The Covid-19 pandemic is still going, but thankfully things are starting to open up, and when it was announced that fully vaccinated people from the UK were able to travel to Ireland, I leapt at the chance, and booked some interviews to go ahead while I was over. One interview was with N.O.A.H, a trio from County Meath, who really only came together during the Covid crisis, and now, as we reach a new, “do-able” normal, are poised on the precipice of something big, at exactly the right time.
N.O.A.H’s first single, ‘Shine’, was met with great acclaim when it was released last September, and since then they’ve garnered consistent radio play and media attention across Ireland as well as a growing following of peers and fans in the UK. N.O.A.H recorded an exclusive acoustic rendition of ‘Shine’ for radio presenter Laura Whitmore on BBC5 Live in the UK, while further interest was shown from Irish radio stations 2FM and Spin 103.8, both of whom declared ‘Shine’ their “Track of The Week”.
It was an interesting start to my interview with N.O.A.H…
This is not the first time I’ve met you guys! I met you an hour ago at breakfast time! Of all places to come and have breakfast, you come sit at the table next to me at my hotel! So how did you feel when I said, “Are you guys N.O.A.H?”
We thought you were a fan, like “wow this is great!” Haha!
I thought, oh dear I’m going to disappoint them by saying I was going to interview you in an hour. At least I recognised you, that’s the important part!
So you’re N.O.A.H, but it’s like an acronym. Does it actually stand for anything?
So it’s actually based off the Biblical story Noah, and we’ve established that those three dots are the three members. Obviously we wanted to change it up a bit, and make it more than just the standard name.
You’ve come out of the ashes of another group?
We started as a band together in about 2013, 2o14, when we were in first or second year of school, and then we learned to play together from that point. It got to the stage when we realised, “we are good at this”, but I think it’s time that we change our name. Our old band has been in most people’s inboxes, and probably annoyed too many people over time…
We’re probably on a lot of block lists…
It was a turning point for people to take us seriously…
And we’re getting older too…
We wanted to be more genuine to the music we wanted to make. And there’s no better way to start, and that’s what influenced the name N.O.A.H, it’s a fresh start.
So you’ve got a new single out – what’s it called?
And why is it ‘Hands Up’, what’s that all about?
We’ve been working on that song for the past year and a half, and if you listen to the lyrics, to us it was about the sacrifice for something you love – even with the band, we dropped everything to take up this band full time, and give it our all.
There’s a lyric in it, “hands up, we fall onto our knees, we surrender”. So if you think about someone in that position, it is the most vulnerable position you can be in. So that’s where the name comes from.
So like in prayer, presenting yourself, vulnerable, giving your all.
Yeah! It’s almost like surrendering to the music.
I like the video too! Where was that shot?
In my old school! We’re very lucky to have the facility to do it, it’s a really nice sports hall.
The director Dave Fox took the lead on it, and we had the idea of someone losing themselves to dance, surrendering themselves to the music, so that’s where you get the slow progression of Jessie falling into the dance, slowly being taken over by it. It was fun, it’s not too serious, there’s no heartstrings involved in the video, it’s just visually very nice looking.
We’ve mentioned lockdown and the pandemic, how has this been affecting you, it’s obviously made you more creative – I know you’ve also done a couple of gigs? You guys basically started out as N.O.A.H during lockdown, you guys are in the perfect position…
We’re extremely lucky. The opportunities we’ve had, the right team around us, the fact we were able to play to one of the only indoor gigs, a few months ago, in Navan, a lot of people don’t have that opportunity. We’re extremely grateful, and understand the position we’re in.
Are you from Navan?
No we’re from Ratoath…
Same county but just 15-20 minutes away from Navan.
I suppose yeah, it’s been mad. You look at the way the music industry is at the moment, in this country in particular, it’s almost none existent in a way, and any opportunity we get, it’s just unbelievable!
Other acts out there, established, you hear about them getting a support gig at the 3Arena, and that’s just been dropped and taken from them; we’re not losing momentum, we’re only gaining it. In that way we are in a great position from the start.
And you’ve just done a gig at the Hard Rock Cafe (in Dublin)!
It was a livestream event…
It was really good, it was acoustic, so we had two guitars and a cajon.
It was the most rehearsal we’ve ever done!
We transferred our whole set from electric to acoustic, and it sounded really good, and it was a challenge, because we’ve been working toward the release of our EP, which is out October 1st, and so when you’re recording and you put down all these elements, and to have to reduce it to acoustic and you’ve got to work out what’s the best part of the songs. It was difficult but it was actually quite good, we know the songs that little bit more now.
It was a nice challenge.
It’s good for your fans too! They now know they can play your music on acoustic guitar and make covers.
It goes to show, the age-old thing, a great song can be played on a kazoo, or anything.
You’ve got an EP coming out on the 1st of October, I listened to it last night, and I really liked it. What’s it called?
‘Echoes Of The Night’!
So where’s that title come from?
That’s a lyric from our first song, ‘Shine’. It’s in the first 25 seconds, the last phrase of the first verse. You hear the intro, and it’s there. It summarises what the band is about, echoes of the night – it’s like a journey of not knowing where you’re going, but having the walk of faith to know where you are going at the same time. Rionagh, the artist who did our EP artwork, she was saying it’s a perilous journey where you don’t know what’s in front of you, but you know you have to reach the final point. ‘Echoes Of The Night’ resembles three wise men; not that we’re trying to personify ourselves as them – three not so wise men – the North Star is sort of symbolising the imagery of that.
With the EP, and obviously with ‘Shine’ as well, we started this whole thing during lockdown, and that’s had an affect on our writing. Now we want to get as far away as possible from that, but at that time it was a case of ‘Shine’, we didn’t really know what was happening, or where we were going, but we needed to keep the motivation and the momentum going. It was probably the best way to start the EP, because it’s from that moment, to now.
The artwork by Rionagh McNamara, you see the man at the very start of the journey, then you see what’s ahead. That’s how our EP was going.
‘Shine’ was the first song we wrote for the EP as well, and it was the first song on the there, and the first single.
Listening to your EP, I was getting early U2 vibes – who inspires you? Are you inspired by other Irish bands? Do you feel you’ve got that particular Irish sound?
The past year and a half to two years, all we’ve been listening to is Irish music. It’s great, like U2, Inhaler, they’re amazing. We do look to our peers for inspiration.
There’s no competition is there! You’re not doing the same thing, but you’re all doing your own thing – at the same time…
You take in what’s around you, I’m sure those bands are as well. We’re pulling from lots of different genres, and there’s a lot of programming, and sync work and stuff like that, put into the whole EP, but it’s still inspired. So you’ve got elements of like, U2, but you’ve also got elements of modern pop, as well.
How do you make yourself stand out from the crowd? What’s your USP as an Irish band?
Good songs always help, and being ourselves. That comes through in our music, and when we do interviews, and I think the main thing is that you’re writing songs that mean something to you, but they also mean something to the people that are listening to you. If you’re as genuine as possible, that’s what people want. If you’re listening to music you don’t want anything fake. There’s no magic formula. We do have lovely glasses, that kinda makes us stand out…
Tell us the story about the glasses! You’re like the guy in ZZ Top without the beard!
We were on the news, during this whole thing, and that was great, and we got an email from Sinéad McGurk in Derry, and she was looking to support us. She noticed that Ryan and I were wearing shoddy glasses, and they thought, you know what, these musicians are having a tough time, so we’re going to help them out!
You’ve got a glasses sponsor!
We drove all the way to Derry, four hours, all the way and back. The car broke down on the way back, we were stuck in Tyrone for a few hours.
All for some lovely sets of glasses!
But it was great to see, she’s got a business, she wanted to endorse young guys through that, it’s a great story for her, and a great story for N.O.A.H as well. She’s UK optician of the year and she really knows her stuff.
And the guy with the perfect eyesight got a pair of sunglasses as well!
It’s so cool – it’s value adding to her business and to you guys. Why were you on TV?
We were talking about the band! It was a culmination of a lot of things. It was a good news story for that time, back in February this year. January and February was pretty bleak, here in Ireland, everyone was at their wits end with lockdown. We had a new single, the second track from our EP, ‘Our Darkest Hour’, and basically RTE News said look how great this is we have new talent growing in a pandemic…
Before we were on the news itself, we were in an article on the RTE News website, and that’s where James from Mother Artists over in the UK saw us, and he said he really liked what the band’s values are, they’re really like those of Mother Artists, and they ended up signing us. We announced the signing on RTE News as well, so it was like, “band from lockdown signs major deal”.
Mother Artists are a new company owned by Natasha Bent and her brother Mark. She’s formerly with Paradigm, and she looks after people like Idles, and Foster The People, Daffodils, so many great bands. To be honest, we’re so lucky to be on it, they’ve only got a roster of about 20, 25 artists, and James looks after us and he also looks after Idles.
It’s amazing, as we’ve not played any live shows yet, but it’s a great platform to start out with.
Obviously the North Star you’re following as wise men, is the right thing for you…
It’s the glasses!
You’re playing a festival, the September Sessions?
Yes! September 16. It’s unbelievable! We’re excited. If we hadn’t played the shows we’ve already played we’d be terrified, but just the fact, that once again we’re so lucky to be involved, playing along with acts such as Thumper, and of course Bell X 1, growing up we heard them all over the radio, we know exactly who they are, and Paul Noonan is a great songwriter and singer, and we’re just really really excited.
We’re looking forward to seeing other bands! So far the only shows we’ve seen have been ones we’ve been playing at. It’s going to be great to feel the atmosphere, the festival.
Will you be star-struck?
I think so! Bell X 1 and Thumper are quite big names, so we’d like to be in their position one day!
Sounds like you might be!
I’ve got one more question, and I ask this of everyone that I interview, and that is, what do you wish someone would ask you in an interview but nobody ever does?
All our interviews have been really good questions, we’re just talking about ourselves! How about, “why did you want to be musicians?”
That’s a good question! Why did you want to be musicians? What got you to that point in the first place? You said you discovered each other in school…
I think listening to music from a young age….
Ryan: Yeah! I grew up listening to Guns N’ Roses, I think when I saw Slash playing guitar, I immediately wanted to play guitar. I wasn’t even thinking about singing! I wanted to play guitar in a band, from the age of 8 or 9!
Ronan: I think that’s the same with me too – my parents listened to classic rock, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Queen, U2, and so on. For me these are all bands that are rhythm based, and have iconic drummers. So for me, I was like, oh well I can’t sing, but I can hit things for a living, and I’d be delighted!
Adam: I went to Oxegen [legendary Irish music festival] since I was about 8, 9, 10 with my Dad, so Live music has been very important to me. It just feels like a natural thing, to be in a band. Like kids going to football matches, seeing the players, and be like, “oh I want to be like them” and eventually you do. I started out playing drums, and thought, “this is too far back, I’ll play bass that’s really cool”.
What I’m getting from this, is it sounds like your parents have all given you the right grounding in the first place! Maybe they all wanted you guys to get into music, even without wanting to admit it?
I think maybe unconsciously, but yeah definitely, 100%, the three of us talking about our parents, they’ve been supportive, behind us all the way.
We’re so lucky to be in the position we are. We all went to college, but we’re able to work doing what we love, because our parents support what we do.
Of course, living at home in your 20s and being in a rock band, it’s not perfect, but doing it during the pandemic, it really couldn’t be better.
N.O.A.H’s new EP, ‘Echoes Of The Night’ is out today, October 1, and can be streamed and downloaded here.
N.O.A.H will be performing on October 8 at The Fiddler, Kilburn, and Monroes Galway, on October 9. The band will be playing a headline show at Whelan’s, Dublin, on December 10. Tickets are available here.