Ireland: The nation leading the modern alternative sound

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When one thinks of alternative music and its origins, it is no surprise they immediately think of Britain due to its major 90s Britpop era, or Seattle, USA, with grunge bands such as Nirvana or Soundgarden, but there is a new nation leading the alternative sound.

More recently a new wave of alternative bands are making major developments in the past few years, with them coming from an unlikely nation, the Republic of Ireland.

It’s not foreign to state that yes, ROI has produced many great artists such as U2, The Cranberries, My Bloody Valentine and Thin Lizzy, but would it be too far-fetched to say that the nation could be predominant in the present alternative music scene?

Bands such as milk. and Somebody’s Child are making headway in the indie music of today and are certainly ones to watch, with their catchy melodies and bedroom pop inspired sounds, but the following bands are already making a huge name for themselves, with many instantly knowing who they are from their distinct sounds. 

Fontaines D.C.

Hailing from Dublin, Fontaines D.C. are a post-punk band formed in 2017, consisting of Grain Chatten on vocals, Carlos O’Connell on guitar, Conor Curley on guitar, Conor Deegan III on bass and Tom Coll on drums.

A shared love for poetry brought the five of them together during music college, where they subsequently started releasing singles and performing live regularly.

Their first single Liberty Belle was released in May 2017, which was quickly followed by the singles Hurricane Laughter and Winter in the Sun.

Image Credit: @fontainesdublin/Twitter

Their incredible and unique spin on post-punk, garage rock with poetry-heavy lyrics seized them a record deal with partisan records and unarguably played a role in them being labelled a band to watch.

It wasn’t until April 12, 2019 that they released their debut album Dogrel, with tracks such as Boys In the Better Land, Sha Sha Sha, and Big being featured.

The album received five stars from NME, describing the record as “a debut album that offers both a storyteller’s narrative voice and a snarling new vision of youthful disillusionment”.

Following on from their debut album, the band released their sophomore album, A Hero’s Death, a mere 15 months later on July 31, 2020.

The singles released to promote this album were the title track A Hero’s Death, I don’t belong, Televised Mind and A Lucid Dream.

The record provided the Dublin band with their first Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album at the 2021 ceremony but they unfortunately lost to The Strokes.

Fontaines D.C. are undoubtedly cementing themselves as a predominant name in the modern alternative genre, as they released their third album Skinty Fia on April 22, 2022, giving them their first UK and Irish chart number one.

As of 2023, Fontaines D.C. have embarked on a tour of Australia and New Zealand and are getting set for a summer of supporting Arctic Monkeys on their North American tour, and I for one can state they are a band you have to see perform at least once in your life.


Another band originating from Dublin, Inhaler, an indie rock band consisting of Elijah Hewson on vocals and guitar, Robert Keating on bass, Josh Jenkinson on guitar and Ryan McMahon on drums.

The band dates all the way back to 2012 whilst they attended St Andrews College in Dublin together, but it wasn’t until 2015 when Josh joined the ensemble and they committed to the band name Inhaler, after being made fun of for using an inhaler by classmates.

Image credit: @InhalerDublin/Twitter

They self-released their first single I Want You back in 2017, which was followed by Is She My Girl (demo).

Fast-track to 2019 where the band released the songs My Honest face, It Won’t Always Be Like This, There’s No Other Place and Ice Cream Sundae.

In early 2020, Inhaler placed fifth in the annual BBC music poll, Sound of 2020, establishing them as a name to watch out for in the upcoming year.

2020 was set to be a big year for the band, but COVID-19 pushed them, along with everyone else, into a lockdown, which they turned on its side and took advantage of by writing and recording their debut album.

During that year they released the singles We Have To Move On, Falling in and When It Breaks, however, they also covered the Mazzy Star song Fade into You, putting a mellow, but still rock spin on the mesmerising track.

On 9 July 2021, the band released their 11-track debut album It Won’t Always Be Like This, which instantly became a UK and Ireland number 1 album on the official charts.

To promote the new album, during late 2021 and in 2022 they embarked on what seemed to be a never-ending run of concerts, with a North America, Europe, summer festival and UK tours back-to-back. It’s evident they know it’s what they’re best at, performing live, and with their eclectic sound, an onslaught of guitars and vigorous vocals, they belong on a stage.

Their sophomore album, Cuts & Bruises, is set to be released on February 17, with the singles These are the days and Love Will Get You There already issued to tease what the new record will sound like.

To promote the new album, the band are embarking on a tour of the UK and North America and then returning to Europe in the spring to support Arctic Monkeys on their tour.


Emerging at the beginning of 2020, Newdad are a four-piece alternative band based in Galway. 

They released their first single How on March 3, 2020, which was then followed by three singles swimming, cry and blue, before their first EP Waves was released on March 26, 2021.

In an RTE interview, Newdad cited their inspirations as “The Cure, Pixies; a lot of stuff our parents would’ve listened to at our age, and also new stuff like Clairo and Beach House”.

Following on from Waves, they released their sophmore EP Banshee on February 9, 2022, which features five brand new tracks.

Newdad take a mixture of dark guitar rhythms and heavy basslines to create beautiful and dreamy melodies, intertwining lyrics about personal relationships and various literature inspirations and cinematic worlds.

NME states that the bands sound is reliant on a “blend of decades”.

“They bring the distortion-driven guitars of the Pixies and The Cure’s happy-go-lucky goth-pop but replace the grotesque-noir crypticisms and vocal screeches with a delicacy more in tune with Beabadoobee and Irish compadres Just Mustard.”

In autumn 2022 the band supported Paolo Nutini on multiple dates of his Last Night In The BitterSweet tour.

Via Instagram, the band announced that in the past year they have been working on their debut album, and so its definitely an album to watch for this year.

Their is no doubt this small, but prominent band from Galway is going to have a successful 2023.

Featured image credit: @fontainesdublin/Twitter

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BA(Hons) International Politics and Languages
Politics and Music journalist

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