Introducing Interview: Æ Mak

Æ MAK‘s otherworldly soundscapes and creative visuals are utterly bewitching, making them one of GIHE’s current faves.

Having played festivals such as Electric Picnic and Liverpool Sound City, and supported big names such as Warpaint, Django Django and Tune-Yards, Æ MAK are now back with new single ‘Love Flush’; another truly captivating, genre-defying creation.

We caught up with front-woman Aoife McCann to talk influences, live shows and gender imbalance in the music industry…

A huge welcome to Get In Her Ears! We’re big fans of yours, so firstly we want to just say keep doing what you’re doing!
Ah, thanks guys!

Can you tell us a bit about how Æ Mak came to its current formation in 2018?
Last summer myself and Daniel McIntyre started collaborating. He’d been playing synth in the band for a while. He’s an amazing producer and song-writer in his own right. We discovered a unique creative spark between us that’s really worked. With each new tune we create we get more and more excited about the sound we’re honing. ‘Love Flush’ is the second single we’ve created and released out of this partnership. For recording and our live set-up we’ve two beautiful drummers who’ve been a core part of Æ MAK since the very beginning: Peter Kelly and Dylan Povey.

And you are still based in Ireland?
We’re based in Dublin. I live in Carlingford where I do most of my song-writing, it’s real beautiful there. Sea and mountains galore. Dan has a gorgeous home in Stillorgan where all of the songs are produced, so we’re happy creating in Ireland. It works for us. It’s home!

We’re loving your latest single ‘Love Flush’ at GIHE HQ, can you tell us a bit more about what inspired this?
What’s happened a lot over the past year when writing is that, in hindsight with a bit of time away from it, I realise what the song is really about and where my head was at at the time. ‘Love Flush’ is basically a twisted love song, steeped in ego. At the time it was inspired by a need to self-protect and create a world where I’m solely a strong ambitious individual. I AM all I need.

Your music has already been likened to the beginnings of Bjork and the electronically enchanting Fever Ray – are you happy with these comparisons?
Yeah, myself and Dan are chuffed, especially with the likes of Fever Ray. We’re massive fans of The Knife too. Before we started collaborating I came to Dan with references of The Knife’s and Little Dragon’s synth sounds, beat sounds, electronic music with a darker pop vibe; a sound that resonates with the vision I have as a performing artist.

It seems that the artwork and visuals that accompany your track are integral to the overall piece, would you agree with this? Do you see yourselves as performance artists as well as musicians?
Definitely. I started Æ MAK, started song-writing, so I could be a performing artist. The artwork and visuals go hand in hand with and embody each song, reflect the colourful, visceral visual concepts I get from or before the music is created. It enhances the music and lets it live in its fullest form. Gives it its own world to breath in.

We’ve seen you talk about gender imbalance in the music industry, specifically being the first act chosen for Festival Republic’s ReBalanced programme – congratulations! This is a new initiative that will address the gender imbalance in the music industry, can you tell us firstly what your thoughts are on this, and what this initiative will be doing?
Thank you! We were ecstatic to have been chosen for the programme and they’ve been brilliant over the past 6 months, giving us guidance and some amazing opportunities. Festival Republic and PRS Foundation are using their resources and position within the music industry to enhance and push the professional careers of female composers, bands, engineers and artists. ReBalance offers studio time with professional female producers in the U.K, festival republic slots and introductions to labels, management companies, booking agents. They help you find your people. They offer a supportive platform basically – what you do with it is up to you and what your goals are. I think it’s a brilliant initiative. It champions women in music at a time of positive change and growth in gender equality. Women represent only 16% of UK composers and songwriters and there’s a scarcity of females in other roles across the industry as well.

What do you think other people in the music industry and fans can do to help push this movement forward?
Just keep listening, promoting, booking, representing the music you love and are excited about. I wouldn’t want to be chosen for something for the sole fact that I’m a woman, but on the merit of the songs and music I make. I think the mindset that men rule the music industry is fading. Great music is great music and it should stop there regardless of gender. The ReBalance programme is promoting talented and forwarded thinking female writers and performers which is fantastic. PRS Foundation have launched its International Keychange initiative, which aims to improve greater equality in festival line-ups. 50/50 male and female bands and artists by 2022. This is coming from the best of places and with good intentions. However, it’s so important that we focus on the quality and unique authenticity of art being created, not simply which gender created it. Personally I think there’s a risk of it becoming patronising and degrading. The opposite of the intended effect.

It’s great to see you playing so many different festivals and gigs! You recently played the beautiful Latitude Festival, how did you find it? Did you take a dip in the pond?
Latitude is beautiful. Really cool festival. Don’t think we’ve ever been treated so well at a festival before. We played the Sunrise Arena on Sunday afternoon to a massive crowd of hungover, enthusiastic heads. Didn’t take a dip in the pond unfortunately. It was the last show of our stint in London, so we got to chill and see some of our favourite bands – Wolf Alice and Alt-J. Amazing.

How’re you finding the most recent tour that you are on? It must be quite the experience
being ferried around in a van during this insanely hot summer??

A nice van would be luxury. Planes, trains and automobiles over here. The heat is crazy. Burn, peel, white, repeat.

How would you describe your live show?
High energy. Emotive. I hope it creates a separate world that the audience can escape into and lose themselves. A space where they think ‘this is odd’, I’m odd too.

You’ve supported some great acts like Warpaint, Tune-Yards and Django Django – have you had a favourite so far?
Tune-Yards. They are amazing and the nicest people. I’d been a massive fan from early on so getting to chat with Merrill about music was very very surreal and fuzzy. The Nikki Nack album massively influenced me as a songwriter when it came out in 2014. Inspired me to create freely without the restraint of what I thought a pop song ‘should be’ and find that primitive rhythm we all have deep down in our core. We were chuffed to have been given the opportunity.

Finally as we’re a new music focused site, are there any other new/upcoming bands or artists you’d suggest we check out?
We’re big fans of Wastefellow, he produced a few of the earlier Æ MAK songs. He’s a brilliant experimental electronic producer. I’m also loving Mongoose at the moment, an Irish indie folk band. Check them out!

Huge thanks to Æ Mak for answering our questions!

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