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Snow Patrol frontman Lightbody on his band, books, and Belfast

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

You'd think the lead singer of a band that opened shows for both U2 and Coldplay this year would be an egotistical jerk. You'd think, as attractive and well-schooled as he is, having studied at the reputable University of Dundee in Scotland, that he'd be a bit of a snob, that the number of magazine covers he and his bandmates have appeared on, many overseas and several on US soil, would perch him on a pedestal too high for a regional Gay newspaper to reach. But nope, Gary Lightbody is nothing like this. The lead singer of Grammy-nominated act Snow Patrol is the friendliest, coolest, and most interesting frontman I've had the pleasure of interviewing - a pleasure indeed, because each word from his mouth, coated in an Irish farmboy accent, made it feel as if my ears were being swabbed with Twizzlers. Residing once again in his childhood home of Belfast, this dreamily handsome rock star is fantasy material to as many Gay men as straight women - he packs brains, talent, charm, and everything else, into a lean 6-foot-4 frame, and lucky for us he squeezes it all into a pair of skinny jeans these days. Snow Patrol performs October 14 at the Paramount Theatre - visit www.stgpresents.org for tickets, and check out the group's newest video, "Just Say Yes," on YouTube.

On a recent tour break somewhere in the Midwest, here's what Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol got off his washboard torso when he stepped into The Music Lounge.

Albert Rodriguez: Why did it take so long for Snow Patrol to play Seattle on this tour? We feel abandoned.

Gary Lightbody: You feel abandoned? Oh dear, I'm sorry about that. We don't want to make you feel abandoned. We haven't done it on purpose, that's for sure. We love Seattle, we really do. A lot of the impetus, a lot of the inspiration for us - all of us in the band becoming musicians in the first place - came from the city of Seattle and the music scene. It's not a slight on Seattle itself, it's just tour itineraries that are not made by the band, they're made by agents and management. So please don't take it personally.

Rodriguez: What comes to mind when you see Seattle as the next stop on your tour?

Lightbody: Well, excitement. We love that part of the world. We love playing Portland, we love playing Seattle. Those are two places we very much look forward to. People are extraordinarily friendly and the city is a lot of fun, and there are a lot of things you can actually do in Seattle [rather] than in parts of the tour where there's a little less to do.

Rodriguez: Is there a good Gay scene in Belfast?

Lightbody: I don't think so, to be honest. I know there are definitely a few Gay bars and clubs because I've been to them. I have a very good friend, a chef at a bar I used to work in when I was 18, who is Gay, and would take us to bars in Belfast, like the Parliament, that were Gay bars. It's not so much a scene, but they are really cool. They always play the best dance music, which is something I've always loved about going to those places.

Rodriguez: Do you just to listen to the music or do you dance?

Lightbody: Oh, I dance & like crazy. [Laughs.] [Keyboardist] Tom [Simpson] was a DJ when I first met him, and I would go to his clubs where he played music and I'd be the one creating quite a lot of space for myself on the dance floor with people looking at me, going, "What the hell is this guy on?" But I wasn't really on anything at the time, I was more just high on the music. I dance energetically and enthusiastically.

Rodriguez: Are you comfortable being a sex symbol to both women and men?

Lightbody: I didn't realize I was a sex symbol for either. [Laughs.] But I'm certainly comfortable with it, if that's the case.

Rodriguez: You used to strip your shirt off during live shows in the early days, but it hasn't happened recently.

Lightbody: [Laughs.] I've been drinking too much beer and I've got a little potbelly. If I get in the gym and get fit again, I'll take my shirt off.

Rodriguez: Here's a compliment: I've seen recent live photos of you wearing skinny jeans, as compared to baggy Levi's and T-shirts you've worn at previous shows. I'm glad to see you wearing clothes that actually fit you.

Lightbody: Thank you very much. You're not the first person who's said that to me. I have U2's management to thank for that. One of their managers, Susan Hunter, would always complain about the shirts I was wearing at the start of the tour - she basically badgered me until I wore clothes that actually fit me, like you just said.

Rodriguez: If I were to visit you in Belfast, where would you take me?

Lightbody: I like places that have no frills, so I'm maybe not the best guide to take people around to the nicer places. My favorite bar in Belfast is the Duke of York. The Crown Bar is a beautiful bar in the old stint of the city, it's got little closed-off compartments you can sit in. The city has completely changed in the last 10 years, it's really prospered in that time. I didn't spend too much time in the city growing up because of the curfews, armored trucks, and people fighting. But these days it's the opposite; it's a brilliant, metropolitan European city. It's vibrant.

Rodriguez: Do you tune into Gay culture, such as political events, overseas or here in the US?

Lightbody: Yes and no. I'm quite a political person, so if there was a Gay rights parade or a Gay issue in the national consciousness of the time, then of course I would know about it - I'm not blinkered in that sort of way. But in terms of everyday things that affect Gay people, I don't really know that much. I have a few Gay friends, so it's only when I see them that I realize what the issues are.

Rodriguez: You're an avid book reader, and I wondered if there were any books you'd personally recommend to us?

Lightbody: I would be delighted. There's a book called Winkie by Clifford Chase. It's about a teddy bear that comes to life - I'm not giving anything away because it's right on the first page. He gets accused of being a terrorist - again, right on the first page - and it starts with the trial of this teddy bear. It is fantasy, obviously, and sounds completely ridiculous. But it's fantastic and a mirror to the whole ridiculousness of the Patriot Act and the ludicrous political situation we were in with the last president - I mean "we" as in you Americans. The other book is The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt. It's about Nikola Tesla, who is a genius inventor, and it's just really, really wonderful.

Rodriguez: Do you think fans got the last album [A Hundred Million Suns]? It's more complex than the band's previous records, and I admit not understanding it the first time I listened to it.

Lightbody: It wasn't our intention to confuse, but it was our intention to do something new and that would maybe be a bit more challenging. I wish it was given a better chance across the board, by critics and a lot of people. It was an experiment and I guess it was successful to us, because we think it's our strongest record. But not everybody got it, you're right about that.

Rodriguez: Those of us who've followed Snow Patrol for years know that about the changes in the band's lineup, sound and style. So, what's the future of Snow Patrol?

Lightbody: To quote the great Joe Strummer, "The future is unwritten." With the new single "Just Say Yes," which is our most adventurous single to date, it shows we can go anywhere or do anything with our next album, and I can't wait to get stuck into it. Most of the writing we're doing now will be thrown out the window to approach it completely fresh. We never have a problem with writing; it's only with finishing songs.

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