The Mahones Forever

Finny McConnell loves performing in Halifax. “Usually, we roll in on a Saturday night,” shares the founder and front-man of Canadian Celtic-Punk legends The Mahones at a recent stop in the Nova Scotia capital. “But for some reason this gig was changed to a Wednesday.” 

It’s no matter for McConnell and his band-mates; the Kingston, Ontario quintet have been putting-out seven days a week in support of their latest effort The Black Irish – an eclectic mix of rowdy rockers and soft Irish ballads – since its release last year.  

“I love the new record,” he shares. “It really reflects how far we have come as players.” 

Indeed, it’s been a wild ride since McConnell and his long-time musical mentor Barry Williams put the band together on Saint Patrick’s Day, 1990. 

From the very beginning, the band set their sights on Celtic Punk. “I started off with the nasty Irish drinking songs,” grins the singer-songwriter. “In fact, the first song I wrote for the band was ‘Drunken Lazy Bastard.’” 

Today, McConnell writes in batches of 10 to 20. “I come up with the titles first, to define what I want the piece to be about. I find a good hook, and I finish it off by painting in the lyrics. And then I won’t write anything for two years.”

Citing The Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners, and The Pogues as musical influences, The Mahones have shared the stage with the likes of The Dropkick Murphys, Shane MacGowan and The Popes, Steve Earle, Flogging Molly and Van Morrison.                    

Though tied by similar sound and style, McConnell steps outside of traditional musical structures. “A lot of people in the genre take airs, which are like riffs, of Celtic songs from the past, rewrite them and put their own lyrics to them. I like to invent my own and make them as completely original as possible.”

While most of the band’s material is of the Celtic Punk genre, they have experimented with other styles, including jazz, country, folk and rock – something that is well-reflected on the new recording.

“We like to mix it up,” laughs McConnell. “It keeps things fresh for us and it keeps listeners guessing.”

That variety is perhaps most evident on Whiskey Devils, a tribute album, that was released last year. “We were honoured,” he says humbly. “Twenty bands around the world recorded twenty of our songs for our 20th anniversary. Some of them even play them better than we do!”

Their musical peers aren’t the only admirers, as the line-up outside the nightclub in Halifax attests to.

“So what if it’s a Wednesday?” smiles McConnell. “We’ve always got a little Saturday in us to share.”  ~ By Michelle Brunet

Reprinted from the Spring 2012 issue of Celtic Life International Magazine