With a rapidly increasing fanbase already emerging and the likes of Radio 1 and XFM consistently airing their singles, Catfish and the Bottlemen look poised to take the indie scene by storm with upcoming debut album The Balcony.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing though. Daniel Jeakins spoke to singer Van McCann about the band’s rise to prominence, the upcoming release of their first album and false accusations of sexism that they thought would bring about “the end of the band”.
Hi Van. Your new single is called ‘Cocoon’ – tell me a bit about it.
“It’s about being madly in love with something, whether that be your best mate or your girlfriend, and having people try and put you down and come between you.”
You’ve built up a reputation on the back of singles – do you see the album as a collection of songs or do they fit into some kind of theme?
“They’re just a complete collection of songs. One of my favourite albums is A Grand Don’t Come For Free by The Streets which tells an amazing full story, but I don’t think we’re talented enough to do that! It feels like a good collection of songs to me.”
In terms of the tracklisting then, do you feel like this is your strongest eleven?
“It’s half of our strongest songs actually – we’ve saved the rest for our second album. We’ve got three albums written already! I’m more excited for the second album than the first, because the workload is done now.”
Is the period after The Balcony release all about capitalising on your momentum then?
“Yeah, definitely. We want it to get as big as it can possibly get. An interviewer we had yesterday danced around calling us ‘mainstream’ because he thought it would offend us, but really we want to be as big as possible.”
Where did you get the title The Balcony from?
“I’ve prepared for this one! Balconies were just a recurring theme throughout the album – I wrote ‘Cocoon’ on a balcony in New York and when we were recording the album I was in a house with a balcony. I also had a poetry book when I was a kid by T.S. Elliot and I loved the poem ‘The Balcony’ in there.”
I first saw you guys on a small stage at Latitude, which was probably the most intense set of the festival. Are you worried you’re going to lose the edge you get from intimate gigs as you move on to bigger venues?
“When we used to play I’ll usually talk to the few people that were there which makes it feel personal in a sense, but that’s certainly changed. I’m definitely not worried though, taking a step up is always exciting for us.”
The growth of the band has seemingly come about through your DIY spirit. How important do you think that is?
“It’s massive. I love going out and speaking to people after gigs, particularly to get their feedback so we can work out what our best songs are. When I write songs I think ‘are people going to have sex in a car to this?’ or ‘are people going to fall in love with this?’ whereas a lot of bands write songs for themselves. It really annoys me when bands get fed up of playing their hits as well. If we write a hit I’m playing it for the rest of my life.”
Does it annoy you, then, that if you had a Number One tomorrow people would automatically accuse you of selling out?
“Fuck them! I can’t wait to sell out. Am I supposed to be gutted for Kings of Leon when they brought out ‘Sex On Fire’ and it blew up? I say fair play to them. Before we got signed we were on the dole and we had to really graft to get somewhere. I’m not going to be worried about people being offended because we ‘sold out’ if our album goes to number one. It’s like me saying I want to be professional footballer but I’m happy to sit on the bench at Sunderland.”
What was it like getting signed to a major label in Island Records then?
“Amazing. My Irish Grandad doesn’t know anything about music so whenever we’d tell him we had a gig with someone he wouldn’t really understand how big it was getting. When we said we were on the same label as U2 though he couldn’t believe it. It’s no different really though, we still pay each other eight pounds a day because it keeps us hungry. We’ve been asking for a new bass amp for three years as well and we still haven’t got it. It’s no different – I’m still waiting for the private jet!”
There was a review of your gig in Nottingham that accused you guys of sexism and caused a bit of commotion – what did you make of it?
“I found it funny really. I’m not a rich kid – I went to a normal school where if someone called me gay I didn’t think they were homophobic. They wrote something about me asking girls to take their tops off – the truth behind that is that we told three of our merch girls they could have free t-shirts if they did a good job. We saw them at the front with our t-shirts on so I jokingly said ‘you can have them after the gig, take them off’, which that journalist twisted into something it wasn’t.
“When I first saw that review I was devastated – I genuinely thought that was the end of the band. Luckily our fans are intelligent people who understand what kind of people we are. What did you make of it, out of interest?”
I couldn’t believe someone was so focused on writing a negative review that they didn’t actually say anything about how good you were as a band performing.
“Exactly. As for the sperm being used as our logo – which they suggested was ‘vulgar’ – the story behind that is that I was a test tube baby because my Mum was run over and couldn’t have kids. They spent all their money trying to have a kid after doctors told them it wasn’t possible, and I came along just as they were about to give up. The story is so romantic and he turned it into something awful.”
I suppose that kind of negative press is the inevitable considering the attention your getting now?
“I know, and we can’t really complain considering were we came from. We played a show at Radio 1’s Big Weekend and they gave us a hotel with free room service, free dressing gowns, free flip-flops, the works. I took about a hundred pairs of flip-flops and gave them out to everyone. My mum couldn’t believe it!
“Saying that, I did an interview with the Daily Sport the other week and made a remark about how I could destroy Serge from Kasabian at football. The next minute I saw the headline ‘Van McCann slams Kasabian’ and says ‘Jake Bugg is terrible at football’. It’s amazing how people twist things like that.”
Catfish and the Bottlemen’s latest single, ‘Cocoon’, is out now.
They play the following tour dates:
5: Cardiff, The Globe
6: Portsmouth, Wedgewood Rooms
7 : London, Koko
8 : Leicester, O2 Academy
9 : Leeds, Cockpit
12: Edinburgh, Caves
13 : Aberdeen, tUnnels
14 : Glasgow, Classic Grand
15: Newcastle, O2 Academy
3: Manchester, Academy 2
4: Bristol, Thekla
5: Stoke, Sugarmill
7 : Birmingham, The Institute (Library)
8: Oxford, O2 Academy
12: Nottingham, Rescue Rooms
13: Liverpool, O2 Academy