Interview: Catfish and the Bottlemen

Catfish and the Bottlemen lead singer Van McCann chats to Clem Lloyd

Interview: Catfish and the Bottlemen Debut album Balcony is almost upon us! In eager anticipation of its arrival to our eardrums, Bearded caught the whirlwind that is Catfish and the Bottlemen lead singer Van McCann in a moment of downtime to talk Festivals, eternal touring, and being mates with your fans…

Bearded: The debut album is out 15th September. Last time we spoke you said you had enough songs for four albums. How difficult was it paring them down to the final lineup?

Van: Pretty easy because I knew what I wanted, I knew what the first album was supposed to sound like… put the best first and we can always write more. Build up a big following and then we can put the rest out. They’re definitely my favourite, I don’t know if they are the best. There are some we left off that our guitar tech loves.

So you feel you’ve got a bit more held back for the second record?

Yeah, we got loads. There were four that we were playing out in Amsterdam and our manager was like “Fuck, they’re mint!”

Are you going to play them during the tour?

No, it’s just going to be this album. I like bands who give you sets so like when The Strokes came out, I had 11 strokes songs and that was it. I mean, we didn’t do a deluxe album for that reason. I don’t like deluxe albums because I think they’re just a way to take two more pound off a kid. I don’t want to do anything daft like that.

Who produced the Record?

Jim Abyss, he did the first Arctic’s album.

Did you enjoy working with him?

Yeah… we had a lot of fights, in a good way. We just kind of pushed each other. I was worried about losing myself too much in it, being too much like a rock star. But he just used to slap me and say right go for dinner and I’ll have this done when you get back. He is genius, every time I’d tell him, “I love the sound of that drum on, say, a Kasabian tune, how do we get that?”, he’d say; “right I’ll make sure we don’t get that”… I am really into mimicking people, so [Abyss] tried to get us away from that. He’s got a really good reputation for breaking bands. He said, the first time we met, “you sound good, but I can give you your own sound”.

As a Live-centric band, how did you find working in the studio?

We did it for three and a half weeks, pretty quick really, for the reason that I hate being in the studio. I don’t like having to do [vocal takes] again and again. Every take I do I lose something, [so] my vocal takes on the record are all like on or two takes… At the same time, I was recording my first album, so it was a nice time. It was just mad, loads of fights, loads of ups and… If you don’t make a good first album then everything is, fucked. Looking back now, we held it together well.

So there was lots of pressure?

I knew the songs were good enough, I knew they didn’t need developing… but you hear stories of bands going back to the studio because it’s never right. I was so worried about wasting all that time and money, ‘cos if we hadn’t done it in that three weeks, the whole year would have been screwed. We had singles ready to go and everything timed well with tours and stuff.

You’ve been touring for about eighteen months now haven’t you?

About 7 years really! We used to play Monday to Friday in pubs from age 14. Round Llandudno we’d [play to] a bunch of old age pensioners, Beatles and Etta James. That was like our day job. The weekends we’d play as Catfish and the Bottlemen. Then we slowly started switching covers out with our songs. Before we knew it we had 60-70! It got us used to being heckled as well… I don’t think there is any band out there now who has the ability on stage as we have, ‘cos we honed it…. There are bands that could make a better album then us, write better songs, but I don’t think there’s anyone else who can hold a crowd like us.

How would you describe the past year in 6 words?

Mad, Exciting, Amazing, Funny as fuck. That’s six words isn’t it?

It’s just been dead funny, because... We’re just scruffy little kids who had nothing six months ago. To [now] sell out Liverpool Academy which is 1,500 people… before I even had a band I used to say to my mates “we’ll sell out this place one day”. That was before I even wrote songs! I never wanted anything further than this… of course we want to go to arenas and be the biggest thing on the planet, but this is where I wanted to be at this stage and we got there and I’m just dead proud of us.

What would you say was your big break?

I still don’t think we have had it, I suppose the album will be a lot of it. 'Cos we don’t get magazine coverage, we don’t get on the TV. The only thing we get is people speaking about it. The only reason we sold out gigs is because organically people have said “you’ve gotta hear these lot”. That makes me dead proud, because I know that magazines aren’t telling people to like us…. Getting A Listed [by Radio 1] today was massive. The head of Radio One sings our songs, he comes to our gigs and recites our lyrics to me.

You’re doing a tour in the USA in October, are you excited?

Yeah it’s mad, just being a 21 year old lad eating Dominos and playing FIFA, to suddenly get a call saying you’re going to America for a month. To think my are good enough to fly us around the world. I heard a while ago were going to Japan and Australia soon, how are Japanese people hearing our songs? It's mad to think you can do something like that… to hone a craft like that is a lucky thing to have. I find myself feeling really fortunate every day.

What was your favourite festival this year?

Leeds was amazing. Because were all from up there it was really special. Reading was great too, because we had our management there, everyone was buzzing, proper class. We got our sound cut off though in Reading 'cos we ran over, but in Leeds we got to finish it with real style. I came off stage and I couldn’t even talk, and I had to do an interview while nearly crying and I was like mate, I can’t talk. It was a real moment.

I was interviewed by a guy the other day who said he and his mates were crying at the gig, and that was nice. To be able to have fans who believe in it like we do, that’s what I wanted for people to feel like this is their band. When we do a gig, we feel like were surrounded by best mates, not fans.

Is the festival circuit different from normal touring?

It’s harder for a band ‘cos you don’t get sound checks or set up, everything goes wrong. But I like the idea that there are people there who wouldn’t go to see you normally, but their mate drags them. I like having to win people over, that’s why I like supporting people. It’s mad that we don’t support anyone anymore!

Worst Hangover?

When we were 16 and first started the band, we wanted the lifestyle, so we went out and did loads of stupid shit and got it out of our system luckily. We don’t do anything daft anymore. Back in the day, my dad took me aside, just after I got kicked out of school. I came home leathered and he pretty much slapped me and told me to sort my life out. When your Hero tells you you're being a dick, you stop being a dick.

Your Dad’s your Hero?

Yeah, and my Granddad.

If you could give the album to anyone living or dead to listen to, who would it be?

It would be my Nana Dot. She was fucking mental, proper nuts. She used to love Elvis… used to love watching Elvis films and Rocky so loud on the TV. She was a dead lovely woman. So, Dot because she loved Elvis, and it would be funny to play it to her.

Is there anyone you would like to work with in the future?

I’d like to work with Mike Skinner from the Streets. He is the reason I write lyrics like I do. I’m really into beats, I don’t make any but I know I’d be good at it. My focus is on lyrics, so I reckon we could make something good. I like Ida Maria too. I think he voice is amazing, so I’d like to do something with her. I want to be the male version of her.

If you could give a message to everyone who has supported you, what would you say?

If I could say anything to anyone I would say go buy the album. That is seven years’ worth of thank-you's in one record.