Keely Chisholm ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Irish rock band Kodaline came to Boston’s House of Blues in April, an early stop on their second stateside tour. Emertainment Monthly had the chance to sit down with guitarist and backing vocalist Mark Prendergast before the show.
So you guys got your start on You’re A Star about ten years ago. When you first started out as a band, what were you hoping for at that point?
Jesus, yeah. I think when you’re at that age, I think we were fifteen, sixteen, all you want to do is play music with people in a room really loud. And you know, everything is really fast and you’re all over the place and we just wanted to get together. ‘Cause me and Steve [Garrigan, singer] and Vinny [Vincent May, drummer], we used to skateboard together and it’s kind of funny ‘cause it’s kind of come full circle and now we’ve just bought skateboards this week and we’re skateboarding again. But I think at that age, we were already playing our instruments for a few years and the next kind of development is to play with people. And we just played with people and from the first time we jammed, we were addicted to it and we just kept playing together, and now we’re here.
Those ten years, does it feel like forever or does it feel like it went by really fast?
It didn’t feel like forever. It kind of just kept happening and the baby steps kept happening more and more, and you get rejected by certain people and you play gigs to nobody and people don’t show up for your shows and people—nobody has any interest in your band and you go through all that kind of stuff but you just keep playing and keep bettering yourself more and more and then you just—when we were happy with it, that’s when we decided to start recording.
What would you say are your biggest musical influences?
Mine would be The Beatles, Jack White, and—do you know the Talking Heads? The Talking Heads are my favorite band. Between all of us we listen to everything, but probably my biggest influence would be Jack White, ‘cause when I was about 14 or 15 when I went to see him play when he was still with the White Stripes and they played a gig in Dublin. And it just blew my mind, ‘cause I had just started playing guitar and I was in my room with this crappy little amp and I thought that’s how a guitar sounds, and when I went to see him play I was like, you can do so much with just a guitar. And that was the biggest influence for me to start writing music.
And you’re on your second album now. How does that feel?
It feels good. It’s kind of scary to say we’ve got two albums because we still feel like a brand new band to people. It’s cool. We’ve got more material to draw from for live shows; our fans have more music to listen to. But we’ve started writing the third album. We write a lot of songs. Steve was writing with Jay [Jason Boland, bassist] out in the bus today and I was writing in here and we constantly keep the tap dripping.
So speaking of writing, you guys have written and worked with so many different people over the last couple of years—Jacknife Lee, Jim Eliot—so can you talk about what that was like?
I really liked Jim Eliot. We did one song with him and we did four songs with Jacknife. That was crazy, working with Jacknife, ‘cause he’s a genius. He’s done so much, so many big records, so we were quite nervous and out of our comfort zone but he got some good songs out of us. And we did a lot with Steve Harris and Phil Magee, who did the first album, so it was kind of nice to go back and do the same—get the same kind of vibe. Then we worked with a guy called Johnny McDaid, who’s in Snow Patrol, and now he’s engaged to Courteney Cox and she’s gonna be directing our next video, so that’s cool. We went out for two weeks to L.A. to her house to film our new video, so it’s weird it’s gotten to that level.
So this is your second big North American tour, yes?
It would be our second, yeah. The last time we played in the Paradise [Rock] Club. We were actually supposed to do this exact tour in November, but we had to cancel it because Jay broke his arm. But to come back and do the tour now, it’s amazing, ‘cause we don’t really get a huge amount of radio play in America like we would do in the UK so we’re never really sure what songs are gonna connect with people live. But people just really dig the album and like to listen to it as a whole, ‘cause every track we play, they sing every word and it’s just weird, you know? Really weird.
But a good kind of weird?
An amazing kind of weird. It’s great ‘cause like, when we first started, we had one song out—we had “All I Want” out—and we’d play a gig for 45 minutes and people wouldn’t have heard any other song and they’d kind of sit there and wait for that one song, but now it’s like it’s cool that people know it like the back of their hand.
So what would be the main difference you’d see between touring in the UK and Europe versus here?
It’s kind of like, different countries we go to, they react to songs differently ‘cause some songs just connect with different nationalities and it’s really, really strange. But American and UK audiences are pretty similar. We’ve found Canadian audiences and our own audiences—Irish audiences—are very, very similar. I can’t explain why. They just sing a lot. Really loud. Even if they don’t know the words, it’s funny when you make eye contact with somebody and it’s like, you’ve got that so wrong.
And you’ve played quite a couple of music festivals—which one would you say has been your favorite?
We did Glastonbury, which is kind of the root of all the festivals. It wasn’t the first, I think Woodstock was the first one but it’s just huge. It gets 180,000 people in one weekend. We were there last year and it was amazing. We had a really good time at Firefly Festival. Lollapalooza was great, because you’re playing in the middle of Chicago and you can just see the skyline. Usually when we play festivals, we’re used to seeing mud and tents, which is great, but it was different to play in the middle of a city, where it’s so clean and warm. No wellies! No one was wearing wellies. You kind of get a taste of everything when you do festivals ‘cause each festival is completely different. The UK festivals kind of have the same vibe, and then the American festivals are just—the sun is shining, always.
Is there something different that you feel, doing these festivals in different places?
I think UK audiences drink more. Like, they’re a bit more drunk.
Our drinking age is also higher, so that might be it.
That’s a very good point! Yeah, that’s probably it. And Scottish crowds and Irish crowds, like when you go on stage there you just see people like that even if you’re going on six o’clock in the day. But once you’re onstage, a festival crowd is kind of the same everywhere. It’s people in that gang mentality of, “Okay, for the next three days, we can lose ourselves and do whatever we want.” Everyone’s really loose and it’s cool. It’s nice to be a part of, ‘cause I’ve been going to festivals for years. And I always said, “Wow, being backstage at a festival is great,” and it is, ‘cause you can hang with other bands and you get to meet loads of bands. That’s my favorite thing, festivals. These tours are great, because you’re playing to your own crowd and you know what you’re gonna get and that’s a good thing, but when you play a festival, it’s like being in a circus. And you can see anybody, just walk by anybody.
What are you most looking forward to on this leg of tour?
There’s a few places we haven’t been to yet, which I’m always looking forward to. A few new Canadian places—like, we haven’t been to Calgary, Edmonton, or Winnipeg, so that’s kind of new. But it’s nice to come back. We actually just, like half an hour ago, I was in Fenway Park and we got a tour of the whole place. It’s weird, like when you go on a big American tour, for me personally, you don’t actually look forward to it. You just kind of get there. And when you get there, random shit happens and you never forget it. When we travel so much and we spend two days in one city, you don’t look a week ahead of where you’re gonna be, you kind of look at the next few days. And certain accidents happen on the day where you get opportunities to do that, but you get opportunities to meet amazing people and it’s great. It’s not what we’re looking forward to; it’s what the memories are once you’ve left.
Do you have a favorite memory?
We had an amazing time in Arkansas. We didn’t have a show down there, but we went and I’d never seen anything like it. It was like when you see on TV, like, hicks? Actually, hick is probably an insult. But we were going to Texas and we’d just done a show in Kansas. We were on tour with Airborne Toxic Event and in between Texas and Kansas there’s a place called Arkansas [Ark City, KS], and then there’s Arkansas. Usually when we take a day off we pull up to a hotel and spend the day in the hotel but we wanted to go to a caravan park and there were these guys there, these Southern guys, and now they’re our friends. There’s this dude called Chickenhawk, and all these guys, and they had guns and all that, and we just lit a fire and they cooked this huge barbeque and that night we went to this club. People just were getting up and playing. This one guy got up and he could barely walk, a really old guy, and he picked up a guitar and it was just like, holy shit, he was so good. And they found out we were a band so we got up and we played, like, “Johnny B. Goode,” a typical blues song. And then the cook came out and he started playing piano and the barmaid got up, and it was like everyone in the whole place could sing and play amazingly well. We thought people in Ireland were like that, ‘cause there’s a lot of musicians in Ireland, a lot of buskers and a lot of bands, like everyone kind of plays something or has a song. But there, it was just crazy, ‘cause it’s so far away from what we’re used to. And if I wasn’t in a band, then I was gonna go on holiday to America. You go to like, New York, L.A., Chicago, or Boston. You go to the main cities and you’d never end up in a place like that, so that’s a good thing about being on tour. We were there for like two days and they’re all coming to the Dallas show, so they’re coming to see us.
You met such interesting people, and you’d never expect to meet them.
Exactly, yeah, and that’s the best thing about it. We love traveling and exploring new things. ‘Cause the shows are amazing, we play a show every day, so it’s what you do during the day that you really sink your teeth into and you remember.
Check out more Kodaline tour dates on their website.