- 20 Sep 23
Alt-pop supremos Soda Blonde discuss their eagerly awaited sophomore album, Dream Big.
Picture perfect, fresh from their photo shoot, Faye O’Rourke and Adam O’Regan of alt-pop quartet, Soda Blonde, enter our interview with a flurry of smiles. Their debut album, Small Talk, was released just over two years ago, as the pandemic was still in full force. Having enjoyed considerable critical acclaim for the LP, there was high expectation for their sophomore effort. Even still, Dream Big floored me.
“It was the most joyous experience making it,” says O’Regan. “So to finally be able to put it out and let people listen to it... We’re really proud of it.”
“We feel like we’ve done some pretty amazing work!” says O’Rourke. “But it’s an anxiety inducing time. In the studio, we have all the control, and because we do everything ourselves, we can revisit things and do multiple iterations of songs. When you’re releasing stuff, it’s signed and sealed for the world. It’s a stressful time. But you can’t rest on your laurels! You’ve got to keep making new stuff.”
Ahead of the album’s release, the quartet have announced a UK/Ireland tour – something they couldn’t do with their debut, in the bad times.
“It was a bit of an anti-climax last time,” says O’Rourke. “Seeing reviews was the only kind of engagement we had with feedback, as opposed to actually playing the songs in front of people. It’s going to be amazing to tour it.”
I’m intrigued to know why ‘Bad Machine’ and ‘Midnight Show’ were chosen as singles.
“‘Bad Machine’ felt so exciting to us,” says O’Regan. “We were really interested in bringing a little bit of rage into this album, with more angular and aggressive guitar. This song was when that kind of culminated. It just felt like a bit of a palate cleanser from the last record.”
“‘Midnight Show’ is dealing with issues at large in the world right now,” adds Faye. “There’s an element of prostitution to being a musician these days. So it was cool to have something that groovy and immediate when the subject matter is so depressing."
“With the juxtaposition of the lyrics and the music,” says O’Regan, “there’s something tongue-in-cheek and satisfying about the Trojan horse nature of it.”
Faye agrees: “We want these songs on the radio, but we’re also kind of saying something that maybe isn’t currently there.”
Speaking of ‘Bad Machine’, its music video, directed by Adam, recently won big at the Rome International Movie Awards. Surprisingly, the award-winning clip was put together at the very last minute.
“We had decided for this album, we were gonna reach out to a bunch of the talented creatives in Ireland,” says Adam. “For whatever timing issues, no one was really available. And Faye and I got married this year...”
Faye jumps in urgently: “Not to each other!”
The two have a laugh to themselves before Adam continues: “We had a very busy year, and it just didn’t seem like we were going to be able to make it happen. We were in Reno for my wedding and our single was coming out like seven days later. So we came up with the idea of getting Faye to smash up this apartment, and creating this idea of malfunction.
“We shot it on 16-millimetre film, but we could only afford to get 10 minutes of the film, because it’s so expensive. We were just so proud of the endeavour that we felt like we had to enter this into film festivals. I think we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks how we get on!”
To no-one’s surprise, the band’s debut was nominated for RTÉ’s Choice Music Prize in the Album of the Year category, with the titular track up for Song of the Year. Did it put much pressure on the band when writing Dream Big?
“We’re always looking to achieve more,” Faye states. “We’d already ticked all the boxes that we wanted to tick, so we weren’t going into it thinking like that. We’ve been through the hype machine already and I think we understand how it works.”
The album has been described as a “mature awakening to the world at large”, compared to Small Talk’s “anxiety-fuelled coming-of-age.”
“I was kind of sick of emotionally mining, and putting my feelings and failings out on a platter,” says O’Rourke. “There’s a little more political and socio-economic weight to this album than the previous one. That probably comes with age and wanting to write new things, but it definitely covers a range of topics.”
Alluding to the album’s ‘80s and ’90s vibes, Faye confesses that during the making of the record, she felt a lot of nostalgia for her childhood, and listening to her cousins get ready for nights out.
“My cousins were a bit older,” she recalls. “When they were getting ready to go out, they’d be listening to Ultrabeat and all that really heavy ‘90s club music, like ‘Born Slippy’. I remember being a child and feeling melancholy from this dance music. I couldn’t really figure out why I felt heavy, and I think I’ve always chased that feeling of emotional heaviness, mixed with this euphoria kind of thing. That was something when we were producing that was quite healing for me.”
Having made their way through the ever-changing landscape of the Irish music industry, there’s no one better than these two to give encouragement to young Irish artists.
“I think you will gain some form of success if you’re trying to crack something within yourself or be vulnerable in some way,” Faye summarises. “That sounds really corny. I’m not trying to say, ‘Be true to yourself,’ but be true to the art. It’s a really shit time, but there will be a renaissance in how music is consumed. Young people dictate the trend, so listen to your peers. Musicians are there to mirror and expose humanity, that’s where people draw comfort and solace from. But that’s not really happening in current music. Everything’s quite manufactured now.”
“Also, AI is a very real threat,” Adam emphasises. “It really is coming around the corner. I was listening to an interview with Bjorn from ABBA this morning and he was given a demonstration of this new model. He was saying that no one is prepared for what this is going to be. You can literally go into this AI model and say, ‘Write me a melody in the style of ABBA with a little pinch of Queen, and then it’ll do this whole thing for you... There’s just no way these big record companies aren’t going to be taking advantage of that. People are already using it to write lyrics, you know? So, humanity is really needed more than ever.”
“And good legislation,” Faye sneakily adds.
Dream Big is out now.
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