The story of the appropriately-named Pebbledash began when the Kerry singer-songwriter Fionnbharr Hickey travelled to Cork to study Architecture at UCC. “Our drummer Séan [O’Farrell] was in Architecture for about a week, and he dropped out,” laughs Fionnbharr when reminiscing on the band’s formation with Post-Burnout. “But we had chatted in that week, and I figured out that he had played drums, and a few months down the line, I asked him if he wanted to jam. He was friends with our bassist [Cormac Landers], and we auditioned Michéal [O’Dwyer, their lead guitarist] a few months after that. But, yeah, if Séan didn’t do Architecture for that one week, we probably would never have met!”
From Fionnbharr’s recollection, the band had little initial overlap in musical tastes. According to him, his background was in sean-nós music and lyrical storytelling, as inspired by the likes of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and he also possessed an emerging interest in shoegaze and postpunk from listening to the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Lush, Bdrmm, and DIIV. Meanwhile, lead guitarist Michéal was inspired by the tapping guitar solos of Eddie Van Halen, and the rhythm section had a shared love of AC/DC and Motörhead. But despite this, the band managed to amalgamate and layer their musical drives together to form something unique.
“I was writing away, myself, during COVID, and I would’ve brought the ideas to the lads, afterwards,” Fionnbharr tells us of how they crafted their sound. “It took a while to kind of get it going a bit; we didn’t really know what we wanted it to be or how we wanted it to sound. I think, as well, we all kind of came from different musical backgrounds and stuff. Like, I would’ve been in a load of trad bands and stuff like that when I was growing up. So, I would’ve been used to a dynamic like that, so bringing that to the lads who would’ve had more of a classic rock background, almost, while I was getting into the more alt-rock, and kind of post-punk stuff, and shoegaze stuff. So, it took a good bit of jamming on these different tracks and stuff – whether we had bits of lyrics or bits of riffs and different things like that – to begin to form something that was a bit tangible, I guess, and something that we felt confident in playing shows with. And even our earlier songs and stuff, they were kind of…I don’t want to say ‘rushed,’ but they felt kind of more naïve than the stuff that we’re trying to do now.”
Beginning in 2022, as a post-pandemic band, Pebbledash had no real connections within the Cork music scene, and required their own grassroots campaigns to get noticed, notably by playing UCC’s Battle of the Bands competitions at the city’s 500-capacity Cyprus Avenue venue. By mid-July of 2022, the band had already released their first single, “Dive.” “We formed just before the UCC Battle of the Bands,” says Fionnbharr. “That was our first goal, to get our set and see how it sounded. And we decided, after that, that there was something there and to keep going. But I think between forming and releasing the first single, I think it was pretty quick. I want to say, like, four to six months, somewhere around then. Which is pretty fast, and maybe a little bit rushed or whatever, but without having all those connections and stuff, we didn’t quite know how to approach it, and I think we just wanted to get something out there that we kind of liked and were confident in.
“It had maybe kind of changed since then, and we’re maybe a lot more proud of our two most recent ones or whatever, but I think that was something…like, the fact that we kind of knew no one or whatever, that we just wanted to almost try and explode onto [the scene] a little bit. Because, around that time, there was loads of bands forming in Cork as well, so there was kind of…I don’t know. Kind of a little bit of a space race, like, for people to get out singles and stuff. And I think we did spend a good bit of time mixing them and stuff, so that they would be the best quality that they could, and I do think there’s artistic merit in them, when it comes to lyrics and stuff, as well. So, it’s not necessarily something we shy away from, but that slightly more approachable, indie pop thing, it’s been done a lot, so that’s why we’re leaning slightly more into getting experimental without kind of going too crazy.”
This more-developed sound can be heard on their latest single, “No Worse,” which is released today. Admitting that the song was written with the intent of having a strong opener to their sets to get people going, Fionnbharr expands on the song. “We’d written loads of songs, and they all had strong messages or whatever, but we hadn’t toyed with – it’s not quite like a hate song – but something that has a lot of negative attitude, in a way. And that was kind of fun to mess around with. And it wasn’t written about anyone in particular or anything [Laughs], but I think it was a bit of a comment in frustration with trying to be a band, in a way, and frustration with myself, just in general, I guess, with things that are going on in the country and around the world and stuff. So, it was a really kind of cathartic thing for us to write and to perform. And it just feels – like building up to that big outro and stuff – it just feels like this big release that’s, I guess, a little bit spiritual, and musical, I guess, as well.”
On how he feels the track differs from their other singles thus far, Fionnbharr says, “I think it’s a good step from what we have done. It might not be necessarily different, but I think it’s a better version of what we had released with our first two singles. Like, our latest two singles might have been what we wanted our first two singles to sound like, in a way. Like, if we went back in time, we probably wouldn’t have released those. If we knew everything that we know now, we probably would’ve waited until we had these two songs or whatever. So, I do think there’s a link there, but it might not be obvious to anybody but ourselves.”
He adds, “I’m kind of a believer in that a band doesn’t necessarily need to have a cohesive sound where you can recognise who they are straight away, that it’s all the same genre and stuff. I do love kind of mixing loads of different genres, and loads of my favourite bands would’ve been like that, and all my favourite bands in Cork are like that, as well. But I do think, at the same time, there does need to be a root or something that all these different things can branch off of, or else it’s too loose, then. It’s the same with art, in general. I would’ve done Architecture in college – hence Pebbledash as the name and stuff [Laughs] – but I think a lot of my influence and thinking about artistic things would’ve come from my learning in that, and, like, developing design projects and stuff like that. So, there’s a lot of parallels drawn between my songwriting and design.”
Aaron Kavanagh is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Post-Burnout. His writing can also be found in the Irish Daily Star, Buzz.ie, New Noise Magazine, XS Noize, DSCVRD and more.