Snow Patrol has come a long way in recent years. A good measure of just how far? The company that the Irish/Scottish five-piece now keeps. When singer Gary Lightbody was suffering from writer's block last year, for instance, he called up R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe for advice. Not a bad phone friend for a band once virtually unknown outside the United Kingdom. Stipe's tutoring had the desired effect, providing the creative catalyst for Snow Patrol's sixth studio set, "Fallen Empires."
Recorded in Los Angeles with longtime producer Garret "Jacknife" Lee, the 14-track set arrived Nov. 14 on Fiction Records/Universal and debuted at No. 3 on the U.K. albums chart with first-week sales of 80,000, according to the Official Charts Co. "Fallen Empires" is the band's fifth top five album and follows 2008's "A Hundred Million Suns," which has sold 500,000, according to the OCC. "Fallen Empires" also debuted at No. 1 in the Netherlands and Ireland.
Since forming in Scotland in the mid-'90s, Snow Patrol -- Lightbody, guitarist Nathan Connolly, bassist Paul Wilson, drummer Jonny Quinn and keyboardist Tom Simpson -- has sold more than 11 million albums, according to its label. The group's best-selling album in the United States is 2006's "Eyes Open," which has moved 1.3 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "A Hundred Million Suns" peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 210,000.
"I feel like they've realized their potential on this record," Fiction Records managing director Jim Chancellor says. "Gary summed it up when he said that they've grasped their inner dance monkey. There's a lot more groove to the tunes. There's a couple of big songs instead of just one. There's dancey songs, uptempo rock tracks . . . it's just a really great palate."
Chancellor credits radio support from national top 40 station BBC Radio 1 in building a strong U.K. launch platform. Lead single "Called Out in the Dark" was playlisted on Radio 1's A-list (placing the track in regular daily rotation) and debuted at No. 11 on the U.K. singles chart in September. A second single, "This Isn't Everything You Are," has since been added to Radio 1's A-list.
"We're in a pop market, and getting anything with a guitar on the radio these days is literally like running up a hill in treacle," says Chancellor, who cites TV appearances on "The Graham Norton Show," "Later . . . With Jools Holland" and the BBC 1 broadcast "Children in Need Rocks Manchester" charity concert with further driving sales. The band also performed a free outdoor show in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Nov. 6 for 15,000 fans as part of the MTV European Music Awards. "It's the best TV plot we've ever had in the history of the band," he says.
TV will also play a big role in the forthcoming U.S. push. Snow Patrol is booked to play "Late Show With David Letterman" on Jan. 9 with "Fallen Empires" -- which features guest contributions from U.S. folk singer Lissie, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen and the L.A. Inner City Mass Gospel Choir -- set to make its North American bow on Jan. 10 through Island Def Jam.
"Called Out in the Dark" has been serviced to triple A radio ahead of the band traveling to the States in December for promotion. A U.K. and Ireland tour will commence Jan. 20 at Dublin's O2 Arena, booked by London-based X-Ray Touring. The 17-date trek includes two nights at London's 17,000-capacity O2 Arena, followed by a monthlong run of European dates. U.S. live plans are to be announced.