“The Cranberries is four members, Dolores, Mike, Noel, and Fergal and it’s not really The Cranberries without any one of those members.”
So says the band’s drummer Fergal Lawler as he quashes any notion that they could continue without iconic front woman Dolores O’Riordan.
A first ever Grammy nomination, a fitting full stop for one of Ireland’s most successful bands.
“It came as a shock,” says Fergal, talking about the moment he heard the band were up for Best Rock Album at the 2019 awards.
“I was really surprised actually, and honoured.”
The nod for their latest album, In The End, is the first Grammy recognition for a band born in 1989.
Although “delighted” to receive the prestigious nomination, it is understandably bittersweet.
The album was recorded following the death of The Cranberries’ lead singer in January 2018.
Millions around the globe mourned the 46-year-old’s passing, with Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar describing Dolores as “Limerick’s greatest ever rock star”.
“There isn’t a day goes by that she doesn’t pop into my head, especially with something like this,” says Fergal.
“She would love to go to that awards ceremony and get dressed up and have a great night out.”
After releasing the album, the band announced it would be their last.
And making it was probably “one of the most difficult things we’ve ever done,” says Fergal.
Dolores’ voice is used on the tracks, taken from demos she recorded in the months before her death.
“The first day especially, I just thought, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to do this’, everyone was really sad and emotional.
“The second day, I think, we said, ‘Look we’ve a job to do here and if we’re moping around the studio we’re not going to give it our best’.
“We had to really focus on that and try and make the songs as good as possible, otherwise we just wouldn’t be doing justice to her songs.
“In the evening time, when you’d get a chance to reflect on the day and listen back to what you’ve done, that’s when it would hit you again. Because she’d normally come in in the evening time, do her vocal, and then she obviously wasn’t there to come in.”
Releasing new music after Dolores’ death was a decision the band didn’t take lightly.
“We thought about it for a while,” says Fergal.
Encouragement from the late singer’s family to “give it a go” spurred the band members on.
After just one week in the studio the group already had the first few songs in the can.
A new album is usually promoted with a tour, but in this case the band won’t be hitting the road without their inspirational front woman.
‘That certain sound’
“It’s just the sound we had when we played together, it’s something that happened, you can’t really put your finger on it.”
“When the four of us were in a room together there was that certain sound that came out.”
But could bringing in a replacement singer be something the band would ever consider?
“When we were doing promotion for this album a lot of people were asking that question.
“I think it’s a bit tacky that whole thing, it’s like a tribute band or something.
“People suggested the hologram thing… I never entertained anything like that, it’s just not for me.”
‘We didn’t realise how big it had gotten’
Rewinding through the decades to when the band first came to prominence Fergal says “we were so caught up in playing and touring that we didn’t really realise how big it had gotten”.
“It was near Christmas time (in 1993) when we came home to Ireland and there was people at the airport and press and everything like that and that was kind of when it hit us.
“It was like ‘oh God, no! This is horrible’.
“The success part is great but the whole fame thing is very, very strange, it’s not something any of us were comfortable with.”
The band members all hail from Limerick, a city which they never forgot and one which has never forgotten them.
As recently as this week a mural of Dolores, by street artist Aches, appeared in the city as part of a series celebrating influential Limerick women.
The colourful tribute has the seal of approval from Fergal who plans to get the band to pose next to it.
“It looks amazing, she would love it”.
“It actually really looks like her, it’s not like a dodgy sculpture or something that doesn’t even look like the person.”
Finally, Fergal’s thoughts on the possibility of winning a Grammy in January?
“It would be amazing, just something really nice to mark the legacy of The Cranberries.”