not a member? click here to sign up
That patrol emotion
Having conquered all before them in Ireland and the UK this year, Gary Lightbody and Snow Patrol have set their sights on the US.
Phil Udell, 11 Oct 2004
There are times when you really do think that nothing can dent the irrepressible good humour of Gary Lightbody.
Not losing out on the Mercury Prize the night before – although his self-professed love for Franz Ferdinand may have softened that particular blow. Not being three thousand miles away from home: sure isn’t it good to get away from it all! And not even attempting to begin their current US tour in Florida while the state was in the midst of a hurricane – although as Lightbody would be the first to admit, having to cancel three shows is very little hardship compared to the devastation and hardship that others have suffered. After the false start, however, the tour is up and running.
“It’s going fine,” he explains cheerfully from Norfolk, Virginia. “We were in Atlanta last night and the gig was sold out. We’re now in a venue with a hot tub in the dressing room, a pool table and Donkey Kong. It’s got everything that any band could ever want.”
As elsewhere, Snow Patrol’s stock in the US has made a steady rise this year.
“ We’re doing really well. We’ve broken the 100,000 mark, which is the first big landmark I guess. Half of the gigs have already sold out and the other half are a bit of a mystery – we just find out when we get there. You hear us on the radio from time to time and see us on TV. There’s still a long, long way to go but that’s the exciting thing, as long as the record company keep faith. At the moment us and Keane are the only two bands that they’re really pushing.
“This is our third tour here this year so we’re starting to build up something of a live following. People are coming to the gigs and telling their friends. The first few times were very quiet. It’s hard work because you have to break it state by state, they all have their own radio stations, there’s no national output. You’re at the beck and call of each individual outfit.”
I remember reading David Gray’s website before his Irish success had transferred to the UK and he was saying that it was always a bit of an anti-climax to go from playing huge sold out shows in Ireland to doing the club circuit in Britain. Between the UK and the US, do Snow Patrol find it similarly tricky?
“ No, not at all. It keeps our feet on the ground and reminds us that we’re still the same five drunken dickheads that we were a year ago. We don’t have any delusions about anything.
“When we get back to Ireland and the UK it’ll be a marvellous end to a fantastic year but it’s not something that we feel we richly deserve, it’s just completely out of our control. If it had been down to us, I can’t imagine that we would have waited ten years for it to happen!”
The last time we spoke to Snow Patrol, the band were about to embark on a festival season that would ultimately cement their new found status.
Gary has voiced the concern that no-one would turn up to see them. He was, on reflection, a bit wide of the mark.
“We were very, very lucky. People were just fantastic. We finished off the summer at the V Festival and someone told me that we had more people watching us at 3 o’clock in the afternoon than The Strokes did headlining – something like 60,000 people were there.
“That’s just ridiculous, it doesn’t even compute in our heads. I was looking out at the crowd and wondering how the hell it had happened. It’s humbling, but also exhilarating; there are so many mixed emotions. Being the guilt-ridden boys that we are, we just feel that we don’t deserve it.”
I tell him that people are still talking about their Oxegen set in reverential tones.
“The crowd were phenomenal. That weekend of Oxegen and T In The Park is my weekend of the whole year. I can’t think of a more special memory.”
So the plan is for their upcoming UK and Ireland shows to bring the curtain down on The Final Straw, before moving on to the next chapter. Was there any resistance to such a plan from those who wanted to see the band on the road for as long as possible?
“It’s not something that we had to fight for, that was how it was planned from the start. Everybody wants us to go and start on the new album. We haven’t had much of a chance to write even: we’ve not had any songs to add to the set. It’s not that it’s boring to keep playing the same songs – but it is frustrating not having the time to write new ones.
“I can’t really write on tour, I like to be in a darkened room on my own. On tour there’s always too much to see and do. I was very jealous when I heard that Franz Ferdinand had pretty much finished their next album. I don’t know how they did that. Different people find different ways. Perhaps after three albums in three years – one Snow Patrol, two Reindeer Section – people thought that I was prolific but that’s nonsense. I need my own headspace.”
Seeing as how he’s operating in what must be a very different environment to last time, will his writing reflect that?
“That’s the thing, I never have to change what I write about. It was always about relationships. It’s not as if I was writing about how downtrodden I was by life or anything like that. The relationships in my life don’t change in that, I still fuck up all the time so I’ll always have something to write about.”
He is aware of the attendant pitfalls, especially when you become successful.
“I think people are probably starting to become less tolerant of it. They think that you can’t complain because you’ve got such and such. That won’t deter me from doing it, although it might deter people from listening. I hope it doesn’t. Everybody goes through these things and it’s the only way that I can connect with other people. I don’t want to start writing about anything else. I haven’t changed, I’m still a fucking idiot.”
We’ll let him go then, this hugely likeable, hugely talented fucking idiot, back to his hot tub, his video games and his band’s rapidly expanding career – something which the five people at the heart of it all are finding it difficult to fathom.
“We’re finding it hard at times to cope with what’s going on, trying to understand it all,” Gary admits. “Should we embrace it and become a bit more self confident? We can’t, we’re not that sort of people. We can’t just stand onstage with our foot on the monitors sticking our tongues out. It wouldn’t look right.
“We do talk about it but we don’t come up with any resolutions – but maybe that’s a good thing.”
Snow Patrol play the RDS Main Hall, Dublin on December 29.
Photographs: Shawn Lynch