“We were crazy busy for two and a half years going all over the world, doing shows, all that kind of stuff, just being on the move constantly,” remembers Mark Prendergast of the hugely successful Kodaline.
The Dublin band came to prominence early on with their single All I Want being singled out for airplay and special mentions on several radio shows as well as featuring on the award-winning Grey’s Anatomy.
“When it came to getting time off, we decided to just go straight into the studio. We don’t really look back, we kind of look forward but we had a chance to just kind of breathe and take a breath. We were straight into the studio and recording but we don’t find that stressful or we don’t see it as work. We see that as like a release so that’s where the album title came from. That title that was there all along, that’s what we went with.”
Since making their first impression with All I Want, the band have enjoyed a number one album in Ireland and played numerous festivals around the UK and Europe and gracing the iconic Jay Leno show in the US: “You never really stop and think. Occasionally a friend will show me a video of a festival we did: ‘ah man, this is really good’. I’d watch it ‘cause I don’t really watch back our live performances or interviews, I find it kind of uncomfortable but the odd time I will watch it back is when a friend shows me or it it’s shared on Facebook. That’s when you kind of go: ‘F**k’.
“When you’re seeing it from the crowd’s point of view, it’s totally different to when you’re onstage because when we play a gig, it’s always the exact same in terms of where we are but the surroundings kind of change so it’s weird when you look back on it.”
Such success must be hard to process. An earlier incarnation of the band gained exposure on You’re A Star under the moniker, 21 Demands. Lead singer Steve Garrigan does, when playing to a packed Scala, refer to playing four people, two of which were in the support band. “We did a lot of those gigs,” Mark reflects. “It was only the first time we sold out The Sugar Club, 350 people: I’d never been so excited in my whole life. I remember just being, ‘holy sh*t, we’re playing to a room full of people’. Yes, a lot of them were our friends and family but there was another couple of hundred people who were there because they genuinely liked our music. That was the most rewarding moment ever.
“That progressed and got bigger. We still look at ticket sales more than we look at charts. It’s great to sell albums and be on the radio but when people genuinely buy a ticket and they’re gonna come for a night, that’s the most rewarding thing of all because you just know you’re going to have a good time but we have played gigs to nobody, we did that for years. Every band goes through that stuff and then we stopped doing that, said ‘let’s go write some songs that we genuinely think are really good’, then it kind of changed.”
In spite of the time the band spent paying their dues, they are often referred to as an overnight success just because their debut album gained success: “There was a period of about three years that me and Steve, he dropped out of college. I was on the dole, I had no money- This is not a sob story but- I wasn’t in college or working, we just said, ‘let’s fucking do this, let’s figure out how to write songs, let’s try turning music into a career because it’s our favourite thing to do’. And we did it non-stop. We still do it non-stop. It’s very strange to call it a career actually because it’s so enjoyable but there was a period of a few years where our parents were pretty p*ssed off because we weren’t really doing anything but we were writing our first album. We didn’t realise we were but we were.”
Coming Up for Air is a noticeably changed sound from the band’s debut. Is this intended? “We didn’t really sit down and have many conversations about what the album should be or what it should sound like. We just went into the studio with a few ideas we had and we just started making music. The first album, we hadn’t really played live and the second album, we set up and played live as a band so it just kind of happened more naturally. It was more of us playing together. Although the new album sounds almost polar opposite to the first album, that’s just us playing in a room and experimenting with different sounds and stuff.”
Young Irish people have emigrated to the four corners of the world in recent years. There’s nowhere Mark or the band have been that they haven’t been out in force: “They’re everywhere, man. Everywhere. Every nook and cranny, there’s an Irish person hiding behind it. They’re like: ‘Ah, howaya?’ It’s funny.
“There’s always Irish at every show and they most certainly let their voice be heard. They bring little signs, ‘I’m from Tyrone’, ‘I’m from Mayo’. It’s really nice.
“You know when you’re on holidays and you’re walking down the beach and you hear an Irish accent, you’re straight over, like, ‘where are ya from?’ You’re instantly a friend because they’re Irish. I don’t think any other nationality has that thing where Irish people just like being around Irish people. Our shows, there’s always loads of Irish and it’s great. It’s awesome.”
The band were in the States when they got together to do some writing with another Irish musician, Johnny McDaid of Snow Patrol who is engaged to Courtney Cox: “He got in touch. We worked with a guy called Jacknife Lee (producer), he is also an Irishman. It’s like what we’re saying about Irish being around Irish.
“We went to LA, we worked with Jack who is from Walkinstown and then we went and we worked with Johnny McDaid who is from up North so it’s kind of weird. There’s a song on the album called Love Will Set You Free and it’s my favourite song on the album and we wrote it with him. He’s a really really good dude. He’s just a lovely guy and he’s an amazing guy for the vibe. If the vibe is good in the studio- I might sound like a hippy but if the vibe is good in the studio, that’s when you work at your best. When you’re most comfortable and you’re having a good time with the people you’re around, that’s when you’re at your best and he brought out the best in all of us. I think he’s like a lifetime friend now. He’s a good guy.”
For more see this week’s edition of the Irish World – out today
Coming Up for Air is out now and Kodaline play the UK next month.
For more information, go to http://www.kodaline.com/.