The Script are an Irish trio (Danny: vocals, Mark: guitar, Glen: drums) whose music boasts the kind of artful twists sure to turn all preconceptions on their head.
This is a whole new brand of Celtic Soul, blending hip hop lyrical flow with pop melodiousness, state-of-the-art R'n'B production with anthemic rock dynamics, classic song construction with gritty contemporary narratives.
It's got all the emotion and passion you would expect from across the Irish sea, but it is glittering in its modernity, universal in its singalong addictiveness and global in its syncopation, music for the feet, heart and head. Think U2 versus Timbaland, Van Morrison remixed by Teddy Riley.
"Irish people have soul," according to Danny. "It comes from generations of pain, and generations of understanding emotion to be able to physically get that in a solid sound."
The debut single We Cry was released on April 28th 2008.
So much has changed for The Script since they released their first album four years ago. First they broke Britain, then the States, then everywhere from Asia to South Africa. Along the way, they toured with U2, Take That and Paul McCartney, sailed through the second album syndrome that sinks so many bands, played to a 55,000-strong crowd at an historic hometown show in Dublin, amassed almost four million followers on Facebook and 1.5 million on Twitter and saw their singer star on TV talent show The Voice. In short, the past four years have seen The Script become one of the biggest, best-loved bands in the world - if you want to stack up the stats, the trio have so far sold four million albums and a staggering nine million singles.
Yet on the eve of releasing their third album, '#3', what is most striking about The Script is how little they've changed. In a South London studio, fizzing with excitement about their new songs, the three best friends have lost none of their passion for making music. They're still a self-sufficient unit who write, play and produce every song themselves. They're still perfectionists who obsess over every lyric and pour their soul in to songs because they truly believe great music makes a difference.
The dynamic of the band remains unchanged. Sweetly, there still isn't an oversized ego among them. They continue to care nothing for fame in its celebrity sense and refuse as firmly as ever to take either success or their fans for granted.
Like The Script's meticulously-crafted, meaningful songs, there is more to the seemingly obvious album title than first meets the eye. Yes, #3 is their third album. But it's also the power of three - three people, three equals, whose combined input is what makes The Script special. It was written and recorded in Studio 3 at Battersea's Sphere Studios, home to the band and their equipment for the first six months of this year. And '#3' sums up the theme of the album - 'music for the head, heart and feet' was a mantra The Script stuck to from the moment they opened the Pandora's Box of ideas - aka the self-built mobile studio they took on tour last year - to the day they handed '#3', two months early, to their record label.
"There's a synergy to three," says singer Danny O'Donoghue. "If you delve in to it - which we tend to do with everything - it's a lucky number, in the past a religious number. But the title is mostly about us. As any geek fan of the band could tell you, we're all extremely different people, but magic happens when you mix us together. Well, magic or a car crash, which is how we describe the songs we scrap."
'#3' should have been The Script's most difficult album to make. After their eponymously-titled debut topped the British and Irish charts in 2008 and sold more than two million copies worldwide, its successor, 2010's 'Science & Faith', sent The Script supernova. In the States, it entered the charts at No.3, spawned a huge radio hit in 'For The First Time' and saw the band move up to arenas. In South Africa, they found themselves playing to crowds of 18,000; tours of Australia were extended across Asia. As guitarist Mark Sheehan says, "Success was ours to lose".
Then there was The Voice. Barely back from 18 months on the road, in January, Danny became a coach on the BBC show just as work on the album began. He spent long days in a TV studio, then up to twelve hours a night with the band.
"I feel more at home here, in a padded room, than anywhere else in the world right now," says Danny. "For six months, it *was* my home. Will.I.Am used to say that, every day, I came in with another song idea or singing new lyrics. I had to because I was laying them down that night."
In Danny's absence, Mark and drummer Glen Power picked up his production slack in order to stay on schedule.
"It was a band decision for Danny to do The Voice," insists Mark. "We don't want to be celebrities. We can't stand that scene. We spent two albums avoiding the limelight, letting our music do all the talking. But because of that we were, to some extent, a faceless band. Danny did The Voice to put a face to The Script. We know about producing, song writing and performing - we've been doing it since we were 14 or 15. Danny on a show about singing was good for us. People saw how passionate he is about music, how much it means to him and it made our band better known."
As it turned out, the time constraints helped. The Script went hell for leather on the new songs. They pushed themselves as never before and surprised themselves in the process. Studio 3 saw lots of laughs, a fair few tears, fears conquered and boundaries broken. Not to mention endless bottles of beer, wine and whisky emptied.
Immediately obvious was that '#3' would see a return to the rhythmic, hip-hop and R&B-influenced sound of their debut. But it had to be organic, to rely on real instruments, rather than the synthesised sounds so prevalent in today's pop. The Script looked to the live hip-hop bands they loved growing up, such as A Tribe Called Quest, for inspiration.
As ever, Danny and Mark struggled with the lyrics, staring them down and mixing them round - Mark likens the process to completing a Rubik's Cube - until they conveyed the exact emotions they had in mind. The trio agree that, lyrically, '#3' is by far their best album to date - more personal, more emotional and much more optimistic. The message - music for the head, heart and feet - is self-belief, soldiering on and achieving your dreams.
And so to the songs. Anthemic first single 'Hall Of Fame', written in a day, is The Script's most positive song to date and the first to feature a guest- will.i.am, who trades lines with Danny on the verses.
"We played half a dozen demos to Will and he wanted 'Hall Of Fame' for his record," recalls Danny. "He was going overboard about it - saying it was the new We Are The World, how he'd take it and get loads of people to sing on it.
"But we thought it would make a great duet. Not the usual, 'Get a rapper, have him come in on the middle eight' stuff. We wanted to do it line by line, true duet style. It took several months, a headlock and a taxi cab to pin Will down. He kept saying he'd come in to the studio that night, but something else always came up.
"One night after The Voice, as he was heading back to his hotel, I told him I was coming with him. I jumped in to his car, called Mark and said 'Shit, we're doing it NOW! Get in a taxi'. We were trying to play it super cool -us with fucking will.i.am! We heard him singing some of our lines, but we still didn't know what he was gonna do. We were worried he might take some of our original song out. But he just sang our words.
"When he finished, I put the tape in my bag and we left his hotel room, trying to act like it was no big deal. But soon as we shut the door, Mark and I were punching the air, shouting YES! We felt like we'd just robbed will.i.am. A smash and grab with the loot in my bag! Then it was straight to the bar to celebrate."
'Good Ol' Days' is a rowdy, rhythm-driven song about living in the here and now, rather than basking in nostalgia. The Script call it their pub song.
"We've never really had a song you can imagine people jumping around a pub to," says Glen. "Hopefully, this'll be the one. Going to pubs is the one thing all three of us passed exams in."
The stunning, strings-drenched 'No Words' harbours a secret in its ghostly chorus. Rifling through an archive of old Irish music, The Script stumbled on a strange banshee shriek that is thought to be Ireland's first ever field recorded music. "It's a woman, but no-one knows who," explains Danny. "She's just sort of shrieking, but it sounds like she's saying 'No words'."
"The three of us can talk about anything - politics, current affairs, where a song is going wrong. But this is about those moments when you need to tell someone how you feel about them, but you can't find the words."
'#3's' two big ballads are The Script's most personal, most moving songs to date. 'Six Degrees Of Separation' is a passionate, powerful song about a relationship break-up, written when Danny split from his longtime girlfriend earlier this year. The lyrics borrow from AA's 12 steps - in the genius use of numbers (an old hip hop trick) in a chorus that calls out for a sea of lighters held aloft.
'If You Could See Me Now' is a song The Script never thought they would be able to write and deserves to see them hailed among modern pop's great lyricists. Addressing the death of Mark's parents and of Danny's father, with alternative verses delivered by both singers, 'If You Could See Me Now' was written in a couple of hours one night, over bottles of Scotch whisky and through rivers of tears.
"As writers, we're used to venting everything in song," says Mark. "But that was the one topic for two albums we always shied away from. One night, I'd brought in a number of whiskies I wanted the guys to try - that was the porthole. We had to be drunk to tackle that song. Danny and I sat in opposite corners of the studio, writing our verses.
"I'll remember that night for the rest of my life," says Danny.
"Emotionally, we achieved exactly what we got in to music for, what we're all still in it for. Not the No1 singles or the fame, but to capture an emotion in three and a half minutes that we know will mean an awful lot to other people.
"As a band, writing that song was the bravest thing we've ever done. It's us imagining what our parents would say were they still here. We like to think they would be proud of us and our achievements, but they'd probably be telling us off for drinking and smoking and swearing too much. And you know what, they'd be right."