Irish alt-rock band, Rowan, released their debut album, Does It Make You Happy? at the top of the month. The album, with a sound akin to The Strokes, inventories the pain, anger and confusion that typically ensues in tandem with a potentially unhealthy relationship. Having written over 50 songs during the height of 2020’s onslaught of grief, strife and trauma, Rowan whittled that collection down to 12 tracks in the form of their debut album. Does It Make You Happy? garners inspiration from not only collective, societal agony and anger, but the band’s own personal experience with pain as lead vocalist, Dylan Howe, slogged through the aftermath of his own heartbreak.
The album’s intro track, “Apollo,” sets the project in motion with a confining, yet expansive feeling. “We had decided from day one that it was literally going to launch the album,” the band shared about the track, “with a sample from Charles Duke, the space capsule communicator on NASA’s Apollo 10 mission to orbit the moon. We recorded the vocals for this one in a car that we parked outside the studio, to get the tight space that would mirror that of being in a space capsule.”
Does It Make You Happy? seamlessly fluctuates between higher energy tracks fueled by anger like “Irish to My Bones” and “Nothing’s Gonna Change” to slower tracks embedded with sorrow and regret, like “I Don’t Wanna Talk” and “Leave Now Go.” “We wanted to create an arc of joy and sadness,” the band shared, “with the album starting up high, going through various emotions and then finally ending with a profound cathartic question of ‘Does It Make You Happy?’”
The band, which consists of Dylan Howe, Fionn Hennessy-Hayes, and Kevin Herron, pays homage to, while also rejecting, the current state of their nationality with the lively, punk-infused track, “Irish to My Bones.” The second single from the album, which is frenzied and fuming, was “written to pierce the modern perspective of suppression and shame, brought on by generational trauma in Ireland,” the band shared in a statement. “We have yet to break the mold on what history has given us, but there is great hope in today’s world, with the efforts that are being put in place to eliminate the stigmas of yesterday.”
The inception of “I Don’t Wanna Talk” is one that highlights the catharsis of music as well as the healing powers of understanding provided by those who know us better than we may know ourselves. As a way to extend support to Howe, who “was going through a messy breakup around the same time he lost his mother,” Hennessy-Hayes stated. “Unbeknownst to him, myself and Kev made a conscious effort to write lyrics that we thought would resonate with him. My logic was that if I was going through everything he was, I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone.” With one line written, the track’s title, Fionn sent it to Howe and within an hour, Howe returned with a finished song. “It’s about confronting the pain, looking it in the eye and acknowledging it,” Howe stated. “Yes, it’s tough and it’ll always be tough, but it’s important to express yourself.”
“It was like a surge of energy just shot through me and it was finished,” vocalist Dylan Howe shared of the album’s title track. The song features Canadian multi-instrumentalist, Ariel Posen, and is dripping with remorse. “It’s the song I resonate with heaviest on this album,” Howe shared, “it deals with abusive behaviors in a relationship and, in retrospect, how I should’ve demanded better for myself.”