Cork alt-rockers Pebbledash write their own rites of passage

Cork alt-rock four-piece Pebbledash are among a generation of young bands to have come together while the local music scene was becalmed by the Covid crisis - over a year on from the lifting of restrictions, they tell Mike Mcgrath-Bryan what it’s been like to write their own rites of passage.
Cork alt-rockers Pebbledash write their own rites of passage

Pebbledash’s debut single ‘Running Away’. Pic: Raaz Photography

If you’ve not been able to get to certain venues in the past while, owing to the immediate aftermath of the Covid crisis or life changes therein, it would be easy to have missed the foundations of another wave of young bands getting their start and putting in the hard yards toward getting noticed. Fred Zeppelin’s in particular has been a regular home to a brace of intrepid outfits, including The Cliffords, Mossy and Little Known among others.

One band that’s impressed in recent times has been alternative-rock four piece Pebbledash - having won over judges with a strong performance at UCC’s Battle of the Bands heats and final, and sold out An Spailpín Fánach for their debut headliner, new single ‘Running Away’ shows off the depth of influence, and wholesale earnestness of endeavour that’s underpinned the band’s existence to date.

"I think it's been really positive", says guitarist Fionnbharr Hickey of the response to the single's release. "I think it's because we didn't expect it, compared to the last couple of songs we've released. I guess that's because we've just been gigging loads, trying to put our name out there a bit more, in Cork. We've gotten lots of nice messages, especially off of other bands. It's something that we put a lot of time into. I was just surprised at how positive everything was."

“It's not very commercial: five-and-a-half minute runtime, long enough, plenty of different parts, whereas our first two singles were nearly radio songs - it's definitely developed a good bit,” adds drummer Sean O’Farrell. “But we got a feature on Void Magazine as well, online, which was pretty cool, an Irish magazine, they did a small piece on it, which was cool to see, as well.”

The song itself alternates in places between clean-cut, shimmering shoegazing and messy, recognisably Irish math-rock, to good effect - a document of the band’s no-nonsense live presence, recorded in a weekend with Keelan O’Sullivan of Dublin band Post-Party.

Says Hickey: “What comes to me naturally is indie or kind-of pop songs, but then the bands I'd be into would be Just Mustard, NERVES, Fontaines DC, all that kind of stuff, which is a lot more melancholic and darker. I think that's something that really resonates with me, as well. I'd also be really big into Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, so it's all about the writing, and what the lyrics are saying.”

Adds guitarist Mícheál O’Dwyer: “I think 'Running Away' was probably one of the first songs we'd written where I was completely doing my own lead parts [after joining six months ago], where I was really trying to contrast with what Fionn was doing, separating the guitar parts, effects and what we were doing sonically to mould things together and make something bigger. We're very happy with the interplay, I guess, between the two guitars in our sound, and how that fits together live and on recordings as well.”

While the band’s satisfaction at how things are beginning to change and come together can be seen in their confidence on stage, it takes a lot of work to get there. In the past twelve or so months, the opportunities to do that foundational work have changed, as the dust continues to settle on the city’s venue situation.

Pebbledash have had an exciting start to their performing career post-pandemic.	Picture: Emilyn Cardona
Pebbledash have had an exciting start to their performing career post-pandemic. Picture: Emilyn Cardona

The band gets into what the specific challenges are for a young band - one that hadn’t gotten a taste of the local-music rite of passage as it was pre-crisis - as the post-Covid situation continues to play itself out.

“We weren't really involved in the music scene prior to Covid at all - we'd only started, I guess, as Covid was kind of coming to an end, almost,” says Hickey. “So that way, we didn't really know what the music scene was like in Cork previously, and whatnot, so it's almost like we were dropped in the deep end straight away. We didn't establish any rules, or know who people were, what the venues were like.

“I remember my first time going to Cyprus Avenue, it was to see [Galway shoegazers] NewDad. It was all still seated. I sat down next to the guys from The Love Buzz, and I only realised halfway in that I recognised them from somewhere. I feel like if Covid wasn't a thing, that I would have come to Cork for college in first year, and gotten straight into it, known everything after a year, what was going on. We almost had blindfolds on.”

“We were messing around in my garage, performing all the time, during Covid,” adds O’Farrell. “I guess we didn't even consider doing a gig, because we couldn't, like. It was just messing around, we didn't take it too seriously because the option wasn't even there. It was only when the restrictions were lifted and they started doing the Battle of the Bands again, that we said okay, we might throw something together to enter that.”

They’ve come out of the period with resolve and a set of songs, though - and while the fear for the band and their peers is that the immediate post-Covid spike in gig attendances and the general appreciation of live music that proliferated may be beginning to plateau, the lads are encouraged by the city’s scene at present, even if all the pieces aren’t quite in place in terms of reaching people in a post-gig-poster/flyer world.

“The way that bands promote themselves seems to be shifting [entirely] towards the social media sphere,” says O’Dwyer, “and that seems to be one of the really dominant ways to communicate with your audience, more so than before, and I'm not sure if we're really all used to that. I think there's probably a steep learning curve to it, to be interested in marketing and promotion, emailing people - as well as the music.”

Aiding them in the process of figuring things out is that growing confidence that’s caught the attention of local gig-goers in recent times - with a couple of singles under their belt now, as well as a consistent run of gigs - stemming from beginning to understand their own sound, musical interplay and commonalities.

“I guess it feels a lot more natural, more like authentic to ourselves, it doesn't feel like we're putting up so much of a facade anymore onstage, that it's like, 'we can kind of just go up there and it feels like you're at home, all the songs flow into each other'.

“The trouble of getting people to go to gigs can hold you back a little bit as well, especially since once you're not playing Fred's, there's nowhere, really, to go besides like Cyprus, and you're not necessarily going to sell 500 tickets for that, like. It's a struggle to be able to express yourself live when you can't do it too often, really. I think that it's great, these things like Seanie Buttons, to get that opportunity, but still we're very fresh to the whole thing.”

Pebbledash’s new single Running Away is available now online via all streaming services.

The band supports Flywheel on the May 6 edition of Seanie Buttons Presents at Cork Opera House’s Green Room; tickets on sale now from

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