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Snow Patrol Turn 25

Airports, Adrenaline and Audiences United

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Toby Hambly
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You can’t describe Snow Patrol without superlatives and very large numbers. They’ve amassed 17 million global album sales, more than a billion streams, five UK platinum albums and this year their ballad, ‘Chasing Cars’ was officially decreed to be the most played song on UK radio of the 21st century. Currently preparing for a tour of the UK and Ireland, the band’s newest album Reworked features 13 reimagined versions of classics as well as three new songs. Having recently played to 35,000 fans in Bangor at their own festival, Ward Park 3, we caught up with guitarist Nathan Connolly to discuss globetrotting, reworking old favourites and the music scene in Northern Ireland.

Whereabouts are you in the world Nathan?

I’m at home in London. We’ve got this month off – I say ‘off’, we’re not touring. We finished touring at the start of September and we’re now just getting ready for the Reworked Tour and the Reworked album, so we’re getting ready to go into rehearsals in a couple weeks. There’s a lot happening but it’s relaxed and I’m at home for the first time in about a year.

You recently played China for the first time, is that right?

Yeah we did, we were out in Asia and Australia – we’ve been to Australia many times but it was our first time in China and that was great. We didn’t know what to expect, which is part of the excitement about going to places you’ve never been. We’ve toured Australia, America, Europe, and Scandinavia and on the last record we properly got round South America so it’s still nice to have places to go where you haven’t been. The reaction in China was just brilliant, they were fantastic.

Do you get nervous in the same way that you did starting out?

No – I think you certainly get adrenaline before the show; I guess that’s a form of nerves. I certainly don’t feel nervous, there are other situations in life I probably feel more nervous in than walking out onto a stage! We’ve been doing it for such a long time – and it’s not like it’s become mundane or anything – it just feels comfortable.

Touring all over the world must have made you into a bit of a connoisseur of airports and motorways.

Yeah the weird thing is when you start realising where you are in the world from walking through the airport. I guess it’s not that weird when you’re travelling all the time, but it’s a weird by-product that you end up knowing your way blindfolded round certain airports.

Saying hi to staff?

You know thankfully we haven’t quite got there – ah no! We have, certainly going in and out of Belfast there are some familiar faces.

Onto the Reworked project – what motivated you guys to go back into these songs and reimagine them?

The main reason is it’s our 25th year as a band and we wanted to do something to mark that. We also did Ward Park 3, which was the third time we’d done that big homecoming show – it was great to be able to do that in our 25th year. It was interesting going through old songs and reworking them. A lot of those versions will be played on the tour, a lot of them won’t. Certain songs changed dramatically – even just the context of certain lyrics makes them sound different or have a different tone or feel to them because we’ve changed the music. There were certainly moments where I’d rewrite a guitar line or play a different riff and it was like, ‘Holy shit, I should have done that the first time!’ I don’t know whether that’s because it makes it fresh for me or it’s just the enjoyment of it, but it’s a nice thing.

Ward Park 3 looked like an incredible day. It all came together for you guys even though you were a bit ill, is that right?

So it was the Saturday and we arrived in on the Thursday night straight from LA and three of us just – I don’t know what we got on the plane – but we were all just wrecked. We’d been touring really heavily at that point – we just did a six week tour of the States before it. Everyone was feeling pretty crap but we were very excited about it and we spent a lot of our day catching the other acts that we picked. Once you get towards stage time, once you get on stage the adrenaline takes over and things like that don’t matter – it was another great day in Ward Park. We’ll not forget that it quickly, that’s for sure.

You’ve always taken it upon yourselves to highlight other musicians from Northern Ireland – could you pick out some acts that we should get acquainted with?

Absolutely, I’ll give you a few that all played that day. There’s an amazing young woman called ROE, she’s doing amazing things. It’s electro-pop, just her on her own and she’s playing keys, drumbeats, guitar – it’s just brilliant to watch and her songs are incredibly infectious. There’s a great rock band called The Wood Burning Savages, they’re just fantastic. The singer Paul Connolly is a joy to watch live, he looks like he’s having the best time of his life. There’s also Ryan McMullan, he actually supported us a few times on tour. He’s an amazing singer-songwriter – kind of following in the footsteps of Foy Vance, that kind of world. There’s another artist, JC Stewart, he’s fantastic. Then obviously you’ll know people like SOAK and Two Door Cinema Club, who played as well. There’s so many great artists coming out of Northern Ireland, there’s an abundance of them and they’re incredibly diverse, it’s just thriving there. If you take someone like ROE, she’s 20 and it’s incredible what she’s doing. I certainly wasn’t as gifted when I was 20.

It’s great that you’ve got to where you are and you’re providing that platform for the up-and-comers.

Well thank you – it wasn’t quite the same when we were growing up. There was support there and there was a scene but it wasn’t anywhere near as thriving as it is today. There have been many great Northern Irish bands – Therapy? Ash, The Undertones, Van Morrison. There were certainly people that paved the way for us so we feel proud and honoured to be part of that tradition. It also keeps you on your toes – it’s like a healthy jealousy, you know? It inspires you to make better records and keep an eye on what’s coming behind you. I think a lot of these people are going to go on to do incredible things.

The environment around us in this country has got a lot more tense in recent years – do you think it’s even more significant now to hear young voices from Northern Ireland?

Certainly in our music, we’ve avoided talking about politics or taking political stances. I think a lot of that is because of where we’re from. There was a great divide there and we’ve always tried to unify rather than separate. Music’s an amazing thing for that – I know it sounds like a cheesy line. Not just in Northern Ireland but everywhere. There are people who have very different stances or political views – that’s fine, that’s the whole point – but when you’re at a gig, you look out to an audience and you’re not thinking that in the moment. The reality is that a lot of people in there will have conflicting ideas but they can all get along.

Snow Patrol bring their Reworked tour to New Theatre Oxford on 16 November, see snowpatrol.com for tickets.

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