“We don’t care about writing hits, we want to make crowds move” - hmv.com talks to Catfish and the Bottlemen
After selling over 250,000 copies of their debut album The Balcony, a campaign that brought them sold out venues across the UK and a Brit Award for Best British Newcomer, Catfish and the Bottlemen return this week with their long-awaited second LP The Ride.
To find out all about the making of the album, working with producer Dave Sardy and why they’re aiming for arenas sooner rather than later, we chatted with singer Van McCann and guitarist Johnny Bond…
When did you start work on The Ride?
Van: “We started it about nine months ago, we basically got it done in between tours, so we’d be flying off to America to get it done, but all in all it didn’t take long at all, four weeks in all probably. We had it ready just before Christmas.”
Did you mind recording like that?
Van: “I think we’d rather have been locked in there for a month, get it all done, but we love playing shows, so it was a nice problem to have.”
Johnny: “It was more that we wanted to work with Dave Sardy and he’s based out in the States, so we were just going to where he was.”
Van: “He (Sardy) really held the tracks hostage. We’d be asking him if we could listen to them and live with them and he said no. So we’d be flying over to the studio and be really excited to hear our own songs again because they’d been locked up! It meant we were excited to turn up every time.”
Johnny: “I think next time we’d like to do in one go.”
Van: “We work really quickly and we’d have got it done even faster if we’d been there for the whole time. If we all had our own way we’d release an album every six months.”
Why did you decide to go with Dave Sardy? Was he someone you wanted or was he suggested to you? He has worked on some pretty big records, Oasis, Marilyn Manson, etc…
Van: “He was always going to do it. He was our dream producer when we were kids, we’d be fantasising about it in the practise room. Working with him was incredible, so many of the sounds that we grew up loving are his sounds, he designed a lot of sonic palette that we love, we wrote songs with the idea that he’d produce them and he understood us perfectly.”
How did you want this album to move on from The Balcony?
Van: “All the songs were written with the aim of getting people moving and singing along with them live. I don’t care about writing hits, I want to make crowds move, every chorus, pre-chorus, everything is geared towards our live shows. It was based around the venues we’re moving into, the big outdoor shows we’ve got coming, I want lots of hands in the air. Nothing changed in the way we write, but this is an album written for a live setting.”
You tour very hard, given you’re a band so inspired by what’s around you, how did you avoid an album all about tour buses and budget hotels?
Van: “Hotels and tour buses aren’t interesting, that’s not what inspires me. I get inspired by the things that are right in front of me, whether that’s a girl I fancy or a girl I used to fancy, or mates I’m with, the way I write hasn’t changed since day one. I’m a candid songwriter, it’s just what’s right there. I enjoy writing songs, I don’t have to set my mind to it, it’s always just a good laugh. I don’t plan for hits, maybe if you get a big placement on TV or film you might, but I don’t go chasing them.”
Are you still able to write as much as you did in your early days? A lot of bands can’t write on tour…
Van: “It’s never a chore for me. If you find it hard I can see why it would be, but I never have. I’ve always got the songs way ahead of time, the label will ask about a new album and it’ll already be ready, all the songs need is the lads to come in and make them bigger. It takes me five minutes to write a song and five minutes for the lads to come in and do what they do.”
Does that extend to lyrics too?
Van: "I never write lyrics down, I don’t do them until I’m in the vocal booth, I’m always changing them too, I want them to be relevant every time I sing them. It’s the same with how we record, usually the first take is what we use, we’re very keen to keep things vibrant.”
You’ve got some big live shows coming this summer, are you already looking towards arenas when you tour the album later this year?
Bondy: “There’s still a lot of work to be done. I think we’re probably an album or two away from being able to do the shows we want.”
Van: “We’ve been begging our agent to get us into arenas, but we’re quite an unpredictable band, we never know how each release we do will go.”
Bondy: “I think we want to make sure we touch every rung on the way up, every venue size, we just want to make it feel like it’s always building.”
Van: “We’re always planning, thinking about where we’ll be in two years time, we’ll be touring this hard, I’d love to be in arenas by the end of the year, I think we can do it, we sold out Castlefield Bowl in five minutes, imagine if it had been on sale for 10 or 15 minutes, we can move a lot of tickets. I want to get as big as possible, I love the big shows, my favourite shows to go to as a kid where the big shows where it’s practically a mini-festival.”
Finally, do you feel like there’s more expectation this time round? The Balcony felt like a bit of a sleeper hit...
Van: “We’ve always wanted to win people over in our live shows. We’ve never tried to be chart toppers, we want to keep going and keep grafting, there’s so much more to come. The third album is ready, Sardy wants to do the next one, we just need to tour and make a bit of money so we can go back and do it.”
“There’s so much more to come. I don’t feel like there’s more expectation, we’ve never been a hype band, perhaps that’s why it feels like we've come out of nowhere when we win at awards, we’re a live band, winning fans in festivals and gigs. We just want to keep going.”