“It sounds very self-indulgent, but we just wrote to impress ourselves…” – hmv.com talks to Kodaline
When your bass player crashes a motorbike into tree and breaks his arm, forcing you to cancel a whole load of American tour dates, most bands would spend their time being either annoyed or drunk.
Not Irish pop rock types Kodaline, the Dublin foursome instead ploughed on with working on the follow-up to their much-acclaimed debut In A Perfect World, thinking they’d get down some ideas and then record properly in January and February. What actually happened was something quite different, the ideas and music flowed and, from to start finish, the band ended up putting the album together in just eight weeks.
The album is titled Coming Up For Air and it’s out on Monday (February 9th), it’s a taut collection of pop rock, more synth heavy, both colder and warmer than their debut and far more refined. To find out all about its lightening quick birth, we sat down with guitarist Mark Prendergast…
How long did it take you to put this record together?
“It only took about eight weeks you know? I don’t know how long most people take to make albums but that seems quite quick to me.”
Was that the same for your first album?
“The first album took a lot longer. We were still figuring everything out. We ended up recording songs and then recording them again with different producers. It took twice as long as this. We were supposed to go to America and then Jason (Boland), our bass player, crashed his motorbike into a tree, so we found ourselves with six weeks out of nowhere and we just got it done. We thought we’d be doing it now, but it just happened so quickly.”
Are you always as prolific? Or was this a real purple patch?
“No. We usually take a lot longer over recording, but we’d just come off a long tour and so we were a lot tighter musically and a lot closer as people. If someone had an idea it was turned into a song very, very quickly. It was really, really fun, it definitely wasn’t a difficult second album.”
You recorded in a few different places with different producers, why did you take that approach?
“We did some of the album in LA with a guy called Jacknife Lee and the rest of it in London with a guy called Steve Harris. We also did one song with Johnny from Snow Patrol. It was great actually, working with different people kept us on our toes, it worked out really well.”
How did you decide who to work with?
“Jacknife was our dream producer, he’s a super producer. He’s worked with so many amazing people, he introduced used to new ways of using synths and he opened us up to so much. We had a week in Surrey working and I think we ended up with eight songs. It was all happening so quickly.”
Did you ever stop and think ‘This is all a bit too good to be true’ and wonder if you were getting carried away?
“Yeah. Handing it over was tough, handing over any album is tough, it’s what you have to say and sell for the next two years, it’s you. But we love it, we absolutely love it, everything is better, the songs are better, they’re more fun to play, more fun to listen to, we’re really confident about it.”
Having played some big venues and festivals in your career so far, did you write with bigger stages in mind?
“No, it sounds very self-indulgent, but we just wrote to impress ourselves. We were excited by it, we enjoyed making it, we weren’t afraid of anything. There are a lot more toys on this album too, Jacknife has just got every synth you can think of.”
What kind of record has it ended up being lyrically? You must have been careful not to end up with an album full of songs about hotels and tour buses?
“It’s certainly where many of the lyrics probably started, but they definitely aren’t that! Mostly they come from Steve (Garrigan – Singer), but there’s a song on the record called ‘Autopilot’, which I wrote about a friend of mine who was suffering from really bad depression.”
“There’s another song on the record called ‘The One’, it was written for our engineer, who was getting married, so, as a wedding gift, Steve promised he’d write him a song and forgot until the night before, which it is when it was written. It’s going to be a single too, songs come from the weirdest places.”
Do most of the lyrics come from Steve?
“They do yeah, at the end of the day he’s the one that’s got to sing them. Most have to come from him. I’ve written most of the music for the album though, so I’m pretty happy with that.”
Are you more confident about showing each other songs now?
“Yeah, it’s hard though, you can work really hard on a song, spend days on it, but if the rest of the band hate it, then there’s nothing you can do. It’s why we’re a band though and not songwriters, or why Steve isn’t off doing his thing as a singer-songwriter. We’re stronger together and this album proves that."
You’ve experimented with that a little though, writing songs with other people?
“We’ve done a few sessions with other people, nothing huge has ever come out of it though.”
Where did the title come from?
“We were on the road for two and a half years, so when it came to recording the album, it felt more like time off than anything, we were staying in one place for a month at a time, you’d get evenings off and to unpack. It was like stopping the machine and coming up for air. It was going back to why we make music in the first place.”
Were there many other titles in contention?
“Yeah. There were some absolutely s**t ones. We’ve tried to remember since, but I think your brain just decides it’d be better if you forgot them, once we came up with this one, it stuck, it absolutely made sense.”
What are your plans to take the record out live?
“We’ve got a UK tour, which has some European dates in the middle of that, then we’re off to America for two months. We’ve got this weird presence in America, in some places we’re completely unheard of and still playing tiny shows and in others we’re doing big places. Then we’re going to hit festivals, we’ve got loads booked already and there’s more and more coming in.”
Do you have an appetite for the biggest stages? For arenas?
“We ended our last tour at Brixton Academy and it was unbelievable. Hopefully we’ll be able to look at some really big rooms on the tour after the summer dates.”
Kodaline’s new album Coming Up For Air will be released on Monday (February 9th). It is available for pre-order in store now.