In their final show on English soil at Bristol’s 02 Academy before heading to their native Ireland, Sophie Seddon caught up with guitarist Mark Prendergast to ask him a few questions on life in Kodaline, before continuing to review the live gig later on that evening. A six foot six Mark Prendergast looking rather dashing in his navy toggle coat, and his soft Irish brogue, was charming, as he kindly spoke to the Western Eye…
What do you think of Bristol, for a start? Have you seen much of it before when you’ve been?
Well, it’s our third time here. This morning, [I] got up at like half nine, and went for a walk to the cathedral, had a walk around. It’s the one place where we do the gig and then we leave. Last time we were here, we played at Thekla. And the time before that we supported someone at Thekla, that was like a year ago, so we’ve been here quite a lot. And that was a good crowd.
What do you expect of the crowd this evening then? A bit rowdy?
Hopefully a bit rowdy really, cause’ it’s quite a weird venue width ways. [speaking about the 02 Academy] It’s 1600 capacity, so it gets a lot of people…
How is the tour going so far? Any particularly memorable moments?
Yesterday in Manchester was really good, we played the Ritz. London, we played Sheppard’s Bush and the Forum was amazing. Every show has been good, but some shows have been crowded. If the crowd’s really good, that gets us really us really amped up.
So how do you find is the best way to get a crowd going?
We’re still figuring it out, the best way to get the set so it never dips. Some songs are slower. We just kinda back ourselves, listen to some music backstage, have a few beers, get ourselves on. Then we walk onstage, and we go for it.
Now, you’ve just finishing touring in the US as well. What was that like?
Yeah, that was much different to this. We’ve been out there a few times, and we’re sort of used to it, but you’re still never used to the people you meet.
Do you find it’s more difficult with the crowds out there?
No, they’re loud! Really, really loud. The album just came out when we started halfway through the tour, so they didn’t know a lot of the songs. That was the weird thing about coming back doing this tour, because people sing every song.
That must be amazing, having everyone out in front of you singing.
We find ourselves singing less, and less. We just stand back and let the crowd sing.
What about festivals then? I know you played Reading, what stage were you on?
Reading was the best festival of the summer. It was crazy, the crowd was… We were on the Radio One/NME stage, the tent.
Is playing festivals a different experience, is your music a lot better at festivals, or do you prefer stages like this (the 02 Academy)?
Take Reading for example, we had half an hour set, so for us that’s like, “sweet, that’s six songs.” So we were on at half four in the day and we were a new band. You’re never sure how it’s going to go, and at Reading you’re looking out half an hour before you’re on stage, the place was just packed. And we went on stage and it was the most incredible reaction we’ve ever got. I kinda prefer festivals, the day that’s in it. We’re friends with loads of bands through festivals, and get to see loads of bands, chill out.
Moving onto your album, what were your inspirations for most of the tracks?
Every song is always written about something that we’ve gone through, that we’ve felt, I mean songs about travelling, and songs about ex-girlfriend’s and songs about just being… Me and Steve [Garrigan], we were on the dole for like two/three years, just concentrating on music, with no money, he wrote ‘High Hopes’ on that. And there’s the song ‘Way Back When’, which is just about growing up where we lived. Yeah, we just write about anything.
Is it quite personal then? I mean, you’ve known Steve since you were about 8, so when you’re writing, you both can remember each other going through things, and experiencing it together?
Yeah, it’s incredibly personal. We don’t bullshit each other, if a lyric’s in the song, we sniff it out. Everything has to be about something.
Are there not times when touring where you just want to kill each other?
Oh there is, yeah! Everyone get’s on each other’s nerves. The biggest thing is when, say you’ve got a 5 o’clock start the next day cause’ you’re flying somewhere, and if you don’t sleep, Jesus Christ, everyone hates each other. You just put your headphones in and go to your own world. But we still love each other, we get on really great, and that’s why we’re still doing it. Our crew is really good as well. Thing is touring can get pretty lonely because you can’t go out and see your friends. Very enjoyable though!
Do you get quite nervous playing in front of people?
I think you do get a little bit more used to it, but you still get nervous, I mean, you’re looking out to see a crowd you have to impress and play to. Festivals you get nervous because you’re not sure you’re going to get a crowd. We’re lucky that at every festival we’ve had a crowd there, bar one or two in like Germany or something like that.
You’re going to play more gigs in Ireland after this, in Dublin and Belfast. Are you looking forward to going back to Ireland?
We’ve go to Belfast, and then Dublin, then we finish the UK and Irish tour, and then we go straight into the European tour. Yeah, I can’t wait, I haven’t seen my family in a while… The gig is like a homecoming show, playing at the venue the Olympia; it’s like this really old kind of theatre that’s legendary. I mean, I think I saw Muse there, Arcade Fire… Three nights are sold out, straight away since March. When you go home, it’s like a victory lap.
How do you think this all kick-started? Do you think it was when Fearne Cotton made you her record of the week?
That was the first thing that ever happened to us on any radio station, and it’s Radio One, it’s big. Yeah, it was weird, because we thought our EP would just be out, and people would slowly find it. But she was just talking about it on Radio One, and our label rang us and was like ‘oh my god, you’ve got to listen in’. Then she invited me and Steve over for an interview. It was our first ever interview, and it was live on Radio One, and we were terrified. She’s really nice, and we’ve met her a few times. She did a lot for us.
It’s really gone strength to strength from there. Your album did really well when it came out, did you expect that?
No, not at all. Because we’re an Irish band, and we weren’t really sure how we were going to do in the UK.
Are you working on any new material?
Right now! I started a song this morning on the bus, and Steve’s doing his bit now. We brought our engineer recorder up. Album two isn’t going to be recorded for a year, but we want to make sure the songs are amazing. We’re writing and arranging it, seeing if it makes sense as a song, and then we’ll go and record it. Tomorrow, on our day off, we’re going to the studio to record.
Is there anything coming up in the next year that you’re particularly looking forward to?
Yeah, the 02 Arena in Dublin, it’s just huge. And we got an email about all the festivals we’re playing, but I have to keep my mouth shut, or I’ll get into trouble.
Are there any festivals we could invest in?
I can’t say a thing, it’s far to early to even hint.
Have you ever accidently revealed information before?
Yeah, loads! We got out that we were playing Reading and Leeds way too early…
Are you allowed to tell your Mum?
Oh yeah, but she can’t tell anyone. You just couldn’t tell a journalist, people with pens and pencils and recorders… (Hinting towards me and my photographer.)
After a brief interlude, I attended the gig that evening. Events kicked off with their first support act, James Bay, a talented solo artist, who was simply accompanied by a guitar and a large hat. His soulful acoustic set had plenty of upbeat and beautifully written tracks, and was even giving away a free EP by the merchandise stand. His voice is stunning, giving his lyrics a wider meaning when he performs. Definitely one worth watching out for.
He was followed by Hudson Taylor (introduced by Kodaline themselves, as this was their last night as the support act), another Irish band who’s cheerful folky sound was a pleasure watch and easy to bob around too. They also revealed their playing Bristol on their own tour (26th November at the Exchange).
Finally, at half nine, Kodaline made their way to the stage, swaggering on in their brogues and waistcoats, minus Mark’s navy toggle coat. Starting with album track ‘After the Fall’, they soon broke into their released tracks ‘Pray’ and ‘Brand New Day’, both which were brilliantly received by the Bristol crowd. The energy coming off the stage was immense, the raw sound coming from the guitar, and the heavy beat of the drums forming a solid backing to Steve’s soft vocals. It all was very raw and incredibly well rehearsed, and yet there was a spontaneous edge.
One particular moment at the start of the encore saw the band up on the far right side balcony, singing at the crowd below, getting everyone to click there fingers as Steve serenaded the crowd, with his bandmates standing right by his side. It was unlike anything I’ve experienced. The attention they garnered was extraordinary- keeping a crowd in Bristol as quiet as they did was rather brilliant, considering how hyped up they’d made everyone.
The treat of the evening was definitely their first track on the album ‘One Day.’ The hairs on the back of my neck stuck out as if the room was electric. . As Mark mentioned in the interview that they find themselves singing less and less, this was certainly the case here. – From the moment the guitar began to play, the crowd sang every word, clear as day, at the top of their voices. The band just played as the fans preached their lyrics. It was amazing to witness the power that these four Irish gentlemen had over the 1000 people who were squashed into this venue.
It was pure magic. I can safely say that I have never seen a band have that much power over its audience. When they thanked their crowd, they seemed genuinely amazed themselves, almost as though they too couldn’t believe the effect they were having over these people.
But that’s what has made this band so successful. The tales of growing up, of ex-girlfriends, of being on the dole for three years, and hoping to write music and play it to the world. These dreams that they have pinned on paper are the dreams we’ve all had at some point in our lives. The necessary evils of growing up into the world and learning how to deal with your disasters as they happen are things that we can all relate to.
My favourite performance of the evening was ‘Way Back When’, which explores the theme of growing up beautifully, of their young lives in Ireland, and there’s just something so nostalgic, and sad about the whole thing. It really has a profound effect on you, because as they perform to you, you understand exactly what they mean!
They ended the gig with the wonderful ‘All I Want’, which again was accompanied by the crowd’s fierce roar. The gig had me smiling from ear to ear, and I felt pensive as the band left the stage, as though I’d learnt something, and yet had an amazing evening at the same time.
Well done Kodaline, you conquered Bristol better than even some of the greatest masters of the music trade…