When Kodaline was first entering our music consciousness, their Facebook bio identified them simply as “four lads in a band.” Now with a chart-topping debut album under their belts, the Dublin-based band has been performing to capacity crowds from Milan to Montreal, London to LA. I first wrote about their music last year after hearing them at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., supporting Airborne Toxic Event. When Kodaline returned in early 2014 — this time in a headlining tour — I was thrilled for the opportunity to chat with Jay Boland (bass guitar) and Steve Garrigan (vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica, keyboard). Here’s the interview, along with some photos from the show.
I heard you guys finishing up sound check just now.
Jay: Yes, so we’re getting ready for our third gig in Washington! It’s awesome. [U Street Music Hall] is a really cool venue as well. Next time the 9:30 Club. That’s the plan.
That would be exciting. I love that venue.
Jay: [W]e started this tour in Toronto in the Danforth, and that was the last gig we did with everyone on our first tour in the U.S. So we’re starting our big headlining tour in the U.S. in the place where we finished last time. It’s a good cycle. And it was all within about a year.
You guys have been busy.
Jay: [laughs] It’s been non-stop.
Apart from sound check, do you have other pre-show routines, rituals?
Jay: No, nothing, really. We’re very lackadaisical before the show. Warm up a little. We love playing gigs so the energy comes up the second you go up there [on stage].
Vinny [drummer Vinny May] has a Playstation case that he built for his new PS4. He got it for Christmas and he couldn’t bear to leave it at home. So he built a case with a screen in it and that’s his touring game system. And so we end up playing these really stressful computer games.
Because touring isn’t stressful enough.
Jay: [Laughs] Exactly. We were stuck on the freeway for about 12 hours the other night. Broke down on the way from Philly to Boston. But we got there in the end.
Yeah, sorry about welcoming you with snowstorms. It’s not personal, just so you know.We transition to the musicians’ break room, just off the performance space. The room is cozy, with a couch, chair, suitcases, and a small table set up with fruit and soda. Steve invites me to sit down. We move to the corner, where he shifts a stack of neatly-folded towels to make space and we laugh good-naturedly about the close quarters.
Do you have favorite foods on the road — do you try to eat local specialties?
Steve: We try to get local beer. The food — we ask for recommendations. There’s usually a nice restaurant within five-minute’s walk. It’s not too bad.
Jay was just telling me about you guys trying to get to Boston through all that snow.
The weather’s been crazy. We played a show in Philadelphia [on February 13th]. It was sold out but because the weather was so crazy, 300 people turned up, which is about half of what the venue fits. But it was still a great gig, and we were just happy that people turned up, in crazy weather — [to the fans,] “well done, cheers, thank you.”
Other than indulging people like me, do you have pre-show rituals?
You’re looking at it there [laughs and gestures to Vinny, who walks in while folding a t-shirt]. Not really. Well, we stretch.
No, just a couple of stretches, you know. It’s good to be limber.
So no downward dog.
Not yet. But maybe — [laughs]. We’re pretty chill. Probably have a beer, do a couple of stretches, that’s about it. Nothing crazy.
Your album is dedicated to Woodzi. Who is Woodzi?
That’s a really good question. Woodzi — it’s kind of a sad story — is a friend of ours who passed away just right around the time we were finishing our album. So we dedicated it to him. It was the best thing that we could do. To remember him.
So he was a childhood friend.
Yes, we were friends for years, grew up together.
I’m sorry it’s not a happier answer. But that’s a really meaningful thing to do.
It was the best thing we could do, was to dedicate our first album to him.
[pause] I should ask about happier things.
Yes. [laughs] Care Bears and animals.
What do you do to unwind after shows? Do you play pranks on each other?
Yes, we do, actually. Last night, Jay fell asleep in the bus and two of the lads covered him in tissue. And he just stayed asleep.
Sometimes when one of the guys is in the shower, we’ll tape the door — loads of duct tape all around — so he can’t get out.
Turns it into a sauna.
[laughs] Yeah, I guess.
Where have you not played yet — a city or venue — that you would like to play?
I really want to do all the House of Blues venues. They’re just beautiful. We’re coming back on tour in October, and we’re doing House of Blues in Boston, I think. When we were supporting Airborne Toxic Event [in their spring 2013 tour], we played a few House of Blues venues. And I just love them. Other places — Madison Square Garden would be cool.
Are there people you’d like to collaborate with on a project?
Absolutely. One example — Daft Punk — that would be really interesting. Or — anybody, really. Any excuse to make music. Want to collaborate? [We both laugh]
Well, I can write — if you need someone to write about you — and I love music — but I’m no musician.
[Laughs] Well, at least you know your limitations.
If I could look at your iPod right now, what would I find on it?
Lots of old-school music at the moment. Actually, last thing I played was a Jackson Browne song, “These Days.” [pulls out iPhone and scrolls down the list]
Do you mind if I take a look at the playlist?
[Steve hands me his phone]
Who chooses the music when you’re on the road?
We take turns. We like all sorts of things. Jay is into electronic stuff, he’s introduced us to a lot of that. We’re constantly discovering — we have so many different tastes, such a wide range, everything from Rammstein to — well — everything. [pause] We like all sorts of music. Too much.
Is there such thing as too much music?
Jay: Maybe. Probably not.
Steve: A matter of opinion, I guess.
Can you name a favorite book, poem, movie — or just something you’ve read recently that you liked.
Steve: I’m reading a Jackson Browne book that a fan gave me in Germany. I also like “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom.
Favorite film — definitely “Wolf of Wall Street.” That scene where he’s crawling and then falling down the stairs — instant classic.
Have you been watching any of the Winter Olympics?
Steve: No, our satellite froze.
I didn’t know that could happen.
Jay: Yeah, it was so cold that it froze, so it doesn’t work. When we were in Montreal, we caught the opening ceremony, but that’s as far as we’ve gotten.
Steve: We’re caught in our own touring bubble.
Totally understandable. Touring keeps you crazy busy. I asked mostly because of your countryman, Sean Greenwood–he competes in skeleton–that’s kind of like luge, but face-first…
Jay: We have Winter Olympians?
You do — a team of five or maybe six people. And this one guy, Greenwood, is a total badass. He lost control on a turn, went airborne, landed hard on his shoulder, somehow gets back on the sled and finishes the race.
Steve: We really should know this. We’re going to have to check that out on Youtube.
It’s funny how we have people in the Winter Olympics because we don’t have [winter]. One snowflake falls in Ireland and the whole country shuts down. We can’t handle snow. We can’t handle winter. We don’t really get a winter. It just rains a lot.
I grew up mostly in Taiwan and Texas — not a lot of snow in those places either.
I’ve never been to Taiwan — I’d love to go. As far as Asia’s concerned, we’ve been to Japan — Osaka, Tokyo. We’re going back for a tour there in April. I’d love to go to other places.
You’re touring with LP. Has that been fun?
She’s been supporting us this whole tour. The first time we heard her, we walked into the room and we were like — wow, what a voice. She’s very talented.
Last time you performed you were wearing a beanie. Do you have a lucky hat?
I guess this is it. [pulls off hat and examines it]
I should probably let your next set of fans do their interview before the show starts. Thanks so much — it was really nice to talk to you.
Thanks — it was a lot of fun. Are you staying for the show?
Oh yes, of course. Wouldn’t miss it.
To Meg of RCA and Lewis, the band’s wrangler: Thank you so much for the photo pass and interview. I appreciate the chance to get to know the people behind the music I love.
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In May of 2013, I saw Kodaline open for Airborne Toxic Event at the 9:30 Club. The majority of the audience was captivated, though, as with all opening acts, some people stood around chatting, beers in hand. At the end of Kodaline’s set, Steve thanked the audience for listening “even though you’ve never heard of us.” I was keeping a music journal at the time, and as soon as I got home, I scribbled down Kodaline’s name, knowing that I wanted to hear more.
Fast forward to February 2014. The Irish quartet has skyrocketed from opening act to sold-out shows across Europe and North America. And they’ve established a foothold in Asia — when I visited Vietnam in November, Kodaline’s music video was on cable TV — and on my in-flight entertainment on the plane ride home.
It is so inspiring to see these guys come into their own. In their third Washington show, there was no trace of tentativeness. Kodaline owned the stage at U Street Music Hall. The crowd was so hungry for the music that they were jammed in like sardines–sweaty sardines surging toward the stage when the band came out. The band’s range was on full display, from the fragile, soaring notes of “High Hopes” to the toe-tapping, uptempo “Brand New Day.” The audience sang entire verses of some of the songs.
In spite of their newfound fame, the band members remain charmingly understated–there’s no flippancy or affect. They were willing to take 20 minutes before the show to talk to this random music blogger. Kodaline writes songs from the heart — and that authenticity enables fans to connect with the music.
The new EP, One Day, is out now in the UK and features two new songs–Take Control and Common Ground. Sorry, fellow North Americans — I couldn’t track down info on when it will be available for download in the U.S. and Canada. I’ll update this post when it’s released stateside.
In “Brand New Day,’ Kodaline invites us to “Think of all the places we could be / Think of all the people we could meet.” I imagine that when the band penned those words, the adventures were aspirational. Now they’re a reality. And I couldn’t be more thrilled for them. Come back soon, guys. Adoring fans (and Ben’s Chili Bowl) await.