We chat to Gary Lightbody and Peter Buck from supergroup Tired Pony at Bushmills Live, in a caravan simlar to one that Gary remembers holidaying in with his Dad…
You’ve been a band for 5 years; I can’t believe it’s been that long already.
G: Technically we started January 2010, in the studio. But we did organise it in 2009! A new thing in a band that’s been going on for a while, a new ting has to be done in January or February really, because you’re kind of touring the rest of the year.
So how did it happen? How did you meet Peter Buck from R.E.M, how did you meet Gary from Snow Patrol?
P: Well, I actually saw him play on the first American tour they did in 1998 or 1999.
G: Dark distant past!
P: It was a club; there was maybe twenty people there. I went with Scott (McCaughey, from The Fresh Fellows and The Minus 5) who is now part of Tired Pony. I remember walking out and I looked at Scott and said “Y’know I don’t know hoe this radio business works anymore, but those guys have great songs! This could be really big” So I’ve been a fan ever since Jacknife Lee Garret (also a Tired Pony member) had produced both of our records, he kind of melded us together. He suggested to Gary that Scott and I might work very quickly. The whole idea was to try something and see what happens rather than planning it out for months and working on it for weeks.
Was most of the content experimental?
G: Well I come with songs. In Snow Patrol and Tired Pony, Reindeer Section, any band I’m involved with. I’ll come with guitar and my vocal and go to everybody else in the room “Okay, what you got?” There’s no point with getting a group of people so talented together and then telling them what to play. Everybody then brings their own talents to the songs. With Tired Pony, every different song, people were playing a different instrument. Apart from me! I can only play one… Peter would play mandolin, guitar or various other things
P: I think I played bass; we don’t have a full time bass player. So even on the new record, it was like “Who wants to play bass on this one?”
G: It was also never like “You gotta play bass” it was always “Oh I’ll do it on this one”, nobody was ever stuck.
P: You’d hear the song and somebody would be like “I have an idea!” and if you have an idea, go for it.
How many of you are in the band?
G: We have seven regular, fulltime members of the band. Then there’s a rolling cast of people. There’s maybe around thirty or forty other people who have played on albums and tours and stuff.
How do you all fit on stage?
G: It’s never at one time but once we had eighteen people on stage. Today is maybe ten or eleven. Sometimes it seems deceptively small we fit really well.
P: It’s comfortable and it sounds good, a really nice feeling in the room. Part of the weirdness with some stages is not so much the size, but the claustrophobic feel of the sound you get. The stage we’re playing today has a really clean sound; I can hear everything really well. The room has a nice, natural kind of feel, like it was built for music.
Even though it was built for whiskey! But whiskey and music go hand in hand…
G: Whiskey results in music and music results in whiskey, so… they seem to be the answer to the question of each other.
So you’re playing at Bushmills Live, in Northern Ireland, which is your home Gary. Is it always nice to play somewhere that is close to your heart?
G: Yeah absolutely. I love playing Northern Ireland; this is the first time Tired Pony has played Northern Ireland.
P: Anywhere in Ireland!
G: It’s always something I’ve wanted to do, but financially it’s never been viable anymore than a show in London and a couple of shows in America. You’ve really just got to pick your battles and also not just financially but getting everybody’s diaries to line up. It’s really hard when everybody in the band is in a different band or at least one different band.
Your most recent record ‘The Ghost of the Mountain’ was released in 2013, what’s your favourite track on the album?
G: My favourite track is one that I almost titled differently, ‘Wreckage and Bone’ which is the sixth track on the album.
P: ‘Ravens and Wolves’ I think.
G: It’s always ‘something and something’ (laughs)
P: For some reason, I don’t even know if we’ve played it twice? But it immediately turned into this big, roaring kind of thing. That was one I thought should be the single, because it was unlike what we did on the first record.
Speaking of the first record, you did the track ‘Get On The Road’ with Zooey Deschanel. How did that happen?
G: Peter and Scott are close friends with M. Ward and he played on ‘Held in the Arms of Your Words’, I asked him, “I’ve got a song that I would love Zooey to sing, do you think, you could tell her.” You don’t want to ask for somebody’s email ‘cause it’s not really fair to email somebody out of the blue. He said he would ask her and got back in touch to say she’d be up for it! We recorded everything in Portland, apart from her and Tom Smith from Editors. Which were both recorded in LA. We went in the studio with Zooey, she was just so sweet and amazing.
How important do you think festivals like this are to Ireland’s music scene?
G: Well that’s the thing, live music has dipped a little in Ireland because less people are going out, feeling tight around their wallets I’m guessing. So there’s less and less gigs, something like this is really important.
How is that you find time between all your other projects to focus on Tired Pony?
P: Well you know I kind of book up like a restaurant six months in advance, I don’t work that much so I get a lot accomplished in a short period of time. We agreed to play today back in October, maybe September? So I just planned a family vacation around it.
It has been three years since a Snow Patrol album Gary, working between all these projects, there must be something in the pipeline?
G: You’d think wouldn’t you! I’ve been working in LA on film soundtracks. Nathan has been doing Little Matador, Pablo is in three other bands. Which I can’t even name as he hasn’t told me all of them. Jonny is running Polar Patrol which is our publishing company. The other Jonnny McDaid is working with Ed Sheeran and various other people. Everybody is doing their own thing, which is great but we’re all still very much in contact. We will get together towards the end of the year to make another album, which will be out next year.
Go here to read the interview at music-news.com.