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“Some sort of alter-ego Uma Thurman character”: Æ MAK on Irish creative spaces, gender equality in music & her upcoming We Are Workmans show

“Some sort of alter-ego Uma Thurman character”: Æ MAK on Irish creative spaces, gender equality in music & her upcoming We Are Workmans show

Kelly Doherty

Æ MAK is the sound of the changing musical landscape of modern Ireland. Aoife McCann is a creative visionary whose art-pop eclecticism has been a constantly developing and changing proposition over the years. Her sound veers between sweet melodic pop, folk and electronica with little interest in the lines genres typically operate between. 

Æ MAK - We Have It Right Here

On August 10, Æ MAK will be playing We Are Workman’s as part of a series of shows celebrating the cultural presence of Workman’s Club in Dublin, brought to you by Roe & Co Whiskey. In recent times, the importance of spaces like Workman’s has been a key conversation in light of losses of creative and cultural spots to hotel and student accommodation developments and skyrocketing rent prices in Dublin. “Venues and creative spaces like the Workman’s will always be the heart of Ireland’s music scene. If we lose them we lose a massive part of our culture,” McCann states.

“They give a home and respected platform to new up and coming acts across all genres where they have the freedom to develop their craft, find their audience, their scene and the network of artists and bands that they will grow and build alongside professionally and creatively – their lifelong mates.”

“It’s also exciting to have more established international indie acts perform in The Workman’s, The Grand Social, The Sound House… as part of their EU tours or festival runs. It’s special, history in the making. These acts may be too big in the coming years to catch them in such an intimate, personal setting; where the real magic happens. Scenes and subcultures are what bring that sparked energy, inspiration and divilment into life.”

“I am a Dundalk woman. If the Spirit Store closed down we would be orphaned. For me and my buzz, it’s more enjoyable and connective as an artist to perform in these venues. 300 – 400 capacity feels very real and touchable. I feel most at home on the Workman’s stage, or the stage of The Grand Social. I miss the sweaty mouldy dancing in District 8.”

Æ MAK has turned heads and gathered a strong following with her unique approach to pop music and her strong audio-visual presentation. Until recently, that package always came entirely together from the start of her process. “That relationship was solidly fused. Any visual concepts I had knocking around my chest went hand in hand with the songwriting process and vice versa.”

Æ MAK - Love Flush

“I started writing about five years ago so I could perform the way I wanted to; express myself the way I needed to, which has now developed into some sort of alter-ego Uma Thurman character that I’m uncontrollably embodying,” she says. “When writing and messing around with vocal melodies and lyrical metres at home, I have a clear vision of performing it on stage, that feeling inspires the arch, the melody and the performance style in turn for sure.”

In recent times, however, the Dundalk artist has opened herself up more for collaboration. “I really enjoy writing with and for other artists now, takes me out of myself and I can enjoy songwriting for its craft and as a separate process to this madness in my chest”.

A recent wonderful collaboration on ‘Dancing Bug’ with Le Boom is a great example of how opening up that creative process has been beneficial. “Myself and Le Boom work with the same sound engineer, the mighty Sean Corcoran so we were introduced and pints were had. That’s the start of any collaboration, right? We were both fans of each other’s stuff and planned to plan a day to make a tune. I had a chorus banging around me for a month or so about my best mate Niamh dancing in her room.”

“[I] Went up to Christy’s home studio, got nervous as I thought he was the coolest dude ever, turns out we’re both eejits of course and then I showed him it as I felt it was something good. I laid it down just in bare vocal and harmony, turned out Christy is one of the most talented humans I’ve ever met. We buzzed off each other and wrote the rest of the lyrics and melodies, Christy producing that lush dance sound. I pride myself on being able to create a kick-butt melody but the man kicked me outta the water. So yeah, the collaborative process was a special one for me, us! We still dabble for fun.”

Last year, AE Mak was selected for ReBalance, a Leeds based initiative led by Festival Republic to address gender disparity in festivals and to provide female artists with opportunities they wouldn’t easily have otherwise. “It’s been really brilliant. I’m very grateful. As a self-managed artist at the time (January 2018), I received invaluable guidance and support from the team at Festival Republic,” she says.” The programme provided me with the platform to introduce myself to the UK music industry, form beneficial business relationships and allow myself and the band to perform on some incredible stages in the UK. 

“That doesn’t come about so easily without a team for an up and coming act in the beginnings of their career; we played the Sunrise Arena at Latitude 2018 which was a stand-out for us. I was also awarded a week’s recording time in Leeds. Myself, Daniel McIntyre (lullahush, Æ MAK producer) and Peter Kelly (Æ MAK drummer) headed over to lay down and produce three songs. I released one of them last year; “Love flush”. When asked if she’s optimistic about improvements in representation for female musicians, McCann is adamant. “I’m not optimistic, I’m full-blown living the change. Let’s move forward.” 

Æ MAK - I Walk

With a packed festival schedule across the UK & Ireland and ever-growing hype, it’s hard to envision to the electronic experimentalist has much time for new creation. However, she’s adamant that we’ll be hearing new material before the year is out. “There’s always time for new music.” says Æ MAK. “Whether it’s good or not is another thing. I’m working on a project, yes and there should be something good out soon.”

Æ MAK plays the We Are Workman’s Series, brought to you by Roe & Co Whiskey on August 10. Tickets are €10 and are on sale here.

We Are Workman’s is a Celebration Of The Diversity Of Music, Art, People, Community, Style & Taste That The Workman’s Club Represents.

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