Catfish and the Bottlemen’s sophomore album “The Ride” was built for the road.
“Everything we wrote was based around playing live so the way people would react, the way people would move to certain songs,” explains frontman Van McCann. “We kind of sit in the practice room saying ‘Can you feel this? Can you feel everybody’s arms up to this?’”
What resulted is a record of toe-tapping melodies, explosive crescendos and big finishes. And lots of happy fans: “The Ride” is the first U.K. chart-topper for the Welsh rockers.
We spoke with McCann and lead guitarist Johnny “Bondy” Bond about developing in the British country and why staying “inside the box” was so important in making “The Ride.”
While you guys began the band in Wales, were you mostly playing shows elsewhere?
McCann: Yes, because there wasn’t too many venues that were within an hour of us. I think that disciplined us really, really early on touring, because we’d have to go out and kick down doors. We’d have to go and find our gigs — you know, drive to Scotland and then get all the way back the next day.
What were some of the overarching themes on “The Ride”?
McCann: I realized there’s a lot of smoking. That was because I was always having a smoke writing. [For] the first album, all the people involved, all the stuff I was writing about, was within five minutes of me. The people around the corner from my house or the bars I was thinking of were a 10-minute walk from me.
Now, with the tours being so hectic, I think everything had a bit more distance to it. A lot of the sound grew wide. I think lyrically, it [was] a bit more wide-eyed.
You’ve said that you wanted to stay “inside the box” and focus on songwriting.
McCann: There was no tricks. It was very clear that it’s me singing. It’s Bondy playing guitar. It’s Bob [Hall] drumming. It’s Benji [Blakeway] on the bass. Everything we write, we just take it and play it live without needing a lot of tricks and a lot of things like that. Songwriting to me is if you could play it in the kitchen at the end of a night out and have the whole kitchen with your friends or family or whatever singing that song.
Bond: That remains true for the recording process, as well. Everything was done to be easily achievable live. There’s no sort of mod effects coming in on the production side of it. It was all meant to be so it can be taken to another level when we play it live.