The Viral Belfast Band, Dea Matrona, Discuss The Spirituality of Their Debut Album, “For Your Sins,” and How Their Amazing Support Slots Have Influenced Their Headlining Shows

Musicians Orláith Forsythe and Mollie McGinn met each other in 2017 whilst attending the Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch, Co. Down. As the story goes, a teacher managing a school talent competition that both Orláith and Mollie wanted to enter informed the girls that there was only one application space left, so they would have to sign up as a two-piece if they both wanted to perform.

So they did. Then they got to know each other and realised that they both had very similar musical interests and influences, notably Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles. Each of their talents inspired the other, and the two began busking around the Belfast City Centre under the name “Orláith and Mollie.”

After some success and notoriety, they enlisted Mollie’s little sister, Mamie, on drums, and then realised that “Orláith and Mollie” didn’t make sense as a name anymore. They decided to rename the project  “Dea Matrona” after a goddess in Celtic mythology, whose name translates into “Divine Mother” in English.

They then moved up to performing gigs in pubs, clubs and theatres, and were a regular supporting act for bands performing in Belfast. Around this time, videos of the girls busking went viral on YouTube and other social media platforms. In 2019, they released their first EP, Away from the Tide, which, with only four songs, showcased their versatility, going from hard rock, to pop, to folk, to Paisley Underground.

From then on, a ceaseless barrage of offers came in. The band performed on The Late Late Show, reached number one on both the Irish and British iTunes Charts, and enjoyed support slots from a range of artists, including Van Morrison, Eagles of Death Metal, Black Eyed Peas, KALEO, and Chris Shifflet of Foo Fighters fame. They also played slots at festivals like Reading + Leeds, Belsonic, Rock Werchter, SXSW, and Bearded Theory.

At the beginning of the month, Dea Matrona released their hotly-anticipated debut album, For Your Sins. “Yeah, it’s been really good,” Mollie told Post-Burnout via telephone on their day off amid their most recent UK and Ireland tour. “We’ve done, I think, eight or nine dates so far, and the album…People have been reacting to the new songs really well. It’s going crazy.”

Orláith adds, “Yeah, it’s been interesting because this record is kind of a display of the different genres that I think we’ve been influenced by. Like, we didn’t really want it to be just one sort of genre-specific album. We both had moments of softer stuff, and the heavier, rock stuff, and then maybe a little bit of country, as well! [Laughs] So, I think it’s been well received by our listeners for that reason, and you can hopefully hear a little bit about what Dea Matrona is about whenever you listen to the album, which is cool.”

Having both self-produced their music and worked with external producers before, Dea Matrona decided to do the former for their debut album. When asked why they chose to do that,  Orláith responds, “Well, we started self-producing our music about five years ago, and, honestly, it kind of came from the fact that we were going to different studios and we were wanting to spend a lot more time in the studio to get things right, and then it ended up costing a fortune. [Laughs]

“So, our way around it was like, ‘Hey, maybe we can kind of try to do some stuff, ourselves.’ But, honestly, some of the earlier stuff that we self-produced is not very good! [Laughs] And, hopefully, now, five years down the line, things have got better, but we just really, really enjoyed putting this album together, ourselves, and it meant that we were able to dip back in and out if we were changing things, or if we wanted to tweak something, or add another verse in here or there, it meant we had a bit more freedom to do that.

“And I think it just maybe paints a picture of our sound. I think we’ve come to a better place where – because we have produced our own music for a lot of years now – it’s grown to a better place, and, hopefully, with the next album and then the album after that, it will keep on growing. That’s the goal, you know?”

Photo by Jane Donnelly
Courtesy of Sonic PR

When listening to For Your Sins, this author noticed a connecting theme of angels running throughout. When we asked the band if this was an intentional repeating motif, Orláith responded, “It’s funny that you say that, […] we wrote all the songs, and then whenever we were going through the songs for the album, we realised, ‘Oh, this has a reference to angels in it! So does this one!’, and it was quite a subconscious thing, to be honest, and it’s just interesting how that came together.

“It wasn’t really on purpose, but I mean you could probably argue that it is a constant, moving thing because it crops up [Laughs] quite often in the album! But, yeah, I suppose For Your Sins, as well, has quite a…that sort of spiritual connection, as well, in a way, and Dea Matrona, in terms of the name, comes from Celtic mythology, which we really enjoy and I really enjoy all the Celtic aspects of Irish culture and further afield. So, we just really, really liked the name and the meaning of the name, as well, so I suppose it all kind of ties in.”

Now an act with enough draw to tour as headliners, we asked the band how they felt headlining differs from the support slots that made up their early days. “Yes, it’s been mad, like,” says Mollie. “[Being] big enough to be in a headline band, after doing, like, the big supports, as well, like. We were really lucky to get some really cool slots.”

“Yeah, it’s still pretty surreal, to be honest,” adds Orláith. “Because we have done a lot of touring and done a lot of support slots, like you say, so to be at the point where we’re being a headline band [Laughs] it doesn’t really make sense to me still, you know? It’s pretty cool to turn up to venues and see Dea Matrona posters and think, ‘Oh, we’re not the support band!’

“There’s a bit more pressure involved, to be honest, but it’s been going really smoothly, and, yeah, we’ve opened for a lot of really great people and we’ve always learnt something from each of those support slots, and we have some more exciting support slots coming up, which I can’t actually say too much about, but hopefully all will be revealed in the next few weeks! But, yeah, we’re just very grateful to all the great artists we’ve had the opportunity to open for.”

The poster for the For Your Sins UK and Ireland Tour
Courtesy of Sonic PR

Tomorrow night, Dea Matrona will begin the Irish leg of their current UK and Ireland tour in support of the album. “We haven’t toured in a while, actually, and we’re just really delighted to be back on the road, especially with the first album, as well,” Orláith says. “So far, all the shows have just been really, really great vibes, and people are turning up, knowing all the words to the album, which really blows my mind, because it’s only been out about a week! [Laughs]

“So, it’s just been so much fun, and I hope when people come they can have a really good time and just enjoy the music, essentially, and that makes it even better for us.” “Yeah, it’s been going great!” adds Mollie.

Yet, as far as Dea Matrona has come, a remnant of their busking days remains in their set: The love of incorporating covers. “Yeah, it’s something we really like doing, and I like when I go to see other bands and they have covers in their set and stuff, too,” says Mollie. “So, I mean it’s just songs that we’ve wanted to do for a while and sometimes it’s fun to just add them in.”

“I think covers are fun because, for us anyway, we always enjoy doing something different with them,” says Orláith. “On this tour, we’re doing a cover of ‘Kiss’ by Prince, and it’s been really fun just to kind of…you know, we obviously know the song, we took it away and we added a difference. We added a bassline into it, because there is no bassline on that song, normally. So, it’s just a bit of fun and it makes things fresh, I suppose, for the audience because I’m sure they would like to hear our music [Laughs] and to throw a wee cover in is just a nice surprise, you know?”

Dea Matrona’s debut album, For Your Sins, is out now to stream and purchase. You can keep up with the band’s music, live dates, and social media accounts on their website.

From tomorrow night, you can catch Dea Matrona at:

Sat 18th – Cork – Cyprus Avenue (Tickets)

Sun 19th – Galway – Róisín Dubh (Tickets)

Tue 21st – Dublin – The Workman’s Club (Tickets)

Wed 22nd – Belfast – The Limelight 2 (Tickets)

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