Evie Kissack speaks to Jonny Quinn, Snow Patrol’s eminent drummer, about the band’s return to the recording studio and the sensitive messages behind the songs on the new album, 'Wildness'. 

Back in May 2018, Snow Patrol released their highly anticipated new album ‘Wildness’ - their first album in seven years. Returning to the music scene with impact, the band also announced a huge supporting tour that will head out across the United States, before returning to Europe at the end of the year and into the beginning of 2019. After an extended period of time away from recording, the new album continues Snow Patrol’s repertoire and takes it in a new, glorious direction.

‘Wildness’ attempts to find this connection and clarity in the midst of the frantic modern world. The album is a bold, emotional and refreshingly honest work, one that raises Snow Patrol to an entirely new artistic level. 


So ‘Wildness’ was released on 25 May – the first album in seven years! How did you feel leading up to the album’s release

It’s nerve-racking, but comes with a sense of relief at the same time. We just did our first gig, which was great fun. You know, it felt like people were really happy to see us back. We were quite well rehearsed this time, which is always nice…


[Laughter] How has it been getting back in the studio to work on an album after such a long break?

Well we had several attempts over the years to record, each month we thought we were ready to go…and Gary’s been well documented about his writing block. The music was there, but I think he needed something to write about, which was important. So it’s not just for the sake of it. He probably needed to get it right in terms of that. It was definitely longer than we had imagined – the break – but it’s better late than never.


It has definitely been worth the wait. I’ve just been listening to the album - it’s quite different to some of your previous works. It feels raw and organic, but keeps the classic ‘Snow Patrol sound’. Can you tell me a little about the title ‘Wildness’?

I suppose it relates to the wildness of the world at the moment. It might be just a perception thing, because of the media, but it seems fitting with the chaos that often surrounds us. Lyrically, a lot of the songs relate to what Gary has personally gone through. He’s talked a lot about his depression, and overcoming that. Him being able to give up booze was a huge thing, for the last two years. He’s been talking about that, and his dad’s dementia…various subjects. 

It’s a very moving, personal album. In the studio, do you tend to work from the lyrics Gary produces? 

He would send a lot of stuff through GarageBand and he would go into the studio with Jacknife [Lee] to lay the tracks down, and then we would all come together. We had about three different recording sessions, we used our producer’s house, which is like a tiny little garage – it really isn’t a fancy studio at all. I suppose that whole ‘organic rawness’ you’re talking about is due to that. Musically, actually, we had a really good time. I think you do get the ‘red light syndrome’ that people talk about. When you’re in the studio you get the feeling of ‘Right, we’ve got to write a hit’ so I think there’s a kind of honesty about the sound of it this time. We just didn’t rely on layers of guitars; we’ve had walls of guitars with loads of strings before. It’s written very acoustic-based, so I think the ‘Snow Patrol sound’ comes from Gary’s voice a lot of the time. But even then, there are a couple of times where he sounds like Rod Stewart, or something [Laughter]. It’s not us repeating ourselves, anyway. That was one of the key things. 


I agree. It has such a distinct sound, and it is very honest – something that probably stems from the writing and recording conditions. You mentioned you have worked again with your producer Jacknife. Why do you think this collaboration works so well?

Well, we just know each other very well. Jacknife works on a lot of other albums in-between times, so he brings a lot of stuff to the table, experience-wise. I guess we should have tried working with someone else at some point, but you know, the collaboration seems to be working well. 


[Laughter] Exactly, so why change it?

That’s it. ‘If it’s not broke’ as the saying goes.


How do you think the band’s Irish heritage has influenced the Snow Patrol sound, if at all?

I don’t know – I’ve never really thought about that. I think with Irish bands there’s a certain Celtic-ness. It tends to come through in rock music – I don’t know what that is exactly, but there is an Irish sound that comes through. It’s hard to put your finger on, but it’s definitely there. I suppose it does. Maybe it’s something we ourselves aren’t aware of. 


I guess it’s also a question of your musical influences too, and whether anyone has particularly inspired you?

We love The Undertones; they are an amazing Derry band. We like A.S.H. as well. We were always fans of them…and of course U2. As a kid I was into them when they were a relatively small band, when the ‘War’ record came out. I’ve watched them come from that to where they are now. I don’t know if those things have affected us, but that’s for someone else to say. [Laughter]


When did you first realise, then, that you wanted to pursue a career in music?

I remember listening to Police records – Message In A Bottle – when I was about ten, and loved Steward Copeland. I really got into music because of his drumming. I just thought ‘I would love to play drums’. There were a lot of record shops about when I was growing up, I used to have drums up in the attic and the doorbell would go and my mum would just send everybody up with guitars…bass guitars…I just picked it up from an early age. Then I started putting on gigs; I got a small business start up grant because I used to put gigs on across Belfast. That’s where I found Snow Patrol – they were called Shrug at the time. I met them all, and that’s how I got into the band. I bought a tape off Gary for like 2 quid, and the rest was history. [Laughter]

Fantastic! I know you’ve also set up Polar Patrol Publishing to help promote new artists. Why do you think it’s important to nurture and support new talent?

It’s something we’ve always really liked. We’ve always picked our support bands; it’s something Gary as well especially wanted to be in control of. A lot of record companies would choose the support bands but I’ve always thought it was good to give people a leg up. I’ve also found it’s fascinating to watch bands improve and follow where bands have come from too. There’s a band called Brand New Friend who we are taking on tour, they’re young guys in their 20s and they’re a really energetic guitar band – they’re brilliant! It’s really good fun for us to see where these guys are going and give them help. It’s just about supporting new music. It’s really hard for bands now as there aren’t many venues at the grassroots level, so it’s brilliant to give support to people when they need it. 


Has working with Polar Patrol given you a deeper insight into the industry as it is currently?

It’s a very different task working with the publishing company now. With our time off it’s great to have something to do. It keeps you out of the pub. [Laughter]


[Laughter] Yeah.

It’s interesting working on a different side of it, and understanding the music industry – because it has changed so much in the time we were off. I got a good understanding of the way the business works and has evolved over the past five years. It’s sort of helped to inform Snow Patrol going forward, and I guess it’s good to be able to tell everybody ‘This is the way things happen these days, this is the way it is’. It’s good to have a hand in this way - you take five years out and it’s such a different world, the musical landscape is different altogether. 


To book tickets to see Snow Patrol on 25 January 2019 at Arena Birmingham visit snowpatrol.com.

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