Interview: Nathan Connolly of Snow Patrol
June 01, 2006 02:44 PM
by Christina Fuoco
Although Ireland's Snow Patrol fared well in the United States with its 2004 breakthrough album, "Final Straw," the band thinks its new release, "Eyes Open," is a powerful step forward.
"The whole thing with this record is it sounds bigger and bolder in places, and the quiet moments are just as delicate as they should be," said guitarist Nathan Connolly via telephone from Germany. "But I think the main difference with this record was confidence, really. That was kind of a key word this time.
"We were a little more confident to try things--more confident as musicians and in ourselves. The time we spent on tour and playing together, and [hanging out] as people, it makes such a difference," he added.
Connolly is joined in Snow Patrol by singer Gary Lightbody, drummer Jonny Quinn, multi-instrumentalist/bassist Paul Wilson and keyboardist Tom Simpson.
LiveDaily: Are you looking forward to your US tour?
Nathan Connolly: Yeah, we did two weeks there [in the winter]. There weren't that many gigs. They were small sort of buzz gigs. This time around it's bigger, and we love touring the States and can't wait to get back. Including the very first time we arrived, this is our fifth proper tour.
You said you were more confident during the "Eyes Open" recording process. What were you able to try that perhaps you were not as secure in trying before?
From my point, as the guitarist, I learned to just to run with things. It's hard to explain. To not be afraid of actually playing the damn thing. To stick with it and let yourself go. It was just a confidence that was not necessarily cocky by any means. I think a lot of that came from [producer Garret Lee]. He's an amazing person to work with. This time we'd known him for a few years. He'd never let you leave that [studio] without following your potential. He instilled us with confidence, and we worked very close together--all of us--individually and as a band. We look up to him.
You also worked with Garret on "Final Straw," correct? It sounds like you formed quite a bond with him.
Garret is such a crucial part of our family, you know. He's a band confidante. He's someone we know and respect. He's kind of another member. We all work well together. He's learned a hell of a lot [since "Final Straw"], as have we. It's nice to kind of be able to have that relationship with someone. It makes it easier. They're there for the right reasons. I imagine we'll make the next record with Garret. We want to, and that's what I think will happen.
It's hard to believe that it's been almost 10 years since Snow Patrol was formed.
The first record was out in 1998, but it was around 1994 in university that Gary and Mark formed the band, which was an indie band at the time. I've only been in the band for four years. I joined a year before "Final Straw." I joined in the middle of that album being written. It was great for me to come in and get to do stuff. Amazing things have happened, and it's great to be a part of it.
You have some amazing guest artists on this record including Ken Stringfellow of The Posies and Martha Wainwright. How did you meet Martha Wainwright?
I wish there was an amazing rock 'n' roll story. [Laughs] We were listening to her record pretty much the whole time between "Final Straw" and this album. And we're big fans. Garret had the idea of, "Why don't you get her to sing on a song?" We were like, "Yeah, why not?" But Gary was really content with everything we recorded or made. So he wrote that song ["Set the Fire to the Third Bar"] specifically with her in mind to sing. We just phoned her up. We didn't know if she knew who we were or if she liked us. But we phoned up and she said, "Yes," and we said, "Jesus Christ," to be honest. [Laughs] She did her vocal take on the very last day. She's just an incredible, incredible artist and an amazing voice. It's an honor to have her on the record. It's amazing it worked out. She's done a few shows with us, six or seven shows. The two voices work amazingly well together. They shouldn't, but they do.
Is she going to do more shows with you?
Hopefully, yeah. The thing is, we won't do that song without her being there. The thing is, as well, she has her own career to think about. She just can't go out on tour with us, although we'd have her, whether or not she'd want to hang out with five f---ing idiots. [Laughs] I'm sure she will. We'll try to do as many as you can.
Snow Patrol are frequently compared to Coldplay in the press, which seems strange as they write far better songs and do not appear to be quite so self-hating, nor as rich. Their delightfully dour little pop songs do touch on the melancholic side of things, but the lyrics are wonderfully slice-of-life descriptions. Singer/lyricist Gary Lightbody gives a shout-out to Sufjan Stevens when on the punchy "Open Your Eyes" he sings, "The anger swells in my guts." Perhaps a better comparison would be American indie-rock act Sebadoh? Regardless, this band continues to surprise. If you went to see this mixed Scottish/Irish group on tour after hearing their wistful, breakout third album Final Straw, you might have been a bit confused by the rock juggernaut confronting you. Eyes Open is their most straightforwardly rock record yet, and thanks in large part to producer Garret Lee, it's their best. If there was ever perfect music to get lost to while driving around confused about a relationship, this is it.