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Meet NewDad, the Irish shoegazers who want to be a generation-defining band

NewDad are the Irish shoegazers trying to set out their own generational path.

By Nick Reilly

NewDad (Picture: Alice Backman)

In 2023, shoegaze is going through the unlikeliest of revivals. Take one deep dive into TikTok on any given day and you’ll find a legion of Gen Z music fans discovering and falling in love with the dream-like distortion and reverb soaked vocals that the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Slowdive so memorably pioneered throughout the 1990s.

But along with those fore-bearers, there are modern heroes-in-waiting of the genre too. NewDad, who hail from Galway, are just one of the acts leading that charge.

“You’re an angel / I’m just trying to be like you,” comes the ethereal delivery from vocalist and guitarist Julie Dawson on ‘Angel’, a song taken from Madra – their stunning debut which arrives in January next year.

Now, they’re doing their best to take it to the next level. “I’m just hoping that this album cements us as one of *the* rock bands of this time,” Dawson tells Rolling Stone UK.

You can read our whole interview with NewDad’s Julie Dawson below.

For the uninitiated, how would you describe NewDad and your sound in general?

I think I’d say we’re alt rock, with a lot of ’90s influence in there. But we want to have a fresh take on that and that’s what we’re trying to achieve with the album. When we were starting off it was all very DIY, but I think we’re definitely alt-rock.

You mentioned the album. What did you want to achieve with your first full-length record and what does it say about your band?

It’s an extension of our songs and what we’ve done before, but it’s so much bigger and clearer and there’s sounds on there that we’ve never really gotten to explore before. We’ve worked with some really amazing people and I’m just hoping that it cements us as one of *the* rock bands of this time.

That’s really interesting, the sense of lofty ambition in wanting to be an era-defining band.

For sure, fingers crossed we get there!

You all met as teenagers in Galway. What were you listening to at the time and how did that feed into your sound?

We all love The Cure and Pixies and all the stuff our parents would have played in the kitchen. But I think once we got into it a bit more, we really liked bands like Curve and Slowdive and Lush and a lot of those ’90s shoegaze bands.

In terms of Irish bands, a lot stemmed from Just Mustard too. They were bringing back shoegaze in such a fucking cool way and were a very big inspiration to us at the start. In fact that’s how we ended up working with [producer] Chris Ryan because I knew he’d mixed their stuff. I just emailed him and I was like ‘we have these records I did in my bedroom, would you be up for mixing them?’ So Just Mustard were a big inspiration to us.

That email is interesting because it feeds into a sense that you’re go-getters and, to a larger extent, the generational band idea we talked about.

Well if it’s not gonna come to us, we really kind of go out there and try and do it ourselves. That’s how it started. We started off doing a lot of the stuff, you know, just like, we were working full time and putting any money we had into buying gear to record and then paying for mixes and it’s what we’ve always wanted to do.

We now have more of a team and that opens a lot of doors for us which is really cool. We want to make the most of every opportunity, I guess. That’s why we moved to London too, just because there’s so much more opportunity over here.

Was there a scene in Galway?

I guess there was definitely one there and there’s always been really great music in Ireland and it’s definitely like flourishing so much now, which is so cool to see. We’ve moved out of Galway, but I’m always hearing of new bands popping up from the school that we went to and there’s always new bands coming through now who are really great.

But at the time there was, there was only like two music venues.There was only so much you could do.

It does feel like an exciting time for Irish guitar bands in general. Fontaines D.C might not sound too much like you guys, but there has been a massive surge of bands from there.

Yeah it really does feel exciting. And when people, like, even mention us in the same thing it’s such a cool thing to be a part of because all my favourite bands are basically Irish.

Tell us about your debut album, Madra. You’ve spoken before about using an Irish title for it, which means dog in Gaelic.

That title was one of the first we wrote over two years ago and it felt just like very representative of what the album became and it really led the way with the album as a whole and the sound we wanted to achieve. I think it felt really significant because of that and we had toyed with like other titles, but that one really felt like it was ours. We all grew up speaking Irish, like going to Gaelic schools and stuff.

It just felt like something that we owned and it kind of represented the album as a whole and it tied in really nicely with the themes. A lot of it is about those feelings that you can’t escape and kind of going in circles with stuff . The highs, the lows and all those things that follow you around like a dog.

We just thought it really just represented everything and like tied everything up really neatly.

So there’s a lot of your own feelings and identity poured into the album?

I think there is more so than there was before, but I think it’s just a little deeper. I’m really proud of it.

The record is mixed by Alan Moulder, who is a shoegaze luminary to say the least. My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, the list goes on…

We still haven’t met him! But when I found out he was mixing it, I couldn’t believe it. Even just like him saying that he loved the record and the fact that he would be willing to do it, he made it sound fucking amazing. He’s a pro and, yeah, it’s insane.We’re so lucky to have gotten him.

What do you want to achieve with the record?

I just want more people, honestly, just more people to know who we are and be on the radio everywhere because, you know, everyone around the world likes and listens to the music. That would be very, very cool.

But mostly, we just want to set that standard and prove what we can do. Because we did disappear for a bit while we tried to figure out where we wanted to take the album.

But honestly, we are all so proud of it and we want to show everyone we’re not messing around.

And continue on that path to being generational?

Yes! Because I really do believe it.