Janice Butler talks to the popular band as their eagerly anticipated third album is released
When Kodaline (who are Steve Garrigan, Mark Prendergast, Vinny May and Jason Boland) exploded on the Irish music scene in 2013 with their debut album In a Perfect World, the band from Swords, Co Dublin, knew that they had to hit the ground running if they were to make their mark. That album sold over a million copies worldwide and made them a household name here and abroad. They followed up quickly with Coming Up For Air in 2015 and then were almost permanently on the road, playing to the many thousands of fans they had amassed in such a short time. No surprise then that the lads felt they needed some down time after a hectic five years – time to concentrate on their personal lives, time to marry their childhood sweethearts (for Vinny and Jay) and time to take a breather after the whirlwind they had just experienced.
Last year, they headed back to the studio to work on album number three, but things didn’t go as smoothly as before and they had to make a group decision that they weren’t happy with over half of the songs they had recorded and needed to go back to the drawing board. Making the difficult decision to cancel a European tour to focus on writing new songs, they posted a statement on Twitter to say they were “gutted” to announce the cancellations but “we need to head back into the studio over the coming months to work on the ideas we have.”
The result is Politics of Living, for which Kodaline teamed up with some of the hottest production and writing talent around, including hitmaker supreme Steve Mac ( Shape Of You by Ed Sheeran), pop guru Johnny Coffer (Rag’N’Bone Man, Beyoncé), and their long-time collaborator Johnny McDaid ( What About Us by Pink).
With a full schedule of touring and promotion ahead of them, Vinny and Mark tell us why they’re eager to get back out there and happy they had the confidence to take their time with album number three.
It’s been a while since your last album, so were you worried that the fans would still be keen?
At the moment, the Irish music industry is buzzing with so many good bands that there’s a lot more competition. It definitely feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve done the album circuit. We made the plan to take a break but it ended up being longer than
We wanted to get the album out but we didn’t want to be that band that put out an album we weren’t fully happy with
anticipated. We didn’t stop completely, we just slowed things down. We definitely wouldn’t take as long a break again for the next album.
After working and touring almost non-stop for over five years, did you feel you needed the time off?
Vinny: I think because we went from obscurity to playing around the world and had two albums out pretty much back to back, there was no real downtime, so we needed that to do some ‘real life’ things, like move out of our parents’ houses or get married.
Mark: We’ll never experience that madness again, where you’re unknown and you have to get the name out there. We’re established now so we can get some downtime. There’s still a good few countries we’ve yet to crack and we’re looking ahead to that, but the schedule will never be as intense as those first few years. You do kind of need a break to be able to look back on it and think ‘Wow, we did all that.’ It’s hard to get that perspective when you’re in the middle of it.
Two of you got married last year; does that make touring harder?
Myself and my partner have been together nearly 12 years now, long before Kodaline were anything so she’s been there when we were jamming in my parents’ house and it’s the same with Jay’s partner. They’ve been there before the madness and they know it’s all we’ve ever wanted to do, so they’re extremely supportive. The nice thing is that we’re in the position now that we can afford to buy them a plane ticket to join us on tour. At the start, I’d be gone for ages and I would just have to Skype my other half.
With this album, was it the right decision to scrap it and start again?
Definitely – if we listen to those songs now we know we made the right choice. Sometimes you just have to make a call on something and believe in it. I think doubt started to set in and then it spread like wildfire amongst us. We wanted to get the album out but we didn’t want to be that band that put out an album we weren’t fully happy with. The worst part of it was we had to cancel a lot of concerts so we could go back to the studio and that killed us, especially reading the tweets from fans that were disappointed. There were songs on there that were good songs but they just didn’t sound right. They didn’t sound like us.
At the end of the day, we wrote the songs so we have to take responsibility. In isolation, they’re good songs but when you put them up against other songs on the album they just didn’t compare. So the question was: did we want an album that was at 40% or one at 100%? I don’t think we’d take that long between albums again; we’ll probably get stuck into the next one pretty soon. The music industry is changing rapidly and you have to keep up.
Many critics are tough on you but fans obviously love you – does that bother you? Mark:
I remember reading reviews for our first album and thinking ‘How did they get that from those songs?’ I decided after that I wasn’t going to read a review ever again and I haven’t. People will send me positive reviews of our shows or something but I don’t actively seek to read them. I totally respect that’s their job but for us, the proof in the pudding is people coming to our shows and our gigs selling out and seeing our names moving up the list on the festival slots. That’s our barometer of how much people are liking us. Music is so opinionated; you’re never going to please everybody and we’re not trying to.
Politics of Living is on sale now
I think doubt started to set in and then it spread like wildfire amongst us
Kodaline (left to right): Mark Prendergast; Jason Boland; Stephen Garrigan and Vinny May