New Rules’ ascent felt so natural, so effortless, that the band scarcely had time to look around them a breathe a little. But then came the pandemic, and then came lockdown – suddenly, the risers (two thirds English, one thirds Irish) were caught in their tracks.
This time round, they’re making sure that each moment counts. Every show has an added intensity, while debut mixtape ‘Go The Distance’ was handled with a palpable sense of care, an exacting methodology that absorbed the finest of details.
Recently breezing into London, Clash photographer Yasmin Cowan spent an afternoon with New Rules, basking in their easy-going, super-positive energy. Since then, the band have jetted out to North America, playing a helter-skelter run of live dates.
Deciding to catch up with Clash, Yasmin Cowan tracked New Rules down to Nashville, to chat about their commitment to fans, creativity, and dealing with the hype.
How is everything and how’s the US tour going?
Alec: Everything is good, we’re currently in the airport in Nashville, waiting to go home.
Nathan: Yeah, I’m pretty bummed about the whole thing.
Alec: It’s pretty sad because it’s been a great few shows in the United States, we’ve had the best time out here, we’ve written some great music and we’re sad to be leaving.
What are some highlights so far?
Nathan: Our first ever headline US show, that was pretty great. Favorite show boys? I think maybe Chicago was mine.
Ryan: I loved New York, it was our first one and we couldn’t have asked for a better start. I loved it. Alec: I would also have to say New York, it was kind of like a hometown show for me, I have a lot of family in New York, so they were all there and they were all screaming and very drunk and cheering along.
Ryan: Alec’s family were a highlight.
Nathan: One of Alec’s Uncles, Uncle Kevin liked me, he shouted, ‘I love you Nathan’ and was like screaming at the stage.
Do you have any rituals before going on stage?
Ryan: It was a bit more chill this time, wasn’t it? Cause one of them we had to walk through the crowd. At the New York show we had to walk through the crowd, that was funny.
Alec: I wouldn’t say that was a ritual.
Ryan: No, No I’m saying it’s different because our old ritual used to be a little team talk, like get in a huddle and like do a little chant.
Nathan: We sometimes get together and go ‘Oh,Oh,Oh’!
Alec: Yep, that’s a big one!
Nathan: Try writing that down *laughs*
Nathan: But yeah, it was slightly different on this tour, because of different venues, there wasn’t always a backstage.
Alec: Or a toilet, that we could use, that wasn’t among the crowds, you’d be beside a random man that had been at the show.
Nathan: In Chicago the only toilet was in the public access area so ten minutes before stage time you’d walk through the crowd to go for a wee.
Alec: And then we crowded this man and peed next to him and then he watched us play our show.
Ryan: A bit of a power play for us to be honest
Nathan: That could become a ritual, we could do it at every show.
Alec: We should probably move on to the next question.
What do you want every fan to take away from going to one of your gigs?
Alec: That it was just very fun, they’ve had the best time and it’s a memory that they’re going to keep.
Ryan: I’d love it for people to get something different from it and to feel that they hadn’t seen it before.
Nathan: I’d say one more thing is that I like to think that if you come to one of our gigs you feel very included.
Alec: We do find like a lot of the time that someone comes to a New Rules show, they’ll come up to us if we’re doing a meet afterwards, and they’ll say ‘I’ve met this person tonight and now we’re best friends, we have each other’s social media, we’re going to stay in touch’ and that’s the best thing, it’s a family.
What’s been your favorite/funniest/most heartwarming fan interaction?
Nathan: We did the YMCA with a fan.
Alec: We did do that.
Nathan: Apparently, they’d been waiting three years to do the YMCA with us, so that was quite nice to finally get to do the YMCA with them.
Alec: We did a fan meet up in each city while we were out here, we did one in LA at Echo park where they had swan pedalos which was great and there was a lovely fan there called Casey, who was too young to come to the show but she’s a big fan and we signed her Ukulele and that was very sweet. She was lovely and she’d been waiting a long time to hang out so that was nice.
Ryan: That was nice.
You recently released your mixtape ‘Go The Distance’ – What’s the response from fans been like?
Alec: It’s been great! I mean, it’s funny, we always like to predict which song is everyone’s favorites and I think we did predict it quite well.
Ryan: We’re doing pretty well at predicting at the moment, we’re still in the early days, so we need to see what happens.
Nathan: It’s kind of nice because I think they’re our favourites as well, like ‘Love You Like That’ ‘ Drunk Texts’ ‘Lucky Me’ they’re kind of our favourites and our favourites to play live as well so its nice to see fans connecting with them.
What were your influences and the inspiration behind the Mixtape?
Nathan: One main influence for us is Ed Sheeran, he’s always been a big influence, we always try and bring a bit of Ed onto the scene.
Ryan: John Mayer as well, when we’re feeling a bit jazzy.
Nathan: I wrote a list down of influences the other day, in case we forget. We keep ripping off Sting.
Alec: Oh yeah, that is true.
Nathan: And we’ve done it a few times along this tour too, so hopefully Sting isn’t reading this.
Ryan: Another good thing about this album, is that we got to work with some people from bands we really admire as well, we worked with Murph from the Wombats, Alec is a big Wombat’s fan. And then Kieran from Circa Waves, we did ‘Go The Distance’ and ‘Fireaway’ with him so that was really cool, because they are in some way influences.
What message are you hoping to convey with this mixtape?
Ryan: This is like our biggest body we’ve put out and we worked really hard on the music. We worked on it for a little while but we’ve got loads more to come. It’s just the start of us putting out a lot more music because we know that the fans really want it and hopefully the start of us going the distance all around the world because that’s been really fun too.
For those who don’t know, how did you meet and what was the moment you guys decided that you wanted to form New Rules?
Nathan: It kind of started with me. So, I was in a band before and when that band ended, I was just looking for people like me who wanted to write songs and through doing that I came across Ryan and Alec’s videos on YouTube and Instagram and I messaged them both separately saying ‘Would you fancy meeting up sometime and doing some writing’ and they both got back to me at similar times and so we kind of put in a weekend and Ryan flew over from Dublin for it and we just wrote a ton of songs that we loved. So, I think just from there it was really obvious that we should be in a band together.
Alec: We all have very similar interests and influences.
Ryan: We’ve said this before, but we all have different voices and different playing styles of guitars, we all write differently and sing differently and when you put it all together it works pretty well.
You have a large social media following, especially on TikTok – how do you balance this with living in the moment, looking after yourselves and making music? Have you learnt to love/enjoy it, or do you find it difficult?
Alec: We’ve definitely enjoyed ourselves too much out in the States on this trip because we’ve kind of been lacking on the TikTok game, but we’re picking it up. We value social media as much as being able to live in the moment so we can write honest music at the same time.
Nathan: It’s a love and hate relationship, especially with TikTok because there’s a lot of stuff about it which we do love, but there’s also a lot that we don’t love.
Ryan: The bad thing is it can take you out the moment and also can take a lot of time, you know when you’re just scrolling, and you feel like you’re not being productive. I just think for us, social media’s been amazing for us over the last year or two. We’ve grown so much even over the pandemic, and it’s been our main way to engage and keep in touch with the fans at that time where we couldn’t see them, so we do still love using it for that. A new thing has been where should we go next and the fans are telling us where we should go next, so its really great for stuff like that.
Nathan: If it wasn’t for social media it would have been very difficult for our band to have kept going during the pandemic, very difficult.
What would you say is the essence of New Rules and what sets you apart from other boy bands?
Alec: One thing is ridiculously stupid humour, but we all enjoy it. Musically, the three of us have different voices that when they come together, they blend really well and we have different playing styles and when they come together, they kind of form the New Rules sound and that sets us apart. We do the three point harmony and we can all play guitar, although being labelled as a boyband at times, we play up to that, it’s our strength in some ways.
Nathan: Also we don’t care about the boyband thing, we kind of own that. I think, you have to come to a New Rules show, to see what New Rules is. It’s a mix of those things, I think interactions with fans is a big one as well.
What does each member bring to the band? (musically/personality wise/vibe wise/special skills or talents)
Ryan: Nathan is a fantastic songwriter and definitely brings that to the band. He’s a brilliant leader, gets us to places on time.
Nathan: The special thing about New Rules, which makes us different to other bands is that we all lead our own thing, we all have our own job and that works, we’re very lucky that we have that dynamic.
Alec: Ryan is a social media king; he knows his stuff.
Nathan: He has a way with the social media.
Alec: Yeah, Ryans the networking guy, he’s a really good networker.
Nathan: Alec’s a superstar, and he’s gone red now. He’s the face of the band, but also something that’s super important in music right now is having something new and Alec’s voice is something I’ve never heard before.
What goes on in a typical New Rules writing/studio session? (Aside from the actual writing and tracking etc. of course) Who would you love to do a writing/studio session with and why?
Ryan: I love the bit at the start of the session, where if you’re working with someone you haven’t worked with before, you can literally just sit and talk about influences and get to know each other, it doesn’t even have to be about music, people tend to be really nice in the song writing world.
Nathan: It can be really quick, or it can take all day, but its always fun, you’re searching for something.
Ryan: UberEATS or Deliveroo is also always a really big part of the day.
Alec: I’ll speak for myself, but I know the other two will agree, but part of the reason I got into music was the ginger feller Ed Sheeran, we’d love to do a session with him.
Nathan: He probably is top of the list, and I almost don’t want to say that because it almost seems too obvious but its true. Chris Martin from Coldplay as well, that would be insane.
Ryan: Did we say John Mayer as well earlier? He’s just sick, he’s done Jacob Collier’s album. I love when people who know they are a hero to a lot of people still works on people’s albums.
Nathan: Taylor Swift would also be cool.
What song would you sing to woo a crush and why?
Alec: I actually have a great story for this. One of the reasons I started taking guitar seriously is because when I was ten, I had this crush on a girl and I thought the way to her heart was to learn ‘Hotel California’ on guitar and play it at a talent show, it didn’t work.
Nathan: At first.
Alec: But she is actually a New Rules fan now, so it’s full circle for me.
Nathan: ‘Call Me Maybe’, by Carly Rae Jepson. I’ve kind of said it as a joke but actually it’s a banger and they wouldn’t see it coming, so it might work in my favor.
Ryan: I think you’re right though about not taking it too seriously, bit of satire. We did try to do a One Direction song at karaoke with some of our friends, very tough crowd, we were terrible as well, so maybe do a better version of that.
If your younger selves could see you now, what would they say/think?
Alec: Younger me would probably think, God, what happened.
Nathan: You were different when we met you, more quiet.
Alec: I was a shy, reserved guy. I was a kid.
Ryan: I would be like ‘oh I don’t live in Ireland anymore’ and that would be a big shock. It was always my dream to play music and in a band as well, so I’d think, ‘oh sick’ and I got two friends out of it as well which is cute.
Nathan: You know, I always wanted to be in a band, it was all I ever wanted to do, so I think I’d be happy with that.
Alec: You’d probably be happy with the fact you didn’t have an afro anymore.
Nathan: You know what though, its kind of creeping back though.
If you could do a tour with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be?
Nathan: or Olivia Rodrigo.
Alec: Yeah, they’re actually good shouts there boys.
Ryan: Otherwise though, a fun tour. I’d like to see what would go on at an ACDC tour.
Alec: A Blink-182 tour.
Ryan: Should we go on tour with the Rolling Stones? I’d like to see what Jagger’s up to.
Nathan: You’ve opened a can of worms, because I think the Beatles would be up there, it’d have to be up there.
What are you looking forward to this year?
Alec: Well, we’ve already been discussing when, and it’s not a what- if, it’s a when, we’ll be returning to the US which I’m really excited about. I love spending time out here. As much as I love being at home and playing to the crowds at home, but want to come out here and play to the people we haven’t yet. Like what Ryan said earlier about going the distance and what this mixtape means for us and the fans, it’s about getting out there and seeing the people we haven’t seen over the course of being a band.
Ryan: We’re going to go to some festivals over the summer too. I think we’re excited, because the show we’ve done in the US, three acoustics, we haven’t done at home in the UK or in Ireland so really excited to play that for the OG fans.
Nathan: Also put out the music that we’ve just written, because we’ve just written some bangers.
What’s next for New Rules and what can fans get excited for?
Alec: More music, a lot more music, as Nathan said we’ve just written a lot of songs out here in the US that we’re really excited about.
Ryan: I think if we’re being honest, I think it’s a bit more concise and has a real sound to it and the most sort of New Rules stuff we’ve put out.
Nathan: That’s true, ever since we started a band we’ve been learning who we are and changing and growing and I think we’re just getting to a really exciting place. Who knows if other people will love it, but we do. I mean I hope other people like it.
Alec: They will, they’ll like it.
‘Go The Distance’ is out now.
Words + Photography: Yasmin Cowan