Walking into a surreal conversation about American spy channels and the Illuminati, Contact Music spoke to Gary Lightbody and Peter Buck of Tired Pony before their afternoon set at Bushmills Live. What did we learn? Expect a third Tired Pony album, juggling and close up hand magic at their shows, and a “big” Snow Patrol album that will aim for “the far reaches of the universe” next year.
Peter Buck: Have you ever tuned into the spy channels, the ones where they just go X 31?
Gary Lightbody: No, I’ve not.
PB: Figtree… I mean, there are channels like that around and no one knows what they are. There’s a bunch of it, everyone assumed that it’s government communication things that are for spies but…
GL: It’s amazing that they are just going constantly. You wouldn’t want to tune in late and get the wrong end of a bit of information.
PB: I think it must be on a loop.
PB: That’s where Wilko got their name ’cause there’s some conspiracy theory about the illuminati or some s**t like that. I don’t know, I could be wrong. Don’t say I said illuminati, if they exist they’ll come and hunt me down and maybe change my euros to dollars or something, whatever the illuminati is supposed to do. Anyway, you can do the interview without the whole Illuminati, I guess.
GL: Let’s talk about our next band, f**k illuminati.
CM: How are you feeling about playing Bushmills?
PB: Great, the room is really nice. I don’t know if it was designed for music but the band sounded great in there. On stage it felt really good, the room looks good, it’s a really nice size. You can kind of smell the hops – that’s a cool thing.
CM: So your sound check was sounding good?
PB: Oh yeah, it sounds beautiful.
GL: Yeah it sounds great.
CM: So Bushmills is quite a cool venue, have you ever played anywhere that is similar to this?
GL: Well, Snow Patrol played the first festival 2 years ago, but we played in the other room so we’ve moved to the smaller room this time. But I’ve never played a distillery before.
PB: I’ve never played a distillery before. Actually, I played a place called The Distillery but it was nothing like this, it was small.
CM: What’s the coolest venue you’ve played? Or weirdest?
PB: I get really excited when I see the tour schedule to see if I’m playing some venue or town I’ve never been to. So, even though the show was kind of a mess, we played a cemetery in Los Angeles. We were all just enjoying the idea that this was a cemetery, they were burying people about 3 hours ago.
GL: Snow Patrol played in Byblos in Lebanon at the set of the citadel built during the crusades. Byblos is the oldest continuously populated city in the world. It’s been populated since the Phoenicians, so 6000 years ago, all the way through. There’s obviously older cites but they haven’t been continually populated. So the remnants of so many different civilisations were there, and right at the end of it where the land meets the ocean there was a stage facing out to sea and then a sort of boarded area where the crowd stood. There was about 7000 people
PB: Like over the water?
GL: Like pretty much balanced over the rocks.
PB: That’s pretty cool.
GL: It was f**king awesome. When you go to play in the Middle East generally there’s a lot of expats with people for Asia and people from America, there’s not an awful lot of Middle Eastern people. Whereas, we played in Lebanon and everybody was Lebanese, everybody in the crowd was Middle Eastern and we were like… It just felt like we were just part of a culture. Rather than a sort of a multi-cultural event it actually felt like we were really playing in the Middle East. So that gig was f**king awesome.
CM: What can people expect from a Tired Pony live show?
PB: Well, every one is a little different…
GL: People are going to be surprised about how much juggling there is. That’s for sure.
PB: Yeah, we’re working on it.
GL: Yeah, close-up magic.
PB: We’ve actually done like 5 shows and 4 TV shows and we haven’t had the same line up at any of them. So this is another one. We’re in the acoustic room so I’m not going to be playing electric guitar, which is fine because it sounds really good. We played the Barbican last year, it was bigger and fuller and kind of majestic in a way. I’m not sure if we had tubular bells but if we didn’t then it was the only thing we didn’t have. It was big. This is a little smaller; it’s gonna be a little more focussed but it sounds really nice with the interplay of instruments. I can feel the emotions of the songs more when there is less of everything. At one point you look around and you go, ‘Oh, there’s four of us playing electric guitar’. This is a stripped down version, it lets the songs breathe.
GL: It’s stripped down but there’s 12 people on the stage.
PB: Yeah, it’s stripped down for us.
CM: So there’s 7 guys in the band, how hard is it to all find the time to work on stuff for Tired Pony? Should we expect future Tired Pony releases?
GL: Yeah, I hope so.
PB: Yeah, it’s something we all definitely want to do. We all have other things; Gary’s got Snow Patrol coming up, I’m doing a ton of stuff, Scott McCaughey and Richard and Iain, everyone in the band is just busy everyday. But all we really need to do is, 6 months ahead of time, start sending emails saying, ‘February seems pretty good’. Then we just make a hole in our schedules.
CM: So there could be another Tired Pony album?
GL: There will be a third, for sure. I don’t want to think beyond that because, who knows when the third will be? But there’s definitely going to be a third and it will probably be in, if Snow Patrol release an album next year which we probably will and then tour it for, I don’t know, a year or two – that would make it 2017. So there’s a while to wait for another Tired Pony record.
PB: But there’s enough stuff between all of us coming out. Scott McCaughey just had a five LP vinyl set of all new material coming out. So if you’re looking for Tired Pony you got Scott from Tired Pony who just did the most insane record of all time. Literally.
CM: So Gary, have you started writing for Snow Patrol’s next album?
GL: I’m writing at the moment. We’re hopefully going to record before the end of the year but it might sort of bleed into next year. Whatever happens, whether it’s finished this year or finished early next year, it’ll still be out in the middle of next year, that’s what I’m hoping.
CM: What direction do you want to take the new Snow Patrol record in?
GL: Big. Big f**king record. Big, bold, f*cking beautiful, unabashedly f**king going for the far reaches of the universe. I want to make a giant f**king rock record and stand there and f**king sing it like I mean it. I want joy, I want pure f**king joy from everything that I do from now on for the rest of my life. I’m not gonna waste my time on anything else.
CM: There was a crazy rumour that you might be working with Taylor Swift again? Is that jut a crazy rumour?
GL: That is a crazy rumour. I worked on the last record a little bit but I didn’t get the call this time. So, no, not me. She’s working with Max Martin on this record I think pretty much exclusively. That’s why he gets paid the big bucks you know, he’s working with everybody.
CM: Who do you want to catch at Bushmills?
GL: James Vincent McMorrow, I’m a big fan of his. I saw his sound check, it was amazing. David C. Clements, amazing, Luke Sital Singh, jeez, those are all guys with three names. Yeah, what is it with guys with three names? They’re just instantly better because they have three names.
PB: It’s a southern thing. It’s always like Bubba Lee or something like that. In the south, three names means you live in a building that has wheels under it, you know?
CM: What are your after show plans?
PB: My kids are flying from Dublin tomorrow so I’m gonna stick around for a bit to hang out and then drive to Dublin. Then I’m trying to finish three records at the same time and write another record. I could work everyday of the summer if I wanted to. I’m gonna take a day or two off though.
Read the interview at contactmusic.com.