- 19 Sep 23
Rising Derry crew Brand New Friend on their sophomore album Grandstand, exploring loss, and supporting Snow Patrol and Lewis Capaldi.
Emerging from the quiet seaside town of Castlerock, Co. Derry, Brand New Friend first gained traction in 2018 with their debut LP, Seatbelts For Aeroplanes. Now the band are back with their sophomore album Grandstand, supported by a tour of Ireland and the UK this autumn.
While the first record provided a raw, frenetic energy associated with adolescence, Grandstand serves as a refined, Pavement-inspired follow-up, emphasising the band’s development as musicians.
“We very much knew we wanted things to be more mature and more polished,” says frontman Taylor Johnson. “We’ve worked our fucking arses to be better and have been hidden away in a practice space for years. I always take things and put them in football terms – we’re like the N’Golo Kante of bands.”
The group’s growth is evident, with the LP brimming with massive sounding guitars and pop hooks. The maturity isn’t merely sonic however, it’s thematic. Grandstand’s lyrics delve deeper, touching the melancholy of death and trying to wrap your head around tragedy as a young twenty-something.
“The songs are very honest,” explains Taylor. “The first album is more of a heartbreak record, and this one is more about familial loss and losing people who aren’t allowed to die. You’re like, fuck this. This can’t happen.”
This concept of coping with loss is explored in lead single, ‘Stars Bleed’.
“There’s this universality of pain and the idea that it affects everyone,” adds Taylor’s sister, keyboardist and co-songwriter Lauren. “It’s inspired by seeing our friend go through a really difficult personal time. That song is kind of wanting to comfort and help them through. It’s a theme that comes through quite a lot on the record.”
Brand New Friend consists of three siblings, Taylor, Lauren and bassist Logan, who play alongside drummer Luke Harris and guitar player Aaron Milligan. It hasn’t been unknown for some sibling bandmates to end up at each other’s throats, though everything has worked out well so far for Brand New Friend.
“I’m a bit of a chancer and wrote all these songs I knew would suit Lauren’s voice,” reveals Taylor. “I kind of bullied her into being in a band.”
“I don’t know if I’d use the word bully, but he definitely encouraged me, I needed a bit of a push,” adds Lauren. “It’s always been really natural, we do actually get on really well.
Thankfully, there’s never been any Gallagher-esque fights. Sometimes my role is to rein in Taylor a little bit. He has a tendency to talk for too long on stage and I have to say, right, let’s get on with it.”
Brand New Friend have rubbed shoulders with some musical titans. The five-piece have supported the likes of Snow Patrol, Lewis Capaldi and At the Drive-In to name a few, gaining valuable industry insight along the way.
“Snow Patrol are extremely professional,” notes Taylor with admiration. “Getting there is one thing. To climb the mountain is unbelievably difficult, but to stay there is even harder. We’ve witnessed how hard they work, how they never switch off, and how you have to dedicate every second you possibly can writing and practising.”
Capaldi, on the other hand, owes the Northern Irish band a tad more than sage advice. The Scottish superstar may want to get on to DHL if he wants to avoid coming to blows.
“Lewis Capaldi stole my t-shirt and I don’t think we’ll ever forgive him for it,” says Taylor. “We played a gig supporting him, and my mate hung it over an amp. Capaldi walked on stage, took it, threw it to his roadie and fucked off back to Scotland with it, we want to fight him.”
“No, that’s not true,” interrupts Lauren. It’s clear to see what she meant about having to sometimes keep her brother in check. “We love Lewis Capaldi, but he did steal from us and I think we need to tell the world.”
Grandstand is out now.
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