Filled with urgent, considered, intensely catchy songs that challenge the norms surrounding relationships, history, and gender; New Pagans‘ debut EP Glacial Erratic is a powerful blend of alternative sounds. The Belfast band take the best elements of post-punk, grunge, and indie rock and transform them in to abrasive, yet melodic noise.
Formed of Claire Miskimmin, Cahir O’Doherty, Conor McAuley, and Lyndsey McDougall, the band have cut their teeth playing in different outfits over the years (Girls Names, Rupture Dogs, Fighting With Wire, Jetplane Landing). Together under the New Pagans moniker, they sound louder and more confident, creating a sonic space to explore issues of frustration, defiance, and resolution. We caught up with Claire to ask about the band’s EP, their recent UK tour, and what bands she’d recommend listening to right now…
Hello Claire, How are you holding up at the moment?
All good, I think we are all managing to keep it together at the minute. Keeping fit and keeping our brains ticking over. Absolutely bizarre for everything to be so different yet so normal, seeing this out in our homes, familiar surroundings. Absolutely surreal. Worst sci-fi film ever.
For anyone who doesn’t know, can you explain how New Pagans came together? We know each of you played in different bands before…
The majority of us have been in bands since our teens with the exception of Lyndsey, this is her first band, unbelievably. We’ve been playing for 3 years. Cahir and Lyndsey had talked about starting to write music together for a while but I don’t think they necessarily had a band in mind. Conor was a good friend of theirs and is an unbelievable drummer, so that was a no-brainer. As for me, I was messing about on a bass set up in their kitchen one night, recorded a rough sketch and thought nothing of it again until it was sent back to me a while later fully fleshed out by Cahir and with Lyndsey’s vocals; and it blew my mind. So that was me in! Allan was the last part of the jigsaw. He came in on guitar when we started to have bigger ambitions for the songs and he rounds of the sound off perfectly.
You released your debut EP Glacial Erratic in March. What are you most proud of about this release?
I think we are most proud that it’s a physical release. We had been releasing singles digitally over the last three years and it’s amazing to be able to find a home for them and there’s nothing like holding your own record in your hand and thinking “we made that”. It’s a beautiful object. I can see why people obsess and collect them.
Many of your songs blend the personal with the political, and I think that’s especially clear on ‘Lily Yeats’ and on ‘It’s Darker’. Can you talk me through the contexts of each song, and how they transformed into these affecting, memorable tracks?
This is more a question for Lyndsey to answer as she’s our lyricist, but I would say that she mines everything around her for inspiration. Her studies for her PHD led her to discover Lily Yeats, day to day experiences like an argument at a party with a man trying to exert his dominance over a female opinion like on ‘It’s Darker’. Everyday conversations overheard on a bus strung together into a Dadaist poem as with ‘Charlie Had the Face of a Saint’.
‘Admire’ is about learning to navigate a long term relationship once the initial spark of newness has gone & appreciate what you have. Politics, history, nature, human fragility, forgotten female voices told from an Irish perspective.
Do you have a favourite track on the record? If so, why?
I think my favourite track is ‘Admire’. Maybe it feels freshest. Or it’s the change of pace it brings on the record. It’s a mature track. I think it really sets a precedent for what we are doing next. Saying that, they are all bangers.
You’ve recently returned from touring the UK promoting the record. What were the highlights from your trip? Favourite venues/moments you’d like to talk about?
It was great for us to get out on the road together and actually great timing, another week and those shows would have been cancelled amid the chaos. Stand out venue would be the Flying Duck in Glasgow for me. They really looked after us and it makes such a difference to arrive at a venue and everything to be easy. Believe me this is a rarity for UK shows. Anyone reading this who has toured the UK will understand. As for the highlight, those drives to the hotel after the shows when we are all a little tipsy or running on adrenaline from the gig are the best craic. Makes you forget you are crammed in a tin box hurtling from one end of the country to the other.
We know it’s an uncertain time right now for musicians, especially in Ireland. How are you looking after yourselves? What’s the reaction from the music community in Belfast been like?
There’s always a real sense of community between bands in Belfast, it’s so small you know everyone. I’m just really loving the online presence that’s keeping us all connected right now until we can all play shows together again.
I don’t know how this goes when we come out the other side, but at the minute there’s a lot of positivity. We are using this time to try and write the album although we can’t get in a room together yet. We just need to ride it out.
Finally, what bands or artists would you recommend we listen to?
Careerist, Problem Patterns, Gross Net, Altered Hours. In fact, do yourself a favour and find an Irish music playlist on Spotify and give that a go. A lot of bands making a lot of great music on this island, as there always has been.