Interview – Kodaline

Steve Gerrard Photography

After dancing along the periphery of the music industry for some time, Kodaline have finally taken the plunge to growing acclaim, drawing comparisons to Dry The River, Bon Iver and even Coldplay. As they launch into 6 months of touring, I popped along to have a chat with a softly spoken Stephen Garrigan and a bouncy Mark Prendergast before their show at the HMV Institue. Turns out Mark and Stephen were just as excited to meet me – a native Brummie – as I was to meet them: the Kodaline boys had just moved to the city and were loving Birmingham life! After enthusiastic chats about pubs we all knew and the best local venues to play, the boys were very adamant that I should let Birmingham Live! readers know of their taking up residence in good ol’ Brum Town…

Mark: Birmingham is our back garden! This is our home away from home we moved here about six months ago.
Stephen: We’re planning on staying here – we’ve just booked another six months. It’s so handy for touring and travelling, and Moseley’s great. The Hare and Hounds is good. There’s so many cool little places to go, and we’ve got a little group of friends to hang out with now.
M: We rehearse in Selly Oak, so we’re always there too.
S: We’ve meant to play at the open mic at the Soak so many times but we just keep missing it!
High Hopes has gone to Number 1 in Ireland, your homeland, and you’ve gained nomination nods from the BBC and MTV in 2012 – how does it feel?
M: It’s really cool. We went home to Ireland on St Paddy’s day, there was a big buzz there.
S: Most people know who we are there, so we getting there gradually. England’s bigger so it’s taking more time.
You’ve got a pretty extensive tour lined up between now and November, how’s it going so far?
S: We’ve been everywhere (In England) the last few weeks.
M: Every gig’s been really good and really different. We’re not getting very much sleep! We went out the other day in Glasgow. We did an acoustic after show-show in the smoking area of a pub.
S: It wasn’t a wild night out, but we just chilled and met some fans; it was nice.
M: People now know two songs (laughs) when they come to the shows, so… you do really have to go for it every night, which I suppose we’d do anyway. It’s good fun.
S: We’ve played shows before when there’s been no-one there, so it’s just good to have people actually come. It’s important that they do! And we’re doing a bunch of festivals…
M: We’re doing little bits as well: regular shows, shooting videos, doing a television program in France, going to America.
S: We’re touring indefinitely really! But our album’s out in June, which is what we’re really looking forward to.
M: I love the randomness of touring, every night you meet loads of new people. We’ll sometimes just do an open mic somewhere.
S: We’re still trying to get our heads around the different accents in different areas (of England). We walked into a pub the other day and the guy over the bar says (imitates broad Northern accent) “Whaddaya haaavin’?” and I was like “Whoooaah, that’s an accent!” he goes (seriously) “We ain’t got no accent around here!”. It’s great to have new experiences and visit new cities. This is the first headline gig we’ve done in Birmingham.

Steve Gerrard Photography
Most of your videos have such tragic stories! Do you have a hand in shaping the story-boards?
M: We just approve them, we don’t write them.
S: We had a guy called Stevie Russell from Dublin do the High Hopes video on the Isle of Wight. All we wanted was the song and the video to compliment each other as opposed to just having… y’know…
M: Random s***.
S: (Laughs) Yeah, just random visuals – which works for some kinds of music, I know. It works for rap, doesn’t it?
M: Yeah, the MGMT video with the dolphins and s*** (Time To Pretend, FYI), that’s amazing. That wouldn’t really work for us.
S: We wanted our videos to have a message and to compliment the sounds, which we’re still trying to do. We’re shooting a new video next week, and for the first time we’re actually going to be in it.
(Given that none of the bands previous six videos actually feature Kodaline themselves) Oh my gosh..! Your faces on the screen!
M: (Laughs) Yeah! TA-DAAAAAAH!
S: I’ve never acted before in my life so I’m a bit scared. Hopefully it works out well. It looks good on paper.
M: High Hopes was a shock when I first saw it, because the actor Liam Cunningham (of Game of Thrones fame) was in it, and he’s one of those people you recognise. We have no idea how we got him!
S: When we initially got the outline information for the video, Liam Cunningham was an example of the kind of person who would be perfect for the role, and then I think he heard the song and he liked it and then was just… in it. He’s a bit of an Irish hero. Plus our bass player James is a massive Game of Thrones fan.
At the start of your career, you were called 21 Demands. Why the name change?
S: People ask about that occasionally. ‘Cause we grew up together we’ve always played together, plus everything else in between like skateboarding and stuff. When we were playing together when we were about 16 or 17 we called ourselves 21 Demands. We didn’t really know what we were doing and didn’t really have a voice… our songs were terrible. In Ireland we did a TV show and then ended up having a Number 1 hit, but then after that we just completely shied away from everything.
M: We still don’t really know what we’re doing!
S: Yeah, you’re always learning. But back then we REALLY didn’t know what we were doing. Our music now is very much our diary, things that have happened to us. You have to grow older a little in order to write about experiences and stuff like that.
Tell us about working with producer Steve Harris (who has worked with U2, Dave Matthews Band, and Kaiser Chiefs among others) on the new album In A Perfect World.
M: (Gleefully) Another Brummie!
S: He’s a good guy.
M: He’s, like, our friend now.
You sound so surprised that you have friends?!
(Both laugh)
S: Yeah, well, we’ve felt like outsiders (in England) for a while, but we’re working our way in. We’re best friends with Steve Harris.
M: He lives in Yorkshire, so we spent quite a lot of time up there recording. He and Martin from our label are the ones that suggested we move here.
S: The album was written over the past eighteen months to two years. We wrote a lot of it in the middle of Ireland in Mark’s parent’s house, in the back-end of nowhere! But a lot of our EP’s photos were taken there.
M: We recorded in a few different studios.
S: We did a bit up in Rockfield Studios in Wales. It was really cool because The Pixies were recording there when we were! They’d be playing next door, and then we’d just be walking along, passing them with a cup of tea like: “Hey, how are ya?”. We finished it before Christmas, so we’ve been sitting on it for ages.
M: We closed the album in Birmingham, did the final mixes here, in Highbury Studio with a friend of ours called John Mostyn (previous manager of The Beat and Ocean Colour Scene).
S: It’s a bit daunting as the release date approaches, because it’s our first album, but the more people who hear it – the better. At the end of the day it’s up to them whether they like it or not. The response to new songs in the live shows has been good so far.
M: And we still love playing them, which is good!
What do you feel you’re bringing to the music scene right now that sets you apart from other artists whom you might be compared with?
Both: That’s a really good question… (They mumble and ruminate on this for a minute or two)
M: Er… Brilliance? (Both laugh) No. Um…
S: That’s really… strange, because music is only any one person or a group of people’s opinion. All we have is our opinion. It’s a pretty s***ty, vague answer, but I don’t know… it’s what our music is…
M: It’s honest. With a kick of Irish irony as well.
S: It’s four Irish guys… with no friends! (Laughs) Nah, we do have friends now, they’ve said they’re coming tonight so they should be coming!
… and given that the show sold out, I’m pretty sure they did!

Interview by Jenny Bulcraig

Photos by Steve Gerrard

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