On their huge new album, people power + ignoring haters
Andrew Trendell

08:00 25th May 2016

"People like investing in a band properly," nods Catfish & The Bottlemen frontman Van McCann, contemplating over the natural wind of goodwill that has blown them to where they are today. "I've always been like that, when I love an act I need to love everything they've done - every song, album, hairstyle. People think 'this band could give us a real body of work'. They can look back in 10 years and go 'Christ, they had this planned from the start - look how much they got done'.

"Our fans like having a band that release an album every year, and we're ready for that," he admits, nonchalantly. "The next one is ready. We'll go round the world once then crack on with that. We're always a year ahead of where we're meant to be. We're ahead of the game, always prepared, always wanted to be a big band and we don't plan on letting that slip."

The enthusiasm that meets you when you sit down to talk to McCann and guitarist Johnny 'Bondy' Bond seems boundless. 

"The reflection of where we want the music to go has been very 'matter of fact'," shrugs Bondy. "People may think we're being naive, but I think it's very honest. 90% of bands hope for that but never say it - for thinking it might not be 'cool' or whatever."

It may be confused with a brash cockiness, but their confidence isn't that hard to fathom. There was never as great a deal of industry hype and 'must-watch' status behind them as many of their peers, but the years they spent touring toilet venues saw them pick up a cult following, which soon swelled into something much greater. 

Debut album The Balcony gatecrashed the top 10, they picked up a BBC Music Award and a BRIT for British Breakthrough. This summer, they'll headline their first festivals, and it's all off the back of people power. That same power saw them get an NME cover, just months after the magazine gave their album a pretty scathing review...

"I think NME gave it a four out of ten!" laughs McCann, with no fucks given. "But it went exactly how we wanted it to. We were touring for five or six years before anyone had heard of us, so people knew our album down in Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool. In tiny 200 cap venues, people would be singing the songs before we'd recorded them.

He goes on: "It just feels very natural to be working and see your work pay off in front of your eyes - you're not striking a viral video and blowing up overnight.

"No matter how much marketing, strategy or radio-plugging you put behind our band, our fans will tell you what they like - that's just the way it is. Our fans were texting in so much that they forced us onto the radio, it's nuts."


Photo: Michael Lee Jamison

So with fan power having liften them to this stage, they now have a guaranteed audience awaiting them upon their return. Where The Balcony saw them deliver immediate and universal anthems of youthful frustrations and kitchen sink melodrama, where does new album The Ride take the Bottlemen's sound? 

"We were sat in a room thinking about what people are going to move to, how we'd want to react to a song at live shows," replies Van. "The songwriting didn't change in any way. It's like playing footy on a Thursday - just good crack. But I would say this is the difference between an amateur film and a professional film. Not that The Balcony was amateur, but it's like we've had a fine, cinematic grading done to it."

Bondy chips in: "It's very much as it would be played live, you don't really need more than that - it sounds wider, and massive."

But what's been inspiring the words? Have they lost their 'real life' appeal after ascending from four mates making a racket in each other's bedrooms to globe-trotting indie posterboys - dare we say it, 'rock stars'? 

"I've always written the same way - I write for the person directly in front of me," smiles Van, unphased. "The first album, I was writing lyrics about people who live five minutes away from me, but now because we're travelling, everyone's a couple of hours away from me. The songs grew wider in distance, lyrically, sonically - it's all huge. Steve Lamacq, who's supported us from the early days, said this sounds like the album was written down the phone. I thought that was a good way to describe it.

"I loved The Streets, and what I loved about Mike Skinner was that he sounded like your mate - some of his lyrics were like he was txting you. It's so personal and accurate. I wanted to keep it like that."

Van adds: "The first one was a bit 'small town', this is still direct and conversational. There's no big poetic ballads on there. It's just direct, saying it like it is. There's an Eels' song called 'it's a motherfucker', and that's all it really says. You can't really meddle with stuff like that."

Amen, why mess with a winning formula? Forget trends, the media, the middlemen. Say what you will about them, but you can always count on The Bottlemen to cut straight to the heart of the matter. Giving the people what they want, each and every year, until they're the biggest band on Earth - that's the Catfish masterplan. 

Van concludes: "When the NME gave us a 4/10, even their critique doesn't effect us - it said 'they're 10 years too late'. But The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and that were what we were all about. It's a back-handed compliment to us, it all makes sense to us in some way. There's no tricks, this is just doing what we've been doing since we were 14 or 15, and will continue to do so until we're 40 or 50."

- New album The Ride is released out now

- Catfish + The Bottlement perform on The Other Stage at Glastonbury at 6.20pm on Sunday 26 June

As well as performing at Liverpool Sound City, Truck Festival, Kendal Calling, Y Not, Tramlines, Belsonic, Down To The Woods, Bristol Summer Series and Radio 1's Big Weekend, Catfish & The Bottlemen's full upcoming tour dates are below, with tickets to the new November dates on sale from 10am on Friday 3 June - and available here

Sat June 25 2016 - BRISTOL Lloyds Amphitheatre
Fri July 08 2016 - MANCHESTER Castlefield Bowl
Sat November 05 2016 - DERBY Arena
Sun November 06 2016 - BOURNEMOUTH BIC
Wed November 09 2016 - MANCHESTER Victoria Warehouse
Thu November 10 2016 - MANCHESTER Victoria Warehouse
Sun November 13 2016 - GLASGOW SECC
Tue November 15 2016 - LONDON SSE Arena Wembley
Thu November 17 2016 - COVENTRY Ricoh Arena

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen

  • Catfish and the Bottlemen


Photo: Press