- 24 Jul 19
Fresh from a nationwide tour, Cara Dunne and Muireann Ní Cheannabháin of genre-blending four-piece Mongoose discuss the pitfalls of the music industry and crowdfunding their new album, Suck The Wound.
With a penchant for floral patterns matched only by their staggering talent, Mongoose returned this year with their stunning sophomore album, Suck The Wound. The project sees the jazz-infused folk-pop group take their expansive, cinematic sound into brand new dimensions. But while their renowned vocal harmonies blend blissfully, the project is notably darker than their self-titled debut, released back in 2015.
“It’s inspired by a general sense that the world is ending, really!” Cara Dunne laughs. “It’s also a reaction to our personal lives, as we go through our 20s together. It can be tumultuous - especially when you’re working in the arts.”
Although formed in its current incarnation seven years ago, the roots of Mongoose go back further still. School friends Muireann Ní Cheannabháin and Ailbhe Dunne joined forces with Ballydehob native Molly O’Mahony during their studies at UCD - by way of the Musical Society’s production of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Cara, Ailbhe’s sister, was enlisted as “an extra set of lungs” soon after.
Their new album was largely financed by online crowdfunding - an increasingly popular option for many musicians.
“I guess people trusted that we were going to make a record that they’d like,” Cara muses, “so they paid up front and let us do our thing. We’re so lucky to have that. Crowdfunding definitely seems like the way forward, because making music is expensive. Most artists just don’t make that kind of money naturally.”
While the music industry is clearly undergoing some rapid changes, some old practises seem hard to budge. Cara recently voiced her dissatisfaction with the treatment of musicians in the industry in Hot Press’s Soapbox. Among the issues she raised were payment problems and poor conditions at festivals and events.
“I got a great reaction to that online,” Cara says. “We didn’t really respect it to be taken up so well. Our bad experiences are something that you’re supposed to say quietly - there’s a sense that you can’t make a big deal out of it.
“People were also saying, ‘God, I had no idea this happened’, which can be surprising to us, because we’ve been doing this for so long. A lot of punters would go to these big festival thinking that they’re supporting local bands. But that’s not always the case.”
Does being an all-female group in a male-dominated industry have some bearing on such experiences?
“It’s hard to know,” Muireann says. “We would have definitely noticed little things when we were starting out. I remember at one particular shambles of a festival, one of the organisers asked us, very suspiciously, if we were the girlfriends of the band, as we tried to register. That didn’t go down too well!”
Nonetheless, Mongoose have used their platform as women in the industry for the greater good on numerous occasions. Back in 2016, they protested the 8th Amendment with their track ‘Doing Things Wrong’, followed by a #SingForRepeal campaign, which saw the group performing pop-up concerts in historically significant spots around Dublin.
Last year, Mongoose also performed alongside Mary Coughlan in Woman Undone, an experimental reimagining of the legendary Irish musician’s early life. The production featured an original score by renowned composer and producer - and recent Talos collaborator - Valgeir Sigursson.
“Mary was really supportive and encouraging,” Cara notes. “She’d warn us of the pitfalls and the difficulties of the industry as well, so it’s been great to have that. Working with her was just a whole new experience for us.”
Following a whirlwind few years, Mongoose embarked on a nationwide tour in May in support of Suck The Wound - capped off with a moving performance at Dublin’s Lost Lane earlier this month.
“We’ve put a so much energy and effort into this album,” Murieann says. “Of course we’re hoping that opportunities will come our way. And if they don’t, we’ll make them happen.”
Suck The Wound is out now.