KODALINE 360 Reality Audio first listen

We spoke to KODALINE about their songwriting process, their first experience of 360 Reality Audio and its potential to change the way artists make music.

In collaboration with LIVE NATION

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KODALINE

L to R: Jason Boland / Steve Garrigan / Vincent May / Mark Prendergast

Dublin, Ireland-based modern rock quartet Kodaline specialise in soaring, radio-ready guitar rock that's drawn comparisons to Coldplay, Keane, U2, and Oasis. 

At the end of 2012, the band was shortlisted for the BBC's Sound of 2013, but was beaten to the top spot by HAIM. Kodaline released their debut album, In a Perfect World, in June 2013, which was preceded by the singles “High Hopes” and “Love Like This”. 

Formed in the working-class town of Swords around the talents of Steve Garrigan, Vinnie May Jr., Jason Boland, and Mark Prendergast, the band released an eponymous EP in 2012, with plans to unleash a full-length outing the following year. 

The album was a major success in Ireland, going platinum twice, and it also did well in Britain (it peaked at number three and went gold) as well as in portions of Europe. Kodaline's second album, Coming Up for Air, followed in early 2015. 

The album peaked at number four on the U.K. charts and spawned the singles "The One" and "Honest". In the summer of 2017, the band returned with the single "Brother" and the I Wouldn't Be EP. The next year, they issued the single "Follow Your Fire", which landed on their pop-leaning third full-length Politics of Living.

“Music is what feelings sound like.”

- LIVE NATION

Thanks for being here, guys. Can you tell how Kodaline got started? When did you know you wanted to make music your career?

STEVE GARRIGAN

Well, we started off, myself and Mark, playing together as teenagers. We were really just playing covers. But I think we just kind of got the bug, and we started writing songs and playing in front of crowds. Anybody who'd listen — though most wouldn't listen at the time. So, it was kind of tough. [Laughs] But we just fell in love with music, writing and recording and performing. And we're very lucky now that we can travel around the world and play shows everywhere, it's amazing.

- LIVE NATION

Can you talk a little bit about how you were able to stick with it?

MARK PRENDERGAST

We had written a few songs and then we just had so much faith in them. And we just kind of told ourselves, surely other people have to hear these songs. We want to get the songs out there. And for years, being musicians, when you tell people that's what you do and that's what you want to do, they don't really have much faith in you from the get-go. So it never seemed realistic until it started happening. And then when it started happening and we started to put out the music and the people started to come to the shows, that's kind of when we realised that, well, we could actually do this forever — if they wanted us to.

STEVE

The greatest and the strangest feeling ever is hearing people sing your music back to you. And in a live atmosphere, it's amazing.

- LIVE NATION

It must feel pretty good these days, because you guys have big crowds now!

VINCENT MAY

Yeah, [we’ve gone from] playing little club shows where there's a hundred people there, if even that. So it's a real luxury now that we get to play to rooms with a couple of thousand people in them. We never take that for granted.

- LIVE NATION

In that spirit, what does making music mean to you these days?

VINCENT

I think it's everything.

STEVE

Yeah, it is everything. It's our passion. I can't imagine a world without music.

VINCENT

I don't think we could imagine ourselves doing anything else other than this. It's the greatest job in the world. [Laughs]

STEVE

There's a cool saying as well. But it's a bit, um, I don't know...

MARK

Go on...

STEVE

“Music is what feelings sound like.” I really think that. Yeah, see, he's just going to laugh at me.

VINCENT

No, it's cool.

STEVE

Sometimes, you know, you can capture in a song an emotion that you can't put into words. You know, it just comes across.

MARK

Being able to write a song about something that's really affecting me — whether you’re going through a tough time or going through a great time — a lot of times, that will end up in our music. And, you know, we're not going to tour unless we write music. So making music is everything. It's where everything comes from.

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“Music means different things to everybody. But the best thing is when you gather all those people together and they sing it back at you.”

- LIVE NATION

How does putting all that feeling into the writing of your music translate to performing live?

MARK

At our last concert we played the other day, there was a girl in the front row who had tears coming out of her eyes. But she just looked so happy the whole way through. And like, obviously a lot of the songs meant a lot to her, but then the person beside her was just laughing and clapping and having a great time. So, music means different things to everybody. But the best thing is when you gather all those people together and they sing it back at you.

STEVE

Yeah, it's an amazing feeling.

- LIVE NATION

And how important are your fans to you?

STEVE

Pretty much every show we play, at the end I'll say, thank you so much every single person for coming along. Without fans, we wouldn't be able to do what we do. We could write songs, but nobody would listen to them. We could play shows, but there'd be nobody there. [Laughs] We'd be nothing without our fans, so we're very appreciative of them.

JASON BOLAND

We're very lucky that they've been so supportive. Obviously, you know, we've gone through a lot of changes in our career. We've changed styles and we've kind of changed directions and gone away for a while. And every time we come back, they're just right there, ready to say hi again and come out and see us live.

- LIVE NATION

You guys still like to play smaller shows from time to time. That seems like a sort of salute to your fans, to go into a small club and be face-to-face with people. Can you tell us a bit about that experience?

STEVE

I think it’s like what Mark said earlier about, you know, tears rolling down the fan's face and another fan laughing. You can see that in a small club, but you kind of lose that a little bit in the bigger venues. So there's something extra special about it, feeling connected to the fans more, I suppose.

MARK

And sometimes if you're playing in a club — like a little club with 200 fans — it can feel louder than if you're playing in front of thousands of people, because they're always far away. If you're in a club, there's so much more energy packed into this tiny little room. So even during [this past] summer, we played at these massive festivals everywhere, but then we went around and played little tiny acoustic club shows, and I think we get the same thing from that as we do from a big show. It's nice to be able to do both.

- LIVE NATION

Let's talk about your latest album, Politics of Living. You've branched out a bit on this one, in terms of sonics, in terms of songwriting. Can you tell us a little bit about why you wanted to explore on this album — work with different producers, play with different sounds in the studio?

STEVE

The main thing that we wanted to do starting this album was just get out of our comfort zone. And I think our comfort zone as a band has always been kind of slow ballads and, you know, quite stripped down in terms of production. We had an opportunity to work with lots of cool people, and each different producer just brought something, like introduced us to a whole different world of sounds. There were a lot of songs that we kind of threw away, but it was a lot of fun experimenting with them. We learned a lot.

I'll usually go straight to a piano to write a song, or pick up a guitar and start singing melodies or whatever. Whereas one of our producers would just be sitting at his laptop, and then he'd have all these crazy sounds that would start off the songwriting process. It's a totally different way of working. But it was amazing, you know, and I'm really proud of what we've achieved with this album. We did just that — we got out of our comfort zone and experimented. And we discovered some sounds that we didn't know were out there. It was a great process. It was cool.

JASON

Yeah. On Politics of Living, we really just wanted to branch out a bit. And we got such great opportunities to work with some new producers who really pushed us in some different directions.

MARK

Still, my favourite sound on this album is on a song called “I Wouldn't Be”, and the sound is just the four of our voices together, and nothing else. And the first time hearing that back in the studio, I just thought it sounded really nice because there were no tricks. Steve went in and sang his bit. And then we each individually went in and sang our piece. Just hearing the four of our voices back with nothing else on it was just really encouraging. It was really nice to hear.

- LIVE NATION

Speaking of sonic exploration, what are your thoughts about Sony's new 360 Reality Audio technology. This gives you the ability to place your listener right in the centre of your mix and move sounds around them. Do you think it could help you say things with your music that maybe you haven't been able to so far?

STEVE

My mind is blown.

VINCENT

It's a new way to do it. But it's also like when they first were using multi-track recording or using like...

STEVE

Overdubs.

VINCENT

Overdubbing! It's kind of that way of just broadening the horizons. It's a whole new way of...

STEVE

... listening to music. And it's a whole new way of creating music, potentially.

VINCENT

Yeah, it has the potential to completely change how people will write music or the way that music is mixed and how the end user experiences things. It has the potential to be life-changing.

- LIVE NATION

What can the right sound at the right time do for a song when you're recording?

STEVE

The right sound at the right time can completely finish a song. A hundred percent. It can go from not really there, kind of “eh,” and then all of a sudden the right sound is there, and it's just, “Wow, that's awesome, that's it. That's it, leave it.” It can finish it.

JASON

It's like finding a key for a lock that you've been trying to [open].

STEVE

Yeah, or the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Something like that. It's amazing, the importance of the right sound.

- LIVE NATION

Once you've recorded a song, what could the right mix do for a listener?

MARK

The right mix is so important. We've gotten songs back that we've spent weeks on in the studio, and we loved them. [Then] when you get the mix in your email and you're like, oh my god, here we go. And you press play, and you know straight away if something’s not right: the right essence of the song isn't present. But then, you can get the right mix of a song that you might not have had much faith in, you know. And then all of a sudden you hear the mix, and you hear what the mixing engineer had in their head when they heard your song. And that can change your mind. And then it’s how everyone will hear it.

STEVE 

[The mix] can make or break a song. Hands down it's probably one of the most important things.

MARK

I don't envy people who have to mix anything, even live sounds. It's got to be tough. It's one person's opinion, like they have to say, right, this is what I think it should sound like for everybody else. Well, you know, a good mixing engineer is — you hold onto them when you find them.

VINCENT

Yeah.

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“[360 Reality Audio] takes you somewhere else. It takes you out of this room, and into the venue.”

- LIVE NATION

All right guys, now that you’ve had a chance to experience Sony’s 360 Reality Audio in headphones, what do you think?

STEVE

It's unlike anything I've ever experienced. I was trying to put it into words. It's like being at the show.

VINCENT

It felt like it was sitting on my drum riser and I was actually playing — just the definition of everything. The low end was amazing. It felt like I was on my riser playing the gig.

STEVE

It's quite incredible. I mean...

MARK

It's a whole new experience.

JASON

I think so much of the room comes through. Now you can feel what that room was like on that night.

STEVE

It takes you somewhere else. It takes you out of this room, and into the venue.

- LIVE NATION

How did hearing yourselves in Sony 360RA make you feel?

MARK

Pretty excited for the future. I can't wait to see where it goes, and how music gets released. If it gets released in a format where you can listen to it like this, I think that would be a game changer.

VINCENT

Yeah. The fact that we’re talking about it as a format [makes me] imagine hearing classic songs mixed like that, like Led Zeppelin songs or Beatles songs.

STEVE

Imagine hearing a live show!

- LIVE NATION

Did you have a favourite moment? Something that popped out to you in a way that you hadn't heard before?

JASON

Yeah, I think it's the intro. 'Cause for us we get to hear that crowd screaming back at us every night, and that's the best feeling in the world, like Steve was saying earlier. But now I think everyone can experience what we get to hear when we're up on that stage.

MARK

It just felt [so] real. We've just finished our tour, but this was like we're back on tour again. For people who may never experience what it's like to perform in front of a big room of people, this is the closest to it, I think.

- LIVE NATION

Are you excited for your fans to be able to experience that?

STEVE

Absolutely. I think it's going to blow some minds — in a good way.

VINCENT

Yeah, 'cause we're amazed by it, and we get to experience stuff like that, so, like the guys said, for an audience member or a fan to be able to experience that, yeah, that's one of a kind.

- LIVE NATION

Here's a tough one: How would you describe the 360 Reality Audio experience in one word?

JASON

Immersive.

STEVE

Yeah, that's a good word. Immersive is good.

VINCENT

Yeah. Amazing.

STEVE

Real.

JASON

It's just immersive. You're just in there.

MARK

Vivid.

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“I think [360 Reality Audio] is a whole new way of approaching music making and recording.”

- LIVE NATION

Knowing that Sony’s 360 Reality Audio exists, might it inspire you to create music differently?

STEVE

I think it's a whole new way of approaching music making and recording.

MARK

I think it starts when you're in the studio and you're playing something, you can pan it left and right. But when you're [in 360 Reality Audio], you can go anywhere, you know?

STEVE

It's quite mind-boggling.

JASON

We've tried to shoot a few live shows in 360 [video], and the experience just has never quite been there in video alone. But I think a live show in 360 with audio [to match] is just going to be a whole new experience.

STEVE

Yeah, it's the future.

- LIVE NATION

What do you think the benefits would be for fans?

VINCENT

I think the benefit will be that they're going to hear [more of] what we hear on stage every night, which is incredible. Like, if we can't invite the whole crowd...

MARK

You could try...

VINCENT

... This is the next best thing.

MARK

It's kind of more a feeling than it is anything else. When I put [the headphones] on, it took me like a while; it's tough to explain what it's like.

STEVE

It's hard to put into words. But I think for the fans — for fans who may not have seen us live as well — it’s like being there. And so it's quite incredible.

VINCENT

Still come to a show though.

JASON

Yeah.

STEVE

Yeah.

JASON

It's almost as good as live.

MARK

It's almost as good as live. Don't put us out of business like that. [Laughter]

- LIVE NATION

You also went through the process of having your ears measured, to optimise the 360 Reality Audio experience. What do you think of how Sony can individualise the experience for each listener?

JASON

I think the technology behind this is incredible. Like, they've taken leaps forward that I didn't think would be possible. For them to be able to just map the way your head is in a room, and make that different for each one of us. Like, obviously Steve will hear a different gig to what I hear live because I'm a little bit higher. But for that to come across in headphones, it's just mind-blowing.

VINCENT

Yeah. It's a bit crazy that that happens, and [that it] happens so quickly as well. So I think in terms of like an application setting, it's going to be amazing that you can just tailor it to individual people.

MARK

It feels very futuristic while it's happening. And it just feels totally new and fresh. I really enjoyed it.

STEVE

It's hard to put into words, but I totally agree with everything the lads have said. The future looks cool.

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