. . . What's so special about Kodaline anyway?

The one-time reality TV wannabes wisely took the path of reinvention – now they’re the biggest band in the country and are poised for international success. Jim Carroll follows the trail all the way to a packed-out 02

Analysing how and why any band eventually makes a breakthrough is never easy. After all, if you could reduce it to a formula, everyone would be doing it. No matter what kind of a forensic approach you take, there are always other factors and instances in the mix which vary from act to act. We can relate all the possible information about a band’s history, their team and their inexorable rise, but we’re rarely any the wiser about why it all happened in the way it did.

In the case of Kodaline, there's certainly no doubt that they've reached another level, especially here at home. Next week, the band who were once part of the reality TV mix as 21 Demands, will headline the biggest shed in the land, Dublin's O2, at the end of a short Irish tour.

Selling out the O2 is an impressive feat for any band, never mind an Irish band with just a debut album in the bank. There will be other, bigger gigs in time – Kodaline won’t be on the undercard for many outdoor bills after this summer – while their profile out foreign continues to grow at a rate of knots. It may have taken them nigh on a decade between both bands to get here, but they’ve done it. They have arrived.

That they’re doing all of this under a new sound is significant. There never really was much long- term sustainability in the trite, throwaway, reality TV pop of 21 Demands. That name was forever damned by association with the banal, awful world of reality TV shows with their triple-j death-match of journeys, judges and juries.


The band themselves probably realised as much before anyone else and their material began to change around 2009 and 2010. Interestingly, Ronan Keating played a part in the band's transformation, inviting them to record in his studio and putting them in touch with UK producer Stephen Harris. As the music changed, the need for a new name emerged and Kodaline came into being before a record deal was finally signed.

Of course, there are many other bands out that can tell similar stories. Delve into the files of any major record label and you'll find dozens, if not hundreds, of acts in development hell. These acts are writing, recording and honing songs until someone decides that the right moment has come to launch them on the world. And many of these acts will have songs akin to High Hopes and Love Like This .

Don’t go looking for any insights from the band themselves into how all of this came about. The bulk of their interviews to date have been riffs on the same themes which afflict all new acts. If they’re more than ‘lads in a band’, you’d have a hard job proving it from their bland utterances. They really sound as if they don’t have anything to say. Maybe they just need to be asked different questions or a better class of interviewer?

What it really comes down to is a case of right-ish band at the right-ish time in the right-ish place. The research would indicate that there are positive market conditions at present for a band with a rub of Snow Patrol, a dab of Coldplay and a pinch of The Script. That most of these acts are off the pitch at the moment helps. Songs which don’t frighten the horses at radio also help, especially when they don’t sound unlike everything else around them. Get a decent agent on the case to ensure the band are touring like blue-arsed flies and you’re away on a hack.

It sounds easy when it's broken down like that, doesn't it? Indeed, we've heard from several A&R men that labels are now scouring the land for "the next Kodaline" (which may account for the huge industry interest in Dingle band Walking On Cars at present). They won't be the only act signed by a label keen to simply copy what Kodaline have done.

Meanwhile, Kodaline will just get on with it. They know that there is much more work to be done beyond Ireland and that a successful debut album doesn't always mean the second one will follow suit. But as they set out to play the biggest gigs of their career, they can reflect on a job well done to date and onsuccessfully dodging the reality TV death knell.

Kodaline play INEC, Killarney, March 14th; Ulster Hall, Belfast, 15th; and the O2, Dublin, 16th