Rolling Stone recently sat down with Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody to discuss the artists and albums that influenced his band. The group has enjoyed hits on both sides of the Atlantic with "Run," "Hands Open" and "Chasing Cars" (their most recent LP is A Hundred Million Suns). Check below for Lightbody on how U2 set the blueprint for U.K. bands to succeed in America, how Nirvana's Nevermind inspired him to play guitar and what band he deems "the best British pop band since the Beatles."
On Michael Jackson:
"The first record I remember playing loads of times was Thriller. And I don't think it's really influenced me that much. It's just a brilliant record. Obviously, Michael Jackson means different things these days but for me still it's a brilliant record. Nothing tarnishes great music, to be honest."
"The first rock band I got into was AC/DC, or at least the first one I'll admit to getting into. I couldn't live without Back In Black. It's the first with Brian Johnson taking over on the vocals after Bon Scott died, to come back that strong with a record that good and career defining and still be one of the biggest records of all time it shows the strength of that band. It's primeval, it's gritty, it's sexual, it's bombastic, and their live shows are just like an alien invasion. Back In Black is the record we put on a lot before we go onstage and you just can't help but feel buoyed and energized and yet humbled all at the same time. I'm no guitar player really. I can follow a simple pattern but I can't make the guitar sing like Angus Young does."
"Joshua Tree was my first U2 record. I am Irish, but you know Joshua Tree was the first record that really, that really was just sort of global, it was gigantic. U2 are part of the collective consciousness of the world. You can't say you haven't been influenced by them. I'm inspired by them 'cause U2 sort of set the template of how to break America. A lot of British and Irish bands before and since really didn't understand what it was to facilitate doing well in America. You needed to be here for a long period of time. You needed to tour your ass off."
"What changed me from kind of a metal fan was Nirvana. It was, essentially, getting Nevermind. When I heard Nevermind, it just blew my fucking head off. I heard the second half first, it was a tape, and my friend went out to buy it at lunch and he listened to the first half during the lunch break. So after school finished, we got the bus home and he gave me an ear and it was 'Territorial Pissings' and that was like an explosion. Music was getting really a little stale and Nirvana just blew the cobwebs off. I picked up the guitar that I got a few years back that I'd only used for standing in front of the mirror and pretending I was Angus Young, and started to play songs from Nevermind. The record that just exploded everything, it's why I'm sittin' here right now, it's the reason I wanted to be in a band."
"Bakesale by Sebadoh might have had just as much of an effect on me as Nevermind did. Bakesale was one of those albums that helped me really find my voice, and also Lou Barlow is really, really good at writing about the cracks in between relationships and just extremely profound. There's a lot beauty in what he does, and an awful lot of harmony, as well. A lot of those kind of really off-kilter records; I heard pop music in them, you know. Like, a song like 'Rebound' should have been a worldwide fucking smash, as far as I'm concerned. I probably owe an awful lot to Lou Barlow along the way, maybe some money along the way, too. The kind of nuances in the way I sing has a lot to do with Lou Barlow and listening to his music again and again and again: it kind of drilled in me this more kind of plaintiff, less-pushed, overly dramatic way of singing that I was doing before. I thought everything sort of needed to be almost shouted. And even in some of his rockier songs, he still carries the melody very well. He's got a beautiful, beautiful voice."
On Super Furry Animals:
"One of the first gigs when I was at university was going to see Super Furry Animals live. I had never heard anything like it. I mean now I know the influences and things like that, but it still sounds like it's from space. Like there's Beach Boys in there and there's ELO and there's Pink Floyd... it's pop music, but it's crazy, and it's willful, and the lyrics are abstract and character-based, and things that I had not really listened to at that point. I've said this before and I still think they are the best British pop band since the Beatles, and I'll fight in the street anyone who wants to have a go about that. I don't think they really came across to America too much. Fuzzy Logic and Radiator and Guerilla and Rings Around the World, I mean, you know, those albums are extraordinary music, extraordinary pop music. I think probably more than any other records that I've talked about, the Super Furry Animals records I'll go back to for inspiration."
On Conway Twitty:
"My dad used to listen to like old kind of country singers like Mo Bandy and Conway Twitty and stuff like that, and they have those kind of records in the house, and recently it was on an episode of Family Guy, 'Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Conway Twitty!' And then it cut to like old footage of Conway Twitty, and you know it was a bizarre moment of abstract comedy, but it made me think of my dad, so I went and I bought the record on iTunes. And I listened to a song called 'You've Never Been this Far Before' and I just absolutely adore it, absolutely adore it. I used to despise it, hated all that kind of country music. I think everything comes full circle in the end."