Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ Catfish And The Bottlemen

Catfish and the BottlemenOn some lucky occasions when you are watching a band you feel like you are witnessing a part of history. When watching Catfish And The Bottlemen that feeling is DEFINITELY present. Having been championed recently by Zane Lowe, XFM and Steve Lamacq (amongst many others) the four piece band hailing from North Wales are touted to be the next big act to come out the UK. Their own breed of stadium fillers is rapidly increasing in popularity. Catfish And The Bottlemen are becoming renowned for being one of the most down-to-earth bands around and I was lucky enough to catch an interview with frontman Van McCann before their gig at Telfords Warehouse in Chester!

AMBY: What is something about Catfish And The Bottlemen that nobody knows about you?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Our roadie is half Irish, half Pakistani.  We call him “The Pakistani Prince”. Nobody knows that!

AMBY: Let’s start from the beginning. You guys are Llandudno, am I correct?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Yeah. Well, we lived there but we’re not actually Welsh.

AMBY: Really?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Yeah, my family is from like Widness way and Ireland and I was born in Australia. Billy (guitar) is from like Blackburn and Lancashire. Bob (drums) is from Sheffield and Benji (bass) is from Chester.

AMBY: So where does the whole Llandudno connection come in?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Well we just moved there when we were kids at the age of about 2 or 3 with our mums and dads. Billy’s mum and dad and my mum and dad both ran B and B’s. That led to us meeting each other in school. And we’re all best mates with Billy’s younger brother who is our tour manager. So it’s all like a big family really.

AMBY: So I’m guessing you went to John Bright’s school?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Yeah, I got kicked out when I was 15 along with Billy and his brother.

AMBY: Wow, how come?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Just because we were on tour with the band. We didn’t have any time for school.

AMBY: So you’ve been serious with the band since a very young age?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Since we were about… Yeah, we started the band when I was 15. Me and Billy started a band and this band got going only really two years ago. So it was, I dunno, it must have been when I was like 15. Just cause I was always touring and didn’t have any time for exams and that stuff. I got a letter just saying “Don’t come back”.

AMBY: Why did the band start? Was it because you all WANTED to be in a band or was it just through boredom?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Me, Ste (tour manager) and Billy have always been into music and we used to knock about with each other at school. Then Billy learnt to play guitar and he taught me how to play. And then I guess we just got carried away and after a while you just start writing songs. The old fashioned way.

AMBY: I was doing some research before the interview and I came across your first EP “Poetry and Fuel”. The sound for that EP is almost unrecognizable to the very distinctive sound we now know you for.  How do you think you developed your sound over the years to reach the sound you have at the moment?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: That was just kinda stuff where we were just messing about. I think I was 15 on those so I guess when we got to 18 we realized how poppy it all sounded. If we were writing in the sun and it was summer then everything would come out happy. But we got rid of that, got a new drummer and then that’s when the band really started. ‘Homesick’ is really how we see the start of the band, cause the stuff before that was just us messing about.

AMBY: Would you not class ‘Sidewinder’ as the start?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Yeah, but that hasn’t really been released yet, it’s just been on vinyl that we used to give away. That’s one that everyone likes and it kind of put us on the map, but ‘Homesick’ is really the start and everything that comes after is how we see the future of us. In terms of how the sound developed we just got a few guitar pedals and bigger amps which led to it being a bit more ‘meatier’ and we got into it a bit more.

AMBY: You’ve released a lot of singles over a short period of time. Does that mean we can expect a full-length in the near future?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Well, we’ve just been on the phone today talking about it. It’s just deciding which label we’re going to go through. I think we’re gonna do another single in November cause we’ve got, like, 80 demos written and ready for the album.

AMBY: 80?!

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Yeah, we’ve just been writing like mad so we just want to throw it all out there. We’ve got one coming out next month I think and then we’ve gonna record the album in December.  We’re just gonna try and turn one out every month and hopefully by the middle of next year the album will be ready.

AMBY: I was listening to your song ‘Rango’ and the first line of the chorus is “Abby she’s got to wait.” Do you mind me asking who Abby is?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: That was my first every girlfriend from when I was in school. That song was about her, almost an attempt to win her back. Sadly it never worked but we’re still mates. She actually bought the vinyl today!

AMBY: Was that song written a while back then?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Yeah, that was written when I was about 16.

AMBY: So you’re still using songs that were written in your teens?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: I’ve got loads of lyrics and stuff knocking about and that was quite a while ago. There are just certain things like melodies that we take and put on a new song, reincarnations of old stuff. But that song was just a rip-off of “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton. ‘Homesick’ was written maybe 2 years after ‘Rango’ and the next single was written in between those two.  So the songs are from all over the place really.

AMBY: You play a Squire Telecaster. Do you feel that you should stay loyal to your sound by sticking with the Telecaster or would you ever branch out and try other guitars?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: We’ve had loads of guitars, like we’ve been through Gibson’s and that. Billy plays a Strat but I’m not good on guitar. Billy only taught me about 5 chords and I don’t really know the names of anything so I just use a capo and move the chords up and down and hope nobody notices. I feel that if I had a brilliant guitar I’d be disloyal to myself because I can’t even play it well. You know what I mean?

AMBY: Absolutely!

Catfish And The Bottlemen: So I just smash it. That guitar I’ve got there was dirt cheap and really tacky, so it’s taken a real beating.

AMBY: I have noticed you throw it about on stage quite a lot!

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Yeah, it’s just strong. I like strong planks of wood! Billy is more the guitar man. He’s started getting pedals and that but I’m very much just play along with everyone.

AMBY: So when you say he’s still getting pedals does that mean that your sound is still developing?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Well, I think we know what we want now. We want to have these big, stadium rock songs. We’ve never been a band that only wants to play small venues, you WANT to be as big as you can get. And we’re very happy with our sound now so I think it’s going to remain quite similar to this. We’ve never been a band that wants to change our sound drastically. I like the idea that if people like it from the start then they’ll like it forever. And then you’ve only got yourself to blame if they don’t because the songs aren’t good enough.

AMBY: Would you say that from the start of the band to where you are now you have changed as a band?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: One thing that has stayed with me is that because we have always been travelling and touring from a really young age we had all our fights really early. We’re all used to hating each other already and being away from home. I’d say it’s changed me in the way that I don’t find it hard being away from home. I find it hard being away from the road.

AMBY: So you’d class the road as your home?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Yeah, exactly. I like what it’s done. Driving to Scotland takes 7 hours and that feels like nothing to us anymore, whereas with other bands it’s a drag and they can’t bear it. I feel like it’s been a blessing to us more than a curse.

AMBY: Yeah, I was looking at past interview you’ve done and there is always the question “You have a song called ‘Homesick’. Do you get homesick?” so I tried to avoid that. It’s surprising to see that you enjoy being on the road so much!
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Catfish And The Bottlemen: It’s the best thing ever! Travel Lodge’s are the best things ever made. I just love being somewhere else every day.

AMBY: You’re almost becoming renowned for your eccentric movements on stage. Would you say there are any influences on your movement?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Not in the way I move, no. I remember seeing Ida Mari supporting a band and after seeing her I was like “Wow, she really loves her music!” and she liked the music from the way it feels, not just the way it sounds. So as soon as I saw that I started writing differently, like writing everything by the way it felt in my heart instead of the way it sounded in my ears. I guess I’ve got her to thank for that, but I’m a massive fan of Van Morrison and when you watch him he shuts his eyes and you can tell that he’s thinking about the song. But yeah, where the music goes I go. I get into it, shut my eyes and try and go mental.

AMBY: I want to talk about sperm. Is there a deeper meaning to that like trying to find your way amongst millions, or is it just because it’s a funny shape?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: That’s a good analogy! Nah, I was a test tube baby and I was the third try of IVF, so there is some meaning from that. But we also though it’d be funny if we had t-shirts with sperm all over them.

AMBY: That’s always the goal! On your social networks you always seem to stay on the same level as your fans. Do you think that that is one of the most important things to you?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Yeah, I did until recently. Someone said something recently that really wound me up. Somebody asked us if we were Manchester United fans cause we’re big into football and I said yes to them because we used to speak to every single person on Twitter. He then replied saying “Now you’re one of my favourite bands!” and I thought “So it’s not because of the music then?” and I started to think that this is getting a bit strange; people are into our band because we’re United fans and because we speak to them. I’ve not got a phone anymore so that means I’m off it, I’ve taken a back seat. I used to think it was really important but personally I find it really important meeting people physically after every gig. Like tonight we’ll insist on having a drink with everyone, having a chat and just getting drunk with everyone! I really love meeting people.

AMBY: Have you met any “characters” after gigs yet?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Yeah! There was a guy at a gig the other week when we played down in Cornwall and he was crowd surfing in a boat and he took all his gear off! All he had on was a pair of gold, sequin undies and then THEY got ripped of. So he was just sitting in a boat naked. He was pretty odd. There’s also a girl from Japan who isn’t weird at all she’s really sweet. She loves the band and she flew over to come see us in Manchester and brought us all green Kit-Kats. There are some really nice people!

AMBY: You’ve had the pleasure of playing with some massive bands, most notably The 1975. Of all the bands you’ve played with, who do you think will be the next big thing?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Hmm. There is a band called Broken Hands from Kent and they’re my favourite band in the world, ever! They are like The Doors meets The Black Keys and we’ve just become friends with them over time, they’re class! And they should definitely go massive! We played with Glasvegas a couple of months and they’ve obviously done alright but that was the best thing I’ve done. We’ve played with The Wombats; our soundman Dougie is their sound guy!

AMBY: Have you Googled yourself yet?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: No, I’ve not. I’m not an Internet man. I guess we used to in school and that, there used to be a Scottish footballer with my name. But I’m not very hands on with computers and stuff.

AMBY: Going back to your school days, was music always the option from a young age or did it come about as the band became more successful?

Catfish And The Bottlemen: Well, we all wanted to be footballers me, Ste and Bill; Ste was incredible! But when we reached 16, 17 everyone discovered drink and got fat and slow. But as soon as I started music I was dead into it and then Bill taught me how to play. I went through everything really. I wanted to be a wrestler, a footballer, a pornstar. You go through everything and you don’t get quite good enough at it. But when it came to music we never really stopped doing it; it just carried on to where we are now.

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Thank you Catfish And The Bottlemen, for giving us your answers! Watch our latest interview with the band below:

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Interview by Matt Thomas | @MattThomasWxm

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