Kodaline seemed to burst out of the Dublin music scene and straight in the direction of international acclaim when Fearne Cotton caught wind of the storytelling video for ‘All I Want’ (right). The tastemaker soon had the band tied to a fifteen minute live showing on BBC Radio One, a slot that also happened to be their first live interview. It all came surprisingly easily. At the time of our interview, the band had played less than a dozen live shows, and, unusually, were snapped up by B-Unique/RCA Victor having – at the time – never set foot on stage in anger (at least performing Kodaline’s music). American hospital drama Grey’s Anatomy was soon in the queue, too, snapping up ‘All I Want’ for next season’s soundtrack. At just a four track EP old, it’s fair to say the four-piece from Swords – the same Dublin suburb that spawned The Cast Of Cheers – have had quite a start.
It’s immediately clear that Kodaline are a little inexperienced on the media front: they’re quiet and nervous interviewees, offering up simple yet thoughtful answers before their Sugar Club show, their first as headliners. Even after two years of private rehearsals, the sheer speed of take-off must come as a shock, but Kodaline’s subtle, soaring tones already come across as refreshingly fully formed performance wise. The depth is unsurprising given the bands more extended history. Vocalist Steve Garrigan recalls: “We’ve been in a few bands for a while. Never the same bands until now, but we’ve all been in bands and known each other since we were very young kids. We went to school together.”
Kodaline themselves are a more recent proposition. “We only started writing together seriously over the last couple of years”, Steve recalls. “Before that we were just gigging and stuff, in our other bands. We decided we really liked what we were writing, and that we’d record it properly. We didn’t play a gig as Kodaline until the last few months. We were just writing until then, until we got to a point where we were happy enough. We just took a more honest approach to writing. We stopped writing for the sake of playing a gig and started writing for ourselves.”
There’s no lack of confidence in the product. Steve describes a parent-bothering approach to the band, summing it up as such: “This is it, full time. We’ll make it or bust.” It’s the kind of approach that begs a quiet reality checking whisper in the ear. Or at least it would, if things hadn’t taken off so incredibly quickly. As musically impressive as Kodaline are, that take-off has a lot to do with ‘All I Want’s viral video. “The ‘All I Want’ video was made by a friend of ours called Steven Russell”, Steve explains. “It’s completely his idea. When I first saw it I felt a bit weird about it. I saw a photo of the man and I thought where’s this going in connection to the song. Then I read the script, and it was great, it tied in – he’s a really cool, talented guy. He wanted us to chop the song though. That wasn’t going to happen. We were blown away; it made us love the song in a different way.”
That, in turn, led to Fearne Cotton’s interest, and to the bizarre story of the Kodaline fish: “Fearne Cotton just saw the video to all I want, and tweeted saying ‘check out this, it’s amazing, I’m in tears’ and stuff. They got in touch and we did our first interview on Radio One. She had us on for about fifteen minutes. We were scared, but she was cool, put us at ease. I guess that’s why she’s daytime Radio One, she’s really easy to talk to. We gave her a fish. We thought it was a good durable present. We had to go in a taxi for like half an hour, and we lost a lot of the water in the taxi. It’s still in the Radio One office, apparently. The fish has its own Twitter page, too. We don’t know who’s behind it. The fish had more followers than us, which is pretty hilarious. I think we’ve just surpassed it now. We just wanted to get her a fish.”
B-Unique/RCA Victor came along even before Kodaline had a single publically released track. “They picked us up before the EP,” Steve reveals. “They’ve been coming back and forth and seeing us play for a while. They just kept getting back to us, and eventually they took us based on a song. We hadn’t played live and we didn’t have a bass player. I guess it’s easier for a label to take a band with a fan base, and we didn’t have one, so we were happy with that.”
At this point, plenty of older but lesser-known bands might be tempted to throw their hands up: on the face of it, Kodaline’s early success has been all too easy. Things haven’t always been so simple, though. The group have been in various bands for years, with little success: “We used to write soulless songs in other bands. We just thought it was time to say something, if we were going to keep writing. Basically we just started writing about real life things, songs with a purpose. We were in a band when we were seventeen and didn’t really know what we were doing. We just write our songs stripped down on acoustic guitars. It’s easy to perform in a stripped back way and to convert the songs to live set ups as they were written that way.”
It’s not just the EP that’s already in full swing, incidentally. Kodaline have a second EP and the best part of an album ready, all produced and practised in acoustic form in an old clapped out school in Swords. “We feel natural live acoustic, and we’re getting there full on. The next EP is finished. We were going to put it out earlier but we want to let the idea run now. We’ll tour this one a little and then put the EP out in the New Year. We’re also hoping to have an album out in around March. That is pretty quick, but that’s the plan. We’re playing a nine song set live at the moment, and there are a few more to rehearse when we get around to it. We don’t really try to sound like anyone, we just write songs that make us feel good. I’m into Sam Cooke and Jackson Browne.”
Reality for Kodaline has changed quickly. We close our interview by mentioning a highly critical Guardian new bands article that makes plenty of high-profile comparisons but summarizes the four-piece as mundane. We beg to differ, but the answer shows a blend of maturity in attitude and youthful age: “Have you seen the ending to (Disney movie) Ratatouille?” Steve asks. “It’s about critics, and talks about how sometimes it’s easier to be critical than take a step back. There’s been so much good, we have to take the bad, too.” They even save reading the piece for the first time until after their performance. Something tells us Kodaline are ready.
Kodaline’s self-titled debut EP is out now on B-Unique Records