Melbourne’s Magnets releases her debut EP Perpetual Motion today, and it’s not just significant for being a powerful debut capturing her growth in confidence as a music maker, but for marking the moment before life changed quite unexpectedly. Recently diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, Magnet’s Siobhan McGinnity is now adjusting to a different reality, but one very much still driven by a passion for music and hearing. Complementing previously-released rock singles Fight and Lonely, Perpetual Motion also includes bluesy and ballsy Liquor, the soft rock intimacy of Dear and a magnificent cacophony of keys, strings and emotions in final track Somewhere. Magnets took some time to tell WildnFree all about Perpetual Motion, her health and the underlying force attracting Magnets to all things sound.
WF: You’ve mentioned on Facebook that you’ve experienced some hearing loss, what’s happening?
SM: I woke up a few weeks ago with sudden deafness and have since been diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease. Ryan Adams has it, and he’s been my absolute lifesaver through this process. Even though I’ve just finished mixing and mastering my debut EP, it feels like the past already. I’ve got plenty of songs written for the next one, but it feels so strange how fast you can become detached from something that’s a part of you.
But, Perpetual Motion is where I start. It’s my first, I love it for being my first, and I love it for being the place where I begin from. I’m excited to see where things go because I’m not going to stop. I have a passionate love for this EP like it’s my first boyfriend, or girlfriend!
WF: Tell me about all the stellar Melbourne musicians helping you out on the EP.
SM: I love my boyfriend the most so I’ll brag about him (bass player Richard Bradbeer), you can throw him into a session and he makes melody with bass, I can’t play live with him but I can certainly record with him!
A lot of the other crew revolve around Dorsal Fins and Saskwatch, they’re my friends as well as artists I admire, in particular I record with Lachlan O’Kane and Ross Beaton, I know I can bring them into a room and direct them, they take it on board and make it better.
We went through three producers until I found one who I could connect with, which was Stephan Mowat. It was hard as I’d never had to direct or work on the communication of my vision as I’d always been a backing singer or played keys.
A year ago, it would take me so long to convey what I wanted in a song we’d all end up in circles, lost, whereas now, the growth I am proud of is that I can walk into a room now and direct, and hear the song come alive in a session quickly.
WF: What was the trigger – exhaustion or confidence?
SM: Confidence! Working with the right people, hearing people say, “You write good songs,” or ‘I like this’. I had no confidence as an artist beforehand, I’ve built that up from nothing, to now be able to say I’m proud of what I created is a huge step. It’s travelled the confidence spectrum, within a year, on the side of doing a PhD, running an organisation and work! That’s probably why I’m sick, my body’s gone, “Girl, you need a rest!”
WF: Tell me a bit about your music background – how did you get to this point?
SM: It’s been a funny journey for me. I started with high school piano, but threw it away for four years and did no music at all, I wasn’t sure where I fitted in. So I did the most frightening thing, I helped out a friend by doing improvised piano for a live comedy show for three years throughout Melbourne, and that led to getting calls from bands like Sons of Rico, and Ali Barter and Henry Wagons, needing someone who could learn piano pieces and come on tour. So, slowly the confidence came, it was perfect, I was getting trained step by step in the music industry. It all happened naturally.
WF: What do you think will happen from here given your diagnosis?
SM: I think I’m going to write more, because whenever I’m in the processing stages of anything, I create. I’ve already written two songs since I got sick, and have most of the next EP ready, which sounds really synth-heavy and upbeat so far!
WF: It’s an interesting moment you’re at now, you’re not in the same space as other people about to release their debut EP. That must be hard.
SM: It’s given me a lot of perspective on life and I feel humbled. I want to shout out to anyone else who might be going through what I’m going through now, I’ve been searching for other musicians who might be in the same position, to give me that drive that it’s possible to continue. I know there must be musicians are out there working with hearing loss or tinnitus or Meniere’s, so I guess, hello? And if you are, I think it’s possible, I don’t know yet, I’m about to try, and I’m determined to. We got this.
WF: Do you think there’s a lot of musicians in this boat? Is this a massive thing no one’s talking about?
SM: Well, according to the literature, 74% of musicians in Rock and Pop have some form of hearing injury. It’s not something we often openly talk about. I’m one of a handful of people doing research into it in the world through my PhD, about preventing hearing injury in the music industry, (that’s the title of my PhD).
It’s the biggest black hole of support, and that’s great for me work-wise, but it’s not great for a musician who deals with the stigma of having hearing loss in this industry. Hearing loss is already stigmatised, if I put glasses on I’m considered smarter, but somehow if I put hearing aids on I’m considered less intelligent? It blows my mind. It’s silenced because of stigma and I’m done with that, I have no time for it anymore.
WF: Tell me about your non-for-profit Musicians 4 Hearing?
SM: I wanted to link people who love sound to people that needed sound. In the developing world, there’s little access to hearing care like we have here. Imagine you had no care and couldn’t learn sign language. You’d be isolated from education, work, or even conversation. You become ostracised from society. Musicians 4 Hearing uses gigs and events to fund hearing care in the developing world, yet while we’re doing it, the thing I wanted to do underneath it all was – if I motivate you to help someone else to protect their ears, will I motivate you to protect yours?
WF: Where does you intense drive, motivation and passion for sound, music and hearing come from?
SM: I’ll be completely honest with you, I’m the survivor of one of several girls who were sexually assaulted for years as a child by my piano teacher. He went to jail, as he should’ve. I overcame two years of repeated assault to still play my instrument. A lot of my therapy and growth as an individual in terms of strength was centred around overcoming something quite horrific, but I was determined the whole time that music would never be taken from me.
So the whole time, music comes from a place that’s very stubborn and resilient and strong to me, a place that’s determined to tell life what won’t be given and taken from me. So that’s why this diagnosis is terrible and cruel, but it’s within my capacity to handle because I’ve already got the skills. That’s the truth of where my passion comes from. It comes from a place of “Fuck you life, I decide what I can and can’t have.” I even have merch earrings of a middle finger sticking up as a symbol!
Fuck you life, nothing’s stopping Magnets from being a badass musician, scientist and woman. Grab your copy of Perpetual Motion on Bandcamp and catch her live at the EP launch this Sunday, details below.
The Gasometer Upstairs
Sunday 15th October
6pm $10 on the door
With support from
Shania Choir and The Belafontes