Young Academic is constantly scouting new talent for you to look into and enjoy. The School of Music’s Features Editor Robert Gant speaks to Van McCann, lead singer of Catfish and the Bottlemen about their upcoming UK tour, the state of the music industry and drummers frequenting strip clubs.
A bunch of Beatles loving musicians, all shacked up in the same house together on a street called Abbey Road, making music together every day. Sounds like a dream but that is the reality for Llandudno based four-piece, Catfish and the Bottlemen.
For a band that has only been playing together for a year their progress has been rapid. A number of EPs have been released and have been devoured by an ever growing fan base. Lead singer Van McCann and his trusted guitarist have been together a little longer. ‘As a band we’ve been together about a year now but in terms of playing together our guitar player Billy taught me how to play guitar at like 14/15 so me and him have been together before he could grow a beard man.’
Despite also knowing their bassist since childhood where the three of them played in the same football team, the story of how they met their drummer, known only as Dr. Bob, is quite a story. ‘It’s funny how I met the Dr really mate’ Van recalls with a smile.
‘I went this strip bar for a laugh with one of my friends and he was in there on his own and I found it quite strange to be on your own in a strip joint. So anyway I got talking to the lonely bugger, turned out he lived two minutes away from me and he was an absolute monster on the drums.’
The band hasn’t looked back from that night since. A UK tour kicks off in Camden in October and consists of dates at some of the most prestigious small live music venues up and down the country including the O2 Academy in Islington. It is something the band is looking forward to. ‘We love being on the road! It’s the best thing about being in a band.’
‘We find it easy because we love it. For us it’s like how hard is it to wake up somewhere different everyday surrounded by your best mates doing something that makes other people happy? It doesn’t feel like a chore or anything, we really really love it and love the music we’re making and love the people that are into us too. We just feel really grateful that fans make the effort to come see us and let us keep doing what we love.’ The excitement and passion is evident right through the band’s music.
Pinning down influences isn’t an easy task and is something Catfish and the Bottlemen don’t like. ‘As a band we tend to not try and get influenced too much by other people because we’ve always tried go our own way.’ However comparisons can be made. The sound of the Strokes is marked in McCann’s vocal delivery and comparisons to indie rock outfits like The Enemy and The Music wouldn’t be unfair. Add to that the energy of a band like The Clash and you’re getting close to defining the sound of Catfish and the Bottlemen. Close being the key word, you could on forever and still not quite pinpoint their influences, which suggest the band have unique qualities that are carrying them forward.
Optimism also seems to be a key ingredient in the bands recipe for success. Even asking open ended questions about the current state of the music industry doesn’t dampen McCann’s spirits. ‘I hear a lot of people saying it’s on its arse and stuff and that the industry won’t take a risk on up and coming bands and if that’s true then it’s a shame.’ After a slighht pause the energetic front man continues.
‘But to be honest mate I think class will always shine through so if you’re the next [Rolling] Stones or something someone’s bound to put there balls on the line. There’s always going to be people in the industry that give a shit and take risks and become heroes for it. There’s probably just not much to take a risk on nowadays.’
Following another short pause he concludes with a little chuckle. ‘Hopefully we’ll spark that up again.’
The energy of McCann is infectious and it is easy to see how that energy transcends into his song writing and bands music, though he is keen to acknowledge the brilliance of his band mates.
‘I write the tunes. Most of the songs are just about people I’ve met or stories people have told me about themselves and girls or situations I’ve got caught up in. Billy being an “Elvis number one” type of guy makes all the hooks. I love his guitar playing! He can make you want to sing the riffs or solos as if it’s the lead vocal man. Blakes and Dr.Bob make it down right dirty. They’ve got this thing about them that is just really cool and groovy man.’
Catfish and the Bottlemen haven’t made it yet and McCann recognises that there is a lot of hard work ahead but as a band they are absolutely in love with making music and putting it out there. ‘Like I said we love what we’re doing and I can’t see us stopping ever.’