Big-time rock stars since they hit it big with the album “Final Straw” nearly a decade ago, the members of Irish band Snow Patrol are now big enough to fill the Santa Barbara Bowl, which they’ll do Saturday night. Ojai rock goddess Lissie will open the show.
“Final Straw,” released in 2004, was the band’s third album and its major-label debut. It went five-times platinum, a level of metallurgy that still has label bean counters salivating.
It’s been all blue skies and green lights since, the dreaded creative differences notwithstanding. Snow Patrol tours all over the world, where the fans sing along because they know all the words to all the songs. The group’s lead singer, Gary Lightbody, sings better than everybody, so there’s that. During the struggling times, he had to sell his vinyl collection to keep the band afloat. These days, he has the time and the cash to go shopping for replacements as the band has chalked up tours with U2 and Coldplay, not to mention the requisite appearance on “Saturday Night Live.” The group’s growing and glowing résumé boasts a few Grammy nominations, too.
It’s worth the drive to Santa Barbara just to hear the vocals on “Take Back the City,” a track on the band’s 2008 “A Hundred Millions Suns” album. All the “whoa, whoa, who’s” in that song sound a lot better than they read.
Clashing schedules made the following email interview our only option. Here’s what Lightbody had to say.
What’s the latest in Snow Patrol world?
We are touring in Latin America at the moment. We’ve been in Chile, Argentina and now Brazil. Mexico is still to come.
When you guys tour in some place like Brazil, do you have to actually explain what snow is?
Ha. A lot of South America gets snow. The bits that don’t, we show them pictures.
You guys have been everywhere. Are the fans the same the world over?
Some fans are more exuberant than others. They go wild in Ireland, Asia and South America — lots of other places, too.
Who has the best beer?
Beers of the World is a fun game. Tiger in Japan is great, Tsingtao in China — and, obviously, I’m not forgetting Guinness in Ireland.
What’s the strangest gig you guys have ever played?
Playing to five people in a strip club in middle England in 2003 was only a highlight because within three months we had our first hit run and were playing to thousands of folks.
As experienced travelers, do you have any tourist tips?
Find a local to take you around. Guide books are written half the time by people cribbing from other guide books.
Ever had a weird meet-and-greet moment when some fan told you how one of your songs saved and/or wrecked their life?
Never wrecked. Sometimes saved, though, and that is a beautiful thing.
Usually a band’s first album is their masterpiece since band members have had their whole lives to create it. You guys didn’t hit it big until your third album. What did we miss on the first two?
Did the success of “Final Straw” surprise you guys? What was the first thing you bought that you couldn’t afford before?
At one point, you had to sell your record collection to keep the band going. Which discs were the most painful to part with?
All my Neil Young and Stevie Wonder on vinyl. That hurt a great deal. Haven’t gotten them all back yet. I will though.
Where does your latest album, 2012’s “Fallen Empires,” fit in with your vast body of work?
It’s a signpost toward the future of the band and our best work by miles. We will better it next time though. You have to think that don’t you? Ha.
Almost 20 years of this. Who knew?
Sure as hell not me. I am very proud of the way we did it. On our terms. No adverts. No selling out our principles.
Big label, small label, no label — what’s the difference, if any?
These days, not much, except distribution. Just have a look at XL Records’ roster and their success —a case in point that independents not only can compete but win at the highest level.
Describe the transcendental power of music.
Everybody singing along … is a very emotional and powerful feeling. You feel united with the audience.
What was it like playing at the Olympics this year?
It was an honor to represent our wee country of Northern Ireland. A great day it was. We were in Hyde Park, not the Olympic Stadium, but we saw it all from there, too. We thought Danny Boyle did an amazing job.
Who would you pay to see, alive or dead?
Do they have to be zombies? If so I’ll stick with alive. My Morning Jacket. Arcade Fire. Tom Petty.
Is the “luck of the Irish” true or a cruel joke?
Found three bucks once in an old pair if jeans, so I think we can safely say it’s very real.
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