Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody: Everybody in Bangor kept asking me, 'When's the next Ward Park?'
Snow Patrol's Ward Park 3 in Bangor next weekend will be one of the north's biggest gigs of the year. David Roy quizzed Bangor-born band leader Gary Lightbody about getting an all-Irish bill together and celebrating Snow Patrol's 25th anniversary
HI GARY, are you looking forward to Ward Park 3?
We're really really excited. We've been wanting to do it for a long time: any time I'd go anywhere in Bangor, people were always asking me, 'When's the next Ward Park?' They'd never really ask me any questions about anything else, it was always Ward Park.
So we always knew that it was something that people wanted and for us it felt like it was unfinished business. It's like a great fight between two great rivals in boxing, you know what I mean? You always want that third fight – the first two kind of cancel each other out, so you want the trilogy.
We definitely wanted to do the hattrick and I'm so glad that it's finally happening.
Was it important to you to have an all-local line-up?
What we really really wanted it to be an all northern Irish bill. To get that off the ground and be celebrating northern Irish music in the way that we're going to be doing is something that really means something very special.
I think this third one is already feeling like it's the most special one of the lot just because of everything around it. The first Ward Park was in 2007 and the second was in 2010, so it's been almost 10 years in the making.
The original Ward Park was one of the biggest outdoor gigs ever staged in the north. Was it nerve-wracking to take on an event like that and has it got any easier third time around?
No, I don't remember the first two being as stressful as this one! But for the first two I really just turned up for the show – with this one we've been involved with the planning of every detail, hopefully not to the detriment of it. It's our hearts that have gone into it rather than our heads, we're trying to leave the head stuff to the people who actually know what they're doing.
But we want to make sure that all the bands are taken care of, that all the fans have a great time and everybody has all the information that they need on the day. There's going to be two stages happening with bands playing one after another on each one alternately during the night.
So it's just a matter of making sure that's all squared away properly. I can't wait until the day itself, I'm just really looking forward to seeing all the bands play.
It's also quite a 'Bangor-heavy' bill – that must be a point of pride?
The top three bands on the bill – ourselves, Two Door [Cinema Club] and Foy [Vance] – all have a Bangor connection so it's is a town that seems to punch above its weight in some ways. It's great that there seems to be a little renaissance going on in Bangor town.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Snow Patrol's formation. What plans do you have to celebrate this landmark milestone?
We are going to bring out music this year to celebrate the 25 years. It will be a look back through our back catalogue as well as a look forward with some new songs as well.
I'm not talking about a 'greatest hits' kind of thing, it will all be new music. I don't want to go into too much more detail about it at the moment as we're just in the process of finishing the first section of it, but we have recorded a lot of new stuff.
So that's how we're going to celebrate this year and plus there will be a tour at the end of the year as well that will be connected to it as well. And of course there's Ward Park too – we're trying to do as many things to celebrate the 25 years without doing too many things and without dwelling too much on the past. We don't want to spend too much time thinking about where we've been – it's more about where we are.
Can you tell us anything more about the new material?
We've recorded a lot of stuff on the road for the first time, which we don't normally do. We brought a studio with us and obviously we have one of the most in-demand producers in the world in our band, so Johnny [McDaid, piano/guitar] has been recording quite a lot of songs and we've been working on stuff as we go.
That's a completely new thing for us – we always stopped [touring], then went into the studio and then started the tour again, it's never been something that's worked in tandem with the shows before. But it's good, it's a brave new world.
Does being sober now help to focus your energy on creativity during all the 'down time' you encounter on tour?
I definitely spent a lot of time on previous tours either being hungover or avoiding doing anything other than the actual shows. There's a lot more clarity and energy going on at the minute.
I'm actually working on quite a few things at the moment that will be coming out in the next few years, for TV and movies and things like that. I feel like I've got a lot more done. There is a lot of 'time off' in a touring life and it's about what you do with it. In the past, I kind of wasted it.
Ward Park isn't the only festival show you're looking forward to at the moment. How does it feel to be heading back to Glastonbury for the first time in 15 years?
We can't wait, especially because the last time we had to leave right after we played in order to make it to another festival in Germany, where we were on at midday.
We left Glastonbury kicking and screaming, claw marks on the mud – and arrived in Germany at three o'clock in the afternoon, having completely missed our show, because somebody had miscalculated the time it would take to get there.
You can probably imagine how f***ing angry we were! So I'm hoping we'll have a bit more time to hang around and actually enjoy ourselves this year.
:: Snow Patrol headline Bangor's Ward Park on Saturday May 25, tickets on sale now via Ticketmaster.ie