When NewDad signed to Atlantic Records last year, it wasn’t the champagne-popping moment they imagined. The Galway four-piece had been in the process of making their debut album, Madra, in the same studio where Oasis recorded Morning Glory and Queen immortalised “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Finishing the project was the only thing on their minds. “We signed with Atlantic over Zoom and we were like, ‘Alright… cool!’ Crack open a bottle of wine and head straight back into recording,” says drummer Fiachra Parslow, his mullet shrugging in unison with his shoulders.

Lead singer-guitarist Julie Dawson, guitarist Sean O’Dowd, former bassist Áindle O’Beirn, and Parslow formed NewDad while bunking off school aged 16, squeezing themselves into a friend’s garden shed for rehearsals each week. Their delinquency started paying off upon the releases of their debut EPs Waves and Banshee, released in 2021 and 2022 respectively – both records establishing NewDad’s distinctive, shoegaze-inspired alt-rock sound: a haunting amalgam of crackling guitar notes, whimsical crescendos and Dawson’s innocent, ghostly vocals.

After the quiet success of Banshee, received positively by small indie music magazines like DIY, the band began contacting major labels. They swapped their childhood homes in Galway for a two-bed in London. The move, however, splintered the band. O’Beirn left NewDad amicably; he was replaced by south London-raised bassist Cara Joshi. “Áindle was really unhappy,” explains frontwoman Dawson, sitting across from Parslow on a squeaky leather sofa in a Soho pub. “This job can be really sporadic and intense. And then, at times, there’s nothing. [Leaving] is what he needed to do for him.”

Living and working in close quarters eventually took a toll on all of them; they decided to move out. “It was so intense. It’s no wonder bands don’t always last because they’re your work life, your social life, and for us, it was our living situation,” says Dawson. “If you’re around anyone that much, it can get a bit s***... a bit gnarly.” They live separately now: Parslow is a 15-minute walk away from Dawson and O’Dwyer southwest, with Joshi in north London. “When you’re that close with someone, you could be that you’re angry at them, but really you’re angry about something else,” admits Parslow, playfully eyeing Dawson. “We lived together for three years, and we’ve only had about three nasty arguments,” she points out. “Just one a year!”

Since NewDad stopped bickering over chores, things have been looking up. Madra – their newly released debut, which they’re taking on tour this month – channels the grungy alt-rock of their heroes the Pixies and The Cure, blended with their own twinkly shoegaze-inspired guitar work and Dawson’s deadpan delivery of her wistful, dreamlike vocals. On “Angel”, Dawson whispers: “You’re sweet, I’m sick/I hurt myself for kicks”. Her eerie voice whirrs over luminous guitar soundscapes in “Nosebleed”: “The way you make my nose bleed/ You’re always talking down to me/ And when you bandage my knees.” Dawson is a maestro in broadcasting her innermost, sometimes dark, thoughts.

Does the band talk about the meaning behind Dawson’s lyrics? “God no!” hoots Parslow. “Generally, I can only write lyrics if I’m having a bad day,” explains Dawson. “I have days where I wake up and I am on top of the world, but I cannot write a song that day – I have to be down in the dumps.” The band know better than to pry. “Julie is so good at putting a certain feeling across in a way that you can relate to… usually, it’s exactly how we would’ve liked to have said that because we felt it too,” says Parslow. His bandmate is starting to blush. “I love it when we do interviews together – you’re full of compliments!” Dawson jokes.

Jokes aside, there’s a very specific pressure that comes with releasing under a major label. And a huge misconception, they tell me, that they now have an unlimited budget. “I don’t think people realise that [money] all has to be recouped,” says Parslow, who works part-time in a coffee shop on Brixton Hill. “A chunk gets taken away for all the different people that we’ve been working with. Whatever’s left gets split between us, and for things we need in general. At the end of the day, it’s just enough to get by. It’s funny, you go home and even your friends make jokes like, ‘How are you, Mr Rockstar?’” Dawson jumps in, “But little do they know, I eat beans on toast every night!” Their previous tour was funded by their overdraft. “We wouldn’t be able to do this one without label support,” she says.

NewDad are quietly confident about their success, but there are some aspects they’re still grappling with. Like paparazzi. The band were VIP guests at Irish designer Simone Rocha’s London Fashion Week AW23 show in September. “Photographers were shouting at us like, ‘Vogue, over here!’” Parslow cackles. “It took everything inside of me not to p*** myself laughing,” adds Dawson.

It’s funny that a band who make music to cry to are such a hoot. They came up with their band name using a random word generator online. Admittedly, it’s since taken on a new meaning. “There’s a NewDad curse,” whispers Parslow. “We started working with our manager and then all of a sudden... baby on the way! Our first tour manager... another baby on the way.” Their agent? “Twins!” They’re adamant: everyone around them is becoming actual new dads (or mums).

“It usually happens within four months of meeting them, too,” ponders Dawson. “We are cursed!” hollers Parslow. They grin at each other – and then at me. Upon leaving the pub, I find myself on a WikiHow page titled “Four ways to reverse a curse”.

NewDad will be playing their headline show at KOKO Camden on 5 March

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