On the strength of two excellent EPs—Waves (2021) and 2022’s Banshee—NewDad quickly became one of Ireland’s fastest rising acts, earning the four-piece big-gig support slots with Inhaler and Paolo Nutini in 2022. The gauzy textures of those two releases also fastened the “shoegaze” and “dream pop” tags to the Galway-formed band composed of Julie Dawson (vocals/guitar), Cara Joshi (bass), Fiachra Parslow (drums), and Sean O’Dowd (guitar). However, their own vision was always for something more divergent, something more muscular and dynamic—something they’ve forged on a debut album that adds cleaner, steelier edges to their sound while exploring their love of grunge, alt-rock, and electronic music. “It was really rock music that got us all into wanting to play in a band,” Dawson tells Apple Music. “We never really imagined that we’d make a rock record, but that’s what this ended up being. I guess deep down it was always what we wanted to do but we didn’t really have the tools to do it. When we started off, we were still figuring out our sound and then, when we started playing songs live, it was way heavier and we wanted to translate that into the recordings. When we got that guitar sound on ‘Sickly Sweet,’ we were like, ‘Nothing we’ve ever recorded sounded like that. Holy shit, that is what we want!’” The album was recorded with trusted band producer Chris Ryan at Rockfield Studios in Wales. Here, NewDad felt galvanized by the fresh air and the studio’s history—which includes incubating records by Queen, The Stone Roses, Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, Pixies, and Iggy Pop—while a downtime diet of zombie movies might, says Dawson, have added to the album’s sense of menace. As much as the sound of MADRA— Irish for “dog”—represents an evolution for NewDad, the lyrics are more concerned with stasis and repetition, particularly in our everyday relationships and behaviors. “It’s those things you can’t escape, or repeating unhealthy patterns,” says Dawson. “It was initially just a working title. It was probably because when we were like, ‘Oh, what will we name it?’ we saw a dog walk past the window or something. But the image of a dog following you does line up nicely with the music. It’s definitely a lot about the relationship between you and whoever—family, friends, partners.” Let Dawson explain further with her track-by-track guide. “Angel” “It was during lockdown and it was definitely like I was having a dry spell when it came to writing. [TV series Euphoria] is so lovely to look at and the plot lines are so crazy that it got my brain going. That whole dynamic between [show characters] Rue and Jules—feeling like a burden in a relationship—is something that so many people go through if you have bad mental health. It was one of those moments where I was like, ‘Oh yeah, OK. I have an idea of something I want to write about now.’ That bassline is just such a good hook. It’s just a really strong opening. We’ve always been very bass-led, and it’s a familiar sound, so it’s a nice way to open.” “Sickly Sweet” “‘Sickly Sweet’ is that whole thing of repeating unhealthy patterns, maybe going back to something or someone, even though you know that it’s bad news. The line that sums it up the best is: ‘But I’m reliant on the nonsense.’ It’s like when you do things out of pure boredom and it’s completely stupid, but it’s just something you do. I love this one because it feels like a lot of ’90s records that I would’ve listened to. [We were aiming for] a Breeders-y kind of thing. That raw vocal is something that we don’t do that often, but was definitely necessary.” “Where I Go” “This was a really old one. I had never imagined it being on the album, to be honest. But a lot of other people and the rest the band were like, ‘It really does sound great,’ after we recorded it in Rockfield. I was very against it for a while but when the mix started sounding really cool, I was like, ‘OK, I’m comfortable with this.’ It’s an important song on the album because so much of it is like, ‘Meh, I hate myself,’ and this is like, ‘No, actually, fuck you to anyone who actually made me feel like shit.’ It’s a good moment, a good release of anger.” “Change My Mind” “‘Change My Mind,’ again, it’s that unhealthy pattern where you’re not really trying to be better and then that repeats [something] bad, whatever it is. The initial inspiration, sonically, was [2020 single] ‘Blue.’ We were like, ‘We need to do something that’s kind of like “Blue” because everyone loves “Blue” so much.’ And funnily enough, it is a similar theme, that kind of, ‘I’m bringing my partner down.’ I think it’s a nice, poppy moment on there.” “In My Head” “[May 2023’s single version] was recorded in Church Studios [in London] and we loved how it sounded, so we wanted to put it out, but then we actually ended up doing the album in Rockfield, so we did an album version of it. I love both.” “Nosebleed” “This was one that I wrote with Justin Parker [cowriter of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Video Games’]. It’s someone having a hold on you, a toxic relationship. It could be between friends, family, whatever. It’s that wanting to stay with that comfort even though it’s not necessarily good. But ‘Nosebleed’ was initially really high and really fast, and it was a really poppy song. I didn’t see it being on the album, but then we were doing preproduction with Chris Ryan and he was like, ‘I love this song so much. I really want to give it a go in Rockfield.’ And we were like, ‘OK, whatever. Let’s try slowing it down and making it lower,’ and then it clicked instantly. It was just like honey, just like a mushy, warm sound. I absolutely love it now.” “Let Go” “‘Let Go’ is way more about the instrumental and I guess I didn’t think that the vocal needed to be overly complicated, so there’s not a whole lot going on lyrically. I like that kind of swirling. It feels like you’re really stuck in something in that song. This and ‘White Ribbons’ are my two favorites on the album. I just love the chorus and the bridge and the guitars are so snarly. It’s sick.” “Dream of Me” “We wrote this in a session with a guy called Rob Brinkmann. I think we just had the chords. We brought it to Rob and he’s really excellent at structuring songs. The reference was actually ‘Waking Up in Vegas,’ the Katy Perry song. I guess it’s a lighter moment in the album because lyrically, as well, I’m not really saying anything profound. It’s just like, ‘Oh, when you like someone and they don’t really care about you,’ that’s it.” “Nightmares” “‘Nightmares’ was another song that I did with Justin and it was such a fun one to do because I went in with chords initially and we were layering it up. Then, when we had those little guitar harmonics, we were actually, ‘Just them by themselves sounds so sick.’ It was reminding me of Massive Attack and I thought that was a cool way to roll with it. So I love the electronic sounds in that song. ‘Nightmares,’ again, is that feeling of not wanting to like someone because you know it won’t work.” “White Ribbons” “It was very therapeutic to write and it feels like a more hopeful track on the album. We put our bodies through so much shit and they always fix us, and this is basically just a thank you [for that]. I actually don’t even know where it came from—one day I had that guitar line and vocals, and it’s a pretty line. I love the stripped-back moment and all the weird vocoder stuff.” “Madra” “‘Madra’ is really old now. It was a chord progression I was playing when we were in the studio in Belfast during Banshee. Once we got back from recording, we made the demo pretty quickly. We were sitting on that one for a while and we all loved it so much. The outro just felt so strong. It felt like such a cool ending, like a final scene. And all the bass licks and stuff, they’re just so sick. I feel like it sums up everything that is said in the album—about the highs and the lows and the repeating patterns.”

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada