Snow Patrol Keep Their Eyes Open

Alt-pop auteur Gary Lightbody gets really low, really high on new album

March 24, 2006 4:23 PM ET

Snow Patrol, the emotive indie U.K. outfit fronted by the lanky, tender-voxed Gary Lightbody, return with their fourth album, Eyes Open, May 9th.

The follow-up to 2004's Final Straw -- boosted by the Coldplay-esque single "Run" -- was crafted with longtime producer Garrett Lee over the course of a year in the band's country of Scotland, and in a renowned little house at a dramatic location on the Irish coast.

"We were staying in this place called 'The Roundhouse,'" drummer Johnny Quinn says of the band's six-week stay last summer. "It was just this round house perched on a cliff in one of most westerly points. Kate Bush used to go there to write songs. The front living room we converted into a little rehearsal/recording studio with a panoramic view across the Atlantic."

The time spent in near-isolation allowed new bassist Paul Wilson, who replaced Mark McClelland last year, a chance to settle in without distractions. "It was really important that we got away from everything else and got reacquainted with each other," says guitarist Nathan Connolly.

After writing a host of cuts including "Chasing Cars" and "Beginning to Get to Me," the band returned to Scotland, where Lightbody wrote some of his deepest and darkest lyrics to date. "I purposely went off on my own and kind of went mental, really," the singer admits. "I was unhappy in many ways, and very broken after two-and-a-half years of touring. All my relationships were fucked-up. I wanted to repair myself, so I basically cut myself up and put myself back together again and [that led to] some really dark moments on this record."

More ominous lyrics are at work on tracks like "Headlights on Dark Roads," which Lightbody says was like an outpouring. "The rawest kind of lyrics -- 'I'll pull the thorns from our ripped bodies and let the blood fall in my mouth,'" he says. "It's terrifying imagery, but I was really angry." The singer pauses, then adds, "Obviously, I'm not a vampire. It's a metaphor."

On the opposite end of the spectrum is a cut like "Chasing Cars," which the band demoed live at California's Coachella festival last spring. "It's the purest love song that I've ever written. There's no knife-in-the-back twist," says Lightbody. "When I read these lyrics back, I was like, 'Oh, that's weird.' All the other love songs I've written have a dark edge."

Despite his talk of heavy themes, Lightbody hopes Eyes Open is a complete emotional journey. "At the end of the record, there is a kind of happy ending," he says. "I didn't want to leave people feeling kind of angry. I think the record -- stealing a line from U2 -- there is a kind of arc in it, a dramatic arc. It twists and turns. I think you need to show the darkness to show how amazing the light is."

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