The Script's Mark Sheehan talks Irish bars, living in Florida and Halloween bonfires
On Jan. 28, weeks before he became Public Twitter Enemy No. 1, John Mayer tweeted the following: “Every band with a single this year has a mission: beat 'Break Even’ by The Script. Oh, yah... good luck.”
Well, here we are, almost in November. And Breakeven (which is actually the correct title) still stands as one of the year’s strongest singles, a bouncy lamentation on breakups (“I got time while she got freedom / ’Cause when a heart breaks, no it don’t break even”) that became a hit around the world. It’s also helped make The Script the most popular Irish rock band since a little outfit called U2.
But even if they don’t end up owning the world like Bono and company, The Script are well poised to follow in the footsteps of radio-ready rock bands like Train, Maroon 5 and The Fray. Their new album, Science & Faith, comes out in January — although it’s already out in the U.K., so the band’s current concert setlist mixes hits like Breakeven with new songs that many U.S. fans haven’t heard.
We caught up with bassist Mark Sheehan this week from Atlanta.
You were just in Florida in March — you did an acoustic set for a radio station here. Do you have any recollections of the area?
I have lots of recollections. I lived in Orlando for about 3-1/2 years; so did Danny (O'Donoghue, vocals).
Really? How did that happen?
My wife is from Texas, and she lived in Orlando prior to us getting married, and of course I was fancying her, and courting her, and I went to Orlando to make music and write some songs, and try to get to know her a little better. We started getting some work there — we were just trying to keep the lights on, really. And we stayed there.
What were your impressions of the state of Florida when you first moved here?
I loved it. I’m a huge fan of America in general, so as a kid, I’ve always grown up dreaming of living in America. Florida really is a great place, and a great port of entry for any international person coming over, because it really represents America very well. It’s very clean, a very nice place, and there’s lots and lots to do. It’s a very outdoorsy place.
What kind of stuff did you do for fun?
I’ve gone to the beach a few times. We’ve done the parks a million times. We quite enjoyed the SkyVenture — you know, the thing you can go in and fly? We did that a lot, because we wanted to get good on that. We’ve done tons of stuff, from shooting to bloody driving, to everything.
Next spring you’re going to be part of the VH1 Best Cruise Ever. What are your expectations of that cruise? Do you tan well? Do you swim?
We’re Irish, so the second you put sun on us, we’re like snowmen in hell — we just melt. The boys are not too bad with the heat, but I’m a fair-skinned, red-headed Irishman, so I tend to not work well with the sun, but just protect myself as much as possible.
I’m sure there are a lot of American fans who know nothing about Ireland except Irish stereotypes. Do people insist on doing their Irish accents for you?
Mmm-hmm. We get lots of funny ones. What a lot of people don’t understand is that every part of America feels a little like a new country for us. Texas, for example, will be totally different from Florida and California, and so on. And they just want to make you feel welcome, so what they think is best to do is take you to a local Irish bar. (laughs)
I can’t think of anything more insulting! Give me your read on American Irish bars — I’m sure you’ve never seen a good one, right?
No, there’s some great ones. For example, I believe it’s in Cincinnati or Portland or one of those areas, one of the guys had flown in all the wood from Ireland to make it look as authentic as possible, because he’s from Ireland. Yeah, there’s lots of Irish people over here that do get it right. I think when it becomes a little bit commercialized, that’s when you lose what an Irish bar is all about.
When I lived in Florida, I had an Irish friend of mine who knew that nobody in America really gets Irish humor, and he was asked to do a voiceover for Bennigans. And in the voiceover, he said, “The food is the bollocks!” Which is really funny, because it’s so rude. I’m sitting in Bennigans, listening to his voiceover, and they obviously didn’t check it with anybody. They thought it was so authentic, but it was like, “You gotta get rid of that.”
I’m always curious about what it is that makes some things succeed in the United States but not the United Kingdom, and vice versa. Do you have a read on that? Why do you think that is?
It’s something we have spent about 11 years studying. There’s a clear difference in music from Europe to America, and I’m talking a sonic difference. We tend to go for traditional storytelling, very much so, from our culture. It tends to come from folk music, things like that. But it seems like America is very driven by radio, mostly. I guess when you’re in a car, they quite enjoy bass, and they quite enjoy drums and rhythm. So you tend to get an awful lot of rhythmic music over here. We’ve found that the best thing to do is combine those two worlds, try to bridge that gap between America and Europe. Our music is mixed and blended in a very American approach, but written in a very European way.
You guys have enjoyed a lot of crossover success with Breakeven. But next year, you’re touring arenas in the U.K., and you’ve already sold out a date at O2 Arena.
Yeah, O2 and and Wembley (Arena), both nights.
Is it weird for you to be playing smaller venues in America on this tour?
I think we’re on a bit of a mission with America, because what we feel every time we come over here is that it really resets the clock and makes you feel like you’re a new band once again. We quite enjoy that it’s not a huge production here. It’s just us with the local lights and the local sound, instead of us bringing the big production with us. It’s great because you get to see the whites in everybody’s eyes, and you get to relive some of those things you started off doing. So we started in America playing to like 400 people, 200 people, 800 people, and we’ve built that up now to nearly 2,000, 3,000 a night — in New York, 5,000. We’re really seeing our music work. It’s motivating us to come back and know that the hard work is actually paying off.
It’s Halloween weekend. Are there cultural differences between Halloween in Ireland and Halloween in the United States?
I think in some parts of the United States they do it, but we do a bonfire. We would collect wood for a month or two leading up to Halloween, and the locals would help us store it. And then we would pick an area where we could light it really high — we’re talking a giant bonfire here. And all the kids would trick-or-treat and do the usual things they do here, but at the end of the evening would finish with us all sitting around this giant fire. It’s loads of fun. It brings the community together that way. You’ve got a couple of hundred people around this fire, which is really cool.
You don’t have a concert on Halloween night — are you going to any parties?
No, unfortunately, it’s a travel day for us. We’re traveling from, I believe, St. Petersburg to Norfolk, so we’ll be on the bus for most of the day. But there’s normally costumes on the bus, and craziness happening, because you get kind of cabin fever. I’m sure we’ll go out that night once we park in Norfolk.
And set a bonfire.
That’d be good. The bus may arrive on fire. Who knows?
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*