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Snow Patrol are a Northern Irish alternative rock band formed at the University of Dundee in 1994. The group comprises Gary Lightbody (vocals, guitar), Jonny Quinn (drums), Nathan Connolly (guitar, backing vocals), Paul Wilson (bass guitar, backing vocals), Tom Simpson (keyboards), and Johnny McDaid (piano, guitar, backing vocals). Initially an indie rock band, their first three records, the EP Starfighter Pilot (1997), and the studio albums Songs for Polarbears (1998) and When It's All Over We Still Have to Clear Up (2001), were commercially unsuccessful and were released by the independent labels Electric Honey and Jeepster respectively. The band then signed on to the major record label Polydor Records in 2002.
Snow Patrol rose to national fame with their major label debut, Final Straw, in 2003. The album was certified 5× platinum in the UK and eventually sold over 3 million copies worldwide. Their next studio album, Eyes Open (2006), and its hit single, "Chasing Cars", propelled the band to greater international fame. The album topped the UK Album Charts and was the best-selling British album of the year, selling over 6 million copies worldwide. In 2008, the band released their fifth studio album, A Hundred Million Suns; then, in 2009, they released their first compilation album, Up to Now; and, in 2011, they released their sixth studio album, Fallen Empires.
During the course of their career, Snow Patrol have won five Meteor Ireland Music Awards and have been nominated for three BRIT Awards. Since the release of Final Straw, the band has sold over ten million albums worldwide.
Originally formed in late 1994 by University of Dundee students Gary Lightbody, Michael Morrison and Mark McClelland as the Shrug, the band started by performing gigs at the university and surrounding pubs such as Lucifer's Mill. Their first EP was entitled the Yoghurt vs Yoghurt debate. In 1995, they changed their name to Polar Bear (or Polarbear) to avoid issues with any American bands that were also named Shrug. Shortly afterwards, drummer Mike Morrison left the band after suffering a breakdown and returned to Northern Ireland. In mid-1997, Polar Bear released a three-track EP, Starfighter Pilot, on the Electric Honey label. The band again renamed, this time to Snow Patrol, because of a naming conflict with another band of the same name fronted by Jane's Addiction's ex-bassist Eric Avery. At this point, Jonny Quinn, from Northern Ireland, joined as permanent drummer.
Snow Patrol joined Scottish independent label Jeepster in 1997, home of Belle & Sebastian. Jeepster had the same idea for Snow Patrol as the approach they had with Belle & Sebastian, who had become popular by word-of-mouth, without heavy promotion. The band were happy to be associated with an indie label, because it provided them greater independence than a major label. At that time, they were quoted as saying they expected Jeepster wouldn't expect them to have a strict work ethic or focus too much on promotional efforts.
Snow Patrol's debut album was Songs for Polarbears, released in 1998 after the band had started living in Glasgow. Lightbody was then working at the Nice n Sleazy's Bar in Sauchiehall Street. The album was a critical success, but did not make any impact commercially. The same year, the band came close to getting featured in a worldwide advertisement for Philips. Gomez was ultimately signed. In 1999, the band won the "Phil Lynott Award for Best New Band" by Irish music magazine Hot Press. In 2001, still living in Glasgow, the band followed up with When It's All Over We Still Have to Clear Up. Like its predecessor, the album was praised by critics, but did not sell.
The band began to work harder by touring more, but continued to be in control. They slept on fans' floors after concerts and pretended to be members of Belle & Sebastian to get into nightclubs. They owed rent to their landlords and used to receive regular visits and letters from them when on tour. After the failure of the second album, the band began to realise that the label's lax attitude towards management and record promotion, qualities that had initially attracted the band to Jeepster, was likely holding them back. The band's manager at the time was Danny McIntosh. Lightbody has described him as "the angriest man in pop: great, great man". He has said that he loved the band "with every atom in his body", and was never angry towards them. He has credited him with keeping the band together in those years. McIntosh had a gold colored splitter bus in which the band used to travel to play concerts.
Jeepster dropped Snow Patrol in 2001, a decision that was criticised by Hot Press magazine as brainless. By July 2001, many major labels had started showing interest in Snow Patrol, but the band were cash-strapped and had no record deal. Lightbody sold a major part of his record collection to raise money to keep the band going. Lightbody calls the time "miserable", but was confident of getting signed to another label quickly. However, the music scene in the United Kingdom had turned its attention to American bands and British bands were not getting signed. The band spent this time constantly writing songs. Lightbody, bored at this point, assembled The Reindeer Section, a Scottish supergroup, and found a record label to release the group's recordings. Quinn said that though the time was hard for everyone involved except for Nathan, the question of splitting up never arose. It was during this time the band wrote "Run" (which had been around since 2000) in a room on an acoustic guitar, which later became the band's breakthrough single. The band's "low point" came when they played a concert to 18 people at a popular strip club in High Wycombe. The show took place in a shoddy VIP area, and the management had to unscrew poles used by pole dancers in order to make space for the band to play. Quinn calls the show "horrendous". Desperate for attention, the band raised £200 to nominate themselves for a Mercury Prize, but failed to get shortlisted.
In 2002, the band started to be managed and published by Jazz Summers of Big Life.
Guitarist Nathan Connolly, previously of F.U.E.L. had been working in an HMV store room in Belfast at the time. Connolly and the band had a mutual friend, who introduced them to him. Connolly moved to Glasgow to join the band in the spring of 2002.
During Lightbody and McClelland's years at the University of Dundee, they had been noticed by Richard Smernicki, a senior student. Through Richard, brother Paul too had come to know the band. Richard graduated in 1996, two years before Lightbody and McClelland, to become Polydor's Scottish A&R representative. Paul became Polydor's Press and Artist Development Manager and Fiction's label manager.
Later, Jim Chancellor, an A&R executive for Fiction, and fellow talent scout Alex Close approached the band in Glasgow to listen to their demos, and judged them on "the quality of the songs", according to Lightbody. However, Lightbody later contradicted himself, saying, at the time, he exasperatedly questioned Chancellor whether he will sign them. And he replied: "Yeah, I only came here to make sure you weren't dicks". The band then contemplated their future for a few months before eventually signing. Manager Summers too had a major part in getting the band signed.
Chancellor introduced them to producer Jacknife Lee, who despite having been a guitarist in 90s punk rock band Compulsion had no rock production experience at that point, being known at the time for his work with Basement Jaxx and Eminem.
Final Straw was released on 4 August 2003, under Black Lion, a subsidiary of Polydor Records. Its music was along the same lines as the band's first two albums, and no attempt was made to change the sound to something more radio-friendly. The album, along with "Run" (which debuted at No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart), gave the band their first taste of mainstream success. The record peaked at No. 3 in the UK Albums Chart. Archer's final date with the band was 27 September 2003 in the St Andrews Students' Association. They followed the success of "Run" up with three more singles from the album: "Chocolate", as well as a re-release of "Spitting Games", both reaching the top 30, and "How to Be Dead" reaching number 39.
The release of Final Straw in the United States in 2004 saw the album sell more than 250,000 copies and become the 26th most popular album in the UK of that year. In mid-2005, during their tour to support Final Straw, the band toured with U2 as an opening act on U2's Vertigo Tour in Europe. The band then returned to the United States to continue touring in support of Final Straw. That summer also saw Snow Patrol playing a short set in London at the worldwide benefit concert Live 8. After finishing their opening act duties and extensive 2-year tour of Final Straw in late July, the band took a few weeks off and began writing and recording songs for a new album. Snow Patrol's new version of John Lennon's "Isolation" was released on 10 December 2005 as part of the Amnesty International campaign, Make Some Noise. The song was later issued on the 2007 John Lennon tribute album, Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.
On 16 March 2005, McClelland left the band, with Lightbody stating 'a whole new set of new and unexpected pressures... have unfortunately taken their toll on working relationships within the band, and it was felt the band could not move forward with Mark as a member.' At the end of March 2005, former Terra Diablo member Paul Wilson was announced as the official replacement for McClelland and Snow Patrol also declared longtime touring keyboardist Tom Simpson an official member of the band.
The band completed recording Eyes Open in December 2005, with Jacknife Lee returning for production, and this album was released on 28 April 2006 in Ireland, and the UK on 1 May 2006, with the first UK single "You're All I Have" having been released on 24 April 2006. The album was released in North America on 9 May. While "Hands Open" was the first American single, "Chasing Cars" pushed its way onto the download and pop charts after it was heard during an emotional scene of the second season finale of the television show Grey's Anatomy on 15 May 2006. Due to the song's surprise popularity, it was released as an overlapping single in early June and the video was re-recorded to include clips from the show. "Chasing Cars" was also nominated for 'Best Single' in the 2006 Grammys.
The band were forced to postpone a majority of the American Eyes Open tour after polyps were discovered on Lightbody's vocal cords, and failed to heal after initial postponement of three dates on the tour. Dates were rescheduled for August and September. The year would continue to be difficult on the band for the U.S. legs of their tours, as they were also forced to cancel two west coast festival appearances in mid-August due to the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S.-bound flights from the UK. Two band members made it to the U.S. while two were stuck in London. Subsequently, they all made it to the lone U.S. tour stop in Boston days later but failed to recover any of their luggage, forcing them to shop for clothes on Newbury St. that afternoon. Their gear arrived hours before show time, just in time for sound check. The band also had to cancel appearances in Germany and France after bassist Paul Wilson injured his left arm and shoulder.
On 26 November 2006, Eyes Open had become the UK's best-selling album of the year, overtaking previous leader Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not by Arctic Monkeys. Despite very strong sales for Take That's comeback album Beautiful World, Eyes Open marginally earned the title of the UK's best-selling album of 2006, with 1.6 million in sales. The album reached platinum certification in the US as well, selling over 1,000,000 copies, and it maintained a spot in the upper quarter of the Billboard 200 list for over fifteen weeks, on the heels of the popularity of "Chasing Cars". The band also holds the distinction of having one of iTunes' top downloaded albums and songs of 2006. Ahead of the band's February tour, Eyes Open topped the Australian charts some eight months after its release on 22 January 2006. Back home in Ireland, Eyes Open became one of the best selling albums of all time, staying at the top of the charts from the end of 2006 to early–mid-2007, and remaining in the charts to the present.
At the 2007 Grammy Awards, "Chasing Cars" was nominated for Best Rock Song, and at the 2007 Brit Awards, the song was nominated for Best British Single.
1 September 2007 saw Snow Patrol headlining a "home coming" mini-festival in Lightbody and Jonny Quinn's home town of Bangor, County Down. Around 30,000 people came to see the band.
Gary Lightbody stated that recording for the follow-up to Eyes Open was to begin in Autumn 2006, with Jacknife Lee returning a third time for production. Since then the band stated that they wished to take a year off after the back-to-back tours of Final Straw and Eyes Open and intended to emerge at the end of 2008 with their next album. Lightbody is also set to release an album as part of a solo project called "Listen... Tanks!" but a date for this has not yet been publicly announced.
A post, dated 23 May 2008 on the band's official website stated that recording for the next album had been under way for a week; they began on 19 May 2008. The new album, entitled A Hundred Million Suns, was released on 24 October 2008 in Ireland and 27 October in the UK and US. The first single entitled "Take Back the City" was released in Ireland on 10 October 2008. Filming for the music video to "Take Back the City" took place on 11 August 2008 in Central London. The music video was directed by Alex Courtes.
The band kicked off their Taking Back the Cities Tour on 26 October 2008. Singer Miriam Kaufmann tours with the band and sings backing vocals, most notably on "Set the Fire to the Third Bar", which originally featured Martha Wainwright. The 'UK & Ireland Arena tour' ended on 23 March. The final show was played at the Odyssey in Belfast to a 9,000 strong crowd including family and friends of the band, and the Northern Irish football squad. It also reported that the band played to an estimated 200,000 fans during the tour.
The band next visited South Africa to play a couple of dates at the Coca-Cola Zero Festival, supporting Oasis before beginning a European leg of the tour. In June they supported Coldplay for a month on the Viva la Vida Tour, and joined the U2 360° Tour in July/August.
The band also released a compilation album featuring tracks from the band's 15-year history, Up to Now, on 9 November 2009. It includes thirty tracks spanning two CDs, of which three are original new songs. "Just Say Yes", a song written by Lightbody and earlier recorded by Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger and X Factor star Diana Vickers, was released as the lead single on 2 November. The album additionally contains past singles, covers and rarities, including songs from the band's side-project The Reindeer Section. A limited edition coffee-table book is also in the works. The band also wishes to make a tour documentary in the future, on the lines of U2's Rattle and Hum.
In January 2010, the band were nominated in three categories in the annual Meteor Awards. The band also played at the event, scheduled on 19 February 2010 at The RDS.
Snow Patrol will enter its "next phase" with their sixth album. The band has taken a new musical direction, and Connolly has advised fans to keep an open mind.
On 12 January 2011, Lightbody launched a blog to give details about the progress of the next release from the band.
Snow Patrol released the single "Called Out in the Dark" for radio airplay on Thursday 21 July on BBC Radio 1 on Zane Lowe's radio show. According to official sources, the single itself will be released independently and as part of an EP later on and the UK release date is said to be 4 September. More details on the EP were announced on 3 August, when the group's website revealed the artwork and tracklist contents. Along with the new single, the release contained three new tracks entitled "My Brothers", "I'm Ready", and "Fallen Empires". In addition, it was revealed that the EP was intended to be a digital release limited to the UK and Ireland.
Shortly after the premiere of the new lead single, the quintet's official website confirmed the news that the name of the new album would be Fallen Empires. Fallen Empires was released on 14 November 2011 in the UK and was launched at O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire. Singer-songwriter Johnny McDaid joined the band during the recording of the album.
The second single from Fallen Empires was "This Isn't Everything You Are", released on 13 November 2011.
The band is set to release a compilation entitled Greatest Hits on 14 May 2013. The single version of the song "The Lightning Strike (What If This Storm Ends?)", featured in trailer of the 2013 fantasy-adventure comedy-drama film Epic, will make its compilation album debut upon the release.
The success of Snow Patrol has influenced the thriving Belfast music scene positively. This includes Lightbody, who returned to the city and now lives there. The band's kindness towards local bands, partly by founding Polar Music, and Lightbody being an active part of the Oh Yeah Music Centre has resulted in high optimism in the scene.
Musicians, such as Bono (of U2), Michael Stipe (of R.E.M.), Nikki Sixx (of Mötley Crüe), have also expressed their admiration for Snow Patrol. Terri Hooley, founder of the Good Vibrations label and a lifelong supporter of local Northern Irish music has expressed pride in bands like Snow Patrol.
Snow Patrol have founded Polar Music, a publishing company run through Kobalt Music. The venture is independent from the band's publishing deal with Universal Music. Polar Music will sign artists regardless of their genre, as drummer Jonny Quinn explained: "there is no agenda—if it's good enough and we believe in it 110%, we will sign it." Quinn, and his fellow band members Connolly and Lightbody are acting as A&R. The company's first signing was Johnny McDaid, previously of the Northern Irish band Vega4. Quinn has said that they wish to sign artists to a one-album deal, and do not want to put undue pressure on the artists with a bigger, multi-year deal. Polar Music had its first chart hit in the first week of October 2009.
Gary Lightbody and Tom Simpson are both fans of the football club Dundee F.C.. In 2008, they met the club's board of directors to find ways to financially help the short-of-cash club. The band also owns a stake in the Houndstooth Pub in New York City.
On 25 November 2007, Snow Patrol performed an acoustic session for the charity Mencap, in a small chapel in Islington. They were one of the main bands to take part in the project, called "Little Noise Sessions" which was curated by Jo Whiley.
In 2009, Gary Lightbody and Nathan Connolly donated plectrums and certificates to the Music Beats Mines project, that aims to clear unexploded mines/landmines from conflict zones. The items were auctioned on eBay.
Gary Lightbody is featured on a track entitled "The Last Time" from Taylor Swift's 2012 album Red.
Snow Patrol released the 22nd album in the Late Night Tales series of mix albums by artists, which has been curated by Lightbody and Simpson. The band covered the INXS song "New Sensation" for the occasion. Lightbody has also spoken of plans to release songs from the Listen... Tanks! project (with Snow Patrol producer Jacknife Lee) and Tired Pony, a country group.
The band contributed the song "Signal Fire" to the Spider-Man 3 soundtrack as well as the film. The song was the lead single from the soundtrack and was featured in the credits to the film.
The band also contributed to a 2011 compilation entitled Johnny Boy Would Love This... A Tribute to John Martyn, for which they covered his song from the 1973 album Solid Air "May You Never".
"Chasing Cars" was voted the song of the decade on Channel 4's programme 'The Song of the Decade' which was broadcast on 28 December 2009. On 30 December 2009, the PPL announced "Chasing Cars" was the most widely played song of the decade in the UK.
In June 2010, the band were commemorated with a Heritage Award by PRS for Music. A plaque was erected on the Duke of York pub in Belfast where the band performed their first gig. The band were the sixth to receive the award, with all the members turning out. They later performed a live set to a small crowd of around 30 people.
On 30 July 2006, Snow Patrol appeared on the finale of the long-running BBC music show Top of the Pops, performing "Chasing Cars". The band were the last act to ever appear on the show.
Snow Patrol recorded a live session at Abbey Road Studios for Live from Abbey Road on 4 October 2006. The performance was included on an episode shared with Madeleine Peyroux and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and shown in the UK on Channel 4 and the US on the Sundance Channel.
Snow Patrol appeared as the musical guest on 17 March 2007 episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. They performed "You're All I Have" and "Chasing Cars". The band toured Japan in April, followed by European festival dates, Mexico, and the US in the summer. They ended their tour in Australia in September 2007.
On 7 July 2007, the band performed at the UK leg of Live Earth at Wembley Stadium, London. Shortly after the band's performance, Simpson was arrested at RAF Northolt for missing a court date in Glasgow, having been charged with possession for cocaine.
The band performed at the HMV Forum in 2011.
On 27 July 2012, Snow Patrol performed in Hyde Park, London, as part of the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Snow Patrol's "Open Your Eyes" appeared on the season 12 finale of ER as well as the pilot episode of The Black Donnellys.
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Image from Discogs