Kodaline Drummer Vincent May Reflects on Growing with the Band and Adapting to the New Normal

The humble origins of Kodaline are deeply rooted in less-than-desirable circumstances; one that comprises of breakups and dropping out of college. This unfavourable initiation, however, only cemented the band’s authenticity in emotional depth when they began penning their songs, formerly as 21 Demands.

Several soundtrack features and a name change later, the popularity of the Irish indie-rock quartet soared comfortably into the trajectory, led by their 2012 single, “All I Want”. On the track, frontman Steve Garrigan croons beautiful tragedies while bandmates Mark Prendergast (lead guitar), Vincent May (drums) and Jason Boland (bass guitar) lay down atmospheric instrumentals that steadfastly builds up to an ardent finish. Among the rich repertoire of recognisable melodies is “Brother”, off of their third album “Politics of Living”. By the time of its release, fans have grown fondly familiar of the ensemble’s emotionally-stirring numbers, firmly welcoming the haunting spectacle of the tender track with open arms and fistfuls of tissues.

In light of the recent goings worldwide, Kodaline has stepped up to inject some much-needed hope in the form of newest single “Saving Grace”, ahead of forthcoming album “One Day At A Time” that’s due June 12. The four-piece have also taken to social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube to host weekly live virtual performances from their own homes; reminding everybody that no one is alone in this present calamity.

Popspoken: The lyrics to “Saving Grace” are seemingly applicable to the Covid-19 crisis. Tell us the inspiration behind this track.

We’ve been working on the album since January 2019 and “Saving Grace” was written last summer. It’s weird how it’s very apt for the times that we’re living in right now, but when we wrote it, it was about that one person or that group of people who are your saving grace; people that you’d rely on or lean on during your tough times and are always there for you no matter what. Rather than personal possessions or materialistic things, the most important in your life are the people that are around you—your family and loved ones. It could even be about your dog. A saving grace is someone that puts a smile on your face and makes you feel better. 

Popspoken: For the music video, you’ve had fans send in footages of their experiences while stuck at home. How did you feel going through submissions from all around the world and is the end product similar to what you had in mind?

We already knew that “Saving Grace” was going to be the third single but that was before a global pandemic happened. When all of this started to come about, we realised that we couldn’t shoot a typical music video in Ireland or Europe. We knew that we would have to do something different, and so we came up with the idea of showing how other people around the world are coping and dealing. For us, it’s nice to see that no matter where you are in the world, we’re all going through the same thing together; there’s a bit of solidarity and camaraderie in that fact. We worked with our good friend Stevie Russell who shot the “All I Want”, “Brother” and “High Hopes” videos. He’s self-isolating in Dublin as well, so we messaged him that we had this idea to get our fans to send in videos of their daily routines. He really loved the idea and the song! We ended up getting in a couple of thousand submissions from 63-64 countries around the world and the end result was pretty incredible and touching.

Popspoken: Speaking of including fans in your projects, this isn’t the first time they have been involved. You called upon your fans for a #StayHomeChoir rendition of “Unclear”. Is this something you are looking forward to doing more of?

We’re all trying to adapt to a new way of living and until there’s a vaccine, things have to change. This is the new normal that people have to get used to, hopefully not forever or too much longer. We can’t play music together and it’s rare that a couple of weeks would go by without us meeting up as a band, so for us, it was more for our own sanities and to play music together. I suppose the upshot to that was we ended up with weekly livestreams that a lot of our fans are tuning in to. It’s incredible, it started off as something to do for ourselves but now everybody seems to be liking it. We’ve done the odd livestream here and there but normally we’d be in a room together, so it took a while to figure out how we could do it from four separate locations. It’s been a lot of fun doing it, especially recently to change things up, we got fans to be part of a choir, or when we had string sections come in to do string parts for certain songs. We’re having a lot of fun.

Popspoken:  Describe your upcoming album, “One Day At A Time” in three words. 

That’s a tough one! I suppose I’ll go with honest, emotional and genuine.

The reason I picked them is that this album has just been the four of us in the studio in Dublin. We’ve been working on it over the past 12 months or so. Instead of having loads of outside people involved in it, we just did it all ourselves; recording and engineering everything ourselves, and being heavily involved in the mixing as well. We haven’t had this much control since our first album, so it feels like we’re going back to our roots, back to where we started as a band. It’s a bit of nostalgia for us.

Popspoken: Share with us what’s on your Covid-19 isolation playlist.

I go through phases, but there’s an Irish artist called James Vincent McMorrow who people should check out; he’s a good friend of ours, been listening to him a lot. Also, an English artist called James Blake. I have such an eclectic type of music. I’d go anything from Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave to a hip-hop group called Run The Jewels and Anderson Paak. It’s very wide and varied; a bit of everything.

Popspoken: Having come a long way since your days as 21 Demands, what would you say is the biggest change the band has undergone?

We got older… And we have a new basement.

Myself, Mark and Steve have been in a band since we were like 15 years old, so that’s over half of our lives. It’s strange. We just got a bit older but still have a really stupid sense of humour, make each other laugh and get angry. Over the past two years, however, we’ve gotten much closer as four people. We write better music and we have more experiences to talk about. I think when we were 15, we were writing songs that didn’t really mean anything, whereas now we write songs that mean something to us. We’ve matured a little bit from the life experiences, we’ve grown up but still annoy and make each other laugh and cry. 

Popspoken: Vulnerability seems to be a major theme in Kodaline’s music. Are there any points during songwriting where it feels like a line has been crossed?

Not really, because I think if you’re not honest about your writing and the feelings that you’re trying to portray in a song, it’s very easy for fans and people to tell that you’re not being sincere. So if we don’t believe in it, how are we to expect fans to believe in it? For us, it has been about laying everything out on the table, because in the past, we used to bottle things up and not talk about it with each other. We don’t do that anymore, and if there’s something bothering us, we voice them out. The same goes for writing a song—if you leave something out of the whole truth or fail to express what you really mean, I think you’re doing the song and your fans a disservice. We don’t really write made up songs, we try to write and relate songs to things that we have gone through either as a band or as individuals because it would be hard for us to stand behind it if we don’t believe in it. So there has never been never really been a line; everything is up for scrutiny. We don’t hide anything.

Popspoken: Do you remember your first gig as a band? Is that something you revisit from time to time or have you not looked back since?

Yeah, I still remember our first Kodaline gig. We had our very first gig as a band in the basement of this little club, and it was because a friend of ours was running an open mic night. The only people in the crowd were our family, probably amounting to about 15-20 people. However, the one that I class as our first proper Kodaline gig where tickets were sold and people other than our family attended was at a venue in Dublin called the Sugar Club, a 500-capacity theatre. I still talk about that and the emotions that I went through playing the songs. We had only released our first EP; the “All I Want” EP, at this stage. I remember welling up with tears when people were singing it back to us. We’ve been so focused on going forward, but at certain downtimes when we’re not on tour or in the studio writing an album, it’s nice to a step back. You can’t help but reflect on things that have gone by, especially now that we’ve been stuck indoors for months. We’ve just been all thinking about past gigs and can’t wait to get out, play more shows and make new memories.


Popspoken: What’s keeping you busy during this lockdown period?

I try to stick to a routine of getting up at 8 – 8.30am in the morning. Feed my dogs, let them out, go for a run, have breakfast, do some emails and band stuff. Then we work towards our livestream every Friday—it’s something to look forward to. I’m lucky I live in the countryside of Dublin and have a big back garden, so I’ve been doing a lot of gardening. Playing a lot of Playstation with my friends too, lots of Zoom calls with family and quizzes! Everybody’s doing a quiz every week. Just normal stuff; trying to keep busy. There are some days where I literally don’t move, I sit at my Playstation all day. But I save that for the weekends—during the week I try to stay productive.

Kodaline’s fourth studio album “One Day At A Time” is scheduled to be released on 12 June 2020. Check out their newest single “Saving Grace” here.


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