Silent Uproar: So, how did the first leg of the us tour go?
Jonny: Yeah, really good. We had prepared for some of the gigs to be 20 people maybe turning up, and we knew that New York sold out and LA would be ok, but in reality it turned out that all the gigs were full. Turned out to be a really good trip, and we got more out of it than we expected.
SU:There are a lot of sort of "It" bands coming across the pond from the UK right now, particularly Scotland. Who do you feel is your biggest rival in getting attention in America?
Jonny: Our biggest rival? Um, we don't really see it as rivals, but I'd say Keane and Franz Ferdinand would be. When we were over [in the US], they would seem to be the two bands that were talked about the most from the UK. But the response we've been having is a lot better than expected. It's really tough for UK bands to come over and do ok in America, and I think we've been really lucky in terms of getting press and just getting exposure. SU: What do you think was so different about Final Straw as opposed to your first 2 records that has gotten you so much praise and attention?
Jonny: It's our best album to date; that would be an obvious thing. We were on Detour Records, which are a small indie label, so we'd never been able to promote our album like Polydor has and Universal, and so we changed management and label, and that made a lot of difference. And this album we got Jacknife Lee in to produce it. We'd always had the kind of DIY approach before because we didn't have much money, and it was kind of an indie kind of way we would produce our albums, but we didn't know anything about it. And this time we just thought it would be nice to find somebody here that we can trust, and that means that we can get in the studio, and they can stand back and go, “Well, how 'bout this for an idea? This might make the song better.” And that’s what happened. A lot of the kind of incidental noises and sythesizer on songs came from the producer. So it was kind of a few factors, and also the timing has been good. I mean, this year, like Franz Ferdinand getting in the top 5, like ourselves almost a week later [getting in the chart]. It just feels like there's a bit of a revolution come to bands writing their own songs and who can play their instruments rather than, you know, dancers who get vocal training.
SU: Which is nice.
Jonny: It's the thing we've been shoutin about for years, you know with every band we meet. It's terrible, the state of the music industry. It just seems that people are bombarded with the same kind of manufactured, make your quick money, get in and get out sort of acts, you know?
SU: Could you possibly be talking about Britney Spears?
Jonny: Yeah, yeah, but there's a plethora of bands to talk about and acts or whatever. That'll always exist, but I think the problem was that there's always a market for young teenagers. They want to have the clean-cut image up on their wall and listen to nice pop songs, but I think the problem was that no bands were ever getting in the top 40, you know. Maybe one a month. Things have changed somewhat, and now we're seeing loads of bands who are doing really well and those bands are getting signed now. It seems to be that rock music is cool again. I'd seen the dance thing was big around the UK and Europe, and the Djs almost became too big, and it kind of had itself in the end and maybe dance music wasn't going forward enough. Even in the UK, like MixMag and DJMag, I think they're down to 6% last year. Seems to be a real shift to band music.
SU: So you mentioned Jacknife Lee and said he was instrumental in getting your sound together this time and kind of making it cohesive. What were his suggestions? What did he come in and tell you needed to be tightened up?
Jonny: I think it was just kind of more simple really. It was kind of like melodies shined through at the right parts and just taking a less complicated approach to it. We're not a musical kind of band; we're not very professional musically. We couldn't be session players, but I think the deal is with a producer to find out what your strengths are as a band and then push that as far as you can. And that way you get the best out of people. So it was just a kind of sitting down and him saying, “If you keep that a wee bit simpler, something will shine out of that. We'll get a better sound.” I wouldn't say it was a mile away from the demos. There were some songs that we kind of speeded up; like “Spitting Games” was a really slow song on the demo. Really, really slow, until we speeded it right up. Things like that.
SU: I can't even imagine “Spitting Games” as a slow song. Sounds like he [Lee] had the right idea then.
Jonny: Yeah, definitely. On the other hand, if we had gone with a different producer, it could have been a completely different story. I think for us, finding the right person, he was perfect. He'd kind of been in bands before; he'd been in a band called Compulsion, and they were a sort of punky rock band. So he's kind of deep in like dance/electronic persona that he had, so he did put in a certain element, but it was generally back to “You're a band, and that's what we're gonna stress about. We're not gonna start putting big dance beats over what you've got.” It was a good choice.
SU: It seems like one of the themes running through most of the songs on Final Straw is a sort of desperate, longing infatuation or love. Was this as due to personal experiences of late or just touching on a universal theme?
Jonny: Gary (Lightbody) writes all the lyrics, so you'd need to have him explain it to you more, but I'd say yeah, it does come from his personal experience. And he finds that it's easier to write about loss than happiness.
SU: I read that "Somewhere a Clock Is Ticking" was basically his response to the whole Iraqi conflict and the general state of the world these days.
Jonny: Yeah, we've been asked a lot about whether we were political or not in that view. But we were recording the album when the Iraq war was kicking off. We were down in London. We weren't even up in Glasgow, and there was just that kind of “London is a target” and nobody really knew what was gonna happen next. And after 9/11 everyone realized it was an unsafe world no matter where you live, you know. That's not so much political as sort of “Oh Shit! What's gonna happen next?” We're living in really unsafe times, and there's that fear for people that you know who are different places. And war is just a stupid thing that goes on in our world and most people have to face the consequences of that if you don't make decisions about it. And that's kind of our angle on it.
SU: Someone had said that Mark started crying onstage in DC during one of the songs. Now that’s passion for your music. Do you remember which song it was, and why did he have such a strong response to it?
Jonny: No, I don't think so, but there was this time in Shepherds Bush Empire that he did cry. Oh wait, it wasn't Mark, it was Nathan that cried. He just joined a couple of years ago and is just 22. He very quickly joined the band and was suddenly up on a big stage. And everyone at the Shepherd's Bush from the front to the back was singing “Run.” It was a big emotional moment for him. But I think they said in the review that it was Mark, but they just got the name wrong.
SU: Who are you looking forward to checking out at Glastonbury this year?
Jonny: Well, I'm a big fan of My Morning Jacket, but they're on at the same time as us. But we're gonna have to leave straight after. It's a shame because we've got to go to Germany to do two festivals. That's the thing about working and being busy like we are because you don't really get to hang about. Like before, if we went to a festival, we were the first people there and the last to leave because we got free tickets. But these days, we kind of turn up and have to leave soon after, so it's a shame because we don't get to see anybody. And it's a shame because I've been to Glastonbury a couple of times, but the other lads in the band haven't. Maybe next year we'll go when we're not playing.
SU: Gary’s been somewhat vocal in your dislike of the label “indie band.” Why does that rub you such the wrong way? What do you think it means and who do you feel that label actually fits?
Jonny: Indie... It doesn't really bother us that much, but it's a kind of term that makes you think of a certain type of music as opposed to what the original meaning of what Indie was, which was independent labels and independent distribution and independent shops who promoted band who maybe the majors didn't pick up because they were diverse. But now the term Indie has become “indie sound” and I don't think we're “indie sound” in that respect.
SU: So, do you guys consider yourselves a Scottish band or an Irish band?
Jonny: We're an Irish band living in Scotland.
SU: Yeah, I guess that's a good answer. Serves me right for asking that.
SU: At this point, who would you say are your musical heroes?
Jonny: There's obviously The Beatles. Ringo Starr is the drummer. Great approach being simple. He was given a hard time, that he was a really bad drummer. John Lennon, when he was asked if he was the best drummer in the world said “He's not even the best drummer in The Beatles.” But i think he was great. He did amazing stuff with them.
There are tons of other people, like David Bowie and Bob Dylan. A lot of 60s and 70s people really that are my icons. I don't really think there's anybody around at the moment, kind of new people really.
SU: You mentioned coming back to the US after your festival dates this summer.
Jonny: Yeah, coming back in September.
SU: Where would you like to play that you haven’t been able to yet?
Jonny: We haven't actually gotten all the dates confirmed, but I'd say six weeks is long enough to get nearly everywhere. laughs I think we may be doing some Midwest shows that we didn't do before. We're definitely going back to Canada as well.
SU: Do you ever get the urge to call the guy from Polar Bear and taunt him with your success?
Jonny: We would, except that we think Snow Patrol's a better name, so we really should thank him.
SU: Well, it definitely worked out better for you.
Jonny: Yeah definitely. He made the right decision.
SU: Who would be your ideal tour-mates and why?
Jonny: Naturally someone who's not as big as us! Seriously, I'd love to tour with My Morning Jacket. And another band Joy Zipper? Don't know if you've heard of them. I just love their album; it's fantastic. Oh, ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, which we think we may do at one point. They're on the same label as us, and we've known them for many years. Good friends. I'd love to tour with them. They're great guys, and they'd spur you on every night to do an amazing rock show. I think we'd have to go on before them actually. Don't think we could go on after them.
SU: And now for the silly question: Now that you’re really getting big, are you plotting outrageous demands for backstage?
Jonny: laughs We have actually got a long list. Um, “Hats of the World” - a range of hats that we could wear. Like a 10-gallon, and you'd get your bowler hat and your Stetson. And things like a Stormtrooper outfit, and a couple of light sabres coming in. Just things that we'll never get, I think. We never ask for something that would be too expensive; we just ask for things that nobody would ever be able to get. We're not really a demanding band because we've toured for, like, seven years and been handed a case of beer that was out of date. So we were so used to that that when we turn up to the dressing room every day and see we've got different types of dip and wine and beer and maybe a bottle of vodka, we're like Wow! We're still impressed, so that we never kind of get rediculous. But I think pants and socks, you know, underwear, that's a really good thing. That might be the next extravegant thing we add.
SU: Well, you know you can never have too many.
Jonny: No and especially underwear. I mean, I don't know where socks go anyway. I mean, where do socks go?
SU: I don't know.
Jonny: I must buy 40 pairs a year. It's crazy.
SU: There's like a vortex somewhere.
Jonny: I know! Someone's got them all. I'd love to see it!
SU: Well thank you for indulging me today and take care Jonny.
Jonny: Cheers mate!