:: Snow Patrol :: 93.3’s Not So Silent Ball :: Fillmore Auditorium :: December 5 ::
By Brian Kenney
Timing is everything. Elvis showed up at just the right time. The stars aligned, the world sighed, and we were just waiting for him. He had perfect timing. The Beatles, likewise. America was just waiting for the Liverpool lads to deplane on that fateful February day.
For Snow Patrol, they’ve never really changed their craft, but it seems like their timing wasn’t always aligned with fate. For more than a decade, the States were never really ready for them — until 2006.
Creeping in silently like a stealthy avalanche, Snow Patrol has taken the country by storm this year, gathering momentum on varying degrees of airplay, which since summer’s end has found the band in heavy radio rotation. From the hypnotic simplicity of “Chasing Cars” to the heavy erruption of “Hands Open,” 2006’s Eyes Open presents a textural opera based on the themes of loneliness, desolation and solitude. “I was quite an introspective kid,” said Gary Lightbody in a recent interview with The Marquee. The Snow Patrol vocalist, lyricist and founder said that the pensive and meditative nature of his music could have come from that introspection. “I wasn’t that sociable. I didn’t really get the kind of confidence I have now until I was in my late teens. So I spent a lot of the time reading poetry and literature.”
Ironically enough, Lightbody found company with other semi-introverts who shared the same musical appreciation and ambition: drummer Jonny Quinn and bassist Mark McClelland. They formed the core of what was then called Polar Bear in Belfast, circa 1995, releasing a couple of minor league discs, before second guitarist Nathan Connolly came into the fold in 2001. (Jane’s Addiction bassist Eric Avery also had a band named Polar Bear around the same time and with more clout than Lightbody’s band, the boys eventually became Snow Patrol.)
The band found humble success of a British nature with this combination and the release of Final Straw in 2004. Yet, with close to double-platinum status worldwide for Final Straw, Snow Patrol’s timing in the States was still years away.
On the cusp of what was to be a monumental 2005, Lightbody and original member McClelland’s relationship strained, with the latter departing in the early portion of the year, leaving Snow Patrol to add Paul Wilson on bass. After building upon the success of Final Straw, they were launched into higher rotation in heavier markets and, as a result, higher profile shows — the pinnacle being the opening slot for U2’s European jaunt on the Vertigo Tour. “When you see them [U2] projecting to every last person in the arena and connecting on that level so effortlessly, it’s amazing. And the thought crossed our minds that, hell, maybe we can do that! But they’ve been doing it for 25 years. So we have a lot to learn in that department and we’re having to learn it pretty fast,” Lightbody said.
Velocity is an apt term in describing what Snow Patrol has come upon in 2006. After a decade, things are happening pretty fast for the band. “Every day’s a school day. We still feel like a new band in terms of our enthusiasm and naïveté,” said Lightbody.
Lately, Snow Patrol are earning their own arena status. Having begun the year at mid-sized to large theaters, they will leave 2006 having played at a number of high profile festivals. In the coming year, they’ll play even larger venues, some of them arenas, before turning to the summer for another festival run. “Even though it’s been 10 years, the larger shows have kind of crept up on us and suddenly they’re here. And it’s not like we’re not prepared, and as a live band I think we’re pretty good,” Lightbody said, his Irish brogue overflowing with honesty. “But now the shows are no longer about a gig. It’s about just that: a show. And that’s the difference between a gig and a show. Now we’ve got to arrive in the mothership like Parliament Funkadelic,” he said with a laugh.
But even in front of 20,000 or more countless admirers (as it was when the band performed at Live 8, both in London and Edinburgh), solitude is a personal theme that preoccupies Lightbody. Perhaps solitude and introspection are what led to the departure of founding bassist McClelland early in 2005 as the band neared the recording session for Eyes Open. “I like to write the lyrics on my own and shut myself off from everything. Maybe that’s why my songs tend to be so emotional and relationship-based,” said Lightbody.
Nevertheless, said Lightbody, Eyes Open accomplished its goals of sounding bigger without sounding overproduced, even if its themes are minimalist. “[We wanted to] make a gigantic sounding record. And I think we achieved that,” he said.
But perhaps as a disillusioned teen who grows out of the angst that introversion breeds, the Eyes Open World Tour has turned Lightbody onto bigger themes. Perhaps it was the sobering effect of losing his voice so early on in the spring tour, having to cancel a handful of U.S. dates that the band was so primed to play. Perhaps it was their performance at Live 8. Hell, perhaps for Lightbody, it was turning 30. Nonetheless, he has a wider focus on his place in music.
“I’m not that political as a person, but it seems to be more difficult to keep it [politics]at a distance anymore, so I think the wider world will be incorporated into my lyrics in the future. And I don’t mean that they will become militant and political, but I’ll talk about relationships in a wider scope. It’s just hard to ignore what’s going on in our time,” he said.
Ultimately, maybe it’s a sense that without music Lightbody is but a shell of himself: “I don’t have kids…” he said pensively. “But the closest thing to probably having kids…is having records.”
:: Snow Patrol ::
:: 93.3’s Not So Silent Ball ::
:: Fillmore Auditorium :: December 5 ::
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