Wednesday 23 January 2019

Epic tale of how Kodaline crossed Swords

Heading for Malahide Castle and the Marquee in Cork, Swords legends Kodaline don't have time to come up for air

Kodaline - kind of like Coldplay, kind of like Kings of Leon, and kind of like U2
Kodaline - kind of like Coldplay, kind of like Kings of Leon, and kind of like U2
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Kodaline are one of the most feted Irish bands on terra firma. Their new single Follow Your Fire is one of the records of the year, not just the summer. Issued in 2013, their debut album In A Perfect World announced the five Dubliners to the world, as did their equally sublime sonic follow-up in 2015, Coming Up For Air. Their brilliance was unmistakable.

And yet it wasn't.

A few years ago now, Kodaline were on tour in America's Deep South. Their bus parked at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere, lead singer Steve Garrigan disembarked and was stretching his legs when he heard a question.

"You fellas in a band?"

"Yeah," replied Steve, "we're in a band."

"So, what do you sound like?"

"Kind of like Coldplay."


"Kind of like Kings of Leon."


"Maybe like U2."


Steve thought that the southern gentleman was joking - but he wasn't.

Apropos of the world-famous Irish band that the aforementioned southern gent had never heard of, later that month when Kodaline rolled into Vancouver to play a sold-out show, a man arrived at the door of their dressing room with a crate of refreshments: Champagne and Guinness. He said that the lovely liquids were from U2.

Kodaline immediately thought it was a practical joke, but much as Bono et al like practical jokes (sure wasn't the Passengers album one on Larry Mullen?) this wasn't one. When the band expressed doubts as to the genesis of the Champagne and Guinness, the guy at their backstage door stuck to his story.

It was only when drummer Vinny May "saw the shiny U2 pass hanging out of his trousers" that the penny dropped. "U2 had a show that night in Vancouver too."

"It was an unbelievable gesture. We've never met them or anything," recalled the band's guitar guru Mark Prendergast while Garrigan's flabber was well gasted: "We didn't even know that they knew who we were. U2 are legendary. We grew up listening to them. We are huge U2 fans."

Like that band from the Northside of Dublin (Finglas), this band from the Northside of Dublin (Swords) seem to possess their own unique sense of humour. Take this snatch of conversation from an interview I had with them in 2015 which says as much about this band of brothers and their sense of self as it does about how and why they started this band that play the Marquee in Cork this Thursday and Malahide Castle this Friday.

"I used to walk home from school with Steve and he used to slag my mam's car," recalled Mark. "She had a really old Ford Ka."

Steve: "It looked like a Cadbury's Cream Egg! Or just an egg!"

Mark: "And every day we got to my house, he'd slag the car. I was like, 'What the f**k is going on with this guy?' So we went to the Gaeltacht together."

"We weren't allowed to sing in English," added Steve, "So we wrote a song in Irish."

"We really started because there was a Battle of the Bands in our school which we were organising as part of transition year," added Steve. (This story has echoes of U2, who also formed at school and who in early 1978 won a talent contest in Limerick, sponsored by Harp Lager).

"There were no gigs when we 15, 16 in Swords. So we decided to hold a Battle of the Bands. We just stayed together for the love of it."

"When you do gigs at that level when you are just starting out," added Mark, "it is such a big event." Steve: "Playing in the local community centre is the most important day of your life."

No doubt there is a part of them that is still in the community centre in Swords when they step on stage in front of 25,000 people on Friday.

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