Back on PA­TROL again!

It’s taken longer than they thought but Snow Pa­trol have re­turned to the Wild­ness

Irish Daily Mail - - It’s Fri­day! - BY Maeve Quigley

IT was a pe­riod that the mem­bers of Snow Pa­trol most def­i­nitely don’t want to re­peat. Af­ter de­cid­ing to take a break from a pu­n­ish­ing tour­ing sched­ule that had lasted over a decade, the band found them­selves be­ing forced to take a longer time away from mu­sic.

Front­man and song­writer Gary Light­body was suf­fer­ing from se­vere writer’s block and his per­sonal cir­cum­stances led to a spi­ral into de­pres­sion which he damp­ened down with drugs and al­co­hol.

He was deal­ing badly with his fa­ther’s di­ag­no­sis of de­men­tia and to top it all was liv­ing a world away from some of his best friends, in Los An­ge­les, a place where dreams are said to be made but just as many oth­ers are de­stroyed by fame on a daily ba­sis.

Jonny Quinn, the band’s drum­mer but also a man with a long-stand­ing friend­ship with Light­body that stretches back over 20 years, ad­mits he was wor­ried, not just about what was go­ing to hap­pen with Snow Pa­trol, but also what might hap­pen to his pal.

‘We were all wor­ried,’ he ad­mits. ‘He had been liv­ing in LA so it wasn’t like I was able to see him that much.

‘So it was hear­ing from peo­ple that he wasn’t go­ing out that much and had be­come quite iso­lated. LA is a lovely place but it can be quite iso­lat­ing as well.’

The time since Fallen Em­pires was tick­ing along but Quinn knew Light­body was not in a po­si­tion to be pushed any­where.

‘I knew that with­out a new record, Gary wasn’t go­ing to do a Fi­nal Straw or Eyes Open al­bum tour,’ Quinn says. ‘I knew that wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen. And time was tick­ing on. I couldn’t call him up and say, ‘Why are you not get­ting your ass in gear?’ be­cause that wouldn’t have helped. That’s more pres­sure.

‘Peo­ple have asked me, ‘Did you not get pissed off?’ but he would have gone even fur­ther into the dark­ness. It was just a mat­ter of wait­ing.’

At the same time, Quinn’s be­lief that Light­body would come back from the brink never wa­vered.

‘We all knew he could do it,’ he says em­phat­i­cally. ‘The guy is prolific but we just had to wait.

‘And we knew that when he got one song fin­ished com­pletely the rest would fol­low.

‘It was a tap that got very tight and was slowly re­leased. And then he wrote two al­bums’ worth.’

And so the band’s new al­bum Wild­ness was born. Re­leased on this day next week, the record is a re­turn to form that shows Light­body’s song­writ­ing strengths at their best and tracks the singer — and in­deed the rest of us — through a tur­bu­lent time in the world at large.

And work, says Quinn, is a kind of a sal­va­tion for all of them.

‘We went over to LA to have a chat to Gary about it,’ he says. ‘And then we got back to the stu­dio and fin­ished the record. Gary knows him­self he has to be work­ing, he has to be out do­ing gigs and do­ing what he does.

‘That’s where he be­longs. He is in a re­ally good space now. We’re all happy.’

On the day that we speak, Light­body is present but has handed the press du­ties to Quinn. He’s in good form though and looks well, stop­ping for a quick chat at the bar of Dublin’s Mor­ri­son Ho­tel.

He’s been two years free of any drugs and al­co­hol and puts his re­cov­ery down to acupunc­ture — he’s even ded­i­cated a song to the acupunc­tur­ist who ‘saved’ him af­ter he got ‘re­ally sick’ all those thou­sands of miles from home.

But it’s not like Quinn was resting on his lau­rels — in fact he is the man be­hind Po­lar Pa­trol, the pub­lish­ing com­pany which signed Johnny McDaid, now a fully-fledged member of Snow Pa­trol but at that stage a man who had just fin­ished up with his band Vega 4.

‘I was run­ning a pub­lish­ing com­pany called Po­lar Pa­trol and I signed Johnny McDaid and took on a few other smaller acts and a few writ­ers. So ba­si­cally I had an of­fice job in the church round the corner from where I live in Crouch End and did some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent,’ Quinn says of his time away from the band.

‘It was good to see the other side of the in­dus­try and work with man­agers and other la­bels and so on — and tell the band what is hap­pen­ing and how things have changed.

‘I mean, we won’t sell 100,000 records in our first week as 50,000 is a lot these days. I think it is de­press­ing for younger bands — it is hard for them at the mo­ment and there are not many gui­tar bands out there any more. I wouldn’t like to be start­ing out now.’

IN fact, Ed Sheeran sup­ported Snow Pa­trol on tour in Amer­ica, a move that saw Johnny McDaid writ­ing with the singer and the likes of the huge hit Shape Of You end­ing up on Po­lar Pa­trol pub­lish­ing.

‘I had a few Ed Sheeran songs so it did okay,’ Quinn jokes. ‘Johnny wrote a lot of the Ed Sheeran stuff and we are up for an Ivor Novello at the end of the month so it has been amaz­ing to see.

‘I asked Ed Sheeran to come on our Amer­i­can tour with us and that’s how I got Johnny McDaid writ­ing with him. And it worked,’ he laughs.

Through his work be­hind-thescenes in the mu­sic in­dus­try, Quinn is now optimistic that a way to nur­ture new tal­ent can be found through sub­scriber stream­ing. But even with busi­ness boom­ing back at the pub­lish­ing com­pany, he ad­mits he was itch­ing to get back be­hind a drum kit and play live. And he’s hop­ing now that his son, who was born just as the last al­bum Fallen Em­pires was re­leased, will fi­nally get to see what his dad did for a liv­ing. ‘My son is five-and-a-half,’ he says. ‘Go­ing away on tour will be dif­fer­ent now and Gary and Johnny are his god­par­ents so he knows them well. And Nathan comes round to the house a lot so it will be quite in­ter­est­ing for him to come out and see what I do as he hasn’t re­ally fig­ured it out yet.’

Af­ter 20 years to­gether, Quinn says that tour­ing will be a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish to when the band were in their twen­ties.

‘It’s def­i­nitely less rock and roll,’ he ad­mits. ‘There are more kale smooth­ies on the rider than there ever was, yoga mats ev­ery­where.

‘It’s a typ­i­cal age­ing rock­ers — next there will be no booze back­stage or any­thing like that. We’re get­ting to that age, it’s kind of scary.’

But life for ev­ery­one dif­fers greatly when you are 25 as com­pared to 45 and it’s al­most mirac­u­lous for a band who have been to­gether for as long as Snow Pa­trol have to still con­tain such tight friend­ships.

‘We get on re­ally well for peo­ple who have been in a band for 20 odd years,’ he says. ‘Ex­cep­tion­ally well con­sid­er­ing the amount of time we have spent with each other. We have lit­er­ally been be­side each other on buses for quite a long time.

‘It has its ups and downs like any re­la­tion­ship but we have a good time. And I am re­ally look­ing for­ward to play­ing. I have just missed play­ing — all of us have. It has been in our blood for so long, this is what you do and we missed that so badly.’

Like so many other bands, the tour for Fallen Em­pires was be­gin­ning to feel like a chore for the mem­bers of Snow Pa­trol but the gap be­tween gigs was so long that they felt

ner­vous, even per­form­ing in venues that were much smaller than they were used to.

‘Be­ing away was okay for a cou­ple of years when we needed a break be­cause I think on our last tour ev­ery­body was just not en­joy­ing it any more.

‘And we just didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate it. I think we were toured out be­cause we had been on the road for 15 years in a row.

‘So when we played our first gig in Lon­don a cou­ple of weeks ago, ev­ery­body in the band was ner­vous. Ev­ery­one was freaked out but it was such a re­lief and a re­lease that peo­ple were happy to see us back again.

‘We did a gig in New York and one in LA and it just felt like the crowd were re­ally happy to see us. The break had been a re­ally good thing.’

Wild­ness has al­ready struck a chord with mu­sic lovers, as a re­turn to form for the Ir­ish band with a depth and ma­tu­rity re­flected in the song­writ­ing which finds love and beauty against all odds amidst the chaos and chat­ter of mod­ern liv­ing. And for Quinn, the track Life On Earth dis­tills the essence of the whole al­bum.

‘It was one of those songs that when we fin­ished it, I would play it to peo­ple first,’ he says. ‘I felt it was lyri­cally quite poignant for the times we’re liv­ing in as it’s not meant to be this f ***** g hard, life on earth.

‘And it works in a num­ber of ways for the cli­mate we are putting this record out in with what’s hap­pen­ing in Amer­ica, Brexit — this sort of fear and ag­gres­sion that seems to be hap­pen­ing. I think that song speaks about that and it just feels very powerful. And play­ing it live has been great fun.’

With the likes of Run and Chas­ing Cars now in the canon of in­ter­na­tional hits that will stand the test of time, it must be hard to try and match the suc­cess of songs that have been the sound­track to wed­dings and break-ups all over the world. But the band had no idea Run would be such an in­ter­na­tional suc­cess story, Quinn says, and he in­sists they write with­out any in­ten­tion of creat­ing hits.

‘You just never know as a song just takes its own life,’ he says. ‘We thought Run was a B-side so we’re not that good at pick­ing sin­gles, clearly.

‘I think it’s kind of like do­ing your home­work and hand­ing it in and then you have to just wait and see. We did our best we just hope we get good marks now.

‘You have no con­trol over it and we couldn’t try and write an­other Chas­ing Cars as it would just sound like us try­ing to write an­other Chas­ing Cars.

‘The sin­gle just ap­pears af­ter you write a lot of demos so we have to see what hap­pens. We have no idea of ex­pec­ta­tion on this.’

Quinn says the band are pleased with the way things are go­ing do far. All the gigs in smaller venues like Dublin’s Olympia Theatre and Derry’s Mil­le­nium Fo­rum sold out in record time and tick­ets ended up like gold dust.

Hap­pily fans won’t have too long to wait as the band are plan­ning an arena tour for later this year and are hop­ing to recre­ate the magic of their Ward Park gig in Light­body’s home town of Ban­gor that took place a few years ago.

So far tracks from the al­bum have been playlisted by ra­dio sta­tions at home and abroad.

‘I feel the record is quite mod­ern,’ Quinn says. ‘In Amer­ica we are get­ting lots of air­play for Don’t Give In in par­tic­u­lar and it’s enourag­ing. So we just have to want and see how that goes.’

Quinn in­sists the band is not wor­ried about where Snow Pa­trol fit in the grand mu­si­cal map. But what they are con­cerned with is where they are go­ing and what’s still to be done.

‘We want to do Slane Cas­tle,’ he says. ‘We want to do Wem­b­ley Sta­dium, we want to do Madi­son Square Gar­dens. Things have just taken off for us in South Amer­ica re­cently too so it would be great to go there.’

And the proof will be in the pud­ding when Wild­ness is re­leased on May 26.

‘It will be in­ter­est­ing to see who our au­di­ences are now,’ Quinn says. ‘You go away and come back you don’t know if it’s still there or if peo­ple are like they did. You can’t take any­thing for granted. But I re­ally think this is one of the best records we have made.’

Snow Pa­trol play Gal­way tonight and Belfast on Sun­day, Wild­ness is re­leased on May 25.

Po­lar Pa­trol: Ed Sheeran teamed up with band member Johnny McDaid

Band of brothers: (l-r), Paul Wil­son, Nathan Con­nolly, Gary Light­body, Jonny Quinn and Johnny McDaid

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