With a new ‘Reworked’ album due to land on November 1st followed by a HUGE tour of the UK, we caught up with SNOW PATROL to chat about the re-recording process, musical formats and where they’re most looking forward to playing….
You joined the band in 1997 (22 years ago!), you had just renamed the band as ‘Snow Patrol’, do you think you’d have been as popular as you are now if you hadn’t changed the band name from Polar Bear?
It’s a good question! I think we got a better name out of it, we had to change it as a result of a lawsuit and our friend accidentally called us Snow Patrol the day before and we settled on that! We really didn’t have any ideas for a name at all! I do think it’s a better name but think about all the bands that are absolutely huge like Simple Minds, I mean, think about it, it’s NOT a great band name and who knew they would sell millions? Can you imagine if I walked into a meeting and said to the band, “guys, I’ve got it, Simple Minds”, there’s no way I’d be taken seriously!
Tell me about how you came to join the band in the first place? Was it a tough audition?
I was playing in a band and Gary (Lightbody) was supporting us, their band was called Shrug at the time and after the show, they had a cassette tape for sale (for £2) and there wasn’t many people there and I ended up being the only person who purchased a tape, Gary was delighted and we started chatting about bands like Grant Lee Buffalo and Jeff Buckley and other acts that I thought they sounded a bit like and I said that I have a gig that I was putting on in Belfast and invited them to play. A week later, Gary called me and said that they were looking for a drummer and would I be interested in joining the band? They already had a record deal and I had a week to decide, looking back, I’m glad I made the decision to join them, it was definitely the right decision at the time!
Were you in a band at the time of being asked to join them?
I was in a few, I had also just got a Prince’s Trust grant to start putting on shows and manage acts so it was a tough decision, I was still at university at the time and it was really early days, I also had to move to Dundee from Belfast, lots of decisions but I was pressured to make a call and looking back, I think I made the right call.
You released your first two records ‘Songs for Polar Bears’ and ‘When It’s All Over We Still Have to Clear Up’ and they weren’t commercially successful, you then moved to Polydor in 2002 and released ‘Final Straw’ which catapulted you to super-stardom, what would you put the turnaround in success down to?
A perfect storm of having a good manager, a good label and a decent producer (Jacknife Lee), it really was a combination of these three elements all coming together at the same time. I guess we also had the song ‘Run’ which took us by surprise, we honestly thought it was a B-Side and looking back, there’s always that one song and when we were making the transition from the periphery to the mainstream. It was that song that did it for us.
I heard recently that ‘Chasing Cars’ is the MOST played track of the 21st century, how did you feel when you first heard the news?
I thought it would have been Robbie Williams with ‘Angels’ that would have got that award. It’s not the kind of thing that we were expecting, it’s normally Ed Sheeran that would win that kind of award so it was a shock to us! We started out without any ambitions to be a huge mainstream band so it’s never been anything that we would expect, some bands do plan ahead and say where they want to be in ten years’ time but it was never our plan so every award always surprises us!
I saw that Gary collected an award in July, do you get to have the trophy at your house for a while like when you used to take the school hamster home for a weekend to look after it?
(Laughs) – No, we don’t share these types of things, I’m happy for Gary to keep it!
Your new album is called ‘Reworked’ and features re-imagined versions of a selection from your back catalogue and greatest hits – what was the driver behind doing this?
Well, we had done a ‘Reworked’ tour about ten years ago which was great fun, we had a 16 piece band with us including strings and brass and it allowed us to play songs that we couldn’t really do in arenas and it also allowed us to play them in a way that people hadn’t heard before and wouldn’t know what it was until we were in the chorus and in a way, it’s almost like you’re performing cover versions of your own songs and I think to celebrate the 25 years we’ve been a band, we wanted to finish off with something big at the end of the year that wasn’t just another arena tour. This gives us an opportunity to delve deep and play a lot of songs that normally, we wouldn’t have got away with at a normal show, the songs are a little bit more obscure but come across much better in a ‘reworked’ way.
Was anyone opposed to the idea?
No, it was a unanimous decision, thinking about it, we’ve worked with everyone that’s going to be on the tour in some capacity over the years and it’s more of a get together! I think we’ve looked at reworking around 100 songs, it’s just a lot of great fun, very creative, lots of work but good fun! It really does make you look at the material in a different way. You play them in the same way on tour, every night so to do this is a chance to breathe some new life into the songs.
Which of the re-worked tracks did you most enjoy re-recording and why?
‘Time Won’t Go Slowly’ because it was a new song, ‘I Think of Home’, is one that Gary has been doing for a long time now, a lot of the material was recorded by Iain Archer who played with us years ago (he co-wrote the track Run) and Johnny McDaid did a few for us when we were on the road, we had a studio setup and ‘Crack the Shutters’ was a really interesting take on it, a few tracks include some electronic instruments which really alter the way the track feels, I guess I don’t really have any particular favourites, I just enjoy the approach that we take when ‘re-imagining’ the track.
Do you think that the tracks sound better, ‘re-worked’ or as they were originally recorded?
I wouldn’t say better, I would say that they are ‘different’, the objective was never to improve on what was there already, it was more a case of wanting to make them sound different, break them down and strip them back so in that respect, it’s hard to say if any sound better.
Did the re-recording process bring back memories of the time you originally recorded the tracks?
Yes, every time you go back into the studio, the memories do come back. I’ll be honest with you, I can’t remember recording some of the songs as it was so long ago, a lot has happened over the years! Having a different producer is interesting as well, as nobody will ever bring anything to the table that reflects what happened when you were there the first time around, Johnny came from a different angle to the way that Jacknife (Lee) approached things and it was always exciting to hear his thoughts on how a track might sound different if we approach it in a different way.
I see that you’re offering the new album as a cassette as well as CD, Vinyl and Download, why did you decide to put it out on cassette, just a case of jumping on the bandwagon?
Absolutely! The only thing I remember about tapes are that they were really shit, I am from the cassette days and I think that all of mine broke over time, it really is a shocking format! But there is something about them…… I remember playing our tape back and it had this slightly distorted, compressed sound to it and the sound was really cool but it’s a bit of a novelty and I don’t really know anyone who even has a cassette player anymore!
I found a box of cassettes in my attic a while ago and I bought a cassette player and played some of them, they sounded okay until I hit the DOLBY noise reduction button and it sounded like it had been recorded underwater, dreadful!
Yep, I remember it well! The record company assured us that “loads of people are into tapes these days” and talked us into it! None of us in the band are tape addicts and I don’t think there was anyone who was saying that it was always their dream to put out a cassette again after so long but you know!
Maybe minidiscs and 8-track cartridges?
We were thinking of a greatest hits on Laserdisc!
I have hundreds of Laserdiscs, I’ll bring some to the Plymouth show and have them put in your dressing room, take them away!
You’re playing 14 live shows in November & December which takes you all over the place in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, are there any places that you’re REALLY excited about playing?
We don’t manage to get to all places very often so anywhere outside of the major cities is a bonus. We haven’t been in Wales in a long time so that’s going to be superb. That’s the great thing about an arena tour, we get the chance to play larger venues in places that we wouldn’t normally get to visit.
Where would you say you get the BEST reception? Why do you think this is?
It tends to be at home, Scotland and London which is quite odd as that was a place that we really had to win over, I think most bands dread going to London as everyone just stands there with their arms folded with that ‘impress me’ look upon their faces, it takes a long time but after a while, the people of London let their guards down and say “no, it’s okay, we like this band now” and then everything’s okay! I don’t know when that point is but I would say it’s probably when you start to play venues like Brixton Academy when people start to ‘accept’ you as a band. We played the Royal Albert Hall and really got a sense of occasion from just being there, it’s a venue that’s just steeped in history and was a pleasure to perform there.
Do you notice a North/South divide when you tour the country?
Yes I do, I’m not sure why that is but I think there is, London can be quite raucous, Brighton is pretty good too!
You’ve not played in Plymouth for a while so it might kick off there too!
We’re looking forward to that one too!
I see from the Plymouth show that it’s all seated, is this the same for all dates on the tour and if so, who made that decision?
It is, it’s because the nature of the arrangements of the songs, whenever you have strings and brass on stage with you, it’s all about the listening experience and is just much more enjoyable if everyone is seated, I guess the show is a lot more laid back than our normal live shows too which are a little bit more ‘showbiz’, lights and projection screens etc, this is more about the music.
I guess being a drummer you’re always sat down anyway!
Absolutely, every gig’s a seated one for me!
The Reworked album and tour takes you nicely up to Christmas, what can we expect from Snow Patrol in 2020? Any new material in the pipeline?
We’ll be busy writing for the next record which we’re hoping to get out in 2021, we’ll be doing some festivals next year, we had some injuries this year and as a result, had to cancel some like Glastonbury and Transmit so we’re looking forward to doing a summer run in 2020!
Does this mean that we can look forward to seeing you at Glastonbury in 2020?
I don’t know, they don’t decide until January so I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out. It’s their 50th anniversary too and it would be amazing to be invited so let’s just see if the call comes through! You can’t buy into that one so it really is a case of sitting tight and waiting!
Any others confirmed?
Sorry, nothing is confirmed yet so watch this space!
Finally, there are millions of bands and acts out there right now, please name a few that we should be checking out?