Snow Patrol’s eighteen year path to success as an alternative/rock band was guided largely by an uncharted map. Since formation during 1994, the combination of exceptional talent, well placed intention, and a series of lucky “accidents” have carried this Northern Irish/Scottish band to far ranging places. Its rise to become the commercially successful band it is today was slow in the making, fraught with struggles, and full of hard work yet their legacy stands firm in the face of challenges. Despite difficulties, the group never lost their vision and consistently counted their “wins” at every venue by the number of faces in the crowds.
Gary Lightbody, Jonny Quinn, Nathan Connolly, Paul Wilson, and Tom Simpson's determination and dedication to their love of music secured its slow, yet steady, fourteen year rise to become one of the greatest alternative groups of all time. Here are the 10 Best Snow Patrol Songs:
1. The Garden Rules
2. You Could Be Happy
3. When It’s All Over We Still Have To Clear Up
4. Never Gonna Fall In Love Again
6. Dark Roman Wine
7. This Isn’t Everything You Are
8. Give Me Strength
9. Making Enemies
10. One Night Is Not Enough
Snow Patrol was originally known as the Indie band The Shrug when the group formed at the University of Dundee with Gary Lightbody as lead vocalist and guitarist, Michael Morrison on drums, and Mark McClelland on bass. When the band was just starting out, lead singer Gary Lightbody resorted to selling his entire record collection to cover the cost of his rent and other expenses. Despite financial troubles, the group secured a small yet steadfast fan base and the group recorded their first EP called Starfighter Pilot. The trio played small venues at the University and nearby pubs and concentrated on producing its first EP, titled Yoghurt vs. Yoghurt. One year later, the group was reorganized, Morrison left the group due to an emotional breakdown, and the remaining members renamed the group Polarbear. The group then prepared and released Starfighter Pilot three track EP via the Electric Honey label. The record did not fare well commercially and again the group restructured. Going forward using the name Snow Patrol during 1997, the group added permanent drummer Jonny Quinn, and caught the attention of Indie label Jeepster. After signing on with Jeepster and while living in Glasgow, the group concentrated on material for its first full length album. One year later, Snow Patrol made their debut with Songs For Polarbears. The album achieved critical success yet failed to secure commercial success and the group continued to play, write, and record.
During 1998 Snow Patrol achieved attention after the group earned Ireland’s Phil Lynott Award for Best New Band. The Best New Band distinction was awarded by Hot Press magazine and allowed the group to advance in the studio as they recorded tracks for the 2001 release of When It’s All Over We Still Have To Clear Up. The album followed in the shade of its debut album with high critical success and low commercial success. After the release of the album, the group followed up with a tour with indie group Belle & Sebastian. The tour was considered a low point for all members of the band as they faced financial difficulties, fracturing relations with management and promoters, and faltering success. The tour with Belle & Sebastian was so difficult that members of Snow Patrol often wrapped gigs by sleeping on fan’s floors as they pretended to belong to their tour mates’ band. Members of Snow Patrol also thwarted repeated on tour visits and letters from landlords in attempts to avoid mounting rent debts.
Members of Snow Patrol credit manager Danny McIntosh for keeping the band together during the troublesome late 1990s and early 2000s. Lightbody often described McIntosh as the “angriest man in pop: great, great man” who loved the group “with every atom in his body.” In fact, McIntosh's devotion to the group and its members didn't stop even after label Jeepster dropped them in 2001. MacIntosh publically offered in the group's defense: “[Jeepster] gave us our big break, we fell madly in love with them. Then the fighting and arguing started and, well, let’s just say that both sides filed for divorce.”
Without a label and lacking financial resources, the group struggled significantly during the summer of 2001. The group’s lucky break was set in motion when many labels, including Polydor, showed significant interest in the band while the band shifted focus to songwriting and side projects. Lightbody began Scottish supergroup The Reindeer Section and secured a label while completing the finishing touches of the song “Run.” All members of the group were disheartened with all members agreeing that it was a “horrendous” and “low point.” The depth of the band's lull included a gig at a High Wycombe strip club - at which their management team was required to unscrew the dancers’ poles to ensure room enough for the band to play for the venue’s 18 person crowd.
With nowhere to go but up, the group again reorganized and agreed to new management and publishing by Big Life's Jazz Summers beginning in 2002. That year FUEL guitarist Nathan Connolly was subjected to a "kidnapping by rock stars" (per reports from Connolly's mother) and subsequently moved to Glasgow to be a part of Snow Patrol's new lineup by the Spring of that year. The band’s success was significantly assisted following a personal introduction between Lightbody and McClelland's "friend of a friend" Richard Smernicki (of Polydor's Scotland based A&R). Smernicki facilitated a deal between Jim Chancellor, Fiction's A&R executive, and talent scout Alex Close. When Chancellor and Close met with members of Snow Patrol, as well as their management, and the pair jokingly quipped while listening to demos: "Yeah, I only came here to make sure you weren't d*cks." Lightbody tenaciously insisted they sign the band which came to fruition in late 2002.
Facing down initial hesitancy to subject their craft to label pressures, Snow Patrol members agreed to work with Garret "Jacknife" Lee. Lee’s guidance forced an evolution of the group's sound from Indie to mainstream. Lee's experiences with rapper Eminem and Basement Jaxx compensated for his lack of experience in producing rock and led to a highly successful collaboration between the group, its management, and what would become one of the peaks of the group's commercial success. As an "indispensable member of the band" and "an amazing influence" as a producer per Lightbody, the group entirely transformed the direction of their band. The 2003 release of Final Straw, the first album released under Polydor's Black Lion label, propelled the group to national fame and quickly earned the band worldwide recognition. The album sold over 3 million copies internationally and went on to be certified 5x platinum within the United Kingdom.
During 2005, the group faced many challenges and more change. Bassist McClelland left the band due to pressure and strained work relations. He was replaced by Paul Wilson and keyboardist Simpson was officially recognized as a band member. Armed with a new lineup, the band returned to the studio and produced the Eyes Open album. Its 2006 release further propelled the group's fame and success. A tour with U2 pushed the album to become the best selling British album of that year, with over 5.7 million international copies sold, and crests at the top of UK music charts. The album featured the emotively heartfelt song "Chasing Cars" and several other tracks which displayed the group's exemplary talent and refined craft.
Rather than just "ride the wave" of their success, the group went back into the studio with Lee and traveled from galway, County Meath, and the Hansa studio in Berlin to record A Hundred Million Suns. The album features maximized ambition while exhibiting all of the lessons the group has learned over the span of its career while highlighting the group's "spikiness and indie-ness" per Lightbody. The 2008 release of A Hundred Million Suns pushed the group farther into the realm of commercial success without sacrificing the genuine qualities of their sound. The album also paved the way for the group's first compilation album, Up To Now.
More touring and recording followed for Snow Patrol. The 2011 release of the album Fallen Empires continued in the footsteps of its other major label releases. The album combined experimental themes blended with crafted wisdom. Tracks like "Called Out In The Dark,” “New York,” "This Isn’t Everything That You Are," and "In The End" ensured the group's compass was directly pointed toward the future while preserving the legacy and integrity of its past.
With over ten million albums sold world wide, five Meteor Ireland Music Awards, and three nominations for BRIT Awards, Snow Patrol is truly a remarkable testament to the value of hard work, the valuable lesson that suffering for your craft is more than worth it, and the ever important lesson to never give up in the pursuit of a dream. As lead singer and songwriter Gary Lightbody stated in an interview: "The great and terrifying thing about our band is that everything has always happened as it was going along. There's been very little master plan. We allow things to happen as much by accident as by deliberate intention."