In The Kodaline Of Duty
With a must-see Arthur’s Day gig looming, alternative rock sensations Kodaline discuss international success, why fans are the only critics they care about and the ease with which you can lose a band member while touring America...
Roe McDermott, 19 Sep 2013
It’s been one hell of a year for Kodaline. They were nominated for BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll, debut album In A Perfect World entered the Irish charts at number 1; just last week they took to the main stage at Electric Picnic and conquered all before them.
Success could have easily gone to their heads. But the good-natured Dublin quartet have remained grounded, insisting fame and success come second to expressing themselves through their music.
“When we started out we were writing songs about stuff that didn’t really mean anything to us,” says guitarist Vinny May, ahead of their gig at Arthur’s Day. “Songs about going out and drinking and stupid shit. What we write now is a better interpretation of the people we are today. We’re not going to write about something we don’t believe in or that we wouldn’t say to your face. We don’t make up stories, it’s all true to life.”
Due to the personal nature of their lyrics, the band admit that fans often feel an intimate connection.
“You see at some shows, people will be in tears in front of you. It’s great – though it can be weird! We were at Indiependence in Cork and there was this girl on some guy’s shoulders just bawling her eyes out for the whole of ‘All I Want’ and I couldn’t stop looking at her and being like ‘Ugh, stop crying!’”
Kodaline also reveal they get sent weird gifts from fans, including home-made jewellery and portraits.
“Someone printed off a picture of me from my Facebook and gave it to me!” laughs Mark. “That was pretty weird. I was just like ‘I don’t need this picture!’”
The band has had detractors, however, with some critics slamming their music as “insincere syrup”. Britain’s Q magazine was particularly harsh, declaring In a Perfect World “entirely meritless”. Singer Steve Garrigan says these aren’t the people he’s aiming to please.
“There are gonna be people who like you and there are going to be people who don’t like you, that’s the nature of everything really. We don’t really read our reviews.” Though Jason’s sweet-tempered interjection of “the best review is someone coming back, you know?” earns him some ribbing from his bandmates, there’s an earnestness there that indicates they truly mean it.
And they do have a lot of repeat customers. Achieving the rare feat of earning serious radio play in the UK and being backed by British radio, the band are grateful for the opportunities that have come with breaking the UK music scene.
“Every gig we play over here, we play the same size gig in Britain. We can tour longer, and do festivals,” explains Mark. “We’ve basically been playing festivals all summer. Radio had a lot to do with that.”
Do Kodaline feel they’ve lost their indie rock credibility and become a mainstream concern?
“We’re definitely still just an indie rock band,” asserts Jason. “I mean we’ve been in a van for the last year! We still show up to our shows and do the same thing. As long as long as we can keep doing the gigs, I don’t think mainstream ever comes into it.”
“Well,” interjects Vinny, the band’s dry voice of reason, “we did just get a tour bus!”
Not that he’s particularly enamoured with the touring process, having been abandoned during their US tour.
“We were in America and left Vinny at a truck stop. We just drove off!” laughs Steve. “It took us about 40 minutes to realise that he wasn’t on the bus. One of the guys was like ‘Lads, are you missing anything?!’ And then it took a further 40 minutes to find him, because all the truck stops look the same.”