"This is a springboard to do something ballsier" Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody on what's next for the band after 25 years together
"In my life, it hasn’t always been this way where I’m fine with my own company," laughs Gary Lightbody.
The Snow Patrol frontman is speaking to me from LA, where he's been recording. He's as chatty and warm as you would expect with his lovely Northern accent echoing down the phone.
"I’m missing the fresh air that’s for sure. I do miss home when I’m not there for long periods of time. In a general sense, I do loving being in Ireland. My family I miss a lot – I live next door to my parents at home in Bangor and I live next door to my sister as well. She’s literally next door and my mom’s a few doors down, so it's a very close family that we have. So, obviously, I miss them when I’m away."
Being away from home has been part and parcel of life with Snow Patrol – who are celebrating an incredible 25 years together as a band. To mark the milestone, tomorrow they will release Reworked, an album of, as the name suggests, reimagined versions of some of their best-known songs, along with three brand new tracks.
“It’s 25 years this year since we started, and I had the idea for a while that it would be nice to do some acoustic records of them. Johnny McDaid is the one who said: 'No, let’s do something bigger, let’s do something ambitious.'”
Johnny is the main producer in the band and had a fierce determination from the get-go, to give the fans something old, but with a fresh feel.
“He set the studio up in every hotel room, every dressing room that we were in while on the Wildness tour. This album is recorded in a hundred different cities. It was like in every place we had 24 hours in at least, he would set the studio up and he would spend a lot of time on his own producing it.”
The result is a laid-back album that feels on listening as though the band is taking a step back to reflect on an incredible career.
I Think of Home is one track that struck a chord with me on first listen. A lament about home and nature, it hones in on the beauty of being Irish. Gary says that the song was inspired by the late Seamus Heaney.
“After he passed away, his estate built a building called the 'home place' near the town where he grew up, and they asked me to play a show there to open it. I think people wanted me to play three or four of our own songs, but instead I wrote five new songs inspired by him – not by just his poetry, but maybe more what he wrote his poetry about. I wanted to write about Ireland, about nature, conflict, about stuff that Heaney wrote about himself.
"I Think of Home’ is about travelling around. It starts with the first verse in Northern Ireland, and then the rest is about travelling around the rest of Ireland, like I did when myself and my sister were kids. Every single holiday we ever went on was in a caravan around Ireland. My family weren’t particularly political or religious so, you know, I never had any of that sort of stuff that could separate us."
Speaking of identity and divisions, our conversation naturally shifts to Brexit.
"Brexit makes me incredibly depressed and incredibly sad; to think that it was something that was just thrust into our lives and could be so divisive. I read every day about it, I try not to some days but I can’t help myself.
"Hopefully, we will get our heads around what’s maybe going to happen. It does seem rather ramshacklingly put together.
"I’m very proud to be Northern Irish but I’m also very aware of my Irishness and very connected to it. I’ve always felt an affinity."
The five members of Snow Patrol also share a great affinity – something that not all bands can say after 25 years spent so closely together.
"The relationships in the band – we are like brothers. We love each other dearly, and we’d be friends whether we make music or not together. If it wasn’t for Snow Patrol we’d still be friends."
I suggest that Reworked sounds like the closing of a chapter for the band, but Gary is quick to tell me that it's just an in-between stage, and more things are coming.
“We’ve never recorded an album on the road before. It wasn’t a decision to make a gentler album it was just the nature of the way we recorded and where. When you’re in a hotel room or in a dressing room you can’t make any big noise.
“This is a springboard to do something bigger, to do something rockier, to do something heavier and to do something ballsier next time round. It’s not a gentler record because we’re getting older, it’s just because of how it’s recorded.
"Most of our albums have rock elements, but I would love to do a heavier record. I feel like I have one in me, whether that’s with Snow Patrol, or somebody else or it’s with a Snow Patrol side thing we all do together, I don’t know – but there’s definitely a heavy record in there and that’s for sure."
So there's no temptation, after two-and-a-half decades, to take a step back or even call it a day?
"I want to do something new every time we do something, and if you don’t have something new to say, well, then maybe it’s time to put your head down on your desk and zone out. As long as we have something new to say we’ll keep going and I think we have."
Snow Patrol play Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on Tuesday 26th November 2019. Get your tickets here.