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In the driving seat

Adam O’Regan of Soda Blonde told David Hennessy about their new album, why the break up of previous band Little Green Cars was hard but necessary and the time Sinead O’Connor gave them her endorsement.

Soda Blonde have announced their new album Dream Big will be released in September with tour dates, including a London show, to follow in November.

Fans have already got a taste of the new material from lead single Bad Machine.

Dream Big is the second studio album from Soda Blonde and follows 2021’s Small Talk and the previous EPs Terrible Hands and Isolation Content.

Small Talk was nominated for RTÉ’s Choice Music Prize for Album of the Year and received rave reviews including from The Irish Times who called it “a record so articulate and expressive that its title has to be a wry in-joke”.

And it is clear from their new album that the band have progressed from there although this should not come as a surprise as the Soda Blonde project is not the band’s first rodeo. All four members were previously in the world conquering Little Green Cars.

Formed in Dublin while they were still at school, Little Green Cars came to the attention of major UK labels through their self-released early EPs. From there, the hype around them just grew and grew.

Their 2013 debut album Absolute Zero went to number one in the Irish album charts. They built a big following in America, performing Harper Lee on The Jimmy Fallon Show on one US trip.

They would go on to follow this with the album Ephemera in 2016.

When Little Green Cars announced they’d disbanded in March 2019, their many fans were surprised and disappointed.

But it wasn’t long before Faye O’Rourke returned with Soda Blonde and all but one of her old bandmates.

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Dream Big may be their second album but when we chatted to guitarist Adam he said it doesn’t really feel like that.

The original band may have been called Little Green Cars but they have spoken about feeling like they were somewhat in the passenger seat. Now, they are the definitely the ones driving.

Adam O’ Regan told The Irish World: “You know what they say: You’ve your whole life to write the first album and then five minutes to write the second one, which is not technically true in our case.

“We were in a band before but this is very much a new journey and a new adventure for us so it feels like starting all over again, you could say.

“Since we started Soda Blonde we’ve kind of taken complete ownership of every aspect of it.

“So we produce and mix the music ourselves, we do all our own artwork, we do all our own videos, we do all our own press photographs, we do everything in house and so in that regard, the process of doing all the stuff has been very, very liberating and very, very fun.

“The last record that we’ve just made, I think I can speak on behalf of everybody, it was definitely our most fun, creative experience thus far in our lives, and I think that’s just testament to the fact that it’s very free.

“We have an understanding of each other.

“We have a shorthand when it comes to what it is that we want to make.

“We know what we want to make, we know what we want to say and so it’s just a great feeling.”

I believe it was Faye who spoke before of feeling lost in the hysteria around Little Green Cars, do you feel more ready now?

“We’ve learned a lot, we’ve got experience under our belt now.

“We were 19, 20 when we signed our record deal with Little Green Cars and at that time, it was just as Spotify was starting so the industry was in this weird kind of transitional period where it was trying to figure everything out.

“We had lots of voices around, we had a management situation that maybe wasn’t the healthiest and there was a lot of voices around that kind of would impede on maybe some degree of artistic freedom.

“Those shackles have been taken off now and we’ve learned a lot, as I say, so just a better place to be.”

Small Talk was very much about, as I think you said at the time, ‘The time for half measures is over, time to get the root of the thing’. Dream Big is saying something different, isn’t it? “Absolutely it is.

“There’s a lot in there, for sure.

“Small Talk was very much about trying to figure out the worth of things and your place in the world and what it all meant.

“I think we’ve come to a place now where we’ve settled into who we are.

“And there’s a bit of an irony in that title, Dream Big because I feel like in the world that we’re living in- especially back here in Dublin- trying to be an artist, trying to carve a corner for yourself, it’s a ruthless industry.

“So to dream big really, there’s a tongue in cheek-ness to that.

“We just want our little corner.

“That is dream accomplished for us.”

How did the lead single Bad Machine come about? “I was pretty interested in adding a little bit of aggression in the guitars on this album and so I was experimenting with some guitar sounds and we started crafting the song together in the room.

“There was no lyrics or anything like that but the sonics of the song very quickly got us all very excited.

“There’s a bit of Prince in there and I don’t really know how to describe it but it just felt really fresh.

“I think that was the statement we wanted to make with that, just blow the speakers off.

“It’s kind of about the double edged sword between the characteristic of being spontaneous, being a risk taker, acting before you think, it’s definitely a quality that I possess and it can get you into trouble but it’s also a very necessary characteristic.

“If you want to be ambitious, if you want to think outside the box, if you want to go for something: You kind of have to have that risk taker in you.

“The song to me is kind of about accepting parts of yourself that aren’t always the healthiest parts at times but they’re still necessary.”

Are you like that as a band? “I think if we were all like that, we would be dead by now,” Adam laughs.

“I think that I’m probably the worst in that regard. I probably have done far more acting before I think in my life than most people and Faye would probably be next in line, but we’re very lucky in that we’ve got two very level headed, very emotionally intelligent men in our rhythm section that keep us grounded and just keeps us tethered to the earth which is definitely necessary as well.”

One song on the album sure to stay with you is the haunting and beautiful An Accident.

“It was one of the first songs that came along.

“Faye first played it to me during COVID.

“Faye snuck over which I know is against the rules and we were kind of riffing some songs together and one of them was the song An Accident.

“Instantly the chorus just resonated with me.

“I think her mum hadn’t been well and she was kind of reflecting on the sort of fragility of life and how important it is to recognise those around you and love the people that are around you while you have them because obviously everything is so fleeting.

“It’s one of the highlights on the album for us because it’s just so raw.

“And speaking from a production standpoint, it’s a bit of a safety net to kind of put reverb on things and effects on things but this is one where we just wanted to make it completely dry so you can hear everything.

“I think it’s really arresting hearing Faye’s vulnerabilities.

“I’m proud of that one.

“The process of making this album was different to the last one in that we were in a studio.

“We were able to kind of get in the room and play together and on the first album, we didn’t have that.

“We did it in our various bedrooms and living rooms.

“On this album I hope you can hear us playing, having fun together and we’re letting our creativity just kind of run wild and (title track) Dream Big is a perfect example of that.

“One of the songs that’s another highlight for us, I think, is a song called Less Than Nothing.

“It’s one that we wouldn’t have been able to do on our last album.

“It’s all completely live, just us in a room together, just the ability to be able to play like that together and get really intimate.

“I love that song.

“Going Out was completely written on the spot.

“We were all just playing together. The lyrics came out of Faye.

“I think we’d had a few drinks.

“What you hear on the record is how it came out for the first time.

“Things like that can’t really happen unless you’re in a studio and the muse comes through the door.

“So there’s a lot of magic moments like that throughout this record for me.

“It’s actually quite hard to pick favourites because every single song has some sort of resonance to me.”

You mention COVID there, the pandemic really played havoc with you guys, didn’t it? You were nearly ready to go with an album and then COVID- 19 hit..

“We were just getting going and there was a bit of a buzz around the town that was starting to pick up traction and then suddenly, the world came crashing down.

“But we made the most of it actually.

“We made a challenge for ourselves to write an EP in isolation from each other.

“And we did that, Isolation Content, and we’re very proud of that and we finished the recording of the album and we put out the album so we kept ourselves busy.

“It’s kind of impossible to keep us from making stuff together.

“It’s kind of all we know how to do so.”

And it hasn’t stopped you playing some amazing shows. What has been a highlight of the live stuff you have got to do so far? “December gone was our biggest headline show to date (at Vicar Street) with Soda Blonde and that was a really special moment for us.

“Because when we decided to end Little Green Cars, there was definitely a big question mark over whether we’re going to be able to have another shot or whether people were going to embrace this new band.

“Two years later to be selling out one of the biggest venues in the city and off our own bat, with our own vision and everything was a really great feeling.”

Was that really a concern, that Soda Blonde wouldn’t take off? “You don’t know how things are gonna go.

“There was a minute there when Little Green Cars had broken up, probably five minutes where we weren’t sure what we were going to do.

“But then, four out of five of us kind of decided all we wanted to do was make music with each other and we had all this music written. And we believed in it.

“And so any kind of doubts or fears we had kind of very, very quickly dissipated.

“But still, you just don’t know.

“One thing I’ve learned about this industry is you really can’t predict anything whatsoever ever.

“Whenever you think you’ve got it, you’ll be proven wrong so it’s an impossible thing to kind of know.

“But people are embracing us and people have really got behind this band and the music.”

Was it stressful when Little Green Cars broke up? Was it gradual or sudden? “I think it had been coming but that didn’t make it any easier.

“I can’t really go into too much detail about why it happened or that sort of thing but it came to its natural conclusion ultimately.

“And for the members within the band, it was kind of starting to cause more damage than anything else and so it was definitely time to call it a day.

“I wouldn’t trade anything for where we are now in our friendship and creatively.

“It was definitely for the best.”

Mentioning the band’s live highlights so far, we bring up a time they were meant to play alongside Sinead O’Connor. The show did not go ahead in the end and this conversation took place before the sad news of Sinead’s passing.

Didn’t you support Sinead O’Connor? “Actually it was unfortunate.

“We were supposed to open for her in the Iveagh Gardens here.

“She tweeted one of our songs out and we were over the moon.

“She’s obviously an absolute icon and one of our heroes.

“She tweeted out our song Swimming through the Night and then shortly after that, she asked us to open for her in the Iveagh.

“COVID came along, it got pushed back, and then of course her son tragically died.

“I think the shows were pushed back about three times and then eventually they were pulled so we never got to play with her but still the honour of being asked is one that we won’t forget.”

The single Bad Machine is out now.
The album Dream Big is out on 8 September.
Soda Blonde play The Lexington in London on Wednesday 22 November and then tour Ireland.
For more information, visit sodablonde.com

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