Drown Interview: “I Had a ‘Road to Damascus’ Moment After Seeing Girl Band”

drown interview

Drown’s Debut EP Is Out Friday 19 August.

Drown is a pretty apt name for this excellent post punk/alternative rock quintet from Galway. Just take a listen to their latest single ‘Descent’ and you’ll be swept away in a fuzzy, synth heavy sound and a driving beat that’s like a current that is difficult to swim against. Of course, the track does play into one of my absolutely favourite musical turn ons in the dual male/female vocals in the chorus. Like Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando or Kim Deal and Frank Black, when singer/guitarist Robert Dalton and synth/vocalist Laura McGennis sing as one you get that wonderful contrast between gruff and sweet that can really elevate a song.

Before the release of their debut EP on Friday, we had a chat with Robert Dalton, and he told us about the inspiration behind the track ‘Descent’, how Girl Band made him start Drown, and his opinion of alternative rock in Ireland in 2016.

Overblown: Tell us a bit of background about the band?

Robert John Dalton: So we started as a group back in late 2015? I hadn’t been playing music in years and since arriving in Galway back in 2013 I’d been set on forming a band you know? Just all talk: “I’m gonna form this band and we’re gonna..” but i just got distracted with writing and all the musings of college life. Had a bit of a ‘Road to Damascus’ moment after seeing Girl Band in the Roisin Dubh last year with Ronan and decided to form the band. At the start, it was just me, Ronan, and Laura fleshing out these songs in my bedroom. It was only when we hooked up with Daniel Nestor (our drummer) after he responded to an ad we posted, did we really become a band. He was the perfect fit.

O: ‘Drown’ is the name of an absolutely stellar song by Smashing Pumpkins. Any relation to your band name?

RJD: Haha, you got it in one! Yeah I’m a total SP fanboy, that song is ignored alot because it featured on the Singles soundtrack rather than an album. Beautiful song, but I also felt the name reflected the aesthetic of the music more than anything else. Plus, I always had a penchant for bands with one word names like Ride, Placebo… Blue.

O: You’ve just finished recording your first EP. Is there anything you can tell us about it?

RJD: Yeah, we did. We had these tracks for a while but they only really came together when we actually got into the studio. We recorded it in Galway with Chris Crehan. Which was a fantastic experience, he really gave us an insight into our sound and what we’re capable of, felt like an additional member of the band in a lot of ways. We decided to take an Albini-esque method of production for the first one, just to give quite a raw and gritty introduction to the band. It’s due to be released this coming Friday!

O: I really love your track ‘Descent’. It’s like some kind of mixture between early Cure and the rawness of Sonic Youth. Where did the inspiration for that track come from?

RJD: Well Ronan and me had been messing around with the bones of this tune on guitar for a while.There was always something quite edgy and abrasive about it. I remember we were listening to a lot of Is This Is Are (DIIV’s second album) around that time. Lyrically, well 2015 was an ‘off year’ to say the least, I struggled with some stuff, so I guess you could say it came from that.

O: Throughout your music there is quite a mix of influences. In places the songs are extremely post punk and then the very next minute can swing to shoegaze. Is it a priority to maintain this variety?

RJD: Yeah, you know from the start we kind of maintained a smorgasbord of influences when it came to sound. We felt it necessary to stand out, we never wanted to bandwagon on a certain sound or scene that might be popular. It’s all about range isn’t it? The four of us do share a lot of influence in common but in essence we’re quite different musicians. It’s not so much a priority to maintain variety, just a way to keep the music interesting.

drown interview
Drown EP Artwork

O: I’ve seen some artwork on your Facebook page depicting what looks like a giant Piranha attacking some misfortunate women. Is that the cover of the EP? Who created the work and what was the inspiration for it?

RJD: Yeah that’s the cover alright. It was actually meant to just be the cover for a ‘Descent’ single release but we felt it fit the aesthetic for the whole EP. It was done by a friend of Ronan’s Natanael Roman. He does a lot of gig/band art in Dublin. We gave him a an early studio demo of ‘Descent’ and that’s where he got the inspiration for it! His work is absolutely fantastic, people should definitely check him out.

O: What do you make of the alternative music scene in Ireland in 2016?

RJD: Yeah I don’t know. I feel as if we stand out quite a lot, which is a good thing. Kind of need to be in order to cut through everything else. On a whole though, I feel like the country can’t accommodate all the talent it has, like you’ve got bands relocating to places like Berlin etc. and you’d think with the internet that would be needless anymore, but i think it’s just due to a lack of infrastructure etc., the price you pay for living in a small country. It’s definitely an exciting place to be though, talent-wise it’s fucking great. Bands like Girl Band proving to be the best thing out of this island since My Bloody Valentine. The likes of Tuath, Altered Hours, Sea Pinks as-well are a breath of fresh air. Galway and Belfast in particular seem to be bursting with artistry.

O: Do you have any upcoming gigs on the horizon?

RJD: Yeah, we’re doing a show for Citog Records in the Roisin Dubh tomorrow night (17th), and 3 days after (20th) we’ll be supporting Rural Savage for their album launch upstairs in the same venue! Haha. After that, we’re actually going back into the studio to record our second EP would you believe it? We’ve got some shows lined up for Dublin in September/October, so be sure to check our Facebook and Bandcamp for updates.

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