“You should make every album as if its your last,” says Johnny, Snow Patrol’s drummer, softly. He should, by rights, be barely audible above the clatter and brouhaha of the post-work booze-crowd in the busy bar where we’re chatting, but the unassuming wisdom of his words cuts through nonetheless, clear and strong. How perfectly Snow Patrol. Despite the clamour and chatter, so much of it pointless, of the current music scene, Snow Patrol’s gentle, intelligent, profound heartbreak-pop is about to silence all, with a second album.
Despite their centrality to the thriving Glasgow music scene, the Snow Patrol story begins in Belfast, birthplace for the three boys. Jumpcut swiftly, however, to Dundee, where Gary and bassist Mark are studying. The two sense a kinship (for friendship, brotherhood, are ideals essential to Snow Patrol), they form a band, and start writing songs and playing music. They start touring, too, but Snow Patrol aren’t complete until, after playing several shows at home in Belfast, supported by local bands, they come across wee Johnny. “We knew he was a good drummer,” smiles Mark, “and we also knew he was a good fella, so we press ganged ‘im aboard the good ship Snow Patrol.”
The band became the second band to sign to fledgling label Jeepster, now better known as the home of Belle & Sebastian. An album is recorded over successive weekends, Songs For Polar Bears, and released in August 1998. Along with acclaimed singles like 100 Things You Should Have Done In Bed, and 1999’s Starfighter Pilot, it paints a picture of a nascent Snow Patrol and, along with a number of tours and a slot at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Rye in 2000, spreads the word about this very special band across the country.
After graduation, the Snow Patrol fraternity move from Dundee, to a house of their own in Glasgow, and tour the first record, strengthening the bond between them and their confidence in themselves with every show. They play a lot of Neil Young records, a lot of Low records, a lot of Lou Barlow. They seize upon the power of quietude, the magic of sad music. They discover the inner band waiting inside their chrysalid selves, and start writing and recording the new record, stretching their wings and being all they can be.
“That first record was almost by a different band,” says Mark, now. “We’ve put a lot of heart and soul into this album, a lot of ourselves,” continues Gary. “Music is about sharing emotions, about empathy. I just write down what the three of us experience, we all go through the same things together. I mean, they don’t all split up with my girlfriend,” he laughs, “But you know what I mean. If I’m having a hard time, they help me through, and vice versa. A lot more quiet, subdued songs made it onto this record.”
Gary’s always written songs like those on the new album, Mark stresses, its just “We never had the confidence in ourselves to record those types of songs.” But you’ll be glad they did now, listening to this suite of sad-eyed, brittle guitar pop, wearing its heart on its chequered sleeve. Songs to give you company when you feel you’re the only one feeling ‘that way’, songs that pulse with a heartfelt honesty, songs that strike gently, but always true.
“We had to make it the best album we possibly could,” remembers Johnny of the sessions. “No half-measures this time. We still like the first album, but if it taught us anything, its that you’ve gotta make your perfect statement each time. We made this record as if it was our last, because if it hadn’t have been any good, then it would have been our last.”
The end result is something of a subtle masterpiece, a record of Spring mornings perfect for the autumnal evenings of the heart. Talking softly, but carrying with them huge bags of talent, Snow Patrol have finally arrived. Be prepared to fall for ’em. Hard.