Get Starstruck with Kodaline

Vincent May (drums), Jason Boland (bass guitar), Steve Garrigan (lead vocalist), Mark Prendergrast (lead guitar). Photo courtesy of Ben Johnson.

Kodaline has made a splash in the indie rock scene. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, the group has performed together since 2005 (as 21 Demands). In 2011, Jason Boland joined and Kodaline was formed.

The band consists of childhood friends Steve Garrigan (lead vocals), Mark Prendergast (lead guitar), Vinny May (drums) and Jason Boland (bass).

On a brisk September day, I was whisked backstage at the Algonquin Commons Theater to meet with the bass player extraordinaire, Jason (Jay) Boland. Boland is extremely friendly and soft spoken with a sharp sense of humor. Beginning as a studio apprentice at the age of 18 in Dublin, Boland worked his way up in the Irish music circuit. Before joining Kodaline as a bass player, Boland started out as their sound technician.

Ottawa Life chatted with Boland about his career in music, working with Courteney Cox, musical inspirations, possibly becoming the next U2, food and everything in between.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Jason Boland (bass guitar). Photo courtesy of Ben Johnson.
Jason Boland (bass guitar). Photo courtesy of Ben Johnson.

OLM: Tell me about yourself

Boland: I am the newest member of Kodaline. I am the one who came in when we became Kodaline. Three of the other guys knew each other when they were kids. We all were in the same social circle… there are only ever 20 bands in Dublin at a time. You’re all gonna cross paths and play together. I was always in band growing up. I worked in studios most of my life. At 18 I got lucky and got an apprenticeship at a studio, which is the old school way. I worked with Irish bands and some international bands and started touring quite young. Before I joined Kodaline, I was starting to give up on being in a band. You never really know when it’s going to happen.

OLM: What age did you know that music was the right thing for you?

Boland: It was always the right thing for me. From a very early age my whole family was in entertainment, like television production. I was always around it; I was always around TV crews. When I was 14 or 15 I started playing guitar and starting to pay attention to what was in the studio and how cool the stuff was around me. Once I started playing guitar I realized I could start making music. It was obvious that I was going to be in a band. I was around so many musicians that it seemed like a normal thing to do.

OLM: Who was your biggest musical influence growing up?

Boland: There’s a band called The Frames and the lead singer is Glen Hansard. He won an Oscar for a song in the film Once. He lived in the house next to my house, and the film was made around my place, it was pretty low budget. He was in another movie called The Commitments about an Irish soul band in the 80s. The Frames played for 20 years. They’re kind of like the Pixies of Ireland. They’re a really, really awesome band.

OLM: Considering Kodaline is a band in the age of social media, how would you say social media helps upcoming bands?

Boland: It’s not so much that it helps; it’s just a different way of doing things that bands have always done. It used to be that you would go to the merch stand and write down everybody’s email address. Before that you would try to get people’s home address. Now it’s just so much quicker and instant. Now you can see when somebody says they like you in real time. Our phones always buzz all the time… we do our own social media. I think it’s really important. Bands used to do mail outs and those were fun back in the day. Now it’s a bit more of a stream of consciousness.

OLM: What has been your favourite city you’ve visited?

Boland: It’s really hard… it’s the cities we’ve had more time to spend in. The Australian tour was really awesome… we spent two days in each city. I’ve already been to Australia before. For us, the travel is the worst part and it’s not that bad… you just never get to see anything. Every time we go to Japan, Tokyo is just mind blowing. The culture is totally different.

OLM: Have you traveled a lot before you joined Kodaline?

Boland: Yeah, I did my after school trips with my friends. We never really got out of Europe. But since I’ve been in this band, I’ve gone around the world twice. It’s a good job.

OLM: You guys have worked with Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles, and Courteney Cox. Who do you want to work with next?

Boland: With Ed we got to do two of our biggest shows ever, and that’s when I proposed to my girlfriend. It was really last minute and we hope to write a song together next time.

OLM: How was working on a music video with Courteney Cox?

Boland: She’s such a pro. When you think about what she did… Friends invented the sitcom. She’s been directing Cougartown for the last five or six years. She was in control and she knew what she wanted. She told us from the very start that from watching all of our videos that she didn’t really know who we were. So the whole point was to put our personalities out there. We trusted her; it was a really cool relationship.

OLM: Have you ever been star struck?

Boland: I think Josh Homme was the last celebrity. I’m sure Dave Grohl would be one. He would be too cool for me.

OLM: I doubt that.

Boland: I think I walked by him at a festival in Ireland once. I said hi to him and he said hi back to me. I was young enough to think I knew everybody.

Kodaline_193 v2 - Josh Shinner
Photo courtesy of Josh Shinner.

OLM: What would you say your proudest moment would be with the band?

Boland: Without talking about it too much, I would say those two nights with Ed Sheeran. They were the most special. It was the loudest we had ever heard anybody sing our songs back. It was like 82,000 people and I’ve never felt that before. I don’t think I will for a while.

OLM: How does it feel to get on a stage and everybody is there for you?

Boland: When they’re there for us, like a gig like tonight, it’s more relaxed. We can do our own thing. With something like that, we didn’t know how it was going to go. When you have a whole field of people behind you like that, it’s totally affirming.

OLM: Are there any Canadian singers or bands that you like?

Boland: I love Mariana’s Trench and Sum41. Rush was a huge band for me as a kid. Canadian music has always been there as (much as) American music, I’m not sure if we ever knew the distinction.

OLM: What American bands did you like growing up?

Boland: Foo Fighters were always there. I was a weird kid… growing up I didn’t like rock music, I liked jazz. I think it was quite late when I started to listen to it. And when I did, I listened to everything. Queens of the Stone Age… Tool. I really liked Tool. I was raised on a lot of reggae music because that’s what the house I lived in listen to. I listened to country before rock and roll, actually. And now all I do is play rock.

Kodaline - Jonnie Craig
Photo courtesy of Jonnie Craig.

OLM: So I have some fan questions for you. Do you have a favourite venue you like to perform in?

Boland: My favourite is one we haven’t performed in yet. It’s in Dublin and it’s called Vicar Street. The size is perfect. Everybody there is in the front row. It’s just my favourite venue, every show I’ve ever seen there has been perfect. It’s a little, small venue.

OLM: Who was the first act you ever saw there?

Boland: I think it was Toots and the Maytals. That’s the guy who wrote That’s My Number and Monkey Man. They’re old school ska songs. Irish bands too, that’s where you would play your Christmas show.

OLM: If you could have a pint with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Boland: Oscar Wilde, just to see what Dublin was like back then.

OLM: What’s your favourite kind of beer?

Boland: I’m not really a great beer drinker. I like red wine… I normally avoid the beer.

OLM: You can get red wine lips sometimes, though… but it’s worth it.

Boland: I always have a towel when I’m playing a gig so I can wipe them before they get really red.

OLM: What would you say the biggest goal is as a band?

Boland: Just to still be doing this in x amount of years. Whatever x ends up being.

OLM: Speaking of bands that have been around for a while, somebody once commented to me that Kodaline sounded like U2.

Boland: I think the goal is to be like, “Ah, what’s that new band’s name?” “Ah yeah, that’s Kodaline.”

OLM: If you guys were U2, who would be Bono?

Boland: I think Steve probably would.

OLM: Is there North American food that you really dig?

Boland: It kind of scares me, actually. The portion sizes are just so big. When I get a breakfast I order just half of the breakfast. I love French toast but I think it would kill me.

The first time we got to America we flew into LA. The first place we saw was a 24-hour diner place. Steve got a club sandwich and I ordered French toast. His club sandwich came out and it was on French toast with powdered sugar and maple syrup on it. That it was our first introduction to North American food.

OLM: Do you guys get recognized?

Boland: Not really. We only get recognized on show day and that’s because there’s a poster beside us. I think up until Love Will Set You Free, we hadn’t really been in videos, which is kind of cool.

OLM: When would you say that you’ve guys made it?

Boland: I think we’re trying to make it in different places. Where we are going on this tour is to places we haven’t really been before, so we’re kind of just starting out. You’re being lazy if you think you’ve made it. It’s all fun for us. We’ll keep gigging for as long as we can.

You can connect with Jay on Twitter and find out more about Kodaline on their website.