Historically, a surprising number of bands "Big in the U. K. " have had a hard time breaking through in America. Snow Patrol, however, had...

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WASHINGTON — Historically, a surprising number of bands “Big in the U.K.” have had a hard time breaking through in America.

Snow Patrol, however, had a hard time getting to America, at least this year.

Case in point: Snow Patrol’s fourth album, “Eyes Open,” released overseas May 1, went straight to the top of the album charts in the United Kingdom, giving the epic indie-rock band its first No. 1 record. It was released here May 9, and a week later, its leadoff single, “Chasing Cars,” was featured prominently in the season finale of the hit television series “Grey’s Anatomy.” The song’s yearning refrain — “All that I am, all that I ever was/Is here in your perfect eyes,” sung against the backdrop of one major character dying and another reviving, as well as a romantic relationship imploding — sounded almost customized. Alexandra Patsavas, the show’s music supervisor, called it “a beautiful and complex song [that] served as the perfect soundtrack to a series of very complex moments.”

By the next day, “Chasing Cars” was the No. 1 downloaded tune on iTunes, and it was quickly embraced by radio and MTV, particularly after the band re-edited the video with footage from the show. A week later, Snow Patrol’s “Open Your Eyes” provided end music for the season finale of “ER.”

So an American tour supporting “Eyes Open” would have been a major boon for Snow Patrol. Except that three dates in, the band — three Irishmen and two Scots based in Glasgow — had to postpone the tour after lead singer and songwriter Gary Lightbody, beset by chronic laryngitis and barely able to hit notes, was ordered by doctors not to sing until the end of July because of polyps on his vocal cords.

“I lost my voice,” Lightbody says clearly now, “not a good thing for a lead singer in a band that relies heavily on vocals.”

Then dates rescheduled to August fell victim to airport security crackdowns after a terrorist plot to down flights between the United Kingdom and the United States was exposed. The band had to cancel their show at Seattle’s EndFest. Only two of the band’s five members arrived here for a series of West Coast shows. The others, including Lightbody, were grounded at London’s Heathrow Airport after flying in from Norway and missing their connecting flights.

Coming up

Snow Patrol, 8 tonight, Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., Seattle; $26-$28.50 (206-628-0888 or www.ticketmaster .com).

“It’s pretty chaotic trying to travel from the U.K. to America at the moment,” Lightbody said recently from Edinburgh, Scotland. In Edinburgh, Snow Patrol was about to play to a stadium crowd of 20,000.

There are new exposure opportunities in the wake of the delays. This week brings the release of both the season two DVD and soundtrack for “Grey’s Anatomy.” The latter includes a new acoustic version of “Chasing Cars,” recorded specifically for the soundtrack. And “Scrubs” star Zach Braff’s new movie, “The Last Kiss,” features an older Snow Patrol song, “Chocolate.”

The TV boosts “took us by surprise,” Lightbody says. “We get offered adverts a lot and we always say no, but I guess the record companies have deals to supply the television shows with music, and you don’t really know about it till it happens sometimes. I don’t think we would have said no anyways — they’re shows that we watch.” In any event, “it’s extraordinary how much of an effect that had,” he says. “I’ve heard figures between 20 and 25 million [viewers] watched [the season finales], and even if you go to the lower end of that, it’s staggering.”

Buzz being what it is, when Snow Patrol started touring here in 2004, they were playing to 200 to 400 people a night, “which is a luxury,” Lightbody says. “And we just kept coming back, and every time we did, we played to more and more people. And that is the old-fashioned way of doing things, and the most satisfying as well.”