Belfast based New Pagans have routinely ripped up the rule book since their formation in 2016. Whilst acknowledging the existence of an unwritten industry checklist, they’ve stayed clear of characteristics or aesthetics that don’t represent who they are. They have a firm grasp of what they like and what they want and it showed when we met.
Rendezvousing in the picturesque setting of Dingle during the festivities of Other Voices, the group from the North’s capital jumped at the chance to do something a little different.
Taking what should have been a scenic drive to the top of Conor’s Pass we were met by a wall of fog. Sticking on the lights we carefully made it to the windswept heights of the pass whilst lead singer Lyndsey chatted about the seven hour journey down from Belfast. Not one to complain she followed it up with a reminder of how worth it, it had been.
It’s not often you get the chance to spend such a long time working with an act and especially not in the conditions we were met with. As conversations unfolded it felt as though this notion was reflected in their journey so far. They were the first to admit they aren’t the youngest act to hit the stage and until recently guitar led groups weren’t in vogue.
“It goes in cycles, for a long time in belfast there wasn’t a lot of guitar bands around, the kids just wanted to go to dance nights, which is fair enough,” said bassist Claire.
“But it seems at the moment there are just loads, theres been this kind of burst of guitar bands again.”
They’d not capitalised on the recent revival of guitar music, far from it, they’ve been plugging for years whilst interest was low. Despite these circumstances, things were starting to come together and Lyndsey was absolutely positive about their prospects.
“We aren’t 20 year olds so I think we have been making this music for some time… it’s not about following trends or anything, so maybe we did hit on something,” she explained to me.
“Sticking to what you love and what you listen to… you put things into your mind and produce something from the stuff you listen to.”
There were no complaints, it was just a reality and each member had been hardened by the relentless nature of the industry and guitarist Allen recalled some of the more difficult moments.
“The hardest gigs are when we come off thinking that’s the best we’ve played but no one really got it.”
“I’d prefer to play a gig where you make 100 mistakes but everyone likes what you are doing and they understand it,” he said to me.
Getting right to the point, Allen needed only a word to describe shows that don’t quite land, “Deflating”.
Not one to feel sorry for himself he continued to say, “but you’ve just got to look at the next time you are playing, ‘oh next week? Ok class that’ll be different’, if you hold onto it you’ll never enjoy playing live.”
Coupled with this resilience was a was a hunger and passion that stemmed from their youth that was equally headstrong. Pointing to his nearly wholly black outfit Allen beamed when talking about how things feel the same since he got into making music.
“I love that I haven’t changed the way I dress since I was 16…” he told me.
“I’ve always voted for the underdog, somebody who doesn’t have to wear a sparkly hat or sing a weird song that is in fashion or dress a certain way,” he continued.
“I just want to head bang and play songs that are slightly like Nirvana.”
This unadulterated view of music was refreshing. I’ve heard the word “raw” used to describe bands more times than I can count, but it felt so apt with New Pagans. The bottom line for the group was putting on a great show and doing it on their own terms. There’s no bullshit or bravado, just a close group making music that encourages the use of ear plugs.
“I love going in and saying we are going to be the loudest, tightest band and I love the fact we do our own thing.”
Spread across three days and nights in beautiful Dingle, Other Voices showcased over 70 artists in over 30 venues as part of the Dingle Gin Music Trail.
We partnered with Dingle Distillery to capture the magic of the weekend.
For more information on Dingle Gin click here.
Photography: George Voronov