You know things are beginning to get interesting for a band when they start to make some very famous friends.
“I got a text from Courteney the other day,” says Kodaline guitarist Mark Prendergast. “I’m even calling her ‘Courteney’, and not Courteney Cox!”
Hold up. Did Mark just refer to the woman otherwise known as Monica Geller from Friends by her first name? “I call her ‘Court’ now,” says front man Steve Garrigan, laughing.
Oh yes, Kodaline have hit the big time. Incidentally, it was in Malibu where the Swords quartet’s friendship with Cox began.
Kodaline had set up shop on America’s west coast last year to begin work on their second album, the Jacknife Lee-produced Coming up for Air.
They’d recently befriended Snow Patrol guitarist Johnny McDaid, and so when McDaid invited the lads over to he and his sitcom-star fiancée’s beach house for a spot of song writing, they knew what to expect.
“Initially, it was weird,” explains Steve (26), “but I mean, Sacha Baron Cohen came to one of our gigs over there and Courteney introduced us. I think when you’re in one of those situations … they’re only people. None of us called her ‘Monica’ anyway, so that was good.”
Indeed. They also drop a few more names – rather bashfully, might we add. Because Kodaline are very nice guys; a well-groomed, well-mannered band of music makers who offer me tea, Guinness and even an open spot in the group (“you’ve got the dress code down, man”). But we gotta mention the Ed Sheeran connection (their drinking buddy), or that ‘impromptu’ writing session with one Harry Styles.
“The Harry thing – we were in the studio with him one night just kind of messing around and we got a song. That’s it, really,” says Mark. “We never heard anything of it, it was more for fun,” adds Steve.
“We’ve never really written for other people, you know, and that was kind of an opportunity to do that. He’s a really cool guy.”
As it turns out, Coming up for Air was something of a happy accident; a series of “random” recording sessions that led to the completion of a new album in record time. Now, the heat is on. Debut album, In a Perfect World, topped the charts here, cracked the UK top-three, led to an appearance on American Idol and, ultimately, shifted 350,000 copies worldwide.
No pressure then, lads.
“There’s nervous excitement,” says drummer Vinny May. “Anybody that tells you before an album release that they’re not nervous is lying, because you don’t know how it’s going to be received.”
Despite their increasing popularity, however, critics love to tear the group’s heart-on-sleeve, melodramatic pop rock balladry into shreds. So, do Kodaline read reviews? “I read the nice reviews,” laughs Steve.
“Some reviews are quite begrudging, but at the end of it, they’ll kind of say something nice,” explains Mark. “The other day, Jay sent me one – there was a quote in it that I thought was brilliant: ‘they’re the aural equivalent of a Marmite sandwich.’ We started off getting really bad reviews, so we don’t read them anymore.”
Bassist Jason Boland insists that it’s all about getting bums on seats. One thing is for certain – they’ve come a long way from the band’s previous incarnation as You’re a Star finalists, 21 Demands. Yes, we remember the wardrobe, too. “We kind of look back and cringe a little bit,” recalls Steve of their brief stint as reality singing competition favourites in 2006.
“I mean, we were 16 or 17. We couldn’t write songs, really – at all. We weren’t that good at playing. We’re a lot better now, but we were teenagers, we were still in school.”
It’s all in the past. Now, they’re mega stars. Once again, they’ve got their sights set on America. Of course, there’s now an interest in their personal lives. Vinny got engaged last year to his long-term girlfriend. Last week, Steve confirmed that he and RTE presenter Diana Bunici were dating. But Kodaline try not to get caught up in the celebrity side of things.
“Myself and Jay share a house with my fiancée and his girlfriend and one of their friends,” says Vinny.
“They are mad for celebrity gossip, so I’m guessing that’s what people think of it. But we would never class ourselves as celebrities; we’re like ‘why would people give a sh*t?’ Obviously some people do, but it doesn’t really bother us, it’s just part of the job I suppose,” he added.
Incidentally, there never was any plan B. Steve and his buddies are musicians and Kodaline was the only option for these lads.
“I didn’t have any job or a college degree or anything,” says Mark. “When we were on You’re a Star years ago it kind of gave me a taste of what this career could be, and even the first album did that for me again.
“I was like ‘I really want to stay in this’. I kind of feel like I’m getting away with being a chancer, you know, we just record tunes and then we go out and we play them and we call it a job, and it’s amazing.
“I think it’s every band’s dream to do as many albums as they can, you know, just see how far you can go, see how big you can get,” finishes Steve.
“I mean if we could still do this in 20 years that would be amazing.”
Coming up for Air is out today. Kodaline play the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on June 26