We had a chat with Mark and Jay from Kodaline ahead of their set at TRNSMT festival last weekend to discuss the real story behind their lyrics, their brand new album release and the surprises they have in store for us for 2019.
Are you excited to play the main stage this afternoon? What can fans expect from your set today?
Jay: Yeah we can’t wait! It’s one of the best places to play. I don’t think we’ve ever been to Scotland and had this beautiful weather. There’s literally no clouds, this is great! We’re over the moon to be playing today. We’ve got a couple of new songs in the set because the new album is coming out at the start of August. We’re just starting to change the set up a bit and make everything a bit newer. That’s the most exciting thing for us because we’ve been playing the last two albums for years so it puts a whole new energy into the set for us.
Do you ever find playing the same songs too repetitive?
Mark: Some songs sometimes, but I was looking at the new set list today and thought ‘wow I’m actually really excited to play that’. The atmosphere changes at every show – whether you’re in a big room, a little room or at a festival so that keeps it fresh.
What’s your favourite memory of playing in Scotland?
Mark: The first time we played T In The Park five years ago was my favourite. It was the first time around the block doing festivals and it was a rollercoaster, as cheesy as that sounds. It was mental.
Tell us about your new single, Shed a Tear, that’s just been released this month. What’s it about?
Mark: It’s sort of saying, it’s ok to speak up if you don’t feel at your best. Because at some point in your life you’ll be going through a tough time and we all have experience with people we’re close to who go through that, so the song is to reassure it’s ok to let it out.
Who writes the lyrics, is it a collaborative effort?
Mark: It changes with every song. Steve writes most of the lyrics, but I write some as well. This album was written with lots of people so they’ve come from all over but still feel genuine.
A lot of your lyrics are very expressive and seem quite personal, do you think this makes your songs more relatable for fans?
Mark: They are incredibly personal, yeah – we like to give as much as we can. When you pour yourself into a song and say exactly how you’re feeling, I find that you get a lot more out of it. People can see through it when you aren’t singing something genuine. We’ve always tried to stay true to that from day one and that’s what our band is about. We have people that send us tweets and they have tattoos of our lyrics that we’ve handwritten – that’s mental!
You were previously called 21 Demands when you were unsigned – why did you change your name to Kodaline?
Mark: We just changed as a band completely. Jay joined us as the new bass player and we changed all of our songs up and it felt right. Since we did that, it’s got better and better!
Your earlier albums have more of a folk sound and you’ve gone down a more electronic route with your new album, particularly with your new single. What’s the reason for that?
Jay: Curiosity and just to keep us excited more than anything else – at the start, all we had was an acoustic guitar and a piano… that’s what all of our songs were written on. The more we get into this and develop, we work with more people and you can make more incredible sounds. Sometimes just a sound can be enough to trigger a new song whereas before it would have always been a song that started with an acoustic guitar. We used to mess around with Garage Band and it’s crazy that you can just create something on there then suddenly play it live.
What’s your favourite song to play live?
Mark: One Day off the first album is one of my favourites. Mainly because that’s an easy one for me to play live – I can just enjoy it and actually look around and take it all in. Sometimes gigs are over in a flash and you don’t get chance to do that.
Jay: It changes for me a lot – I think whenever we add a new song to the set that becomes my favourite for a while. I really enjoy playing Brother at the moment. There’s something really special about it – it’s different enough but still feels like Kodaline at the heart of it.
How was Glastonbury last Summer?!
Mark: Savage! I was really nervous because we were clashing with the legend Barry Gibb, and he had a huge crowd. I was worried we weren’t going to have much of a crowd. It was huge though, and we hadn’t even released an album for years so that was really great. I think if you can carry your weight at that festival, you’ve done good! It was very surreal for us.
Do you have a particular song that means the most to you when you play it?
Mark: We wrote All I Want six years ago, and even to this day when we play it, we can see people in the crowd crying their eyes out. Me and Steve wrote it after going through a very similar break-up – both of our hearts were smashed into pieces and that song was the result of it. We turned something so bad into something amazing and so it’s just a real communal feeling playing it for thousands of people and it being relatable for them.
Where do you spend most of your time when you aren’t touring?
Jay: We split for a bit and go back home to Ireland. You have to experience normal life to write songs because that’s what they’re about – if we lived in band mode all of the time we wouldn’t gain much inspiration.
You’ve previously covered Post Malone – Fall Apart. What made you pick that song to cover?
Mark: I love that song so much. I think he’s the biggest rock star on the planet, he just does what he wants. He’s just like ‘I’m going to tattoo my face and drink Budweiser all day and become the biggest artist in the world’. He comes across as one of the nicest guys out there and I think that’s really important when you love someone’s music.
What can fans expect for 2019, do you have any surprises in store for us?!
Jay: We’re going to some brand new countries hopefully – we wanna check out some places we’ve never been to before. We took three years in between albums last time and it was too long – so you can definitely expect a year packed full of touring and new music!
Words by Sophie Eastham // @sophyvictoriae