There's no doubt about it - Kodaline are now officially one of Ireland's biggest bands.
We caught up with frontman Steve Garrigan during the band's European tour, to discuss the massive year they had in 2015, their brushes with super-fans, their worst experiences as a band, that Ed Sheeran gig proposal and what fans can expect from their Jameson Bow St. Sessions homecoming gigs next week.
Hi Steve! So 2015 was a big year for Kodaline – how's 2016 shaping up so far?
It's been incredible. I mean, this tour that we've been on, it's seven weeks in total and it's been amazing. We've gone to places we've never been before; we played a show in Prague, we're going to Russia, and it's pretty much sold out. The venues are bigger than anything we've imagined so far. We played a show in Portugal the other day and it was our first headline show there – and it was one of the best shows we've ever played.
Have you had any 'super fan' moments yet?
There was one the other day, actually, it was really funny. I went out with my girlfriend in Lisbon just to see the city, and we were gonna go out for dinner. We went walking and I just completely ignored the fact that we were playing to a couple of thousand people that night – I just thought 'Yeah, let's go for dinner'. I literally couldn't walk anywhere in the city without people running up to me. Then we got lost, and we were asking people where the venue was – but they led us around the front, and there was a couple of thousand people there. They started coming over, so we had to run away and run around the back of the venue. It was a bit crazy.
Now you know how One Direction feel.
(Laughs) Well, it's not on that level, but it was funny. I literally had to run down alleys to get away from fans. It was surreal.
Where are you guys now, in terms of your profile in the States? Is it happening over there for you?
It's going really well. The last tour we did, we played to two or three thousand each night, pretty much. It's building really well, and again, every time we've gone back we're playing bigger venues. We went everywhere on our last tour, it was a five-week tour. Canada was cool, too – we played big venues in Montreal and Toronto and Quebec. It was pretty amazing. We're taken aback how far we've come, but we've already started working on our third album.
How far along in that process are you?
We're taking it easy with it. We did the last one very, very quickly – in eight weeks, or something – so we're experimenting this time. We've got a lot of songs down, but we're gonna pick and choose our favourites.
You tour a lot – is it tough to get in the right headspace to write on the road?
Well, we always write. We write about experiences we've had, and stuff like that, and when you're in new cities and meeting new people, you write about what you're going through. So we never really stop.
You took part in one of the biggest gigs in Ireland last year, guesting with Ed Sheeran at Croke Park, where your bassist Jay proposed to his girlfriend. Tell us about that whole experience.
It was amazing. There was an afterparty and we just sang songs all night. Jay was over the moon and his fiancee was obviously over the moon as well – it was quite a surreal experience. The funny thing was, we didn't even know about it. We found out from Ed (laughs). We were rehearsing before the show, and Ed was like 'OK, so we'll do this song, then we'll do this song, and then the proposal'. I was like 'Hold on a sec... proposal? What?'. (laughs) I think Jay didn't want to tell us because he was afraid that one of us would let it slip, or say it to one of our mates, or something, because we all have the same mates.
The last few years have been generally crazy for Kodaline – but what's the most unexpected thing that's happened to you, as a band? Having one of your videos directed by Monica from 'Friends' must be up there.
Yeah, the Courteney Cox thing was pretty bizarre, how it came about. But we've met so many people... like Tony Hawk, the skateboarder. We were in LA and playing a little garden party gig thing, us and the Dixie Chicks and other people. There were loads of celebrities at this party, and I remember I was queuing for the jacks and Tony Hawk tapped me on the shoulder and said 'Hey dude, I love your music.' I was just... I mean, as a band we met through skateboarding when we were teenagers, so I was just fangirling, going 'Oh my god, you're a legend'. Then I went home and took out my old Playstation and started playing my Tony Hawk game again (laughs). But yeah, it's surreal when stuff like that happens. A new thing this year has been writing songs for movies – we've never done that before, songs specifically for movies. We wrote a song for The Finest Hours, a big Disney movie, which is cool. We haven't gone to see it yet, hopefully we'll get a chance – it'll be kind of weird seeing it in the cinema.
What about worst band experiences to date? Spare no embarrassment here...
God... there's probably been loads. I know we left [drummer] Vinny at a truck stop in America before, and we didn't realise he wasn't on the bus for about 40 or 50 minutes (laughs). Then we had to try and find him, but every truck stop looks the same in America, and we were in the middle of nowhere. So we had to go to five or six different stops before we found him. What was worse was that he didn't have any phone signal or WiFi or anything, so there was absolutely no way of contacting us. So we almost lost him for good (laughs).
I can't imagine he was too happy when you eventually came back...
Oh, he was fuming (laughs). He got on the bus and was gonna punch us all, but we just couldn't help seeing the funny side of it, so we fell on the floor laughing. He was fuming, it was really funny.
Speaking of bus journeys, you're on tour at the moment – which band member is most likely to take control of the in-bus entertainment, and what sort of music is it most likely to be?
It's usually Jay – Jay is bit geeky, he's got loads of little portable speakers and recently, he's gotten into vlogging so he's been doing our little tour diaries. He's really into technology and stuff, so he'll hook up the speakers or set up a little studio and be in charge of the music. We listen to anything and everything; we listen to new bands a lot, Jack Garratt is amazing. Overhead, the Albatross are pretty awesome as well – they're from Ireland. We have All Tvvins on tour with us now, and we've been listening to their stuff. They're great, and Conor, the singer, is from Swords as well, which is pretty cool. It's kind of like 'Swords on Tour' (laughs). We try to listen to new music. (Shouts into distance) Mark, what are you listening to? Right now, he says he's listening to me doing an interview. (laughs) And All Tvvins, as well.
Your Jameson gig next week is a smaller gig than you guys are used to playing – what can we expect from your set?
Well, we love doing intimate shows. We'll probably throw in a couple of surprises – maybe a cover we've not done before, or possibly something new. We haven't fully decided; usually, we just decide on the day, but we're very, very excited about it. It's not very often that we get to do intimate shows like that, and especially in Dublin. It'll be awesome.
And just before Paddy's Day, as well...
I know, it'll be cool. We can't wait.
Finally, what's Kodaline's plan for the rest of 2016? You've got your biggest headline show to date at Marlay Park in July – will the rest of the year see you finish writing for album number three?
We're doing a few festivals around Europe, but we're taking a bit of time off – we're going off on holiday. A few of the guys are going off to America with girlfriends and travelling around, I'll probably go on holidays. Then we'll just come back and properly finish and work on our third album. But Marlay Park is gonna be ridiculous. 35,000 people? We can't even comprehend it right now, but we can't wait.
Kodaline play the Jameson Bow St. Sessions with Walking on Cars, Little Hours and July Talk on March 16th at The Academy. They'll also play a special acoustic gig on March 15th at a secret location in Dublin, which will be streamed live on YouTube at this link.