It was in the middle of another epic Snow Patrol tour of America that Gary Lightbody found his imagination drawn back to the world of Tired Pony. The band were put together by Lightbody as a sort of Americana road-trip and their 2010 debut was a joyously melancholic love-letter to the States. Now back with Snow Patrol, back in his tourbus bunk, snapshots of the country rolling by, he began imagining how he could continue the story of the two lovers whose story was told on the first album.
"We had so much fun doing that album and I had so much more to say on the characters," explains Lightbody. "I was fascinated by where it was taking me." America - the country, its singers, its novels, its road life - was the fuel for Lightbody on the first record. But it wasn't the grand landscapes and horizon-stretching vistas that lit the spark, it was the minutiae of American life; the small, intimate moments of something you weren't supposed to see, the gestures and interactions of everyday life. Tired Pony isn't about gawping at the Grand Canyon in collective awe, it's about the sugar melting in a coffee cup.
Armed with verses, choruses and melodies waiting to be knocked into shape, he pulled the gang back together. Not the easiest of tasks given there's seven of them; Tired Pony's core members are Lightbody, Iain Archer, Peter Buck, Richard Colburn, Scott McCaughey, Troy Stewart and Garret "Jacknife" Lee, who also serves as producer. "This band is people from a lot of different backgrounds united around Gary's songwriting," explains Buck. "I've been playing rock'n'roll for 40 years and Iain Archer is more of a folk guy. Richard is from Belle & Sebastian who have a lot of different influences. Troy plays Americana. Scott is in a punk band. Garret's playing everything. There's a lot of different experience being thrown into the mix".
The first album was recorded in Portland, Oregon, where the band tapped into the city's vibrant musicianship. This time, they convened at Lee's house in Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles, to record the follow-up. Tuned in to each other's rhythms and beats, they wrote and recorded prolifically, laying down two or three songs a day and sticking to a mantra of Less Is More. "That's a cliché, but it's so fucking true," says Lightbody. "I don't think we thought at the beginning that we wouldn't have any other musicians on it, either. On the first record, there were around 15 guests on it. This time, we listened back to what we'd done and realised we didn't need much of anything else."
It's a startling conclusion to an enrapturing record, an album about finding peace in extraordinary circumstances. It's a sunshine record documenting bleak times. You'll want to singalong to it; your heart will break when you realize what you're singing about. "The record makes you think one thing and feel another," says Lightbody. Tired Pony will cast a spell over your head and your heart.