“I’ve spent my whole life working to this moment” – InQuire interviews Catfish and The Bottlemen

“I’ve spent my whole life working to this moment” – InQuire interviews Catfish and The Bottlemen

“That’s what I live for; everything about me is in the live show. That’s where I feel like I’m best” said Van McCann, lead singer of the band, when I spoke to him at Bestival 2014.

When I first saw Catfish and The Bottlemen at LodeStar Festival 2014, I’d only heard of them via passing comments such as “you should check them out, they’re going to be big” or “they sound like The Clash, but even better” and so I was already anticipating a great show. It’s not often that I get goose bumps at a live performance, but the energy on stage captivated me and I was in awe of the band straight away. I knew I had to find out more, and I had the pleasure of being able to interview Van McCann last weekend and see their live performance at Bestival.

Catfish and The Bottlemen hail from a little town in North Wales called Llandudno, but not all the band members were born there. “We started when I was 15, and we’ve been going 7/8 years now. We just kind of started in school as kids, but then I got kicked out of school cos I was in the band and I used to spend time recording instead of sitting my exams” says Van, in an almost school-tearaway-turned-rock-genius style. The name of the band comes from when Van was growing up in Australia – “I just remember being plodded outside this café and watching this guy who used to have this washing line with bottles hanging off it. He used to play them like a drum kit and he was called ‘Catfish the Bottleman’. So, when it came to naming the band I thought it was quite an apt thing to call us because it was my first memory of music” says Van on their YouTube video entitled “Why the name?” Since forming, Van tells me they’ve already written around three albums worth of material, used to gig 200 times per year and are ‘dead proud’ with the debut album, ‘The Balcony’, out on Monday 15th September via Island Records.

You might know Catfish and The Bottlemen for their single ‘Cocoon’, which has been making the playlist at BBC Radio 1 for a few weeks now. Much like the rest of the sublime songs on the album, it’s got a catchy hook and some intense and memorable guitar riffs. I asked Van where the inspiration for the song came from: “I wrote it [on a balcony in New York] because I was missing my girlfriend from home. Growing up where we’re from in a small town, everyone knows your business and that song is just about being so in love with someone or something that nothing outside of it matters.” It’s his favourite song on the album he tells me, and it’s not hard to see why. But then, when you listen to the whole album, it’s hard to not fall in love with all of their songs.

Catfish performing live at Bestival 2014. Photo: Dave Cocozza

From the moment ‘Homesick’ begins until the last note of ‘Tyrants’, the album flows effortlessly and you can tell the amount of work Van has put into it. Just how DO you write such an incredible album and how long does it take? “They take as long to listen to as they do to write, so literally three or four minutes” he tells me. I’m astounded. I can hardly have gone to the toilet or send a text in that time, let alone write a song! “It’s kind of a hunger. When you want to eat you get a feeling like “I need to eat” and I get that feeling and go pick my guitar up and it flies out. If I don’t have that feeling it might not be that good of a tune, when I get that feeling they’re usually good songs and it’s normally dead late at night. I never write lyrics down, I just sing them and I know what I want to write about. All my songs are about true stories.”

Van McCann at Bestival 2014. Photo: Lily Elden

They might have secured an album deal, but playing the live shows and doing gigs is where Van’s passion is. They’ve managed to sell out a full UK tour before the release date of their album. “I don’t like recording, I hate the way you can go do it again and all the stuff from me on the album is one take, and I refuse to do all my stuff again because I feel it’s not real. The live shows I’m buzzing about, the fact that THAT many people are banking on us is mint.” The energy coming off stage at their live performances speaks a million words and absolutely exemplifies the passion that Van has for music, and Catfish and The Bottlemen definitely didn’t disappoint at Bestival: passionate, energetic and humble to the crowd.

Our timeslot with Van is starting to come to an end, so I ask him about his thoughts on the album release and what the next few weeks hold for the band. Van perks up and says “I’m buzzing; I think the album is mint, the songs are mint and I’m dead proud of the album.”

“The next two weeks are going to be full on grafting. I’m excited. I know that no matter how the album does, I’ve worked hard and I’m well proud of it. Whether we sell a hundred, or a hundred thousand it doesn’t matter to me. It’s my life; I’ve spent my whole life working to this moment. Once it’s out I can focus on playing it to people and making people feel something.”

With that statement of passion for his music, our time is up and Van is whisked off to another interview. I’m still inspired, still enthralled and still in awe of the debut album wonder that is ‘The Balcony’. If it doesn’t get into the charts at a high position, I worry about the musical tastes of our generation. Catfish and The Bottlemen have worked hard to get where they are now, and deserve every bit of success. If you don’t get the album, you’ll be missing out.

Catfish and The Bottlemen’s debut album ‘The Balcony’ is available on iTunes NOW, and all good record stores. Find out more about the band at www.catfishandthebottlemen.com

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