Features - Interviews

Process of Becoming: An Interview With New Pagans


Ahead of playing Belfast alongside Extravision later this week, Lyndsey McDougall, lead vocalist of fast-rising Belfast five-piece New Pagans chats to Ciara Byrne about process, parenthood and pushing forward at the helm of one of the island’s most dynamic rock bands

New Pagans and Extravision play Belfast’s Ulster Sports Club on Thursday, 2nd March. Go here to buy tickets

Your wonderful new album Making Circles of Our Own brings to life the inner experiences of being a parent, and the juxtaposition of being a mother in particular while being in a band. What brought you to explore these themes through music?

When we wrote our first album, The Seeds, the Vessel, the Roots and All, I was pregnant with my first child Maisie and when we recorded vocals, I was late in my pregnancy with my son Odhrán. So, physically I couldn’t escape the changes that were occurring in my body and mind and it felt important to explore becoming a mother. With our new album, motherhood still influences elements of the songs but it’s hidden amongst other subjects. Being a mother is an important part of who I am, more so than being in a band.

Can you tell us a little bit about the writing process for this album in the midst of a pandemic? How did it differ from the writing of your first album?

[New Pagans guitarist/backing vocalist] Cahir O’Doherty and I had just moved out of our apartment in Belfast and in with my parents in the countryside when we started writing the bulk of these songs. Previously, the band would get in a room and work up song ideas but during covid, that wasn’t possible. However, Cahir and I got into a really good writing space, he would compose the music, pass it to me and I would work on melodies and lyrics in a room on my own. Then we’d come back together to edit lyrics, add more melodies and record demos for the rest of the band to hear. ‘Process of Becoming’ started with a drum beat Conor sent and ‘Comparable Reflections’ started with a bass line from Claire, they ignited the ideas for those songs even when we couldn’t physically be together.

You moved out of your apartment and back in with family during the pandemic. What was it like creating music in a new, yet familiar space?

It was amazing, we could work from morning to night because my parents were around to watch our children. As a parent, the hardest thing for us has been finding the time and space to create. Without my parents, this album would never have been finished.

This album was created in your parents’ home in rural southeast Belfast. Did the setting have an impact on the sound of this album?

Yes, my parents live on the Ards Peninsula, walking distance from Strangford Lough. It’s a very beautiful place. There’s one particular spot I love to go to on my own to soak up its atmosphere, called St. Cooey’s Well. I swear it’s one of those ‘Thin Places’ Kerri ní Dochartaigh writes about in her book by the same title.

Your sound is reflective of great female creatives including PJ Harvey and Paramore. Who first inspired you to start creating music?/What other wavemakers have inspired your music over the years?

I’ve been influenced by many musicians, male and female but as a teenager Björk was my hero. I admired how unique and creative she was, and still is. I remember trying to get my hair to look like hers, in those tiny knots, only I added purple feathers to mine and walked down Enniskillen high street with my poor mother.

You have mastered the art of communicating both social and personal issues through powerful and punchy sounds and lyrics. Who did you record Making Circles of Our Own with and how did they impact the resulting piece of work?

We recorded this album in Badlands Studios run by our very own Allan McGreevy and Cahir O’Doherty in the Glens of Antrim. Cahir also produced the album and some of the tracks were mixed by Sam Petts Davies. The studio is in a beautiful rural setting and having this space to record and practice has been a wonderful evolution for this band.

Growing up in a religious household, can you tell us about some pivotal moments in discovering the kind of music that you wanted to make?

Honestly, the most influential musical experience I’ve ever had was watching The Kills at Electric Picnic when I was about twenty-one years old. I loved it, I loved Alison Mosshart and the precarious energy created in that festival tent. At that point I decided I’d be in a band, I just didn’t know when or how.

You released your first single seven years ago. If you could give your 2016 self one piece of advice, what would it be?

I’d warn myself that being in a band takes over your whole life.