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Catfish and the Bottlemen Share The Ride

by Ron Hart on December 02, 2016

The June 2015 issue of Relix featured Catfish and the Bottlemen as one of our Summer Stars. At that time the Welch quartet were touring in support of their debut album, The Balcony, on which they worked with Jim Abbiss, who produced Arctic Monkeys’ legendary debut. We described the results as “a tight 11-track set of gritty garage rock and huge choruses. It’s straightforward and catchy.”

Earlier this year the group released their excellent sophomore set The Ride. The band is so hot in the States right now they are coming back across the pond off the heels of a successful summer tour to play a spate of holiday radio shows in December before ringing in 2017 with shows in Australia. The brief tour is now underway and closes out on December 10 in San Francisco.

We had the opportunity to speak with frontman Ryan Evan “Van” McCann and guitarist Johnny “Bondy” Bond about their success playing stateside, their guerilla roots as a live act and the impact of the early 00s American garage rock scene on their sound.

The first show you are playing when you return to the States in December is in Chicago. It’s interesting to think about how far back that city’s roots in the blues go in England. In fact, the Stones just announced they are returning to their own origins as Chess Records acolytes on their next studio album, Blue & Lonesome. Chicago blues songs were pretty much what their first album, England’s Newest Hitmakers, was comprised of, in fact. Do you feel an affinity or connection to this city yourselves?

Since we began playing Chicago, it’s always one of the first cities that sells out on our tours. We played at The Riviera a few times, and the first time we played there my voice went out on me when I was singin’. We got about three songs in and then we were like, “Ah, this isn’t really a show.” So we put a load of money behind the bar and told everybody to go get a drink. We put our whole fee on the tab and everybody got to drinkin’ that night and we just had a good time. Chicago has always been a big part of our trajectory out here in the States. And it’s not like we even have any kind of big hit out there, it’s just people get to talking and tell their friends about us and they come to the show. It’s a real natural thing that happens. Last night was about 2500 people and last year maybe it was like 800 or something like that.

What place do you guys like to go play when you come to New York?

We played Terminal 5 this time and last time we came out here, and the time before that we played the main room at Webster Hall. Back then we had our first album coming out, so after the gig we went into the smallest room in the building and played a few of our new songs there like we did when we first started playing together, and that was class as well.

When you guys first began playing together, I had read you used to play in the parking lots of big concerts after the show let out…

Yeah, we were like ninjas (laughs). We used to get a generator and set up shop, because we knew there would be like 3000 music fans coming out of a venue like the Hammersmith Odeon no matter what band was on. So we used to stand there dressed as ninjas and play these gigs, and everyone was like, “What’s this band about? These ninjas, they keep turning up in car parks giving CDs out.”
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