online, which we didn’t expect when there was nothing happening in the world. We got a lot of interest from agents and we also got management and label interest, just from our busking videos on YouTube, really. There are advantages and disadvantages to the internet. It’s a great vehicle for exploring new music: we all use Spotify, for example. It’s exciting if you use the internet to your advantage, it’s a great space for new artists to find their audiences for free, essentially.

If there is one message people should take from your music, what is it?

I think it’s just about having fun.

Going into the future, where do you see your band progressing?

The key thing for us is to just keep working on our songs. We’re diverse in our influences, we love a lot of folk stuff and rock stuff, so trying to match that together is something we’re doing at the minute. We really love playing live; we’d play anywhere. We’re grateful to be able to play festivals—we played Reading and Leeds this year which was very cool. Guitar and Bass are the core of our sound, but we’d love to explore acoustic guitar and more harmonies in our next body of work.

What can we expect from Dea Matrona in 2022?

A lot more festivals—we’re excited to be going to Europe for festivals across the world, which has always been a big dream of ours. We’re putting out a new single as well.

Amazing! Can you give us any hints about the new single?

It’s very different from our previous stuff — I think that’s all I can say! I’m really excited about people’s reactions to it.

Photo by Ana Oancea

To keep up with Dea Matrona, make sure to check out their website, Instagram, or YouTube. Click here to learn more about The Great Escape Festival and the other artists featured.


Edited by Talia Andrea, Deputy Music Editor, and Josh Aberman, Music Editor


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