Interview and Photos by Jordan Edwards
New Rules have been called a boy band (mostly by articles like this), but it's not really accurate. Yes, Nathan Lambert, Ryan Meaney and Alec McGarry are young. They have smooth voices that harmonize well together and a loyal fanbase that anticipate each new release.
But their live shows don't include choreography, and they prefer to write with acoustic guitars rather than hunched over a computer. They have more in common with '70s folk rock groups like Crosby, Stills, and Nash and America than they do with NSYNC. The important thing is that they can write a great love song.
On a recent trip to Los Angeles, we met up with the UK-based band to talk about their recent rise and the effect of their viral hit "Pasta."
How did the band come together?
We got together about four years ago. I had been in a band before, and when it ended, I went looking online for people to write with. Ryan and Alec were both doing covers on Instagram and YouTube, and when I saw them, I reached out and asked if they wanted to spend a weekend doing some songwriting. We hit it off straight away. We all liked the same music and after chatting about John Mayer and Ed Sheeran for a couple of hours we ended up writing what turned out to be our first few releases. From then, we knew we had to be a band.
How do you feel about the boy band label?
We really don’t mind what people call us. We think of ourselves as three singer-songwriters and usually refer to ourselves as a band, but we also kind of like the idea of owning the boy band label. We play and write our own music, and when people come to our shows, I think it becomes obvious what sort of group we are. Nothing wrong with a boy band.
Vocally, who are you your biggest influences? I hear elements from different decades.
We individually grew up listening to all sorts of music from the '60s to now, so lots of different styles find their way into our music. Vocally, we’re definitely influenced by lots of the bands we listened to growing up. Bands and artists like The Wombats, The Kooks, Coldplay, and Paolo Nutini. Recently we’ve found ourselves going back to Bruno Mars a lot for inspiration with our writing. We love pop music, so anyone who has an interesting take on it is someone we’re going to listen to.
I love the ‘80s sound of “Go The Distance.” What inspired it?
Thanks – glad you like it! We weren’t too intentional with the '80s feel and just wanted something that felt big live. Something in the vein of "Ode to a Conversation Stuck in your Throat” by Del Water Gap. But obviously there’s been a lot of '80s influence creeping back into pop recently. We love what Jon Bellion and Co. brought to Bieber’s latest record, so there was probably some influence there. We also find ourselves referencing Sting and The Police on melodies and harmony parts pretty often. We reckon all their songs would be big hits today because how fresh and timeless those kind of melodies are. Go Sting!
One of your big breaks came when you toured with Little Mix. What do you remember about that experience?
It was a little bit surreal on a tour like that so early into our journey as a band. We didn’t overthink it at the time – it was intense but we just embraced it and had a lot of fun. We definitely learned a lot about ourselves and touring too, and have taken bits of that into how we play and interact with fans since. I don’t think we’ll ever forget meeting hundreds of fans every night on that tour and how grateful we were to have all those new people so excited about our band and our music. If you want a specific memory, it would have to be playing the O2 on Halloween night and (for some reason) deciding it was a good idea for us all to dress up as Harry Potter (the shop only had one costume). So that’s “playing an arena in a cloak and round spectacles” ticked off the bucket list.
You mentioned during the photoshoot that a fan made you a pasta necklace and brought it to a show. Do you receive a lot of pasta-related gifts?
That did happen! We actually don’t get a lot of pasta related gifts, which is why I think we were so excited about it, or at least that’s what we’ll tell people. We’ve been looking for a pasta brand that will align itself with us. Seems like a no brainer. They get a theme song, we get bags of spaghetti on the house.
How do you write your songs? Are they all collaborative or are there Ryan, Alec, and Nathan songs?
I think it’s fair to say a lot of them start off as Ryan, Alec and Nathan "ideas,” but we tend to find magic when we sit around on our guitars and flesh the ideas out or just run with something one of us has mumbled. There’s a bit of each of us in every song and that was one of the main reasons we clicked, and knew we had to form a band when we first met. We recently spent some time in Nashville studios writing with friends, and we love that way of working too. We’ve learned a lot collaborating with some super talented people and it can be really fun bringing them in on our project and vision.
What’s your favorite thing to do in LA?
We’re well into sushi, so we like to treat ourselves and go to this place called Sugarfish. It’s honestly ruined sushi back home for us. It’s not been the same since. Aside from sushi, there are a few writers and producers out in LA who we love working with, and have songs out with on our Go the Distance mixtape. And, although we only got around to playing our first headline show last month, we have a feeling future LA gigs will become a favorite for us!
What do you do with your free time on the road? Do you ever take a break from social media?
We like to stay on top of our social media game while we’re on the road. We’ll post everyday on Instagram and get the feed looking all aesthetic. Tour can make TikTok a much more fun place for us too. Our mate Kieran who’s in a band called Circa Waves put us onto the “smacky banana game” which he always plays on tour. Between someone peeling a banana and taking the first bite you’re permitted to film yourself smacking it out of their hand. It makes for great content. We’ll also keep the “name song” series going on the road, and have started writing songs backstage for fans we know are going to be at each show, which has been really special. We love to write for the band when there’s time. You can find a lot of inspiration in the whole tour lifestyle. And of course we’re big foodies, so we’ll always hit up the best known spots in each new city. As you can tell, we don’t like to give ourselves too much free time!
What are you guys working on now?
We wrote a lot of new music on our recent trip to Nashville and have kept writing. We’re keen to just keep the releases coming and not leave too long of a gap between them. Alongside the music, we’re mapping out what the rest of our year looks like in terms of touring. We've had a great time in the US, so hopefully we can get back out for more shows soon.
New Rules - Go The Distance / Stay (Live at O2 Ritz, Manchester) www.youtube.com