Voted Best Irish Band in the 2005 Meteor awards
After a perilous journey too close to the record industry abyss only a few short years ago, Snow Patrol were reborn in 2004 with a recent top ten single and album.
To chart a course for success in today’s music industry is a difficult task. Only a few years ago, around the time of their second LP, When It’s All Over We Still Have To Clear Up, it looked like Snow Patrol were in career freefall. Although the album attracted praise from the national press, and represented a huge leap forward from their debut, Songs for Polar Bears, it was almost impossible to find in the shops, receiving minimal promotion in its attempt to reach the nation’s minds.
Snow Patrol’s then label, Jeepster, had found themselves in financial trouble, and retreated to concentrate on their big act, indie swoonsters Belle and Sebastian. Only a few months after the release of When It’s All Over, Snow Patrol were without a record deal.
Around this time, I happened across the band’s singer and songwriter, Gary Lightbody, as he ambled through the fountains of the Belfast Art College on his way to a gig. He seemed troubled and puzzled, and his usually barbed wit was all but gone.
We found ourselves in the Duke of York, supping a few ill-advised afternoon pints and mourning the band’s recent luck. Lightbody felt that the label had deserted them to some degree, and was justifiably angry at the record’s failure. When It’s All Over had at least enough substance to cause a few ripples in the music industry. To add to their woes, the band had also parted ways with their long-term manager and friend Danny Macintosh. It was not a good time.
In the face of these adversities, Gary Lightbody retreated home to Belfast-based label, Bright Star Recordings, with his Reindeer Section side project in tow. The Reindeer Section was a collection of the Glasgow indie glitterati, featuring members from Arab Strap, Mogwai, and Eugene Kelly from The Vaselines.
The debut Reindeer Section album, Y’all Get Scared Now, Y’Hear? enjoyed modest success, and paved the way for the second release from the collective, Son of Evil Reindeer. It serves as an ironic footnote in the history of Snow Patrol that at this time, Lightbody’s side project had far surpassed the success of his band. The album brushed the charts, and a successful tour of Japan followed.
In the interim between Reindeer Section recordings, Snow Patrol knuckled down to touring and writing whilst searching for a new record deal. They hooked up with Big Life Management in London, and things seemed on the up. Soon a deal was inked with Black Lion Music, an offshoot of Polydor.
In an uncertain industry, Snow Patrol had made it the old fashioned way, with great songs, touring, hard graft, and an ever supportive fan base.
Fast forward to early 2004, and Gary Lightbody is hiding at home on the eve of Snow Patrol’s first proper tour in America. The band’s latest album, Final Straw has peaked at number three in the UK album charts, and its second single, ‘Run,’ reached the heady heights of number five in the singles equivalent. He is in good form, although he admits to being knackered by the ever increasing work schedule.
‘There was a time when we thought it was finished,’ Lightbody admits, ‘we thought we would have to get proper jobs, y’know?’
This is now unlikely to be the case. ‘Run’ and Final Straw have captured the minds of audiences in the UK and Ireland. Is this the pinnacle for Snow Patrol?
‘Yeah, commercially it’s great, but we had a great time even when we were skint and playing gigs to 20 people,’ Lightbody laughs, ‘We’ve always believed in the band which means we were able to have fun even when things weren’t as good as they are now. It’s taken us nearly ten years to get where we are and I have some very memorable times to look back on.’
He is not bitter about the hard times either; in fact he believes that the band is stronger given what they have come through. Does he envision follow up singles hitting the same heady heights?
‘Probably not, it would be nice if they did but we’re not that bothered about commercial success as long as we get to have a career in music. Sometimes in the past we started to think that we wouldn’t ever come back again but things happened just at the right time for us and I’m glad of that.’
In truth, Lightbody has always known what his band was capable of from the very early days. Snow Patrol stand as an example to anyone searching for that elusive, successful music career. They have never compromised in what they set out to do, and have never been swayed by the various agendas at work within the music industry. With them, it has always been about working hard and self-belief. It has finally paid off.