Snow Patrol

Letters from Scotland

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By Gary Graff  

Scotland's Snow Patrol are a classic case of good things coming to those who wait. The quintet, formed in 1997 while its members were still in college, released a pair of independent albums before breaking big with Final Straw in 2004, which sold more than two million copies in Great Britain, and then topping the U.K. charts in 2006 with the anthemic masterwork Eyes Open.

In addition to earning the band its own headline status, the success also netted Snow Patrol an opening stint with U2 on the European leg of its Vertigo Tour. Recent vocal problems suffered by Gary Lightbody slowed the momentum a bit, but guitarist Nathan Connolly says the band still has its eyes open, and looking as far forward as possible.

Q: What was Snow Patrol seeking on Eyes Open?

Connolly: I think the main sort of idea was to make a more confident record, I suppose -- more confident as musicians, more confident as songwriters, confident as a band in general. That was the main thing we wanted to do, to make a bolder record and a bit more of a rock record. I think The Final Straw, as proud of it as we were, is a little timid in places. We just didn't go with it as much as maybe we should have. That's kind of what I think we managed to do this time. We're very proud of this record.

Q: How are Gary's lyrics integrated into what the band does?

Connolly: He works on them sort of constantly throughout the record, but he doesn't do anything 'til the very last moment. I think he likes to do that so that when he actually puts those lyrics down at the very last minute they're the freshest thing in his mind. That's the way he does it.

Q: Are you sure it's not to minimize the rest of the band's ability to make him change them?

Connolly: It could be that (laughs), but, no, I don't think so. I think he's a great lyricist. I think there's an honesty and an almost confessional attitude. I think that's why our songs connect with people, the fact they can tell that about his lyrics. Our music is honest. It's us. We're not trying to pretend to be anything else. This is the music we create, and we've always done music for ourselves. It's amazing that people respect and like it, too.

Q: You joined the band in 2001, after the second album (When It's All Over We Still Have to Clear Up). How has Snow Patrol changed in that time?

Connolly: I think -- it really is a key word -- it's confidence, really. I know from when I joined I've definitely become a better musician than I was when I joined, which is definitely the right way to do it. I just think we're learning more with each record -- not just about music but the business and how to work and better ourselves as a band, to keep our feet on the ground and kind of be ourselves. We just do what we do and not get caught up in believing your own bullshit, 'cause then you're fucked.

Q: How was it touring with U2?

Connolly: It was an incredible experience. I don't think there's any other answer. I'm honored to be asked in the first place, and just to see how they do it, and we were treated with the utmost respect by their crew and them. It's amazing that they're the biggest band in the world and they're incredibly down to earth. Everybody eats in the same catering area, including them. It's a very kind of relaxed atmosphere, not what some people might expect, which is really very comforting. It's definitely one of the high points of our career so far.

Gary Graff writes extensively about music. His work has appeared widely in such publications as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Detroit Free Press, and Billboard.