We’ve never played to the crit­ics — and we don’t give a shit what they think

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

racial trou­bles in Char­lottesville, but cap­tures that sense that the coun­try that likes to think of it­self as the leader of the ‘free world’ is in a very bad place right now.

“You re­ally sense it when you spend some time there now,” O’Donoghue says. “It feels a long way from the United States of Amer­ica. We’re not a very po­lit­i­cal band, but this was some­thing we all felt strongly about.”

Much has been made about how the band’s sound has changed on this al­bum. The rock el­e­ments are play­ing a back seat to high-gloss, R&B-in­flected pop. O’Donoghue be­lieves the key dif­fer­ence is the en­hanced pro­duc­tion. “It’s def­i­nitely slicker,” he says. “We’ve re­ally fine-tuned our craft in the stu­dio. We tried to tar­get ra­dio on this al­bum, and I know mu­sic crit­ics might say we’ve sold out, or some­thing ridicu­lous and stupid and old like that, whereas we look at it as a way to stay rel­e­vant and move with the times.”

Shee­han takes up the thread. “A tra­di­tional band of guitars, bass and drums will not sur­vive in the in­dus­try right now. That’s why you’re see­ing Cold­play work­ing with the Chainsmok­ers, why Imag­ine Drag­ons are work­ing with Billy the Kid and why you’re see­ing the Killers com­ing out with the kind of mu­sic they’re do­ing. It’s adapt, change or die right now.”

He is also not a fan of crit­ics, and they’ve had their fair share of them over the years, in­clud­ing this re­porter. “We’ve never played to the crit­ics,” he says, crossly, “and we don’t give a shit what they think. We play for those peo­ple who love our mu­sic, and thank­fully, there are lots of them.”

The Script got very big very quickly — their last three al­bums have been UK chart-top­pers and they’ve sold healthily in the US too. Re­leas­ing a ma­chine tooled an­them like ‘Hall of Fame’ cer­tainly helped their cause: the will.i.am col­lab­o­ra­tion was an au­ral by-prod­uct of O’Donoghue’s two-sea­son stint as coach on The Voice UK (along­side the Black Eyed Peas main­man) and, re­mark­ably, they re­fused to have it used in the Lon­don Olympics of 2012. Shee­han says the song is a celebration of or­di­nary heroes, not celebri­ties.

And yet, their story isn’t quite the overnight suc­cess story some might imag­ine. In the mid-1990s, not long out of school, child­hood friends O’Donoghue and Shee­han were in the boy band My­town. It was the era of man­u­fac­tured groups — Boy­zone were in the as­cen­dency and Westlife were a twin­kle in Louis Walsh’s eye. It didn’t work out for My­town — al­though the pic­tures of them sport­ing hideous day-glo out­fits are avail­able for your ed­i­fi­ca­tion on­line — but O’Donoghue and Shee­han were de­ter­mined to make a ca­reer for them­selves in the mu­sic in­dus­try.

They re­lo­cated to LA to try their hand at song­writ­ing and pro­duc­tion and had some be­hind-the-scenes suc­cess writ­ing and mix­ing for the likes of TLC and Justin Tim­ber­lake. But, keen to res­ur­rect their own am­bi­tions in the spot­light, they re­turned to Dublin and formed the Script with Glen Power on drums.

Power comes across as a laid-back fig­ure, strug­gling to get a word in edge­ways with his al­pha male band­mates. He’s had his own dif­fi­cul­ties of late — hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced the back prob­lems com­mon to so many drum­mers. “When you play big­ger are­nas and then sta­di­ums, you look around at the larger scale and think you have to hit the kit harder,” he says. “But you don’t. You have to play like you usu­ally would and be care­ful of pos­ture.”

Those arena and sta­dia shows came quickly af­ter the re­lease of their self-ti­tled de­but in 2008. They soon found them­selves sup­port­ing both Paul McCart­ney and U2. “I re­mem­ber say­ing to the guys af­ter the U2 show in Croke Park, that we would be back here to head­line one day,” O’Donoghue says, “and we were.”

Power says that 2015 Cro­ker show was one of the high­lights of his life. “It’s just im­pos­si­ble to de­scribe that feel­ing of play­ing some­where so big — and in your home­town too.”

O’Donoghue quips that they will have to play some­where big­ger next time. He’s half-jok­ing, but there’s no deny­ing that he’s long been driven by am­bi­tion. “We’ve al­ways wanted for as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to hear our mu­sic,” he says. “Oth­er­wise, what’s the point? I hate these pissy lit­tle bands who say that isn’t im­por­tant to them, like it’s some­thing to be proud of that you don’t want your mu­sic to be heard by a lot of peo­ple.”

“And,” Shee­han adds, “some of them go on like it’s easy to write hit sin­gles and they’re above all that. I’d like to see them try.”

Free­dom Child is out on Fri­day

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