Interview: Kodaline

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Here it is.

This is the last time you’re going to hear the name Kodaline, and images of sold-out arenas, screaming fans, incessant pop radio play and specials on MTV and VH1, will not dancing through your head.

These guys are going to be massive, and their new record, Coming Up for Air, is going to be the album that rockets them from a popular ‘across-the-pond-import’ to American musical royalty. The Irish band has the formula down – an infectious, killer sound that will be on constant repeat in your mind, lyrics that grab you by the soul and resonate with you (particularly if you’re in, or falling out of, love), and a look that screams, ‘next big thing.’ Their new record is filled with the kind of tracks that fuel a summer soundtrack, score a first dance for a wedding, and be the enjoyable ear worm that ends up a playlist staple.

Recently, I spoke with Mark Prendergast, Kodaline’s guitarist, about the new record, performing in Europe versus America, hearing the band’s music in movies and marriage proposals.

Photo Credit: Dave Ma
Photo Credit: Dave Ma

Coming Up For Air, is your sophomore record, how do you feel this stands out from the first full length and the EP? How do you feel you guys have changed? I’ll put it this way, what’s something new that you brought to the writing game for this record?

I think the main difference between this record and the last record is that, we can play a lot better live now. We’ve toured for about two and a half years, playing, I don’t know how many gigs we’ve played. So, we’re just a lot tighter as a band and as people. When it came to recording, we had a lot of songs from tour. We just went into the room and threw out the ideas, and songs happened so quick. We’d be writing and then recording a song in one day, and then moving on to the next song, not over-thinking it, which I think was kind of cool. I experimented and let the song do what the song wants to do. The main thing is: we can tour, and we came straight off tour, we went straight into a room and just play[ed] it ourselves, it was so nice to come up with new ideas, and just, you know, trust… each other. Playing the first album was great, but after two and a half years, you get such hunger for new music and you just kind of pour it out in the space of about six weeks.

You guys also worked with a number of producers on this record. Now, which I find to be a blessing and a curse… usually, you’ll see one record, a band will use dude X [as a] producer and this is what he’s bringing to the table, but you’re working with multiple. How did that work out for you guys? Was it frustrating at times, or was something different brought to the table with each producer?

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It was great because each producer was completely different. The main guy we used was Jacknife Lee, we did four tracks with him, and he had such a crazy approach to making music. He made us realize that there was absolutely no rules in songs and you could go in absolutely any direction you wanted to go, take a song where you actually want to take it. But, we shouldn’t pigeonhole yourself into a sound, we’d say that sound isn’t right for us and he would say well what sound is right for you? just let your hair down and have fun, Jacknife was more.. he introduced a lot of synth. Then there was Steve Harris he did the first album. Working with them, that was like a comforting kind of feeling– that was more of a natural progression, where Jack was out of our comfort zone.

And then we did a song with Johnny McDaid, he’s from Snow Patrol, for years, so, it was cool. I mean, working with different people and traveling around a lot before we realized that we had an album that was completely finished, and we were like oh shit, its probably really good to go. Next one, it would be nice to kind of make a home and do the whole thing with one producer, but we’ll see.

Do you feel that because of, you have Steve Harris, he did the first record… that home-type feeling, whereas Jack might push you out of the box, do you feel that makes the record have multiple personalities, almost, or is it still one cohesive, this is a Kodaline record through and through?

I think its definitely a Kodaline [record] because it comes from us, and at the end of the day, the songs are written, they start off in our imagination, and they end up, no matter where they go, that’s where they start.  It might confuse some people, but we can’t describe our sound so easily because its so schizophrenic, but we… don’t overthink that kind of stuff… if the song needs trumpets, it gets trumpets.

Some people call you alt-rock, some people call you pop, you know, to you, the label, the genre, it doesn’t really matter, it’s just music to you guys, right?

Photo Credit: Dave Ma
Photo Credit: Dave Ma

We are often asked, how do you describe your sound. It’s a tough question to answer, and we kind of like that we [are] categorized in so many different categories. We kind of like that it’s kind of, mission accomplished in a way.

I was reading a story about ‘The One.’ It has a crazy backstory to it. Give us a little background on that.

That song was born out of laziness more than anything else. It was our best friends getting married, Phil and he’s getting married, he worked on both albums, and it was his wedding day and we didn’t have a present for him. and Steve [Garrigan] wrote a song and we played it at the wedding the next day, and [it’s] the song “The One” that we now have on our album.

We didn’t think of it as being a Kodaline song, you know, it’s so about relationships and love… it was meant to be something for those two (Phil and his spouse), not meant to be heard by all the people who have heard it now. So, yeah, we played the song at the wedding and didn’t think about it again. Then we were in Toronto and a guy said he wanted to propose to his girlfriend on stage and we were a bit skeptical in case she said no, we’d be standing on stage like oh shit, what do we do now, but she said yes. We said [to him] we’ve written a song that we think is going to be ideal because it was for a couple who got married and we sang it there (at their wedding). There was another couple who heard the song when we played it live and they recorded it on their phones. And then they recorded a cover of it and uploaded it onto YouTube, and then a few months later, its found its way back to us we said, ‘Oh shit, that IS a good song.’ So then we recorded it and put it on the album. People love it, so it’s nice the way songs have a journey like that. It wasn’t written for anything just for those two, and now people are coming up to us and saying that it’s the first dance at their wedding and stuff, it’s happening a lot. I mean it’s great, it’s nice to be proud of something that big for someone who we don’t even know.

 

Did you guys have a plan just in case she said no?

We’ve got so many sad depressing break up songs we could have just picked one of them. (laughs) But yes, she said yes, We get nervous before every gig and that was one of the biggest songs of the whole tour. We do pretty well up in Canada… when she said yes, I think the whole room was kind of like, “Oh, thank God.” There’s videos on YouTube of engagements or marriage proposals gone wrong, and they are horrible, man, you really feel for the guy, he’s kind of just standing there. When he got down on one knee, I could just see every single person in the crowd pulled their camera out so they could upload the video, so she said yes anyway.

Switching gears… one of the ways America really got to know you guys was through your inclusion on Grey’s Anatomy and a whole bunch of TV shows… is it weird, what’s the feeling when you see, “This is my song, which I played on, which is now being used in a TV show in another country that is one of the most popular TV shows on television at the time.

It’s that feeling you just explained, of hearing your own voice. You kind of get like, I went to see a film that our song was in, The Fault In Our Stars

Which is depressing. (laughs)

Our song felt right at home! I was getting into the film,and as soon as the song came on, I was just taken out of the film and I kind of have to hide in my seat even though nobody would recognize me in the cinema, they wouldn’t put a face to a song from a movie… it was just, its so bizarre. There’s a lot of TV shows in Europe that are really popular (that we’re on) and it’s really weird, fucked up to be honest. I don’t know what to think of it.

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When I went to see the movie we had a song for it, there was a trailer for a Daniel Radcliffe movie, and one of our other songs was in the trailer. I didn’t know that, so two of our songs played in the cinema and I thought, what the fuck is going on here? It’s a huge compliment when a massive movie studio in Hollywood or wherever take a song that we wrote in our bedroom in Dublin and blasted it all over the world. It’s weird, but like you just said… we’re totally all for it, and it’s great.

 You headline those big ‘fests here, and you come over here, and you’re playing sizable clubs and venues like Terminal 5. Is it weird that it’s just like– you’re on the rise here, but yet you’re a headliner in Europe. How does that work in your head? How do you process that? is it like going from stadium to club– is it weird?

It’s a nice change to go to smaller rooms. You’re a lot closer to people. There are some festivals that we play in Europe, and you’re about 25 feet away from the person in the front row and you can’t make out people’s faces because there’s just thousands of people, and that’s a serious rush. Those are the sort of gigs that are over in a flash because there are so many people there, and energy takes over. When you do a club show, you get a lot more comfortable, you really sink into the show, and we can’t wait. I think we’re doing 30 gigs in America, they go from– one show is 500 capacity and the biggest one [is] in New York.

Terminal 5 is very big.

The fact that we can go to New York and play a show that big, it’s just crazy, man. It’s cool. Even [the other] night we were in London. We played a small acoustic for some of our fans, I think it was like 50 people? And they were right at the front, and it was terrifying bc you can make out each individual person’s face, you can tell their facial expression, you can tell … if they look kind of bored, if they yawn, you think, why are they yawning, why are they bored? A lot goes through your head in the smaller shows, and in bigger shows the energy just takes over and its over in a flash. But the beauty, we get to do both, and that’s great.

Kodaline performs Saturday at Terminal 5 in New York City. Click here for tickets.


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Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beauty daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be six years old in 2015 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He can be read every Monday for the Happy Mondays Interview Series as well as his weekly reviews on Law & Order: SVU, Mad Men and Hannibal. His goal, once again, is to write 500 stories this year (a goal he accomplished in 2014). He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom
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Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites