This autumn, Snow Patrol will embark on a UK/IE-wide tour in celebration of their forthcoming Reworked album, due 8th November. Industry accolades and career-affirming milestones have been rolling in since the five piece released their long-awaited seventh studio album, Wildness, last May; completing a third appointment at Bangor’s Ward Park last year (which saw the band curate an all-day line up of Northern Irish music, then headline to a subtle 35,000 gathering of fans), and even more headline-grabbing was PPL’s certification of ‘Chasing Cars’ as the most played song on UK radio of the 21st Century.
Taking stock of their long history and moving ever forwards Reworked sees Snow Patrol re-interpreting old favourites, alongside the addition of new and previously unreleased works. The 16-date tour opens in Cardiff on the 13th of November, and concludes in London on December 5th, for the second part of a two-night spectacular at the iconic Royal Albert Hall. Many of the shows are now sold out, but a few dates still have availability, and the remaining tickets can be purchased here.
Ahead of the album release and tour, we hopped on a phone call with Snow Patrol’s drummer Jonny Quinn, to discuss Reworked at length, mull over the band’s 25 year run (so far), and dig into the many reasons why this band’s music connects with so many on such a profound level.
First off, we must talk about the upcoming release of Reworked. Who brought the initial idea to the table and when did the project start to take form?
Jonny Quinn: “Well… probably about a year ago. I think Gary [Lightbody] brought it to the table because we wanted to do something for our 25th anniversary—and we’d done a ‘reworked’ tour about ten years ago, and a lot of people had been asking us to do another tour like that, and if we could release some of the songs, because we’d recorded it live, so we thought it was the right time to put out a record. And also we had a few new songs that we had in the can that we thought wouldn’t go on the next album, so we get to add three new songs to it as well. It’s a good way of tying up the end of the year with a theatre tour, it means we can play a lot of the older songs as well, that we wouldn’t normally play in an arena.”
Reworked essentially is a retrospective but it also looks forward and reinvents the classic Snow Patrol sound, it’s all about new interpretations of old songs, as well as a vessel to introduce some never-before-heard tracks. So, what did the process look like?
JQ: “Well, Johnny [McDaid] in the band, he’s a producer, he always has his studio on the road so we just have a… in the dressing room, we just have a studio set up and then people could go in… Gary can record a vocal, and you know, do guitar parts. So it was one of those things, it wasn’t really put into to one studio session, it was just over time. There’s no kind of commercial pressure on it in any way, and a lot of it’s very stripped back so it’s kind of the opposite of what we do, so that was the process. Iain Archer—who used to be in the band—he’s a writer/producer, he did a lot of the songs as well in his studio at home in Brighton, so he would send them back and forwards to us, just asking us for direction and notes on it.”
Snow Patrol has a vast catalogue of music, the hits stand out, as do the fan favourites. As a band, how do you incorporate the desire to please your audience as well as yourselves when designing a set list, for example?
JQ: “How do we do that?
“Pfft. Well, we’ve got about 100 songs for this tour, so we’re trying… well, whatever one sounds the best, gets played. We have a whole catalogue of stuff and then we’ll change the set up a bit, but we’re doing two and a half hours every night, we’re doing an intermission, there’s no support act so there’s quite a lot of material. And again, with the record, we’ll be playing songs that we wouldn’t get away with, like, if we were doing a normal tour, let’s say. Lesser known songs that we just really love, but if we played them in an arena people would just be going to the bar, so, it affords us a lot more choice, for us, and a lot of the fans who asked for songs that we can’t play [in a regular gig], we can play them on the Reworked tour.”
Big question: do you find it easy to listen to your own music?
JQ: “No. [Jonny says bluntly before bursting into laughter.]
“One thing we don’t do is… until we’re doing this kind of thing, where we have to go back over stuff. But no, it’s not something… you just always want to do something new all the time so we don’t tend to sit at home and play any of the old stuff. Very rarely. Especially the early stuff. [Jonny laughs.] It just kind of annoys me some of it, “Aw God, why did I do that? Why, I should’ve done something better.””
Emotion is much at the heart of Snow Patrol’s music, the shows act as a visual manifestation joining band and audience together in one moment and space in time. From the band’s perspective, what first drew you to writing in this way?
JQ: “Well, because we’re emotional beings. I think it’s lyrics that a lot of our audience are… I think that strikes the chord in a lot of people where they recognise things that… and it’s not always very uplifting but it can be because people can identify the feelings or recognise stuff that’s happened to them or other people, so I think that’s the emotional connection that people have with it. And then, basically, if that backs up with that theory then you will have people coming back for that, and that’s their moment, those songs, they have been a soundtrack to their lives at some point.”
As artists and musicians, what intrigues you the most about human emotion—and why is it so interesting or important to write about?
JQ: “Well, you know, without music I don’t know how people do that! [Jonny laughs.] It’s just one of those things where… I think it’s just a good way of you understanding the world around you, yourself, whether you’re happy/sad, angry—there’s a song for everything. Every mood. And you know, it’s quite a terrifying thing for songs to be someone’s absolute favourite song or that something that they play and keep wanting to come back and hear at a gig, and that’s something [as] musicians… you don’t set out to do that but that’s the result of it and it’s a very special thing to see people being affected by. You know, I think you take what you want out of a gig, it’s like going to the cinema and coming out and sort of forgetting where you’ve been for those two hours, because it’s just distracted you from the day, the struggles of life or whatever. I think that’s your job as a musician to do, it’s to take people out of normality, sometimes it’s about distraction in a positive way.”
Charlotte, BSS: “Well said.”
I see the upcoming Reworked tour as a special event; a celebration of Snow Patrol’s history and career, as well as a nod to music’s expressive nature in general—the way a song is infinite and unconstrained. How a song can take on different forms through its lifetime, and how a new arrangement can make a song something else entirely. So, when you think about songs like ‘Run’ or ‘Chasing Cars’ and where they started out, to what they’ve become, how do you comprehend that?
JQ: “Well, we thought ‘Run’ was a B-side when we first recorded it—so we didn’t ever think it was a single… we’re very unaware of some of the music that we make until it’s released. I remember playing ‘Run’ before it was released and people sort of clapped for that song, longer, twice as long as anything else, so we were like, “Oh! Okay.” So, I dunno, we’re kind of too close to the trees to see the woods sometimes with that, and we’ve never sat down to write a ‘hit’ because I think that’s really impossible to do, it’s one of those things that, you know, big songs come out after you write hundreds of songs. And then sometimes, I’ve thought that certain songs would really resonate and they didn’t, they have to me but not to the audience side. It’s an interesting thing, I don’t know whether we have control over that. You just put it out there and see how it connects to people, sometimes it doesn’t for whatever reason.”
A small but recurring element that I think is just as symbolic to the band’s longevity as it is to its reliability: Gary Lightbody’s guitar strap. A few variations can be seen on stage, but it’s something that’s always stood out to me. Can you tell us more about that?
JQ: “The one that he has with the three white lines on it or…?”
Charlotte, BSS: “Yeah that’s it.”
JQ: “Yeah, I think that’s just a random thing that he hadn’t thought about, that someone else has done. There’s no kind of code behind it or secret message. [Jonny giggles.] Yeah, just to let you know, there’s nothing very clever about it, or well, at least he hasn’t told me, this may be something that [has] been going on, that he’s worked out, and I don’t know about it; we’ve never discussed it. But maybe! I must ask him actually. That’s a good point. I’ll say: “Is there something behind this?””
Are there any other significant or sentimental pieces of kit or gear that have really stood the test of time?
JQ: “Ooooh. Well, Nathan’s guitar that his Dad bought him, it wasn’t a very expensive guitar, but he still plays that, and it sounds brilliant, it sounds as good as those really expensive ones. Yeah it’s just a standard subs guitar, it just sounds fantastic for some reason, nobody knows why. But, I mean, equipment-wise we’ve changed our equipment so much over the years, a lot of it didn’t travel very well so we started to use… Gary had tinnitus so we’ve had to take all the amps off the stage and put them under the stage, so we’re using a different kind of system where there’s no sound on stage apart from my drums. So yeah, nothing’s kind of stuck with us all those years. Pretty much evolves all the time.”
It makes sense to culminate on the topic of the 25-year anniversary. Congratulations, first off. What a huge accomplishment. Reflecting on the hurdles and high points you’ve experienced over the course of the band’s history, what is it that keeps you going? What roots the five of you together?
JQ: “Well… it’s because it’s a very special job to be able to do. I think when you’ve been doing it this long… you know, you never set out thinking you’ll be together 25 years, it’s more like, “Can I sell out that 200 capacity gig?,” that’s how far you see ahead, you know. And we didn’t have any big plans to have the industry success like this, when we started out, so it’s almost kind of one of those things where you look back, like: “Oh, how was that 25 years? How’s it been that long?” and none of us would be much good at anything else really. So, you just hope that you can keep doing what you love, and if people keep turning up then we can keep doing it, and they have, even after the massive break we had there, for about seven years. There’s one thing, for us, creating new music, we have to have the same fire about it that we did at the beginning. So, it’s always trying to [lead with that]… “You haven’t made your best record yet” attitude. We’re always trying to nail that, get that record that’s… I don’t know, is better than anything we’ve done, so you have to always forget the past. Keep working at trying to do something fresh and better, really. Better song. You’re always looking for that one magical song. That elusive one. [Jonny chuckles.]”
Charlotte, BSS: “Well, I think ‘Wildness’ is a great album.”
JQ: “Oh brilliant, thanks.”
Charlotte, BSS: “Well, thank you for your time. I think that’s everything.”
JQ: “Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you very much for the interview.”
Charlotte, BSS: “Thank you.
“Enjoy your day. Bye.” [As I say this, Jonny’s also sending his regards and signing off. We speak in unison so the responses are a little jumbled.]
JQ: “Okay, well, have a good day.
[In response] “You too. Cheers. Buh bye.”
Snow Patrol’s Reworked album is due 8th November via Polydor Records – various formats and bundles are available to pre-order, here.
The Reworked tour dates are, as follows:
13th – CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena
14th – PLYMOUTH Pavilions
16th – OXFORD New Theatre
17th – LLANDUDNO Venue Cymru
19th – NOTTINGHAM Royal Concert Hall
20th – LONDON Royal Albert Hall
21st – IPSWICH Regent Theatre
23rd – LEICESTER De Montfort Hall
24th – BRIGHTON Centre
26th – DUBLIN Olympia Theatre
28th – BELFAST Waterfront
29th – BELFAST Waterfront
1st – MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
2nd – EDINBURGH Usher Hall
3rd – EDINBURGH Usher Hall
5th – LONDON Royal Albert Hall