After five years, two albums (both number 1 in their native Ireland) and hundreds of millions of streams, Kodaline wanted to take some time off. “It was just meant to be a little break,” says guitarist and keyboard player Mark Prendergast. “But actually it was full of the biggest things we’ve ever done.”
They backed Ed Sheeran in front of 160,000 people over two nights at Croke Park for a massive singalong. They recorded a hit single with Norwegian superstar DJ Kygo. Singer Steve Garrigan was flown by private jet to sing with Seal, Leona Lewis and Labrinth at Kygo’s show at the Hollywood Bowl. In LA, the band sat in on rehearsals by fellow countrymen U2, and watched Bono and co “practically blowing the walls off,” according to lead singer and guitarist Steve. “The whole thing was so inspiring.” “It was just like a taste, a reminder of what we are all in this for,” says bassist Jason Boland. “We couldn’t feckin’ wait to get back,” concurs drummer Vinny May Jr.
Irish quartet Kodaline return this year with their third album, quietly confident that it is the best of their career. “We took our time, we did our own thing, we made sure we got everything to exactly where it needed to be,” insists the soft spoken Steve. “We gave ourselves room to get out of our comfort zone and experiment, to try things we might have shied away from before. But the songs were always the foundation: the structure, the lyric, the melody. If you get that right, production can only make it better. It’s like sprinkles on top of the cake.”
Kodaline formed in Swords, north of Dublin, in 2012, although chief songwriters Steve and Mark had known each other all their lives, and worked together since 2005. As a four piece, they achieved immediate success. All I Want, from their first EP, has clocked up over 46 million views on YouTube. Their 2013 debut album, Perfect World, established them as a highly emotional pop rock band with perfectly crafted songs in the anthemic vein of Coldplay. The follow up, 2015’s Coming Up For Air, gave them their second Irish number one, constant touring confirming their status as a growing force around the world. But it was taking its toll.
“Touring is actually the reward,” says Steve. “There’s no better feeling than just playing for a crowd and feeding off them. I’m so grateful, because how many people get to do this for a job? But it’s not quite as glamorous as it seems from the outside. The day to day reality is you're on a tour bus for eight weeks at a time, you go home for a few days and you go back out on the bus again. It can get a bit claustrophobic.”
“We had ups and downs, we had arguments,” reports Vinny, honestly. “We needed a bit of breathing space and do normal things for a while. It was like - let’s just bring it back to why we started this in the first place. We were friends and we wrote songs, let's concentrate on that.”
“We only took a few months off, but it felt like we took a couple of years out,” says Steve. The band returned to their home town of Swords. They finally got around to moving out of parents houses and setting up in their own spaces, and were quite surprised to realise they were still all living “within spitting distance of each other” as Vinny puts it. They found themselves hanging out, just for fun. “We are very tight,” says Steve. “We’re good mates.”
It wasn’t long before they were writing again, in each other’s home studios, gathered around pianos or acoustic guitars, working as a unit. “This album has been the one where we’ve all kind of been there for the whole time,” says Vinny. “Steve and Mark still come in with rough songs but we’re all contributing and shaping, throwing things in. It gives you more of a sense of ownership and connection. Four brains is better than one.”