Snow Patrol’s Jonny Quinn on twenty-five years of music, touring, and metamorphosis
From their beginnings as a small university band in Dundee, to touring internationally, and releasing the most played song on UK radio of the 21st century, it seems fair to say that the Snow Patrol have done rather well for themselves. Ahead of the release of their eighth studio album, Reworked, marking twenty-five years as a band, I spoke to drummer Jonny Quinn about the album, their upcoming tour, and how the music industry has changed over the last three decades.
Alongside new tracks, Reworked features reimaginings of some of the band’s biggest hits. It seems that this album has been a long time coming, as I ask Jonny why the band decided to follow this route for the new record: ‘We did a ‘Rebirth’ tour ten years ago, and we loved it’, he says, ‘It’s like doing covers of our own songs! Also doing a tour with the album- it felt like a good way to celebrate twenty-five years as a band’. Jonny tells me about the creative freedom that the band enjoyed in making Reworked: ‘We had no constraints with making the album, really, it wasn’t like there was an A&R brief for it, it was just like ‘there you go!’. And then for us, to play in a different way is exciting- it’s not like we’ve got screens or a light show, and a lot of the songs [off Reworked] are a bit more stripped back. You can hear a pin drop at some points, and that’s what we want the atmosphere to be like’.
A lot has changed over the past three decades for Snow Patrol. They have gone from playing pubs in Belfast to playing the Royal Albert Hall (twice on this tour, in fact), have seen bandmembers come and go, and have witnessed the music industry dramatically evolve around them. I ask Jonny about how touring as a band has changed over the last twenty-five years: ‘Well for us, the big change has been streaming. We used to sell CDs back in the day, and I think we were one of the last bands to sell CDs in any sort of volume; then we had a seven year break and we’ve come back and it’s like a completely different world’. He continues: ‘I think it’s actually a lot better, because it means we’ve been able to go to countries that we wouldn’t have been able to before. People are able to hear us in places like Asia where previously we wouldn’t be able to get an album out there because they didn’t have the record shops. For us, it’s opened up the world a lot more’.
‘I think it is a lot harder for bands than when we started… I’d like to see those labels, which are making billions at the moment, putting a lot more money into bands’.
As well as their tours having become more global, Jonny tells me about how the band’s personal experience of touring has changed too: ‘There’s more people about- it’s a big operation! What’s fun about it is the production; you have to get creative about it because people expect a certain level of showmanship, and that’s really good, you know? How are we going to make a difference, make it better than the last tour?’. He goes on to recall some of the earlier days of the band: ‘It’s an entirely different beast from when you’re just four guys in a van with your gear in the back’.
‘It had its charm, but, you know, I do like the bigger gigs’, he laughs.
The music industry of 2019 is undeniably less accommodating towards the four-guys-in-a-van style of touring, as Jonny admits. ‘It’s very difficult for bands these days. It’s very expensive to get them on the road. It’s a lot cheaper for the industry to put money into pop artists, and I’d like to see that change. I think it is a lot harder for bands than when we started. I mean it was always tough, but if we started now it would be a lot harder. I’d like to see those labels, which are making billions at the moment, putting a lot more money into bands’. Alongside bandmates Nathan Connolly and Gary Lightbody, Jonny helps run Polar Patrol, a music publishing company that helps fund emerging talent- and puts money into bands.
Whilst Snow Patrol have a huge musical legacy, with multiple platinum albums, and having sold over ten million albums worldwide, if you ask someone to name a Snow Patrol song, the chances are that they will say ‘Chasing Cars’. I ask Jonny what the band’s relationship with this song is like- and specifically if it’s a ‘Creep’/Radiohead situation, where the band loathe playing it live. ‘You’d think so wouldn’t you?’, he laughs, ‘But no, I mean, when we’re playing it live people are still loving it. No-one’s going ‘Oh not that one again!’, so until people are bored of it we’ll keep playing it’.
He seems surprised when I tell him that it is the most played song on UK radio of the last twenty years: ‘I would’ve thought it would be Robbie Williams- ‘Angels’!’. Let’s be thankful that it isn’t.
‘Reworked’ is out on November 1st, Snow Patrol play New Theatre Oxford on November 16th