Who’d have thought that, an entire 12 months into the madness of the past year, we’d still be getting to grips with the switch from face-to-face to online interactions? When once we’d be congregating in sweat-dripping pub backrooms, we’re stuck inside with this faceless musical exchange. Though for Galway’s NewDad, life doesn’t seem all that bad.
Dialled into our Zoom call post-practice and the Irish four-piece seem to have gotten to grips with pandemic life. “We play Minecraft with a Hungarian fan every single day,” says drummer Fiachra Parslow, itching to divulge how they’ve spent their time – the group quickly perking up at his mention. “He’s heard songs that aren’t even out yet. I’m totally in this to make friends.”
The past year has seen the band make themselves known outside of their Galway bubble in the, but the “bohemian yet traditional” seaside-city they call home has shaped the band in ways a larger city never could. “We must have played a gig with every musician who’s been through Galway, so all the weird music has filtered in subconsciously,” says Parslow. When probed about this so-called “weird music”, it’s the “bare-footed, hurdy-gurdy playing buskers” that crop up. “We’ve got a rule thanks to them. On stage, you’re not allowed to take your top or shoes off,” guitarist Sean O’Dowd lays down the law.
Embodying so many genres, from bodhrán-playing traditional Irish music to DIIV’s blasé shoegaze and Wolf Alice’s sincere indie-rock, has helped them catch the eye of all kinds of fans. “Lots of dads like us,” laughs singer and guitarist Julie Dawson when trying to explain their sound. “It’s music for teenagers, but your dad will probably come to a show and like it more than you.” It’s the blend of decades that’s key here. They bring the distortion-driven guitars of the Pixies and The Cure’s happy-go-lucky goth-pop but replace the grotesque-noir crypticisms and vocal screeches with a delicacy more in tune with Beabadoobee and Irish compadres Just Mustard.
“We’re very self-assured in our sound,” says Dawson, revealing how the intimacies in her lyrics don’t come as naturally just yet. “During practise, I’ll mumble and only record when everyone’s left the room. Then it’ll be a year later, and the guys will say ‘I didn’t know they were the lyrics!’”
These personal insights are laid bare in their latest single ‘Slowly’, with lines like, “And when I call your name you never answer / But when you call mine, I act like it’s fine” exploring the uncertainty around someone not following through after admitting their feelings. Despite the shyness lyrically, the group are so in tune with one another with inside jokes and laughter after every question NME asks, it’s clear to see how they’ve come to such a tight, concise sound.
This has only been exuded by their trip to Belfast to work with producer Chris Ryan (Just Mustard) on their debut EP ‘Waves’. Even though he mixed all of their previous singles, this was the first time they’d met in person. “Being with him in the studio made such a difference as before he was always behind an email, and if someone doesn’t leave a smiley face or exclamation mark at the end of every sentence, we’ll think they hate us,” jokes O’Dowd.
“Previously, we’d hesitate leaving parts in as it was too hard to explain what we meant. This time he could elevate everything so it’s more cinematic and nostalgic. It’s less like you’re watching on the TV, and more like you’re at the cinema on the big screen.”
Going in with solid demos also seemed to help, as Ryan brought the older material up to speed. The EP’s title track ‘Waves’, was one of the first NewDad wrote together nearly four years ago when they formed to avoid solo performances for their Leaving Certificate music practical.
“It always followed us around, but we could never properly enunciate it,” bassist Áindle O’Beirn explains with Parslow shuddering at its backstory: “It was a good foundation but not a good song. I can’t hear the demo without having flashbacks of practising in Áindle’s freezing shed, surrounded by cobwebs.” The jump has paid off though, as they can only recall one “very polite” negative review of “Sorry, not for me” with the rest being shining praise.
The connection they have with their fans, from playing Minecraft to writing out guitar tabs, has been instrumental in forging the positive feedback they’ve received. “We want our personalities to come through in everything we do,” states O’Beirn. “We’re not here to pretend we’re too cool to interact with the people that enjoy us.”
Having only played one socially distanced show where the crowd had to supplement their dream-pop with mandatory burgers, their excitement to get back out there seems to boil down to just thanking everyone behind their screens in person. And what is it they want to do most? “I’d be happy with a hug or handshake,” Parslow put simply while the others nod in agreement.
NewDad’s debut EP ‘Waves’ is out March 26