Forget all the chatter about solo albums and injuries sustained on the road: Snow Patrol are revelling in the end of a triumphant year, one which saw Eyes Open become the biggest selling album in the UK in ‘06, as well as making serious inroads Stateside.
Despite shifting close to two million copies of their Eyes Open album in the past 12 months, pop stardom, it appears, doesn’t hold much interest for Snow Patrol and if the thought of the Belfast quintet sharing a stage with Britney, Black Eyed Peas and Flea seems weird to you, imagine for a second how they must feel.
“Did Britney hit someone?” asks Connolly. “I must have missed that. To be honest, we didn’t linger. We did our bit and left. It was all very bizarre – American awards shows are different from the ones over here. They’re really big and brash. Not at all our kind of thing.”
Snow Patrol flew to LA from Las Vegas, scene of the video shoot for their next US single, ‘You’re All I Have’. The promo was overseen by David Goyer, a director and screenwriter whose credits, rather bizarrely, include Blade Trinity and Batman Begins.
“We’re not really fans of making videos,” says Connolly of their sojourn in The Killers’ home town. “Up until now we’ve been lucky because all everyone wants us to do is stand there and play in front of the camera. There’s no need for any acting. I don’t think we could do that if we tried.”
On this side of the Atlantic the major talking point among Snow Patrol fans has, of course, been singer Gary Lightbody’s recent bombshell that both he and Connolly are planning solo albums in the new year. Actually, says Connolly, people have been reading too much into what was an off the cuff comment.
“Nothing’s definite. We’ve still got another 12 months of Snow Patrol to go before we can even start thinking of what happens next,” he ventures. “We can’t really look beyond that. Gary was answering a question as to whether he’d ever like to do a solo record. We were shocked at how much it was blown out of proportion. I suppose it’s nice to know that people care that much about what we do.”
Hypothetically speaking, if Connolly was to record a solo record how would it sound? (Lightbody hinted that he wanted to make an electro album and that Connolly had something more pastoral in mind).
“God, I don’t know,” Nathan says, a little reticently. “It hasn’t even crossed my mind. I guess I’ll find out if I ever sit down to write it!”
For now, Snow Patrol have an Ireland and UK tour to worry about. On their winter dates, they’ll be joined by Lisa Hannigan, Damien Rice’s muse and foil (she also duetted with Lightbody on the recent Cake Sale charity album). Taking time out from her busy schedule of sitting next to Rice and looking waifishly glum, Hannigan is to fill in for Martha Wainwright on slow-burn ballad ‘Set The Fire To The Third Bar’.
“Lisa has an absolutely amazing voice,” Connolly gushes. “It’s soulful, passionate – we did the song with her at soundcheck today [the band play Manchester’s Evening News Arena in a few hours] and I was blown away. I would say it’s a different voice to Martha, not an inferior one – she just brings something to the song and transforms it into something else. Obviously it was great to be able to ask her as we’ve known both her and Damien for a while.”
On the subject of Damien Rice – was Connolly surprised by the arguably underwhelming reception accorded to the Kildare strummer’s new album, especially in the US, where it limped into the Billboard 100 at number 22? In contrast to Snow Patrol, Rice has taken a rather sniffy attitude towards touring. Certainly, one can’t imagine him slogging his guts out across the US. Connolly & Co. on the other hand have spent the summer touring their socks off. Does Rice’s reticence risk harming his career?
“America is a very, very demanding place. You’ve really got to commit to it in a serious way. There’s nothing wrong with that. But they do expect you to put the effort in.”
Recently Snow Patrol’s US profile received an enormous gee-up with the inclusion of ‘Chasing Cars’ on the soundtrack to the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy: “That song has really opened doors for us over there, to an unbelievable extent. Obviously, it can be a bit of a curse when you become too closely associated with a television show. But in this case I think the benefits more than outweigh any downside.”
Still, the year has not passed entirely without mishap. During the summer Lightbody came down with a throat infection, forcing the band to call off several shows. Two months later, bassist Paul Wilson put his shoulder out, pulling the plug on several further dates. At the time some mystery surrounded the precise nature of Wilson’s injury – it turns out to have been a muscle strain which he ignored until the pain became too great for him to carry on.
“It certainly wasn’t any rock ‘n roll high-jinks,” Connolly laughs. “He should have had it seen to, but when you’re on the road you’re in such a weird head-space. You don’t always take care of things as quickly as you should. In the end he simply had to have it looked at.”
Cancelled dates did little to slow the Snow Patrol juggernaut, however. By year’s end, the group have eclipsed the Arctic Monkeys to bag the title of best-selling UK album: since its release Eyes Open has shifted over 1.2 million copies cross-channel. Not bad for a band who, just four years ago, were dropped by the tiny independent label they were then on.
“Selling millions of records was so far from our minds when we sat down to make Eyes Open,” Connolly maintains. “We were just delighted that we had the opportunity to make another album. I know that sounds like false modesty, but it’s the honest truth.”