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In Conversation With Little Matador’s Nathan Connolley

Nathan Connolley of Little Matador

Little Matador are the latest rock clique out of Ireland to give a brash nod to classic raucous rock formulas. With a July support slot for Biffy Clyro in the bag (even before their debut album is out later this month) and an already impressive CV behind its’ members, we grafted in their frontman and Snow Patrol guitarist Nathan Connolley to explain the project.

So how did the project get started?

I’d been talking about doing a record for quite a while. Over the years different ideas came and went. Little Matador itself started in late 2012 when I first got in touch with the guys [Paul Brennan, Gavin Fox, Troy Stewart, Dave Magee] and I kind of had my dream line-up I guess! They were all friends, people who I’d either worked with before or had known a long time. It kind of came together very quickly, I emailed everybody and within a couple of months we had everyone in the studio writing and rehearsing, just seeing if that chemistry was there – and it was! By 2013 we were in the studio, and although it seemed like a wild journey to get there for me… it certainly did come together really really quickly.

Do you think that because you’d all been in previous bands before the process was easier and more familiar to you?

Yeah, sure, I guess everyone has brought in their own musical history and experience with them. Yes, arguably it’s been easier in ways but it was very intense. We did the album in such a short space of time and although it was over course of a few months we did it in these short bursts. Hell of a lot of fun but so frustrating at the same time – but I think you have to have those things really. No record is made the same way, even if tried to recreate the circumstances you just couldn’t do it. Things don’t always go the way you want them to go when you’re in the flow of making an album. And I mean that in the most positive way.

You’ve already played alongside Nine Inch Nails and Queens Of The Stone Age before your first album is even out…

Yeah, no pressure right? It was great with all the goodwill and support we’ve been getting and supporting those bands, and the fans were incredible. That was their thing and they came with us and the reception we got was slightly overwhelming. Because of the way we made this record it wasn’t like we’d been gigging and we had these songs that we’d already played live. We made the record and then we started playing them to people so we literally had no idea how people would react. Literally going on our own self confidence. Even our own shows in the sweaty dingy rock clubs, people have been amazing – and you really feel it in those places. People are literally five feet from my face sometimes and as a band we’re thriving on that.

Are you cautious about coming from Snow Patrol? Because the media loves to talk about past projects.

It’s one of those things, I have no reason not to talk about it. It’s what I do and it’s what I’ve done for a long time. I guess I’m certainly not trying to hide the fact, if you know what I mean? But I am trying to push and promote Little Matador because it’s what I’m doing now. As a musician plenty of people do the same thing and are in other bands and the focus isn’t about that. That’s the reason I want to go out and build this and play clubs and do this the right way, to be taken seriously you’ve got to. People might be intrigued for surprised, shocked, happy at what they hear but that’s for them to decide.

What’s been your musical manifesto? Is there a particular sound you want to explore with Little Matador?

I only had one rule when it came to the studio, and that was that I wanted to make a rock record. That’s a broad spectrum too but I wanted it loud, dirty and for it to have swagger but for it still to be melodic. I know that’s the direction we were going in when I hooked up with the guys. You know, honesty is a big thing for me, whether that’s lyrically, musically or how you present yourself. You have to embrace who you are. That was a big thing for us, to just be honest.

What was it like making a record with a new team?

We had a ball. Everything brings its own problems but that’s all part of it. For me it was incredibly fresh and it gave me a lot more focus. I’ve made a lot of records with Snow Patrol and I’m still thrilled by that, it still excites me. But I think it’s healthy as a musician to expand your horizons a little bit. You learn so much, certainly this time I learnt to trust my instincts a lot more. But I was relishing in working with new people, absolutely.

Is this a long term project?

Absolutely. We all got other commitments too and any Patrollers don’t need to worry, I’m not going anywhere. Certainly at the moment I’m concentrating on this. We all want to give it the best shot we can and take it as far as it can go, especially because we’re so proud of this album and it really does just feel like the beginning of something. We’re already talking about how we’d like to make another one and whenever that’ll be – I don’t know – whether its years or months away, whenever it feels right we will be back with another record at some point. But first things first ey’.

All of you bar one are from Ireland, would you like to think that it gives the record an ‘Irish Sound’?

I guess not conventionally no, there’s not really an Irish sound to it, not the traditional side anyway. But I do think there’s an attitude to the Irish. There’s some brilliant rock musicians and bands from Ireland over the years, certainly the music scene in Northern Ireland is as vibrant as it’s ever been. It’s so diverse and strong and some of the people making music are just so young and talented it’s quite frankly annoying [Laughs]. But that’s the amazing thing though, being kept on your toes, making records and challenging and inspiring yourself, to better yourself. That’s certainly an attitude I’d like to think we brought to the record.

You’ve been compared to the Arctic Monkeys by the likes of The Daily Star and The Telegraph. What do you think of that?

Have we? [Laughs]. I love Arctic Monkeys and I’ve been a fan from the start. That last record [AM] they did was just incredible. People will compare and that’s grand. I’m happy for people to make their own comparisons, it’s flattering.

Do you think they’re the “saviours” of rock n’ roll?

I don’t know if anyone is the saviour of rock n’ roll. They are a great band though. I know that the statistics came in for last year and there were more rock records sold [in the UK] than ever before or something. But by the very nature of what it is and the kind of people who listen to it there’s always a slight underground-ness to it, it’s always bubbling under the surface. It’s always there and it always will be.

Have you noticed a difference in the industry between now and just over ten years ago when you were doing the same thing with Snow Patrol?

Yeah absolutely, there’s huge differences on so many levels, the industry has changed so much. I’m very fortunate that we’ve got a great label with a great working relationship and we’re friends. They’re hugely supportive and I think there’s still a need for record labels. Even for me now – I’m new to social media – and with this band the internet activity is such a huge thing, we simply didn’t have that when we started out with Snow Patrol. It’s like comparing a Facebook post with walking around your town putting up posters [laughs], I guess it’s the same thing it’s just a lot easier. Some things will never change and some things will.

Are you involved with the social media side of the band at all?

I never was. I’m really only new to it last year to be honest. I reluctantly went with it at first but I also understand, again, times have changed. I download – legally – but I still buy records, CDs and vinyl. I’m kind of caught in that mid-point where you’re not really sure and you still feel a little bit weird about it all. As long as you’re not tweeting about your cat, which is fine, you might have a great cat. You do have to learn to adapt though.

What’s your plan for the next 5 years?

I want to devote as much time to Little Matador as I can and Snow Patrol will be back with a record next year. It’ll be a busy time but I’m excited to see how we can do it and have both, if one will influence the other and what we learn with that. But absolutely within the next 5 years I’d love to see another Little Matador record…

Is everyone in Snow Patrol supportive?

Absolutely. We’re brothers, we’ve been together for so long that we’re family now. We’re all supportive of each other and at this point we all know that it’s important to take a little bit of space. We’ve done 8 years solid: record, tour, record, tour. Little Matador just felt right at the time, you know? Whenever I’m doing other projects it’s certainly not my letter of resignation, the Patrol family is growing. We have a publishing company, everyone’s got their own little projects, working on bands etc. It’s great Little Matador are a part of that!

Little Matador’s self-titled debut album and lead single “Stitch Yourself Up” are both out April 21st. Find out more at LittleMatadorBand.com.

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