Kodaline: Irish rockers steal America’s heart


Kodaline, a modern rock Irish band, first came on my radar back in 2012 with their first extended play, “The Kodaline EP.” There was something different about this band. After listening to their melodies, the emotions that came out in their songs would remain in my head like that lingering tingle in your fingers and toes after a long day out in the snow. Their music had a feeling of both delicacy and adventure that stayed with me well after I listened to it. Since that first EP, I’ve been hooked on Kodaline, spending the last four years hoping to see them live and filling every playlist of mine with at least one of their tracks to hold me over until then.

My dreams (literally) came true when Kodaline came to St. Louis on Oct. 8 at The Grove’s Ready Room. The group returned back to the States on their fifth American tour promoting their sophomore album “Coming Up For Air.” Before the show, I chatted with the very easygoing drummer, Vinny May Jr., who first captured my attention with his perfect head of styled hair.

Having spent the majority of the past three years on the road, the band is certainly no newcomer to touring. Touring fuels them with motivation and is the root of why they are musicians. “This is what we love doing, writing music and playing in front of people, so we’re extremely happy that we’ve been able to release two records, and we’ve been able to put on tours in America and Europe that sell out…the whole being tired and stuff like that, and always being away from home, the shows makes up for the that,” May said.

This most recent tour focuses on their newest album, which the band made in two months—nearly a blink of an eye in the album production world—after finishing their tour supporting their debut album. The album title, “Coming Up For Air,” was inspired by the craziness that came from making the album so quickly. May said: “It was like taking a step back during the making of the record and from where we were at the moment and looking at everything we have done and achieved so far…We were just catching our breath and looking at each other as people and being like, we’ve done this now, how do we go forward? ‘Coming Up for Air’ was like, we should’ve taken a break, but we didn’t.”

The fact that the album came so quickly may cause some hesitation, but Kodaline didn’t need a lot of time to pump out fresh ideas. Each track on the album is different from the rest. The band created the demo for the smooth and catchy “Autopilot” in a hotel room with random items they could find around them—like a coin filled cup and spray cans. May joked: “We probably wrecked the heads of everyone in the hotel.” They brought these sounds into the studio with them and, at one point, sat around a wicker basket with some permanent markers to continue adding unique elements to the song.

“Unclear” is another track with an unexpected twist—a children’s choir backs the song. May said the group referenced the Eminem song “Like Toy Soldiers” in the process, saying: “There is something really haunting when you have it over semi-dark music, it makes it really eerie.” One of their producers set up a laptop and some microphones and used his own child’s school choir for the song.

With these exciting new tracks to add to the set lists, my expectations for the show were high. Anticipation rushed through me as Kodaline took the stage, as I was finally seeing the band that I had spent so many hours listening to.

The band started with their upbeat single, “Ready.” As the show picked up steam, they played some old favorites, “Way Back When” and “High Hopes,” which got the crowd singing along. Throughout the set, the band bounced between their old and new material, which was a perfect balance between nostalgia and novelty. Performances of “Love Like This” and “Lost” really highlighted the talent the group holds as musicians, proving that certain songs are meant to be played live.

While coming on for their encore, Kodaline started with an unplugged version of “Everything Works Out in the End.” No microphones were used, the only thing with them was a guitar. The crowd hushed down in order to hear lead singer’s, Steve Garrigan, instructions for us to the sing the chorus. The result, with a few missed lines due to the crowd’s eagerness to sing along, was enchanting—reminding me that sometimes the simplest performances are the most memorable. Kodaline ended with their hit, “All I Want,” leaving the audience with the song that began it all.

Garrigan had a captivating stage presence. He has a powerful voice, and he croons with every ounce of his being—filling the music with life and soul. With May on the drums, Mark Prendergast on the guitar and Jason Boland on the bass, the quartet’s chemistry was present throughout each song. Most importantly, there was no feeling of separation between artist and crowd that is often present at concerts these days with artists who often robotically go through their set without connecting with the crowd.

Instead, Kodaline is just a group of down-to-earth friends doing what they are passionate about for fans they genuinely care for. That’s what makes Kodaline great. They are more than just a band; they are an honest group aching to make music and eager to witness the effects it has on people just like me.

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