- 16 Mar 21
One of the country’s most exciting young acts, NewDad, discuss their cracking debut EP, Waves.
Meeting NewDad over Zoom, the rising Galway alt-rockers seem a bit baffled at being in the spotlight. There’s not a shred of ego in sight despite how fast their star is rising - possibly because the pandemic has stopped them in their tracks, holding them in their hometown while they ready themselves for an eventual London relocation.
The group have been steadily gaining traction on the back of a string of captivating 2020 singles. The hypnotic likes of ‘Blue’ and ‘Cry’ made for a compelling introduction, while ‘I Don’t Recognise You’ cemented their buzzworthy status.
Julie, Sean and Fiachra live together in their bubble, while Áindle resides just down the road. Lockdown has granted them one wish at least, in the form of plentiful practice time before gigging eventually resumes. Still in their early twenties, the quartet feel they’ve really refined their sound of late.
“We sounded shite before,” bassist Áindle O’Beirn says candidly of their very early days, which didn’t involve guitarist Sean O’Dowd. “Julie, Fiachra and I have been playing together for nearly four years now and we went through a few different members. Our sound was almost there but we needed something else. It’s probably why we waited so long to release our first single - we really wanted to be confident that we wouldn’t be embarrassed by the song.”
“We definitely weren’t making music that was too different to our current tracks,” drummer Fiachra Parslow adds. “Before, we were just Aldi brand NewDad. Once Sean came along it just all clicked.”
“I was doing music technology in Limerick and had a bit of gear, so I just offered to record demos for them,” Sean says of his arrival in the group. “It was Chris Ryan mixing the tracks, but I recorded ‘How’, ‘Cry’, ‘Swimming’ and ‘Blue’ at the start. I was adding a few bits, then playing a practice, then playing a gig, and before I knew it, I was in the band. It just happened organically.”
The group later travelled up to Belfast to record new EP Waves, at which point they decisively nailed their sound.
“We finally got to meet Chris Ryan, who has produced all our tracks,” Aindle explains. “We’d only been speaking to him over email or Zoom, so it was nice to see that he had legs!”
“Our manager Dan flew over as well, and it was our first time meeting him in person,” notes Fiachra. “We all stayed in an Airbnb together, it was great. I bought a gateau from Iceland and just ate it with my hands. I was really living that rock star lifestyle.” (“He threw the other half out of the hotel window,” Áindle jokes.)
The hype surrounding Ireland’s laidback indie kids has also reached the UK, with radio play from the likes of BBC6 Music and BBC Radio 1 DJ Jack Saunders. However, the band acknowledge the hoopla stills seem somewhat, given their current isolation and lack of live action.
“People messaging us has been great,” says Fiachra. “It means a lot when you hear that one of our songs really stayed with a person. That makes the music worth creating. It also makes all of this seem real, as opposed to just watching streaming numbers increase. People doing covers and guitar tutorials of ‘I Don’t Recognise You’ is insane. All of it is so lovely to see.”
“I think just because the UK’s population is that much bigger, there’s more of a demand for our kind of music,” Julie continues. “But we don’t even know why we’re getting so much attention over there, it’s been crazy. It’s pretty weird, because we’re never exposed to the outside world.”
Dawson’s lyrics have been one of the predominant reasons for their growing popularity, with her peers gravitating towards her quietly poignant words and relatable subject matter. At the same time, her spellbinding voice never overpowers the music.
“I think if the lyrics were more in your face or if I was louder, the words could be too much,” she suggests. “They’re sort of cloaked, so a lot of the time, you don’t realise what you’re listening to unless you really pay attention. I like that they’re not too commanding.”
“Julie’s incredible at writing broad lyrics that resonate with people,” says Fiachra. “There have been a lot of times where I listen to a song and wonder if she wrote it about me or my experiences. It’s like she’s put herself in my shoes.”
“Don’t leave your diary unlocked!” jokes Áindle.
Julie says her lyrics have a real emotional directness.
“I wrote the songs about my later years in secondary school rather than how I am now,” she reflects. “But the words can still be very personal. I usually just mumble the lyrics until we record the song, and then the lads finally hear what the words are. It’s definitely a bit fear-inducing.”
NewDad’s excitement over the release of their upcoming EP is palpable, and after listening to it in full, it’s clear why. The hazy, nostalgic melodies and lyrics - which yearn for escape - serve as a joyful antidote to the dark tenor of the times.
“I love the final track on the EP, ‘Waves’, because I don’t have to play until around two minutes in,” says Aindle. “I can go on my phone, play games, I’ve even knitted an entire sweatshirt in that time. I didn’t know how to knit at the beginning of the song, but there was time to learn!”
“‘Waves’ is definitely my favourite track off the EP, because we actually wrote it about four years ago,” Julie recalls. “It was the first demo we ever made. Usually we don’t really revisit songs that we did in the past, but we just knew there was something there. It’s the closest to my heart, but I love how energetic ‘Drown’ is.”
Are NewDad allowing themselves to dream up high-profile collaborations or celebrity shout-outs over the next year?
“The Super Bowl halftime show happens in February,” Aindle quips. “That’s definitely where we’re going to be in 2022. Kate Nash follows us on Instagram, so we’re A-list material now. I bring that up in every conversation!”
“Reading & Leeds or Glastonbury are on our list. It would be sick to come back to play the Galway Arts Festival after a while,” Fiachra says. “Imagine landing in the West to sell out our home turf!”
“The way that NewDad perform together is very organic,” Sean concludes. “We never intend for something to sound a certain way, we just do our thing.
• Waves is out March 26.