Interviewing Catfish and The Bottleman is surely the conversational equivalent of trying to compete with Usain Bolt in the 100 metres. By which we mean: the band are already up and flying ahead, while you’re still stuck in the starting blocks tying up your laces.
FMS is sitting with the Welsh indie outfit in a Manchester gig venue trying to get the low-down on their recent single release ‘Brokenarmy’. We were wondering if that wondrous single, a two-and-a-half minute eruption of candy-sweet melody wrapped in searing sonic scuzz, might be indicative of their full-length debut album. However, rather than discussing the interim future, the Welsh four-piece are keener to sprint a long way further down their career path.
“We’ve already finished writing our third album,” declares the band’s singer Van McCann, a garrulous Miles Kane-alike wrapped in the distressed leathers of the Jarman brothers. “Obviously, we haven’t released a debut album yet, but we’re a really impatient band. We hate sitting around, waiting for things to happen. You hear about bands who fly to Europe for six months just to work on a B-side, but with us, we’re more old-school. Back in the sixties, The Beatles would put out two albums a year. That’s how I want this band to be; we’ve got short attention spans, so we’re always pushing forward.”
Of course, where that short attention span works most effectively is within the band’s music and live performances. Indeed, if 2012 really is the year when rousing Britrock reclaims its place in the nation’s affections, then we can surely consider Catfish and The Bottlemen the definite crash-course programme.
Recalling the rambunctious charge of those early-Libertines shows, Catfish and The Bottlemen performances crackle with punkish exuberance, the band tearing through five songs in the time it takes most punters to go to the bar and back. Sounding like The Cribs rampaging through The Kooks’ back catalogue, all brain-throttingly catchy hooks and juggernaut guitar riffage, theirs is a scuzz-pop formula built from the sympathies of all indie fans numbed by the recent shoegaze-rock invasion.
“We just want to write direct rock’n’roll music,” McCann insists. “There are too many arty rock bands out there who make their gigs like some sort of punishment. When you play gigs as much as we do, you learn to cut out all the fat and just focus on writing songs that grab people soon as they hear them. For me, the best example of that is still The Strokes – their songs are just direct and to the point.”
The band’s urgency undoubtedly owes much to their backgrounds. Hailing from Llandudno, the North Wales seaside town, these four 19 to 21-year-olds – McCann, joined by impressively coiffed band-mates Billy Bibby on guitars, Benji Blakeway on bass and drummer Bob Hall – bonded over what they loved (The Beatles, The Streets, Arctic Monkeys) as much as what they loathed (the R&B and dance culture which pervades their hometown).
Making their live debut in 2010, the band quickly made some high-profile friends, from Steve Lamacq (who made them his 6 Music Unsigned Band of the Week) to Carl Barât (whose Camden club night Jubilee, they have played at). Building on that early momentum, the band have spent the past 18 months gigging relentlessly and writing so many brilliant new songs they surely have enough material for at least three albums. Firstly, however, they need to get that debut album out of the way.
McCann smiles: “Who knows – maybe our debut album could be a greatest hits album. A new band whose first album is a best of collection! Now that really would be getting ahead of ourselves.”
Words: David Sue
Photo: Michael Robert Williams