Taking back the city

Snow Patrol’s Jonny Quinn and Tom Simpson took some time out to talk to Orla McCallion about new record A Hundred Million Suns

Snow Patrol’s Jonny Quinn and Tom Simpson took some time out to talk to Orla McCallion about new record A Hundred Million Suns

The opulent yet cool Morrison hotel bustles around us as we chat. On the Friday of the October bank holiday weekend, Jonny and Tom of Snow Patrol sit in front of me, apparrently enjoying the opportunity to sit down for a few minutes. With the band set to play a jam-packed gig in Dublin on Sunday, fans here are ecstatic. Playing in Belfast on the same day followed immediately by London and Edinburgh on the Monday, the boys are in for a busy weekend. Their schedules have been packed recently with the recording of their latest album A Hundred Million Suns and it will be a few more days before they get a chance to rest, although I doubt this would bother to any great extent this band whose last album went seven times platinum.

In 2006, Snow Patrol’s most successful album yet, Eyes Open topped the Irish albums chart and became the UK’s bestselling album of the year. The band became widely known and esteemed by fans from diverse backgrounds and a multitude of different countries after their hit single “Chasing Cars” was heard on the soap Grey’s Anatomy, making it an instant chartbuster. Despite the fact that 4.7 million copies were sold worldwide, two years since the release of this phenomenally successful album the boys are aware that there are “no guarantees” that their recently released album will be such a hit.

The band began recording A Hundred Million Suns in Grouse Lodge, Westmeath where they had recorded “Eyes Open”. After six weeks of work in this rural setting, they proceeded to Berlin where they finished recording the album in Hansa studio. Famous for its use by U2, Depeche Mode and David Bowie, the studio is held in high regard by music lovers everywhere. The excitement of Berlin injected a new energy into the band, and according the bands keyboard mastermind Tom, it put some “ghosts in the machine”, helping the album come together. The album was recorded in two months and released on the 27th of October.

As in previous albums, singer and songwriter Gary Lightbody’s lyrics are poetic and capture his thoughts beautifully. The usual affairs of love and loss dominate the album, although a happier Gary than we are accustomed to shines through in places. Clearly a romantic, he writes about these timeless and universal themes from a very personal perspective, touching many hearts and appealing to the masses. Innumerable amounts of people can relate to his words, and as Jonny states, “Gary writes about things that really happen to him”, giving his songs that particular touch that captivates a wide audience. This ability has contributed greatly to the band’s enormous achievements and since their first commercially successful album Final Straw was released in 2003, their fan base has been continuously growing. The band has attributed some of this success to their current producer Jacknife Lee, whose introduction into their operations that year seemed to complete the band.

By no means avant-garde musicians, Snow Patrol’s melodic indie-rock sound is not uncommon, and they have often been compared to artists such as Coldplay. Since the band met in Dundee University in Scotland and just “hit it off”, they have mainly stuck to their basic sound which their fans delight in. Of course their music has evolved over time and according to Tom, the music on this album is “more of [their] own sound than ever before”. Slight alterations have certainly occurred in their music style although as drummer Jonny puts it, lead singer Gary Lightbody’s voice will always remain “easily recognisable.” They certainly did not go back to the drawing board with their new album, although one cannot blame the band for not straying too far from their proven formula. A small to moderate amount of experimentation is evident on the album, producing more interesting sounds and stronger songs than on Eyes Open.

Their first release from the album, ‘Take Back the City’ is a lively and upbeat track, with a catchy chorus making it easy to sing along to, in fact it’s almost impossible not to. If there is a song to match “Chasing Cars” on the album it has to be “The Planets Bend Between Us”. Gary makes reference to wanting to shout about his love “so they can hear it in America”, which will in all probability charm fans across the Atlantic. The band adds a certain quirkiness to the closing track “The Lightening Strike”, which at sixteen minutes long actually contains three songs. According to Tom these three “were always meant to go together, like a trilogy”. Admittedly Tom’s personal favourite from the album is the third part, “Daybreak”. “Crack the Shutters”, a love song portraying a buoyant disposition is to be the band’s next single, which is available to download already.

Whether the album will be as popular as their last remains to be seen. Influenced by artists such as the Super Furry Animals and the Flaming Lips, Tom remains passionate about the band and his DW drum kit. Jonny’s love for electronic music and klavier synthesiser lives on. After 14 years together as a band, Gary, Tom, Jonny, Paul and Nathan appear to have finally taken the indie/pop world by storm, and we haven’t heard the last of them yet.