Snow Patrol Turn ‘Candy-Assed’ Music Into Beastly Arena Rock

Band takes cue from tourmates U2, aiming for oversize rock that's personal.

Believe it or not, Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody can only sort of remember how his band’s new album, Eyes Open, came to be.

It’s not like he wasn’t there the whole time — he was, and he has the studio blog to prove it — it’s just that, when pressed, he can’t seem to remember how he and the rest of the Patrol came up with the booming crescendos of “Make This Go on Forever” or the gnarly, stomping guitar intro to the first single, “Hands Open.” From the way he tells things, it sounds like the whole record just came together under some sort of divine intervention.

“Honestly, a lot of this record just came about through a series of happy accidents,” Lightbody laughed. “We recorded under this sort of free-flowing chaos, it was sort of wonderful. It was just a lot of laughter. It was one of the happiest memories of our career. Because we’d been through a few sort of gigantic moments, just negative and positive, and we made it out alive.”

Lightbody only sort of touched on the manic 24 months Snow Patrol have been through — from becoming bona-fide stars (thanks to the success of 2004′s Final Straw) and touring with U2 to parting ways with longtime bassist Mark McClelland — it’s been a roller-coaster ride to say the least. So it makes sense that Eyes Open, which Snow Patrol began working on in July with producer Garrett Lee (see “Snow Patrol ‘Set Fire’ While Trying To Stay Warm In Irish Studio” ), reflects those up-and-down times.

“The thing with us is that we toured for like two and a half years for Final Straw, and we kept touring and touring and we never stopped. And when we went in to make this record, we were just riding that momentum,” Lightbody said. “So it’s kind of a hectic record. I mean, things like touring with U2 had a dramatic effect on us because it showed us how gigantic music can be personal. They can play to 60,000 people and touch every one of them, and that was something we didn’t think was possible.”

And from the sound of things, Snow Patrol were taking careful notes while on the road with U2. Eyes Open is full of the globe-uniting rock that Bono & Co. have been brewing for 25 years now: big, stadium-ready guitars and epic choruses coupled with somber pianos and fragile, chirping electronic beats. It’s the kind of complicated, loud/soft record that will find equal footing with the bloggers and the brosephs.

For proof of that, look no further than “Hands Open,” for which Snow Patrol recently shot a video with director Patrick Daughters (who helmed videos for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Gold Lion” and Death Cab for Cutie’s “Title and Registration”). Sure, it’s a straight-ahead radio rocker, with bombastic guitars and love-gone-wrong lyrics, but it’s a tune Snow Patrol struggled with mightily. After all, they don’t have much experience with the mainstream.

“It started off as a real candy-assed kind of almost limp song. [Drummer] Johnny [Quinn] said it was like a Tom Petty rip-off. But we worked really hard on it and Johnny hit the drums hard on it, and it all started to make sense when we turned the guitars up on it and made it this real beast,” Lightbody said. “We’d never written a riff before … and I was having a really hard time trying to sing over it. And it just sort of came together in one magical minute. Which happened a lot on this record. It’s got moments of timelessness, and it’s like this journey. Not to sound like a knob or anything like that.”

Track list for Snow Patrol’s Eyes Open, according to Interscope:

  • “You’re All I Have”
  • “Hands Open”
  • “Chasing Cars”
  • “Shut Your Eyes”
  • “Beginning to Get to Me”
  • “You Could Be Happy”
  • “Make This Go on Forever”
  • “Set the Fire to the Third Bar”
  • “Headlights”
  • “Open Your Eyes”
  • “Finish Line”