Catching Up With... Snow Patrol

Music Features Snow Patrol
Share Tweet Submit Pin

For the better part of the last decade, the Irish pop/rockers of Snow Patrol have dominated the airwaves, permeated nearly every form of media including films and TV, and sold millions of records. The band's colossal hits "Run" and especially "Chasing Cars" have afforded it the kind of success usually reserved for industry titans Coldplay and U2.

But a band can become handcuffed to its most popular songs, leading people to pigeonhole its entire sound based on a single radio track. Snow Patrol's lead singer, Gary Lightbody, is more than aware of this. He caught up with Paste about his philosophy on where to take Snow Patrol's sound after "Chasing Cars," and the pressure to follow-up a successful record with something different.

Paste: You said you needed a break after the last record, Eyes Open. How come and what did you end up doing in your time off?
Lightbody: I maybe did say I needed a break, probably at the end of the tour, but I think I had a month off and then we started in with the record. I think I need breaks, and then I take a couple of weeks and just get so bored. If I didn't make a new Snow Patrol album, then I'd be off inventing other bands to make albums with, so it's best to just keep me busy.

Paste:
Whenever a band has a big of a hit as "Chasing Cars," I'm always curious to hear how that changes a band's outlook on things. When making this latest record, did you set out to do something along the same lines because people responded to it so positively, or was there a conscious decision to do something drastically different?
Lightbody: We wanted to make sure that we don't repeat ourselves, and we haven't done with this record. "Chasing Cars" has given us so much. From the back of "Chasing Cars," we sold nearly five million records. It was the biggest success of our careers. But as you say, there's two ways to look at it. You can either try to consolidate that, or you can be braver and use the freedom you have to try out all kinds of different things, which is what we did with this album. This time around, it's a love story rather than a break-up story. It's set against the wider world and universe, where you put all of your problems in context to realize we are but specs in a vast universe. We pushed ourselves to our absolute limit on this, and tried under no circumstances to say the same things we've been saying before.

Paste: You said this record is more about a love story. Is that inspired by your life? What have you found yourself writing about this time around?
Lightbody: I've never written a song I haven't lived. But this time around I wanted to put it into a wider context. I didn't want to just write a song about me, I wanted it to be about me and the person I love set against the backdrop of all that is both beautiful and terrifying in the world. I hope both the beauty and the more frightening elements shine through. I'm not trying to say the world is doomed or anything, but it's a very hopeful record, I think.

Paste: "Take Back the City" sounds like a bit of departure sound-wise. Can you talk a little bit about the song and why you chose it to be the first single?
Lightbody: It's a rallying cry. I think people probably have an image of us as the band that did "Chasing Cars" and "Run." If you haven't listened to our music before or you haven't been to see us live, then you wouldn't know we're a rock band. You'd just think we write these ballads. There's far too many facets of our abilities as songwriters and musicians than just that one dimension.

"Take Back the City" is the perfect starting point for this record because it is vibrant, vital and energetic. It's a departure lyrically because it's a song about my home, Northern Ireland- Belfast specifically-which I've never written about. I always find it hard to write about the place I grew up, the place I was kind of confused by and angry at. But over the last sort of decade or so, I've been mostly away from Belfast and Northern Ireland and I've realized how much I love the place. "Take Back the City" is a love song to what's happening in Belfast and how proud I am to be from there and how much I realize it's informed and nurished my life, as much as it maybe infuriated me as a child and teenager.

Paste: What would you say has evolved from earlier Snow Patrol records? When you went into the studio this time around, what did you want to change?
Lightbody: A lot of things. I think this record draws on all of our records, our first two kind of spiky, indie records we released on Jeepster all those years ago and the two Universal/Interscope records in the interim. It also looks to the future, taking the best bits of our past and puts in all the new stuff we've learned in the meantime. We've made a vastly more confident record—a more experimental record, a more demanding record on the listener. It takes a few listens, I think, before you can penetrate the outer shell of it. It's much more layered. But also in its purest essence, like all our music, its melodies are the key. They are essentially pop songs, and I mean pop not as a dirty word. Pop can be as imaginative and experimental as anything—I'm thinking of Super Furry Animals, The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and The Beach Boys and The Beatles before them. It doesn't need to about the sort of glazed-over glamour that word is synonymous these days.