To Live And Drive In LA
I wrote this a while ago for an online magazine that in the end didn’t materialise. I figured i should post it up here instead. They had asked me to write a weekly piece about living in LA as I find myself living here a lot more over the course of the year. What’s written below was to be the first of many. Does part of me worry that the poor writing style of what follows is one of the reasons the magazine never got off the ground? Yes.
To Live And Drive In LA
For a large part of the last two years I have lived in Los Angeles. Also I don’t know how to drive a car. To tell someone in LA that you don’t know how to drive is like telling them you don’t know how to boil an egg, or order a def-caf latte. When I tell people this it elicits some strong and even extreme reactions. From shock: “You don’t drive a car?! How do you get anywhere?”. To pity: “Aw, maybe one day though, maybe one day”. To outrage: Seriously someone at a party turned away from me in disgust and started talking to someone else. Last time I go to the Driver’s Ed christmas party. By the way I don’t lead with it: “I’m Gary, I don’t drive. How do you do?” I’ll only mention it if if comes up in conversation. And in LA it always does.
You see for those of you that haven’t been to LA it is not really a city. More a sprawling network of kinda towns connected by long surface streets and freeways that during rush hours are so filled with traffic they more resemble parking structures than motorways. For the uninitiated rush hours in LA are from the hours of 6am to 2pm and then 230pm to 10pm. If you want to get anywhere it’s best to leave in the middle of the night and sleep at your desired destination in your car. Of course not owning a car to sleep in myself how would i know, eh? Why, I say why, would you even want to drive in this city? Most times I find myself in a taxi or a friend’s car it takes 2 hours to go 20 miles. Even still, LA is a driving city. In most of the towns that make up LA you very rarely see anyone walking on the pavement (sidewalk? potato/potAAto). In some LA communities there simply are no pavements. The local council no doubt deeming it not worth their while even putting one in as no one would use it. So this is the environment which makes my ‘not driving’ an anomaly. Or at the very least peculiar to people.
If I haven’t made the person turn away from me after I tell them I don’t drive and if I can get the smelling salts to their nose in time I’m able to tell them I live in Santa Monica which is certainly one of the most walking friendly towns in LA. We have the beach. You can walk on that. A natty promenade. You can’t even drive up that. A rickety pier. You’ll make the whole thing collapse if you drive up that. Seriously people can we fix it? I’ll help. And you can even walk the whole way down to Venice Beach. Another walking friendly beach front town full of, ok let’s call them, colourful characters. Saying I live in Santa Monica usually makes people soften a little: “Oh good” they’ll say, “But…”. Yes there’s always a but, “How do you get into Hollywood? Or Silverlake? Or Downtown?”. If I venture inland it is only if absolutely necessary, for example to see a band as there aren’t many gigs on the west side, or to visit friends, or to get my Thetans flushed at the Scientology centre - I’m kidding about the last one - I’ll get a taxi. But day to day I’ll mostly walk.
I love to walk. I’ll put my headphones on and stick the latest albums I’ve bought on my iPod and walk for miles listening. That’s one of the great joys of life in my opinion and something people that drive everywhere are missing out on it. Although recently my friend and producer Jacknife Lee told me that driving alone and listening to music is one of his great joys of life and I should learn if only for that. I have to say it’s been the most compelling argument for me learning to drive I’ve heard yet. That and if I ever get married and have kids I’m gonna need to drive my pregnant wife to the hospital. However as I don’t have a girlfriend and haven’t even had a date this year chances are that’s a few years away yet. But of course it’s bad form for a pregnant woman to drive herself to the hospital but if the time comes I’ll have to learn.
Although driving never interested me I was, like most human teenagers in the western world, offered the chance aged 17. It just never took. My aunt Jean bought me vouchers for driving lessons for my 17th birthday and they sat on the kitchen cabinet so long my sister used them two years later on her 17th birthday. When I left home in Northern Ireland for university in Dundee, Scotland the campus was so small that very few of my classmates drove and I started Snow Patrol around that time too so that when I left Uni I went onto the tourbus. At every turn I was disinclined to drive until now I find myself here in Los Angeles, the most drivingest city in the world, a non-driver confusing people at parties with my wacky ways. Maybe I’ll give in and learn one day soon but then they are building that new train from Santa Monica to Downtown LA, so maybe not.
Some thoughts on the Northern Irish Music Prize 2013
This was originally posted the thin air website http://thethinair.net/2013/11/gary-lightbody-releases-feature-length-statement-on-ni-music-prize/ but I thought i’d stick it up on here as well to give my tumblr a wee run out. It’s been warming the bench too long.
Also it was just this minute announced that Foy Vance’s Joy of Nothing won the award. I am delighted for him. Well deserved. These were my earlier thoughts on the prize itself and all the bands nominated.
Firstly I’m delighted that Tired Pony have been nominated for the Northern Irish Music Prize. I am gutted that I’m not going to be there tonight to see who wins. Now let me make the case for everyone else but us on this fantastic and diverse list….
And So I Watch You From Afar – All Hail Bright Futures
Songs like Big Thinks Do Remarkable and The Stay Golden sees them harvesting the calypso-ish genius of Animal Collective, marrying it to their always visceral sound explosions and making something quite distinctive from anything else out there, they’re surely one of the most inventive rock bands in the world. It’s always surprising and you’re constantly wondering whether they don’t have the faintest smile on their faces as they confound you at every turn. A puppet master’s grin perhaps. Certainly the most self-assured rock band in the UK or Ireland right now.
Anthony Toner – Sing Under The Bridges
A change of pace from ASIWYFA that immediately shows the strength in depth of the Northern Irish music scene. Tell Me Something I Don’t Know begins with bluesy swing so irresistible you’d be forgiven for thinking it was emanating from a Bourbon Street bar rather than the streets of Belfast. A poise and elegance that is quite rare, and songs full of compassion and kindness to boot.
Axis Of - Finding St Kilda
As punk as it gets. Songs that are seconds away from offering you outside for a fight for spilling their pints. My favorite song, We Dine on Seeds, rolls at you like an angry sea, violent and vital, muscular and brutal. It’s also loads of fun. Makes me feel young again and that’s a feat in itself as my knees have gone and my hangovers last a week these days.
The Bonnevilles – Folk Art & The Death Of Electric Jesus
Like a stiff shot of blues. Another bunch of songs like a bunch of fives. It’s harder to create danger with only two members, it’s amazing then that they seem more dangerous than anyone on the list. 10,000 is one of those songs you can’t turn away from.
Fighting With Wire – Colonel Blood
Christ, we make good rock music in Norn Iron. Didn’t Wanna Come Back Home is one of the best rock singles of the last few years. And why wasn’t I Won’t Let You Down a single?! It’s genius! An album with more hooks than a mackerel fisherman’s tackle box. Then there’s Graduate, another slice of shimmering pop rock glory. They’d probably not thank me for saying ‘pop’ but when it’s this hooky, infectious and glorious there is pop in there and no mistake. Something to be proud of I’d say.
Foy Vance – Joy Of Nothing
For anyone paying attention to my twitter (and I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t), I have said much about this record already. Suffice to reiterate it is my favorite Northern Irish record of many years. Foy Vance is a goddarn legitimate genius and should be treasured as such. In him we have one of the greatest songwriters in the world.
Girls Names – The New Life
Firstly just a great name for a band. Musically it’s dark and seductive, it haunts you with spooky guitars and vocals that sound buried alive. There’s something deeply unsettling about it, and therefore great in my book. It’s gothic and ghostly and bass lines that hook you like a drug. Yes please.
Jetplane Landing – Don’t Try
Jetplane Landing name their album after advice they didn’t take themselves. Unholy riffs that seem carved from mountains and lyrics spat out like punishments for the meek. Not for the faint hearted “Hey maggots, get off my turf I wrote shit like this fucking years ago!”. As fighting talk goes it’s pretty declarative. Showing again that Northern Ireland produces rock music as good as anywhere in the world. We also, it seems, have a lot of musicians ready to beat the crap out you. Culturally I have no idea why that would be….
Le Carousel – Le Carousel
Just a brilliant record. Late night on the dancefloor, some remaining bones, a few teeth and the determination to dance until you fall apart. The French influence goes beyond the name as the music drips with the sex and cigarette smoke of fine French dance music. More Camille Dalmais than Daft Punk, but maybe with the swagger of the latter if not the sound. Good Times is as good a track as anything from the world of electronic music this year.
A Plastic Rose – Camera.Shutter.Life
I’d say a lot of people would know of my affection for, and friendship with, these lads so I don’t want this to smack of nepotism. Nor do I want to be unfair to the guys by consciously dimming my love for their record. It’s a great rock album that I listen to a hell of a lot. Also they’re one of the best live bands on the two islands. There, that was democratic enough, right?
Space Dimension Controller – Welcome To Mikrosector 50
This album is gloriously weird. I love it. At times it’s part Afrika Bambaataa, then Prince, then some ambient dub, then some other 80s oddness, it all sounds like early electro and hip-hop in a blender. A fascinating record that is strange and beguiling and full of exploration and intensity. Can’t quite get my head around it all but that’s part of the fun.
Tired Pony – The Ghost of the Mountain
Only two of them are Northern Irish. Seriously though, thanks for the nomination.
Trucker Diablo – Songs Of Iron
A mean and grimy good ol’ fashioned southern-fried rock record. Like someone driving a flaming motorcycle through your earholes. Big riffs, big noise and big bigness. In summation, it’s big. Like the Cloverfield monster started a band with the big fellas from Pacific Rim. Awesome.
Two Door Cinema Club – Beacon
I adore this band and I’m so happy to see them conquer the world. Bangor boys too, like me. We all know TDCC. No need for me to say much. One of the best bands in the world, and they’re from our place. Be proud.
So there you have it. Some thoughts on the great list of Northern Irish bands that we should be delighted about. There are tons of bands not on the list or those who will (Wonder Villains, SOAK, I’m looking at ye), I’m sure, be on the list next year. Whoever wins I wish them well, and any one of these albums is deserving for sure, but I hope (whatever you think of my comments) we take a moment to think about how far we’ve come as a young, relatively peaceful, free nation of music and art and we remember the dark days just enough to realise how good we have it now. Bands and artists thriving and creating in a small land ever-punching above its weight. Per capita we have more great bands than any country on the planet and we should be ever thankful for that.
As always and forever peace and love, Gary Lightbody, aged 37, Bangor, Co. Down.
Seamus Heaney - In Memoriam
As usual in the classroom I wasn’t paying attention. Daydreaming I expect perhaps about playing for Northern Ireland in the world cup or playing guitar at Wembley stadium. Aged 14 I hadn’t quite switched on at school. I didn’t know it yet but I was about to. Up to that point I was a C (ok D) student happy enough to get by with minimum effort. School was that place I got the bus to every day and got to play sports some days in the afternoons and not much more. Then Mark McKee started working as an english teacher and brought with him three secret weapons. The works of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and one Mr Seamus Heaney. Yes, the day he arrived at the school would change my life but as I say I didn’t know it yet.
As Mr McKee (as I knew him then, Mark he is to me now. Strange calling your teacher by their first name at any time in your life) began to read from the little volume of poetry in his hand I found myself, for the first time that day, maybe that week (sorry mum, this will all be news to you), actually listening…
“Between my finger and my thumb…
The course boot nestled on the lug…
Loving their cool hardness in our hands…
Nicking and slicing neatly…
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head…”
Mr Mckee was reading Digging by Seamus Heaney and I was hooked. I devoured the volume Death of a Naturalist then North, then Station Island, the lot. Seamus Heaney made me want to be a writer. I wrote poetry every day and was published at 15, many times. All of it terrible and I have to read it now, if I ever do, from behind splayed fingers but it started me on the path that would take me to here, sitting in California writing Snow Patrol’s seventh album after a 20 year career that has taken me around the world many times and shown me things I never dreamed of. Seeing the whole stadium become a giant Polish flag while grown men wept tears of joy during a U2 show after we supported them. Seeing the great barrier reef. Jumping from the tallest building in the southern hemisphere (long story). And realizing my childhood daydream of playing in Wembley Stadium. All this and so much more simply from reading Seamus Heaney as a 14 year old boy.
There are people, as my friend Gabrielle is fond of saying that are part of an ‘invisible tribe’. Artists and writers that touch people on a level that beds deeper into our souls and hearts. People of profound light, love and kindness that simply and maybe even without their knowledge make us and the world around them better. Stephen Fry is one. Guy Garvey another. To see them on the stage, screen or on the page makes us feel safer, happier, stronger, more centred and less confused by life and what the hell we’re doing here. I would make Heaney chieftain of that ‘invisible tribe’. A leader we could (and through his words we still of course can; and we must) get behind. A man to whom I expect the thought of being a leader would be ridiculous but these men and women, these are the ones we must get behind. People that lead with their words and deeds and not with the empty promises of election campaigns or the grandstanding of the pulpit. If we are as good as our words then Seamus Heaney is as good as any soul who walked this earth. The earth, the dirt, the sky, the sun, the birds, the wind, the men, the women, these are Heaney’s great inspiration and love. He luxuriated in the language of the ground behind his feet and the sky above him. Words that will live forever. And thank god for that. And as he now, sadly, returns to the earth that inspired him we must return to his words for inspiration of our own. A call to arms for the invisible tribe, for the writers, artists, singers, players, thinkers…
“Between my finger and my thumb the squat pen rests. I’ll dig with it”.
Digging. Seamus Heaney 1939 - 2013.
early night tales
so i’ve been away too long. sleeping around with that slut twitter. i just like her cause she’s new. i’ll always come back to you my comely tumblr.
in Phoenix today for a day off. went for a walk earlier and i swear i thought i was gonna combust. it was just over 100 degrees and i don’t function too well in that type of solar misery. how do you do it phoenixers (phoenixians? phoenitians?)? you live three doors down from the sun it seems. it’s punishing. a mile round trip today felt like training for some epic task i have to complete before i get let into heaven. or at least am allowed to go back to Earth. had some great gigs here don’t get me wrong and the people are real nice but i can’t get over how overwhelming it is to actually achieve anything. you must have developed an indoor life similar to ireland and the UK but for the opposite reason (i.e. there we hide from the rain, here you hide from the other guy). it’s a bore i guess to go on about it but i dare anybody from our green isle to come here and not be consumed by it for some time. i guess if i stayed for a week or too i’d find something else to fixate on but tour life being what it is we are transient.
and another thing about the crazy sunshine… ha.
the tour is creaking towards the end and it has been a mighty thing. lots of great shows, amazing fans, perfect moments and funny little happenings. touring life is fun and all, but 9 weeks straight cracks the battle hardened shell of the best of them. so we’re weary yes but buoyed and joyed by the love we’ve been shown everywhere and so happy to still be packing em in after all these years (17, yes, 17 years old we are this year if you take from when we were formed, which i do and 14 years old if you only count from the first single, starfighter pilot in 1997 if you want to get technical. which i don’t). and there is talk now of another us tour in oct. shorter perhaps, so less cities. places, for the most part, we didn’t cover this time i think. it’s very exciting as it will be a tour with one of my rock and roll heroes so we’ll get it finalised soon, as i’m itching to tell you all who, what, where, when.
after Phoenix we bid Ed Sheeran a fond but sad farewell. he has had to head home and he and his two Marks will be deeply missed. he has lit up the tour and our lives and is a brother of ours forever. he already rules the uk charts. he will rule the world by the end of the year. i guarantee it. a phenom he may be but not without good reason. he gets pop star level adulation and hero worship but what stands him apart from other ‘pop stars’ is that there is no one pulling his strings in the shadows. no svengali writing his songs and telling him what to wear. everything he has done he has done on his own terms and all his songs are his own. he’s the complete pop star. he will make smart, touching, soulful, powerful music for years to come and grow with every step and his fans will grow with him. it’s a beautiful thing to behold. and to Ed’s fans that have come to the shows and watched us too, many i’m guessing for the first time, bless your hearts. it has been a joy to play to you guys and i hope you’ll come back and see us next time too. we’ll have a great show tomorrow and send Ed off in fitting fashion.
and not forgetting our fans. we love you loads too. always will.
special guest for the Texas shows and Biloxi will be Gary Go. an incredible song writer and performer who will be an extraordinary addition to the tour. we welcome him in Dallas.
this is reading like a dear john i guess, it’s not. am just reflective today. a Vegas hangover’ll do that to you.
peace, love and understanding to all. and penguins. have some penguins too. on me.
late nights tales 2
chicago! what a town! that’s what you might expect someone to say in a broadway musical just before they burst into a song and dance routine. it is though. we shot the video for Lifening here tonight during the gig. i.e. we just filmed it during the set. not 100% it’ll be a full release to radio and all those bells and whistles but it has become a real live moment over the course of this year and we wanted to capture it. 5000 people sung it with gusto tonight and they will all feature in the video when it arrives. whether or not it’ll be the next single or whether something else might come first and then, as i say, lifening will get a ‘soft’ release, who knows. we don’t want loads of singles off this album as that gets messy. would prefer just four but it may have to be 5 (plus the soft lifening). not sure what the next one would be. maybe a shorter edit of The Symphony. although that would mean having to learn to play that beast live and jesus it’s a beast. Chris Martin texted me to say Garden Rules was his favourite track on the record and he knows a thing or two so maybe that’s an option too. name-dropping aside i love that song and would love more people to hear it. it may suffer though because it is too gentle…. radio support for New York hasn’t been as good as the first 3 singles (there has been some and bless all those that are playing it - Absolute Radio you’re certainly on our xmas card list!). most radio programmers are blaming its slow pace and balladic nature for their reticence to play it. i kind of understand their point in that it doesn’t naturally fit on the radio beside Calvin Harris and Rhianna (my favourite song this year by the way) but also i think, pah, it’s a monster song full of heart, honesty, tenderness and longing, so it should work anywhere next to anything.
we’ve had it our way for such a long time now though: getting played loads on the radio with every song since Run, maybe this is just the universe’s way of saying we need a challenge and we need to think more laterally of how to release a song’s full potential. that coupled with meeting ed sheeran and touring with him has opened my eyes to a world within music i barely new existed. the inner space of twitter for one yes but beyond that the essence of what it really is about: interacting more readily and freely with fans. to be honest i still feel a bit lost/exposed on there but gradually (and it may take a while yet) i am starting to feel it for what it is: a conveyer belt of ideas, jokes, insecurities, hopes, fears, opinions and short prayers that maybe in past times would have been spoken into the void but now are whispered into a vast network of people from everywhere, always. and they may even, unlike the void, whisper back. and (hope of all hopes) may be going through the exact same thing and you and your burden may feel lighter. me i mainly just try and get a laugh but then that has always been both my default setting and my problem.
singing New York with Ed every night recently is a joy. we intend to continue this duet beyond this US tour (no indications of where and when so it’s a surprise when it happens but trust me when it does it’s gonna bring the house down) and i intend on covering at least one of his. am thinking The A Team or Lego House at present but i have a great love of the whole record so it could be any of them. although it’s unlikely to be one with a lot of rapping in as even a Vanilla Ice rap would tie my tongue never mind one of Ed’s epic word-safaris.
your heart is your only weapon against the darkness…. that and candles.
late night tales
so the lads are all out djing at The Wrong Bar in toronto. we have another show here tomorrow (i don’t do drinking night before shows anymore) or i’d be out there with them. two more djs in the band now with the two jo(h)nnys starting a wee while ago. they have both thrown themselves into it with aplomb and the dressing room and tour bus is alight these days with high quality ass shaking music of all genres, shapes and sounds. so tom, rico, jonny and JMD are out rocking the dance floor right now and i’m in my hotel room twittering (yes i’m already hooked and not sure whether it’ll be the end of me) and looking up bill maher and rachel maddow clips about romney (that is one dull man!) and the religious right and whatnot. come november there will be only one winner of course but i’d say this race is gonna get even uglier as mitt will have to stoop to nuclear attacks to even dent the obama machine. i thought mccain/obama 08 was bad enough but, shit, this one might come down to a street fight. fuck the debates let’s wrestle!
god forbid if romney pulled off a miracle and won. the US (and by proxy the rest of the world as that’s the way the cookie crumbles) steered by the new regime would undo any and all of the incremental work the obama administration has done to illicit the slight but holding recovery from the final bush years and the banking crisis he inherited and health care. surely though it’s too much to ask of romney who can’t even count on support from his own party.
toronto tonight. good gig. same place tomorrow night. looking forward to it. we have an afternoon radio acoustic session too. i believe the lovely joan ghomeshi, who has interviewed us a few times and always been an engaged and engaging interviewer, is speaking to us once more. anyone that’s on twitter i’ll twit tomorrow the time we’ll be at the station and if anyone wants things signed or whatnot that missed us last night or can’t stay after tomorrow night’s show then feel free to meet us outside the station tomorrow.
i also realise that this (tumblr) is really just for pictures so am thinking of setting up an actual blog site so i can run rampant (like tonight) with my wordstuffs when i feel like it. although given my new twitterishness i just might not have time to set that up and run it too. so i may just flaunt the laws on here a while longer.
peace, love and understanding. sad tonight. don’t know why. gL
twitter and such
so i’m on there. it’s fun but it sure as hell eats away at your day. jesus is it twenty to eight already. am gonna have to ration it better. and i haven’t even been looking at people’s responses. to be honest i think it won’t be possible and if i only answer a few then folk’ll wonder why i didn’t get to theirs. so in the spirit of fair play i’ll just not answer any unless i happen to be following them and they tickle me. sorry if this is irksome but i have to think about my own free time and head space. i’ll tweet (still not comfortable using that word) when i can and inform of things going on in snow patrol land and sometimes when i have a tidbit or a pic.
in new york still. it opened a huge can of whupass on me last night and i feel like i’ve been hit by bear/lion thing wearing armour and carrying a fridge full of gold bricks. not a happy camper today. watching 30 rock and arrested development (both for the millionth time, so good) to help me recover and moaning pathetically to myself a la billy crystal in when harry met sally. NOT, i hasten to add, like meg ryan in when harry met sally.
canada tomorrow. it’ll be a brand new day and looking forward to giving montreal our love.
if i was a horse they’d of shot me by now…gL.x
ok i’ve finally joined the modern world and am on twitter. i’m only gonna use it to post about things happening in the band’s life as will probably not be able to be responsive. it will be much like this tumblr i.e. i’ll post and then like dick turpin ride off into the sunset. i will give details of impromptu acoustic gigs we’ll do in some towns and cities along the tour and put up pictures and vids of us doing covers, acoustic SP songs and larking about.
i’m on @garysnowpatrol (it seems there is already a @garylightbody)
i do not want to get lost in there so forgive me if i don’t respond to questions. this is all new to me so baby steps and no doubt i’ll take a while to get the hang of it.
we’re gonna be running around the city today playing the song new york all over new york and it would have been an ideal day to be up and running on twitter but i’ve only just got the iPhone and signed up so i may not be able to get my shizzle together in time. it’s a test of my electro mettle so we’ll see if we can meet up at some point. i will tell you that we will be setting off around 530/6 this evening and starting at washington square playing on the street pianos (it’s an art installation) and then moving to time square to play it there. it’ll be too loud there no doubt but visually it couldn’t be any more new york so we figured we’d give it a go.
we may stop randomly along the way to play it places that look fun. maybe see some of you guys out in new york. see you at the show tonight if not.
to brave new worlds.gL.x