For a band that “was always just about playing live,” Catfish and the Bottlemen has spread its sound far from its beginnings in Llandudno, Wales.
The alternative rock band has been making its way across the country in support of its May LP release, The Ride, and will headline KFMA’s Nutcracker Ball at Rialto Theatre on Dec 8.
Indie-rock band STRFKR will headline the second night of the event at Hotel Congress.
Guitarist/lead singer Ryan Evan “Van” McCann and guitarist Johnny “Bondy” Bond spoke to the Daily Wildcat about Catfish and the Bottlemen’s progression, and how the band keeps its musical passions alive amid the tempting complacency that can come with popularity.
McCann said he and his bandmates have always been driven by playing live shows.
“We’ve been on the road since we started the band,” McCann said. “If we could make a record it was OK, but we just wanted to play—take it around the world and play the music we’ve made.”
The band’s albums certainly reflect a more live sound. Similar to other post-punk revival bands like Arctic Monkeys and The Kooks, Catfish and the Bottlemen stands out with its collected, atmospheric edge.
The band’s first studio album, 2014’s The Balcony, had a gritty aesthetic layered over catchy progressions.
The Ride seemed to refine the band’s sound, and although McCann and Bond said this progression is natural, it doesn’t come from a planned process for them.
“When we’ve been playing them live, it just feels like one big sound,” McCann said. “It’s always changing to how we play it live—it’s that version, that moment.”
The sophomore effort did see a change in producer, though, as composer Dave Sardy stepped into the role to help develop the band’s sound.
“I think we mix everything together really quickly, and as soon as we turn it up to Dave we’re ready to go,” McCann said. “We always kind of make it like, ‘just mic us and let us play.’”
Bond said that being in the backseat gave them a different person’s input, and Sanders has a very simplistic, “doesn’t give a fuck” approach to recording— an approach that worked to best bring out the band’s raw sound.
“We found a real compass with [Sardy],” McCann said. “It was different. Everyone else, they can see into the changes. You don’t really notice the change—the people around you change. It’s really just part two, and the next one will be part three.”
As for the band’s name? It came from a street performer McCann saw when he was a young kid visiting Australia with his parents. The performer went by Catfish and the Bottleman and played a washboard with bottles on it.
Touring continues to be the heart and soul of the band’s music, and Bond said The Ride especially lends itself to being performed on a stage.
“It’s an album that sounds like it could be live, so when you see it live it’s a naturally more exciting,” Bond said. “You don’t lose something from the record.”
The dynamic at the band’s shows is much different than back in the U.K.
“It feels like we’re just getting warmed up,” McCann said. “We definitely want to take it and go with it. We’ve had our whole lives in the U.K., we’re still just doing the rounds out here. Right now, I think we’re still putting in the ground work.”
Performing on “Conan” and “The Late Show with David Letterman” were major stepping stones for the band’s ascent into the American music scene, but it has already established itself as a household name in in the U.K.
“The tour we did in the U.K. was our biggest—we played some arenas and that was the moment like ‘Oh shit, we’ve come this far,’” McCann said.
Though the group continually has those unreal, accomplished moments, McCann said he and his bandmates try not to dwell on how far the band has come because the growth of their artistry can only happen with a forward outlook.
“That’s not the sort of thing that any of us would allow ourselves to think, that we’ve already ‘made it,’” McCann said. “We’re too hungry to sit on our laurels—we’re probably too far ahead of ourselves.”
Equally blessed in talent and humility, Catfish and the Bottlemen look forward to creating a memorable experience at the Rialto Theatre this Thursday, Dec. 8.
Tickets can be purchased at the door or on the Rialto’s website.
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