We chat to Kodaline about their ridiculously-soon-after-their-first second album, ‘Coming Up For Air’, festivals and what it means when people can relate so strongly to their music.
You weren’t actually Kodaline until 2012 where you? How does it feel coming into your third year as a band?
It’s cool yeah. Myself, Mark and Steve have known each other since we were kids. You know, we hung out skateboarding when we where like 13/14, so we’ve known each other a good long while. Mark and Steve knew each other before that again. But yeah it was kind of like we got our record deal and it was just the 3 of us and were like “shit we need a base player, we need someone to complete this whole line up”, and then we met Jay through a mutual friend and it all just kind of clicked like suddenly.
He fit the bill.
So yeah for 3 years it’s been pretty fun.
But a pretty busy three years…
Exactly yeah, I mean releasing the second album. We didn’t wanna take too long of a break between the first record and second record.
It was barely a break!
Jay broke his wrist so that was a break. We went to the studio and finished the second record. We like to be busy you know, it’s a good complaint to be busy.
Yeah that’s true, but it was literally when you finished your first album you started your next one where you were working with Jacknife Lee.
We never stop writing songs or working on songs. At the moment, Jay is sat across from me with his laptop and a myriad of different synths and steel drum machines and stuff like that working away on some songs. We never stop writing or working on tour. We like the doing it, we like being busy. The second we finished the first record we were busy working on the second record. We didn’t want that second album syndrome.
Did working with a producer change the way you guys would normally work together?
Yeah I guess so. It changed the sounds we used working with Jacknife Lee, we’ve worked with Jim Elliott, we’ve worked with Johnny McDaid from Snow Patrol. We kind of tried new people you know, we were only just trying to see who we would work best with and we just fell into recording and the songs worked really well and ended up becoming tracks on the album. So we unintentionally started the recording process. It happened really naturally.
And you were also working with some extra instruments and new synths?
Yeah, I guess some of the people that we work with you know we were working with Jacknife Lee, he kind of took us out of our comfort zone and introduced us to new ways of working with different sounds and to not be afraid of using that mad instrument that’s in the corner.
Just kind of using things and making sounds out of like coke cans and doors and bags of coins and stuff like that. That was kind of through necessity when we were in a hotel room, you can’t have the drum kit. You have to make the best of the situation and using a can of lynx can make a cool sound.
You’d definitely get some noise complaints from drums.
Definitely. You’d raise a few eyebrows if you wheeled in a drum kit and guitar. We wouldn’t be let into a lot of hotels if we did that [laughs].
“Don’t mind us, we’re just bringing our stuff in”.
Yeah… “these are all just clothes like”.
Is there any specific ways that you think it’s obviously developed since ‘In A Perfect World’, because obviously they’re still Kodaline, but different too…
I guess, we’ve been touring and in each other’s pockets for the past two and a half years. Touring for 18months, we’re closer as people and as friends. We’re much better musicians collectively than individually. We’re a band now. Before in the studio, we’d have to record all of our bits separately and now we’re used playing together. We get on better now then we ever did, we’re closer friends than we’ve ever been. I think that really came across in the recording process so everything went down quicker and we worked a lot quicker. But it was the influence of the producers that made it sound different. Experimentation is good, it’s the natural way and we didn’t wanna make the same record twice. So we wanted to experiment, we wanted to try new things, try and push ourselves musically. I think we achieved that with ‘Coming Up For Air’.
You’re releasing ‘The One’ as a single (on April 12th), but that wasn’t actually meant to be on the album was it?
‘The One’ was a song that was recorded for a producer called Phillip Magee who worked on the first record, and this record as well. We’ve known him since we were a band, since we were teenagers. He recorded us and he taught Steve guitar as well years and years ago. When we first started working when we 16, he was like “holy shit, I actually used to teach him guitar, I used to go to Crabbies with Mark’s sister” and all this kind of mad stuff and you just realise Ireland is a really small country. Everybody does know everybody.
So yeah he’s a really close friend of ours and we’ve worked with him for forever, he got married last year and we were invited to the wedding. Steve forgot he said he would write a song, or didn’t get him a present, so the night before the wedding we went over to Mark’s house and wrote ‘The One’. The morning of the wedding we showed him the song and we were going to try this out. Mark and Steve got up on stage and I think Jay was holding an iPhone with the lyrics on for Steve so he could read them. It was just meant as a wedding present and nothing more and it was meant to be just for them, their song.
And now it’ll be hundreds of people’s song.
It was weird, we never thought about recording it at all until someone put up a cover version of it online. Some guy asked if he could propose to his girlfriend at a show in Canada and we were like, “Yeah that would be cool, and we’ve got the perfect song if she says yes” and that was the second time we’d ever played it.
But what if she said no?!
We were like, we don’t have a plan. If she doesn’t say yes then the rest of the gig will be really awkward. Thankfully she said yes. We’ve stopped doing that cause we’re afraid someone will say no and it will just be awful [laughs].
We forced that poor girl to say yes. But we played it then and someone recorded it and put up a cover version. People started to really like it so we were like, “oh shit, maybe we should record it”. So then we asked Phil if it was okay and he was like, “yeah of course”. They’re thrilled their wedding song is on an album, that it’s getting released to the world.
Best wedding present ever! Obviously theirs a lot of emotion that goes into your songs, do you think that’s what makes the emotion in the crowd so strong?
Yeah I think so, we are a very honest band, musically and as people, so when Steve, or Mark or the four of us write lyrics, we write about things that have happened to us, experiences that we’ve shared individually or collectively as a group so we can all relate. If we don’t believe it then why should anybody else? For us it’s about being really honest and being heartfelt and truthful about what we sing and the songs we write. So I guess sometimes the meanings of our songs are very clear, but sometimes they’re not and they’re open to interpretation. Which is nice when a crowd reacts differently. We meet people after the show and they tell us this song helped them get over a break up or helped them get through a death in the family. Hearing those stories sort of brings a whole new side to the song, they all mean something very specific to us so hearing those stories and how our songs have affected other people.
Is it true that you’d never really been out of Ireland before Kodaline?
It is. We released a 4 track EP in like September 2012 and that was the first thing we had done. We had got signed a few months prior to that and it was just putting something out there. ‘All I Want’ was just a track on an EP, it was never meant to be a single. It started getting a lot of attraction, we made videos for every song on that EP and put them up just trying something different. ‘All I Want’, the video engaged really well with a lot of people and TV shows started using it in soundtracks and stuff., it just kinda grew legs and took on a whole new different thing that we were not expecting.
The track was in ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ and that’s massive.
It was used in The Fault In Our Stars and some movies in Germany, in Grey’s Anatomy. So that, for us, we’re just four guys from Dublin and for one of our songs be on such a huge hit American TV show was incredible. It was from that, our song being placed in all these allowed us to be able to travel arouynnd the world and play shows for people.
Is their anywhere really weird that your music has crept up, that you’ve noticed?
Our album charted in Qatar for like a week and that was a bit weird, and the Cayman Islands, some weird places. We’ve been able to go over to Japan twice and we played a festival over there called Summer Sonic and played two shows, one in Tokyo and one in Osaka. We played those festivals and we got to go back a year later and play our own shows, our own headline shows, in Japan and in Australia and New Zealand. Playing shows all over the world is kind of incredible you know.
That’s a lot of travelling.
It is. You get to know airports like the back of your hand [laughs].
What’s the reaction been like to the new music on tour?
It’s been incredible. It’s kind of surprised us because the albums only been out about a month or so. For us, we’re playing all these shows and we’ve been so surprised and overwhelmed the fact that the tour sold out. It sold out across cities in Europe we’ve never been to before. We’re playing some quite big rooms in Europe which is incredible. It’s the first sell out tour which is incredible, but then to go and play a show where the album has only been out 2 or 3 weeks there and have people sing back every word of all the songs is, it’s a real pinch yourself moment. When we first started touring and people were singing back ‘All I Want’ and ‘High Hopes’ it was like “but how?”. Now shows are selling out and people know all the songs, all the words, all the new stuff. It’s crazy.
You’ve also done a lot of festivals your going back to T In The Park and V Festival this year, is their anything that you particularly love about festivals?
It’s a big party. It’s the only time of year you get to hang out with your peers, people in other bands. It’s really awesome and you see the same guys at every festival so we’re really friendly with Bastille, The 1975 and Ed Sheeran. So when we’re at festivals we always end up hanging out together and having a few drinks and it’s just like a big weird touring family.
Stuff like that is just incredible and at festivals people aren’t there necessarily to see you, they’re there to see other people so you’re trying to win people over. Festivals are challenging in their own right and we kind of like that challenge because people might just wander by and listen for a song or two. The goal is to get them to stay there for more than one song [laughs]. We like festivals, it’s a good challenge.