READ THE TRB interview WITH founding member and drummer OF The Cranberries Fergal Lawler about the early days of the band, aS the REMAINING MEMBERS OF THE BAND reissue their ‘stars’ anthology
The Cranberries were one of the hardest-hitting bands gaining legend status as the fierce foursome conquered the 90s Alt-Rock scene with their unique indelible sound. A sound fully immeshed by their Irish roots and filled with raw emotional vulnerability. Led by one of the most distinctive and significant voices in rock, the late great Dolores O’Riordan rounded off with founding members Noel Hogan, Mike Hogan, and Fergal Lawler. They captured fans all over the world & gaining super hits with songs ‘Linger’, ‘Dreams’, & ‘Zombie’. These songs and more are on this updated version stunning anthology album titled ‘STARS: THE BEST OF 1992-2002’. This anthology album encapsulates their five albums at Island Records with two unreleased songs, “New New York” and “Stars”. Ahead of the release, I interviewed founding member & drummer Fergal Lawler. Lawler talked about The Cranberries‘ formation, his influences growing up, the legacy he hopes Dolores and The Cranberries will leave behind, and much more below.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Can you tell me the origin story of The Cranberries? Many of us have heard these songs over the years but may not know how the band came to fruition.
FERGAL LAWLER OF THE CRANBERRIES: Mike, Noel and myself met and became friends through ‘Breakdancing’ around 1984/85. After a few years we started listening to other music like The Cure, The Smiths, Joy Division, The Pixies etc. A friend of mine from school was a DJ on a local radio station and he played a lot of Irish bands. He gave me some compilation tapes and info on when the bands were playing in Limerick. We began going to see these bands play live and discovered some were from Limerick. That gave us the idea to buy instruments and start learning how to play. I got a drum kit for Christmas when I was 17 and Noel and Mike got their guitars a few months later. We practiced together for a year or so and then met Dolores through a friend that was in school with her.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: How pivotal was music during your upbringing in Ireland? What were the artists/bands that shaped those early years? Do they still shape you guys as musicians?
FERGAL LAWLER OF THE CRANBERRIES: Music was a massive influence on all of us in our childhood / teen years. Dolores played music from a very early age and was singing from the moment she could talk. When we were growing up, Ireland was a lot different. To be honest we thought it was quite a miserable place. Music was a great escape and also a way to express our emotions. Once we got a chance to travel and see the world I think we realised that Ireland wasn’t that bad after all.
Yes, the bands I mentioned earlier were a big influence on us in our early years. I personally still listen to them and continue to be moved by their incredible songs.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: I know you guys are releasing a greatest hits collection titled STARS: THE BEST OF 1992-2002, which collects the band’s biggest hits from your first five Island Records albums. Can you talk about this album collection together? How were the songs picked for it?
FERGAL LAWLER OF THE CRANBERRIES: The songs from ’Stars’ were picked as a Greatest Hits from that time period (1992-2002). They were all the singles we had released in that time plus two new songs, “New New York” and “Stars”. We felt it would be unfair on fans who already had bought the singles not to have something extra, so we recorded those two new songs in Miami while we had a few days off from a US tour.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Some of the songs on this collection include your hits ‘Linger’ and ‘Dreams’. Do you have any particular memories from making some of these songs that stick out to you?
FERGAL LAWLER: Yes, ‘Linger’ was the first song we ever wrote together. The first time we met Dolores was a Sunday afternoon rehearsal. We played her some music we had been working on, one of which was an instrumental of ‘Linger’. Then she played some songs she had written. We gave her a cassette of ‘Linger’ and she went home and worked on it for a few days. When she came back to rehearsal later that week she had the vocals and that catchy string line done. We were blown away !
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What is it about songwriting that you find most rewarding? What is it that you find most challenging? Was there a song that you’ve written or produced that was difficult but ultimately rewarding
FERGAL LAWLER: When we got signed to Island, our A&R man was a record producer named ‘Denny Cordell’. He was a great guy who really loved music. He had heard the demo of ‘Linger’ and that version was always very special to him. So when we recorded the version that was released on ‘Everybody Else….” he wasn’t so sure about it. He asked us to do a few remixes with other producers but in the end we managed to convince him that the version we did with Steven Street was the best one.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Do you have a favorite memory of Dolores? It can be outside of music. Whatever is comfortable for you to share.
FERGAL LAWLER: My fondest memories of Dolores are of those early years when we were all teenagers, travelling around the world in vans and busses. We had hardly any money so we would entertain ourselves with laughter. She could be very funny and was great at doing accents of people.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Do you remember the first time you heard her sing? Did you feel and know that the band would click at the start? That this would be something special?
FERGAL LAWLER: Yes, as I mentioned earlier, the first time I heard Dolores sing was at that Sunday rehearsal. But her microphone was plugged into a guitar amp so it was quite difficult to hear her properly. After a few months playing together, we managed to save enough money to record a demo tape. It was when we went into the studio that we really got a shock at how unique her voice was. Not only were her main vocals brilliant but she had all these astounding backing vocal melodies too! When we finished that demo we knew our band was something special.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: What lyric from any of the Cranberries Island Records releases do you feel best represents the world around us currently?
FERGAL LAWLER: I think with the shocking injustice and barbarism of what is happening to the people of Ukraine, the lyrics of ‘Zombie’ are still very relevant.
“What’s in your head, in your head ? They are fighting”
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: Are there any current artists and bands you enjoy? Any current bands that you feel carry the spirit of The Cranberries forward?
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: I know fans debate about topics like this, but I would love to hear it from a musician’s perspective. What do you guys think is The Cranberries’ most underrated or overlooked track?
FERGAL LAWLER: There isn’t just one track I can think of but rather a whole Album. We always felt the Album ‘Roses’ didn’t get a proper release. There are some beautiful songs on that record and we plan to re-release it properly in the future.
THE RECLUSIVE BLOGGER: To close out, What would you hope is The Cranberries and Dolores’s legacy?
FERGAL LAWLER: That people are still moved by the dynamic, emotional songs we created together.