QSC Aspiring Interview: Soda Blonde on new album and beating the odds

Adam and Faye of Dublin alt-pop band Soda Blonde reflect on the band’s highs and lows, how they have taken every hurdle in their stride, and talk about the theme of malfunction explored in the music video for their latest single Bad Machine – the first from their new Dream Big album.

Could you guys each introduce yourselves, tell us how the band originally formed, and tell us about your musical relationship?

Adam: I'm Adam and I play the guitar and the keyboards.

Faye: And I’m Faye and I play the voice and the songwriting things!

Adam: We've been playing together since we were 15 or 16. Soda Blonde has officially been a band since 2019, but Faye and I have been playing together in some shape or form since about 2008. We were in a band before called Little Green Cars. In 2018 we were in the middle of writing our third album, but then the band came to its natural conclusion; we won't go into details as to why, but it did.

We took a little break for a couple of months, and then realised that four out of five of the members of the band couldn't really live without one another, and we needed it in our heart and soul to be constantly doing this together. So we formed Soda Blonde, and it has been one of the best journeys that I think one could put to paper.

We met when we were school kids, but our proper artistic relationship with one another hasn't really begun until this project with Soda Blonde. Now we’re very much partners.

Faye: Because we were in a band from teenage years, and signed a deal when we were really young, I think that definitely affects the development of your identity when you're kind of thrust into the limelight. So much of that time was spent working out our own roles and what our value was, and that can inhibit creativity a little bit, because you're constantly warring with yourself. And then ego gets in the way, you're oversensitive, and then there’s all the classic stories of why bands break up.

So when that band did eventually break up and we formed Soda Blonde, there was so much shit to wade through and we were working through all of our own personal things we had going on. Now we’ve developed a way of working where we just serve the music together, and we're confident of what we bring to the table. I think we're all just huge fans of what each of us does, and I think that's the bedrock of us; it's a very big admiration for what each other can bring.

Tell us more about your songwriting process.

Faye: I write the bare bones of most of our songs; traditionally I always write ballads and chord progressions, usually on one instrument. I guess I've always been somebody that's seeking answers within myself, so I tend to write from an extremely vulnerable place, and say things that perhaps other people wouldn't want to say, or wouldn't want to admit about themselves. Coming from the family I come from, it wasn't always easy to talk about things. I didn't grow up in a very emotionally open environment, so I guess I always found my solace putting it in music and in a weird, cryptic, poetic way.

Adam: I think that our secret weapon is absolutely Faye’s ability to be vulnerable and put herself out there so much. I think there's a lot of humanity in the music for that reason. Usually it will start with Faye bringing a song to us, then we’ll listen to it and pick it up in the room with a demo. That's a big part of the process for us; we kind of use the studio as an instrument in itself almost. From there it's a very free and fluid process that has become even more so in the last two or three years since we started Soda Blonde. We'll just try every different costume on this lovely thing before we find the right shape.

Faye: I don't think we ever set out with one solid soundscape. It's always been on a kind of song by song basis. They say pop can be perceived as a dirty word, but I guess it just means that there's no barriers. It's an ever-evolving thing, and you're not beholden to one style. I think that was one of the most liberating things about Soda Blonde, just the fact that we could go anywhere with it.

Tell us about your latest single Bad Machine and the new video you’ve created for the song.

Faye: That was probably one of the most challenging songs on the record. I had initially been toying with the melody and some chords, so I came in and just started jamming away on the guitar. The guys picked up on it and thought it sounded really cool. So then we pulled it all apart and Adam came up with this absolutely amazingly angular, raucous guitar thing; everything sort of exploded from there. But I had no lyrics, because it began as one thing and it very quickly became something else. So that song kind of took on its own life. I just knew I wanted it to be called Bad Machine and there was something about that as the chorus lyric that felt right.

Adam: It was something that we really built up in the studio before we had lyrics. We really went producer heavy and just had a lot of fun experimenting with sounds. It’s got elements of Prince and Yeah Yeah Yeahs and it just felt really fresh and exciting. Faye and I ended up writing some of the lyrics together, and that was a fun process.

Adam: Interestingly enough, over the summer myself and Faye both got married a month apart, not to each other! We usually do all our own music videos, but because we had so much going on with the build up to our weddings, we just thought, let's get someone else to do the music video this time. I've never been in this position before, but I just couldn't come up with any ideas whatsoever, probably similar to the lyric problem with this song. This song just has something to it. It's a bit intimidating. It's just a big fucking song. Then I thought why don't we just get Faye to come into a room and smash stuff up? I think the original idea was that she was breaking in and kind of taking revenge on an ex or something like that. There’s a great scene in Batman Returns where Michelle Pfeiffer comes in when she’s becoming Catwoman, and she just destroys the place. I love that kind of aesthetic.

But when I told the idea to Faye she was like, I really like it, I just don't really like that trope of the crazy female taking out anger on a guy or whatever. So we took that element out of it and then just explored this idea of malfunction. There’s a few subliminal messages in there that we wanted to play with to just make it a little bit off kilter, and add a few more layers to it.

To add to that, we decided we were going to shoot on film, which is a very mechanical process and very high pressure, because we only had 10 minutes to film. We then obviously had to build a set, and as you can imagine, you only get one shot to break stuff.

Faye: It was mad, and it was great! It was a mixture of all things at once, which is probably how life is in general. I work quite well under extreme pressure, so the adrenaline was just coursing. There was one shot where I flung something over my head, and it just perfectly smashed a photo frame behind me. If you'd asked me to do that on cue, I never would have been able to do it! So there were a few happy moments that were very satisfying.

What have you got coming up that you can tell us about?

We’ve of course just released the album. We’re doing a UK and Irish tour from November through December, and potentially doing a European leg in January.

Listen to the full interview with Soda Blonde on Headliner Radio, here: