The Mahones are back to paint the town red with their classic Irish punk attitude, whiskey and damn good music.
With their 11th album Angels & Devils, released on Nov. 13, the paddy rock ensemble reaches new heights and big sounds that surpass the genius of their last release, Black Irish, which won the International Independent Music Award in 2011 for best punk album.
“We had such great success with the last album that we decided instead of resting on our laurels, we should get right back in the studio and make another one,” says Finny McConnell, the band’s lead singer. McConnell is the one remaining member of the original band, which formed in Kingston, Ontario 23 years ago on St. Patrick’s day.
Since its origins, The Mahones have gone through 17 different members, toured the world several times and have helped to define a genre. Drawing inspiration from bands like the Pogues and the Chieftains, the Mahones combine elements of traditional Irish folk with super-charged electric punk progressions. Incorporating mandolin, accordion, harmonica, banjo and the occasional fiddle to the typical four-part rock instrumentation of guitar, drums, bass and vocals, this Irish-born Canadian band creates energy-rich, danceable tunes and exciting live performances.
Unlike some other bands, the Mahones never try to be something they’re not. “We focus on our genre, we don’t try and spread the butter thin,” says McConnell. “And we put on a great show every night — whether we’re playing for 10 people or 10,000 people, we’re gonna give them the same show. Give it all you got or forget about it — that’s our philosophy.”
The Mahones have had their music reach wider audiences than most Indie punk bands, having had their songs included on sound tracks of popular films like Dog Park, Ecstasy and Celtic Pride. Their song “Paint the Town Red” from the album Black Irish is featured in the final fight scene in the Academy Award winning film The Fighter.
Despite this accomplishment, the band’s beginnings were humble. In fact, McConnell’s grade seven teacher tried to discourage him from pursuing music. “When people tell me I can’t do stuff, it makes me want to do it more,” says McConnell, who attributes his confidence to being born a Leo. “I don’t believe in problems, I only believe in solutions. I’m the kinda guy who walks on the sunny side of the street.”
The secret to their success, explains McConnell, is a do-it-yourself attitude and a lot of hard work. “We’re an Irish punk band and we tour all over the world. Trust me, no one was helping us do that, we did it ourselves,” says McConnell. “We just forced our way into the business by being good at what we did and going out there and doing it — raising the money to get around the world and paying for our own records and doing our own artwork. And here we are: we just toured 30 countries around the world.”
Staying true to their punk roots, the Mahones don’t shy away from controversial topics. The song “Blood on Their Hands” decries the oil war in the Middle East and the tragedy of soldiers losing their lives for rich politicians. Living in Montreal with fellow band member and his life partner, McConnell witnessed and supported last year’s student riots.
“We believe that everyone should have health care and education,” says McConnell. “We don’t believe in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.”
Although political songs are part of the Mahone’s repertoire, the ultimate goal is to get people to have a good time. “We’re not a very preachy band,” says McConnell. “We’ll sing about our political views but we want to keep it fun and entertaining too — so we balance things pretty well.”