Based in Scotland, but led by a group of Irish musicians, Snow Patrol had humble beginnings as an indie band, but after signing to Interscope Records, the band's popularity skyrocketed in the United Kingdom; their 2004 album Final Straw sold over two million copies and they toured with U2. In the United States however, the band was still a relative unknown balancing as an indie band on a major label. With Irish roots and a Scottish base, Snow Patrol drummer Jonny Quinn told Silent Uproar they consider themselves an, "Irish band living in Scotland."
Singer/guitarist Gary Lightbody (from Belfast, Ireland) and bassist/keyboardist Mark McClelland first began playing music together around 1994 in Dundee, Scotland, where they were attending the University of Dundee. Originally calling themselves Polar Bear, the band had to later change their name after an American group with the same name threatened to sue. Drummer John Quinn joined the new group who in 1998 signed to British. label Jeepster Records, whose flagship artist was Scottish twee group Belle & Sebastian. Snow Patrol released their debut album, Songs for Polar Bears and instantly caught the attention of gentle-minded indie pop fans all over the United Kingdom. Rolling Stone's Christian Hoard called the album, "An amalgamation of jangly-guitar-rock influences …"
In late 2000, Snow Patrol relocated the band to Glasgow and the following year they released When It's All Over We Still Have to Clear Up on Jeepster. Guitarist Nathan Connolly joined the fold shortly after. Snow Patrol decided to part ways with Jeepster but then found themselves without a record label for almost two years. Admittedly started because he was bored and could actually get signed to a label with another band, in 2001, singer Lightbody formed a Scottish super-group called The Reindeer Section. Lightbody wrote all the songs and enlisted a slew of popular Scottish indie stars including members of Mogwai, Belle & Sebastian, Arab Strap, and Snow Patrol's own Quinn to record The Reindeer Section's album Y'All Get Scared Now, Ya Hear! and Son of Evil Reindeer in 2002.
After two years without a label, Interscope Records signed Snow Patrol for their next album. Although the band had been big on the indie circuit, they had no qualms with signing to a major label. The band hooked up with producer Garrett Lee to help achieve an album full of dramatic yet intimate pop ballads, akin to Coldplay's style. The choice of Lee as a producer was an integral factor to what became Final Straw. Released in 2004, Final Straw was a sweeping album of British-influenced guitar pop and moody piano ballads. Although Lee helped the band fill out their sound with various instrumental accents, he also helped them simplify their sound into a dynamic mix that blended an indie style with modern rock. Without Lee, Quinn admitted to Silent Uproar, Final Straw could have been a very different album. "We'd always had the kind of DIY [do-it-yourself] approach before because we didn't' have much money, and it was kind of an indie kind of way we would produce our albums, but we didn't know anything about it. And this time we just thought it would be nice to find somebody here that we can trust, and that means that we can get in the studio, and they can stand back and go, 'Well, how 'bout this for an idea? This might make the song better.' And that's what happened. A lot of the kind of incidental noises and synthesizers on songs came from the producer."
After the release of Final Straw and the success of singles "Run" and "Spitting Games" many critics, including E! Online called Snow Patrol "Northern Ireland's answer to Coldplay …" The comparisons to Coldplay were not lost on the band; they in fact drew in more listeners as Final Straw went on to sell two million copies worldwide. After difficulties with original founder Mark McClelland, the bassist was asked to leave Snow Patrol in March of 2005. McClelland was replaced by former Terra Diablo member Paul Wilson and in the spring, touring keyboardist Tom Simpson was officially added as a member of the band.
In the summer of 2005, Snow Patrol got the ultimate kudos for an Irish-bred band; they were asked to tour as the opening act for legendary band U2. Snow Patrol embarked on the massive tour, but took a short break in July to perform at one of the Live 8 benefit concerts in Edinburgh. After finishing their U2 tour, Snow Patrol began work for their next album. The band went to Ireland, once again with producer Lee, to record the album at the close of 2005. "We had never made an album outside of Glasgow or London-so the pressure was completely removed whenever we went to the countryside to make it," Lightbody told the BBC News. "We felt we were in our own little world-with horses and cattle running around and getting home-cooked meals from the family who owned the studio."
For the Record …
Members include Nathan Connolly (joined group, 2001), guitar; Gary Lightbody, vocals, guitar; Mark McClelland (left group, 2005), bass; Jonny Quinn, drums; Tom Simpson (joined group, 2005), keyboards; Paul Wilson (joined group, 2005), bass.
Group formed in Dundee, Scotland, c. 1994; signed to Jeepster Records, released Songs for Polar Bears, 1998; released When It's All Over We Still Have To Clear Up, 2001; signed to Interscope, released Final Straw, 2004; toured with U2, 2005; played Live 8, 2005; released Eyes Open, 2006.
Awards: Ivor Novello Award (U.K.), Best Album, 2005.
Addresses: Record company—Interscope, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404. Website—Snow Patrol Official Website: http://www.snowpatrol.net.
The music for Snow Patrol's latest album was louder, faster, and the lyrics were darker than past Snow Patrol records. "I purposely went off on my own and kind of went mental, really. I was unhappy in many ways, and very broken after two-and-a-half years of touring," Lightbody told Rolling Stone. "I wanted to repair myself, so I basically cut myself up and put myself back together again and [that led to] some really dark moments on this record." Lightbody made sure however not to make the entire album as depressing as it could have been. "I think the record-stealing a line from U2—there is a kind of arc in it, a dramatic arc. It twists and turns," he continued. "I think you need to show the darkness to show how amazing the light is." In May 2006, Interscope released the aforementioned album, Eyes Open; a record MTV.com described as, "Big, stadium-ready guitars and epic choruses coupled with somber pianos and fragile, chirping electronic beats." Guests on the stunning album including singer Martha Wainwright and Posies/R.E.M. player Ken Stringfellow.
Songs for Polar Bears, Jeepster Records, 1998.
When It's All Over We Still Have to Clear Up, Jeepster Records, 2001.
Final Straw, Interscope, 2004.
Eyes Open, Interscope, 2006.
Entertainment Weekly, April 2, 2004.
People, July 3, 2006.
"Snow Patrol," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (July 3, 2006).
"Snow Patrol Scale UK Album Chart," BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4751337.stm (July 3, 2006).
"Snow Patrol Chill Out In Studio For Final Straw Follow-Up," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1506074/20050721/story.jhtml (July 3, 2006).
"Snow Patrol: When It's All Over We Still Have To Clear Up," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/snowpatrol/albums/album/182053/review/5940488/when_its_all_over_we_still_have_to_clear_up (July 6, 2006).
"Snow Patrol Keep Their Eyes Open," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/9532206/snow_patrol_keep_their_eyes_open (July 3, 2006).
Snow Patrol Official Website, http://www.snowpatrol.net (July 3, 2006).
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