Snow Patrol Talks Opening For U2 and New Album

June 20, 2005 · Print This Article


By Carrie Alison, Chief Editor
2005.06

A Caribbean-style band making liberal use of a steel drum is working its magic on Memorial Day vacationers at a resort hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida. Somewhere nearby, members of Glasgow-based Snow Patrol are resting up after a magical penultimate performance for it’s last round of touring in support of 2004′s brilliantly touching "Final Straw."

The show, held at the not-so-gracefully aging State Theatre, was densely packed and very hot, the kind of hot that drives even the most sensible people to seek shelter in meat lockers and more daring folks to remove their clothing altogether. (Where’s Nelly when you need him?) For the ecstatic fans in attendance on Sunday night however, leaving due to poor air conditioning was not an option. They came to sing every word, to celebrate, to dance and most importantly, show love to a band they have all grown to cherish, whether it be from the plaintive yearning of hit single "Run," or the enticing and rather addictive "Chocolate."

Clearly the message was received. Throughout the nearly 80-minute show, lead singer Gary Lightbody, guitarist Nathan Connolly, drummer Jonny Quinn, new bassist Paul Wilson (formerly of Terra Diablo) and keyboardist Tom Simpson could not hide their joy at the unanimous crowd reaction. Though the bandmates were sweating buckets and exhausted from the unrelenting heat in the venue, they gave it their all, even treating the enthusiastic audience to some new songs from their upcoming album all the while wearing ear-to-ear smiles as they were bathed in sweat.

Known internationally for its epic and rousing live shows, and thusly proved once and for all in Florida, Snow Patrol was a logical choice as one of the many buzz bands picked to open a handful of shows on U2′s summer jaunt through Europe, most notably for U2′s "homecoming" show at Croke Park in Dublin on June 24. While enjoying their day off before heading to New Orleans to conclude the "Final Straw" tour, I caught up with the affable and gracious Connolly and Quinn to talk about Snow Patrol’s Vertigo Tour stint, the stifling Florida heat and how they would like to spend their free time when given a chance. Golf and gigs—who knew?

Like U2, Snow Patrol started young and had to navigate the waters of getting better at your craft and the music business on your own. You’ve also instated a rule that everyone pitches in when making a record. What else can you think of that creates harmony within a band?

JONNY QUINN: [laughs] That creates harmony within a band? Well if you can get on after being on the road for 18 months I think that’s important. Because it’s not always just getting the music and the musicians and the ideas together it’s putting up with each other and all that sort of thing, and making sure that nobody’s ego ends up getting too big. [laughs]

I think that’s the key—if you all can stay as a family unit, that’s the key. A lot of bands split up because they’re not getting on, especially when you get successful and busy—because that’s when it’s probably harder and stranger anyway, you know? So it’s keeping it together. Certainly for us because we didn’t sell that many albums the first couple [albums], and it wasn’t going too well, so it was hard keeping it together, but when it’s going really well things just change, so that would be it.

I heard you recently met up with Bono in Chicago. Have you received his famous Bono talk? And if so, what advice did he give you?

QUINN: Yeah, me and Gary [Lightbody] met him. It was funny because you think that whenever you get to a level like U2, you don’t worry about how your gigs are gonna go, but he was saying that people who are typical these days are not "football fans," so they end up paying like two or three thousand dollars for tickets just to be there, and that situation’s happening with them. People all want to get in. I think I even heard it was going for four thousand in New York. So you don’t get the real fans who know all the words and they’re gonna put their hands in the air and make it a big gig—so that’s what they were worried about. Just shows you that there’s never, ever a shortage. I think that was his talk. He’s very good at making sure you’re not freaked out, because you are.

[laughs] You’re not gonna not take advice from Bono, you know what I mean?

But he’s very, very calm, and puts you at ease, especially because he knew that people are going to kind of be nervous around him, but that they know it’s no problem and it’s okay and they’re just ordinary people as well.

The first time you were scheduled to play in St. Petersburg was last summer during our intense hurricane season. In fact, the show was cancelled because a major one blew through. What’s the most intense weather you have ever experienced besides the Florida heat?

CONNOLLY: For me it would be this heat. I mean, obviously we didn’t fly into Florida last time, otherwise we would’ve been stuck here as well. It was three hurricanes in a row, wasn’t it? I don’t think that we’ve experienced anything that severe. This heat is definitely more than we’re used to. I think it might have been in Boston it was –12, and it was probably the coldest I’ve ever been. It’s quite cold where we’re from, with the rain, but it’s kind of mild and you don’t get extreme weather. It doesn’t go from extremely hot to extremely cold. Europe’s a bit milder than that, we just happen to get a lot more rain. It’s total extremes here, just crazy.

What would it take to make you guys feel “cool” even though you claim you make “uncool” music?

CONNOLLY: I don’t think it’s that we make “uncool” music…

QUINN: I think it’s that you can try to be “cool”—you just have it or you don’t. [laughs] I think we don’t see ourselves as “cool” because we don’t have the look like Franz Ferdinand or the White Stripes.

You’re not overly stylized…

QUINN: Yeah, I think that’s what people call “cool.”

CONNOLLY: It’s just not something we think about. We just get on with the music, really.

Well I think that’s “cool.” You don’t overly think everything, or your appearance…

CONNOLLY: Not to say it doesn’t work for some bands, I mean, obviously it does for Franz Ferdinand, and they’ve got the whole package but it’s not us, you know? We look uncomfortable as it is never mind getting dressed up.

Listening to your music, its sonic architecture, and feeling its big heart—is it an Irish thing to be all heart? What if any influence has U2 had on Snow Patrol’s sound?

QUINN: Is it an Irish thing? It may be! Ireland’s got a history of writers, and musicians and music, and writing’s always been a big thing because of all the famines and wars and people sang about things, and people in times of depression always wrote really amazing songs. When life’s too easy maybe you don’t get the same emotions out or you don’t get the same passion and music or whatever. The size of Ireland has a lot of musicians and writers and bands who are well known, and there’s only like five and-a-half million people that live there. For the export that it has it’s great, but I think that’s just a traditional thing.

With U2, it’s kind of one of those things of growing up in Ireland, and they’re from Ireland, and everybody knows of U2, and you’re double proud that U2 are from your country. It may have an influence but you wouldn’t know it; it wouldn’t be a conscious thing at all. Nobody can say it hasn’t affected, because no bands say, “they have nothing to do with me,” so I think everyone’s taken some sort of elements from them.

So it’s more unconscious than conscious?

QUINN and CONNOLLY: Yeah, definitely.

What can U2 fans expect from Snow Patrol in Europe this summer, and how do you feel about opening for them?

QUINN: They can expect us to do the same show we always do, but on a bigger stage. [laughs]. The biggest challenge is to try and hit that many people and make it work because it’s always quite a daunting task. We’ve only done it once before. It was the Tsunami gig and a long bill. For us it’s quite scary to get out in front of that, but we have to kind of say, ‘how are you gonna try and get everybody into this?’ A big challenge for us, you know?

CONNOLLY: Yeah, it’s hard to know what to expect

QUINN: We’ve just got to try and rock 60,000 people, and see if we can do it.

It’s at Croke Park, isn’t it?

CONNOLLY: Yeah, it’ll be a great night. U2’s homecoming is always a big party.

QUINN: Don’t trip up before you get to the drums or drop the drumsticks! It’s these things that you worry about. We’ve had some new songs as well, and we’ll get them out. It’ll be great because with a U2 crowd, they’re quite mixed and you get a lot of older people that wouldn’t know about Snow Patrol. It’s a brand new audience for us as well. Almost that many of the people haven’t even heard of us yet. So that’ll be good to get them into us.

How is the new record coming along, and when can fans expect to hear it?

QUINN: We’re talking about maybe next year, probably. I think as a band it’s important that we don’t rush it and get it right.

CONNOLLY: Make sure the album’s better than “Final Straw.” It’ll have to be good. If it takes a year, it takes a year.

QUINN: If it takes time, we’ll just do that rather than rushing the album out and then looking back and thinking we should’ve taken a bit more time to be more happy with it. There’s a lot of pressure to get it out because the label and all those people are “let’s get it going” but as long as we don’t leave it too long and it’s not a Stone Roses situation where it took five years or something, and that’s just ridiculous. We’re not being lazy about it, but we’ll make sure that it’s good.

Taking a cue from the Futureheads’ song of the same name, what would be a decent day and night for Snow Patrol?

QUINN: A decent day and night? A decent day would be to wake up in the daytime! [laughs]. Everyone likes to do different things. If you asked Tom [Simpson] it would probably be a game of golf, Gary would like to watch a game of cricket. I’d like to learn golf [laughs]. That’s what I’d do with my day—a perfect day would be to learn golf and a perfect night would be to go and see a band.

CONNOLLY: It’s hard to answer that without involving music, isn’t it? Like going to shows or something.

QUINN: Don’t get to see much music the last year-and-a-half, and above all I just want to see some bands again, you know?

For more information on Snow Patrol, please visit the official website.

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