M(h)aol Attachment Styles (art by Zoë Greenway)
Irish post-punk band, M(h)aol (pronounced “male”), wrote and recorded their debut full length album, Attachment Styles, over the course of seven days in one rehearsal room using a sparse set-up with “no headphones, minimal drum mics, and only a PA for vocals.” The album was produced, mixed and mastered by band member Jamie Hyland. The superb result is a truly eclectic record that rages against patriarchy and heteronormativity, while also reveling in the transcendent power of finding joy despite oppressive sexist bullshit. The Tulle Collective (a women-led independent record label focused on working with and for underrepresented voices in music) released Attachment Styles and describes it as “a record about social connection, queerness, and healing.”
The eleven songs explode and whisper in turn, featuring vocalist Róisín Nic Ghearailt’s intense lyrics, which are both contemplative and defiant. The band shares: “When Róisín was writing the lyrics, she used the theory of attachment styles as an overarching theme which is a theory that looks at the impact our inter-familial relationships and society have on how we relate to one another.” As Attachment Styles shows, our society and inter-familial relationships hurt us plenty, but if you’re like M(h)aol, you’ve got good friends to create raucous music with, and thus, you’ll not only survive, you’ll thrive.
M(h)aol (photo by Naomi Williams)
The album is “a journey of healing,” beginning with “Asking For It,” a song exploring the pain, self-doubt, and anger survivors of sexual assault have to navigate. It’s the one track on the album that existed before the group came together to write and record the album. Ghearailt started writing the song years before to attempt to process her feelings about rape culture: “I wrote it initially in 2016 then revisited it in 2020. I was shocked by how much internalized victim blaming there was in the lyrics. I rewrote it, then we recorded it and it was released to raise money for Women’s Aid in 2021. The album version is a lot angrier than the 2021 one and almost satirical insofar as it’s highlighting how ludicrous the notion of anyone ‘asking for it’ is.”
The song also has a beautiful and moving video directed by band member, Zoë Greenway (who also created the album’s haunting cover art), and she shares: “This has been the most difficult video I’ve made for M(h)aol to date. There’s so much power and emotion in Róisín’s lyrics and performance, so we worked really hard to create a responsible and sensitive portrayal of this experience she’s conveying, do it justice and make people care.”
Other standout songs on Attachment Styles include the spoken word “Bisexual Anxiety,” where, Ghearailt speaks honestly over simmering noise and subtle distorted guitars: “I’m worried I’m doing this wrong. The other day when you asked me was I just gay…oh honey, I’d love to be gay. Or straight even. I mean, not really. I’d love to be anything other than what I am. Fluid. Ambiguous. Subversive. If you’re being kind…greedy, indecisive, untrustworthy, if you’re not.” I’ve never heard declarations of the realities of bisexual experience that were so direct and true, all over such a mysterious soundscape.
Attachment Styles closes with “Period Sex,” which smashes all taboos about shame connected to menstruation. “Let’s have period sex / It’s time to make a mess…I’m in a mood to eat,” Ghearailt purrs. The seductive and triumphant mood echoes in the danceable drums from Constance Keane that build to a frenzy within a storm of guitar sound, a slinky bass line, and intermittent spikes of synthesizers. Like all good sex, things reach their climax, and the afterglow shimmers with sounds of a broken piano that the band members found in the days leading up to recording the album.
Ghearailt shares that “Prior to writing the track I’d had a lot of eye-opening conversations around period shame with people of all genders and from all walks of life, and I wanted to write almost an anthem for everyone who had ever had a period or loved someone who had one. It felt like a hugely powerful thing to be in a position to create a song as a band that was unequivocally sexy. I’m a cis bisexual woman in a queer, sapphic relationship. Periods and period sex are a part of my reality, and my girlfriend actually helped me with the lyrics in the first verse.”
Only 16 months after releasing their stellar debut EP, Gender Studies, M(h)aol’s Attachment Styles now brilliantly continues their defiant feminist post-punk style (no small feat considering that the quintet live in five different cities, including Dublin, Bristol, and London). The group will be at SXSW this year, and hopefully will grace the rest of the United States with a full tour soon. In the meantime, those of us stateside can work toward freedom, equity, and joy for people of all genders and sexualities while listening to Attachment Styles.
Attachment Styles is available now via Tulle Collective and on all major streamers.