Faye O’Rourke of Soda Blonde: ‘I’m proud we haven’t compromised to make the albums we’re making’

The end of Little Green Cars left the band purple with music-industry bruises. Now they’re firmly in the driving seat

Managing yourselves, setting up your own online store, taking stock and continuing to learn – it’s all in a day’s work for Soda Blonde, the Dublin-based band that four years ago emerged, phoenix-like, from the ashes of Little Green Cars. “I’m proud that we haven’t compromised on anything to make the albums that we’re making,” says Faye O’Rourke, Soda Blonde’s elegant, persuasive lead singer and primary lyricist. “We’re doing something unique in that we’re making really cinematic, artful pop music, and I just don’t think anyone else around us is doing that. What we’re doing will, I hope, remain good forever.”

Such optimism is rooted in the band’s hard-won life experience, creative intuition and increasing self-belief. Following Little Green Cars’ demise, O’Rourke, Adam O’Regan, Donagh Seaver O’Leary and Dylan Lynch picked themselves up from the tarmac and dusted themselves down. The purple of music-industry bruises remains.

“So much of what Soda Blonde is for us has been about taking back ownership,” O’Regan says. “When we started this band we decided from the get-go that we wanted to produce everything, to make all our videos, to shoot our photographs, design our artwork.” It is, he adds, all about getting organised, “and I feel like we’re finally starting to get there”.

Soda Blonde released their debut album, Small Talk, in 2021. The title of its new follow-up, Dream Big, could be regarded as aspirational, but as a collection of songs the album is grounded in deft pop that grows with each listen. O’Rourke says that making it has brought the band closer together as friends.


“None of us had the relationships with each other that we have now, even on the first Soda Blonde record, because we had to work through a lot of past shit. Ego is one thing, while in the previous band you were always trying to qualify why you were there, how important you were and what you were bringing to the table. It was all, ‘I do this, you do that, don’t encroach on my space because that’s what I do’, whether or not it was spoken about.”

The band’s new set-up means O’Rourke knows that if she wants to hear an edit of a certain piece of music, “it will come back in 20 minutes as opposed to waiting for six people down the line to do it. There’s an efficiency now that I feel we won’t want to change. I think we’re becoming more of a machine, especially now, with how music is being consumed. You need to be effective and to maximise what you do because getting people’s attention is so difficult.”

O’Rourke’s lyrics and the band’s arrangements should help grab those ears. Listened to inattentively, some of the songs might come across as enigmatic. “Really?” says O’Rourke. “That’s the poetry, I guess … It has to sit with you. It should be something that takes a few listens and which changes with you.” She describes the choices songwriters make with their lyrics as being in part ”a way to protect yourself and to protect your privacy. It’s like making something beautiful out of a very raw and maybe traumatic event.”

In her case, does that stem from a guarded sense of self? Not at all, she says: there is artistry in trying to say something unique, or to express in a different and uncomplicated way an emotion or experience that many people will recognise. There is nothing, she says, that she’d be uncomfortable sharing in some way.

That said, the occasional problem does arise with “people who I’m maybe referencing or referring to”. It’s awkward to write about family, she says, and not at all easy to write about past relationships, because she doesn’t necessarily want to point a critical finger.

“My parents would be extremely private, and I’ve had issues with them in the past for coming out and speaking about past experiences. I once put on an event for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, and I talked about my experience, quite ambiguously, but I still shared my experience as a woman. That was hugely damaging in my family, to the point where it made me regret doing it.

“Subsequently, we’ve worked through that, talked about it, but as an artist that’s the line you toe all the time. You’re sometimes going to upset people by sharing because we don’t exist on our own; we are connected to other people. That said, I try and do it in a way that’s poetic, so there’s a bit of forgiveness, maybe.”

Forgiveness is one thing. Embracing the life of a musician or other artist — a financially precarious occupation if ever there were one — is another. The music industry’s forced shutdown during the Covid-19 pandemic made them even more aware that they might have to look elsewhere for work that would pay enough to support their creative passions.

“I have my fingers in a few different pies because I have to be able to pay my rent,” O’Rourke says, “but I’m always going to be writing and making music in whatever capacity I can. You have that little voice in the back of your head, however, that’s saying, ‘I don’t know, is it just an arrogant thing? Should I give up the dream and do something else?’ I’m at the point where I’m 31 years old, this is what I do, and I’m confident that I’ll be doing it for as long as I can.”

For Adam O’Regan, continuing to do what you love is all about “being in control of everything, because at least you’re not waiting for someone else to make it happen for you. You’re not sitting around asking, ‘Why is the manager not doing this?’ or, ‘Why is the label not doing that?’ Everything is happening by decisions that we’re making every day, so you’ve got a reason to get up, do the thing, answer the email, to keep moving along all the time. The fundamental thing is that we just love doing this, and I don’t see why we’d ever not do it.”

Even if it doesn’t always go smoothly, Soda Blonde have found a way to mix passion with pragmatism. O’Rourke and O’Regan know that they and their bandmates have overcome so much together in the past five years and that they and their music are stronger for it. “We ran with this thing,” O’Regan says, “and built it from the ground up to where it is now, without anybody’s help or any real support.” You have to have faith, O’Rourke says. “We’re all serving the same thing, which is to make music.”

Dream Big is on Overbite Records. Soda Blonde will be playing in Galway, Limerick, Cork, Belfast, Dundalk and Dublin between Friday, November 24th, and Thursday, December 14th