This month, Catfish and the Bottlemen make their Australian return, this time bringing with them a new album in The Balance and a live show that has been kicked up another few notches.
Now firm Australian favourites, the band has made fans out this way very much a priority, so their announcement on this year’s Splendour in the Grass lineup was perhaps unsurprising, but welcome nonetheless.
Speaking with frontman Van McCann and guitarist Johnny ‘Bondy’ Bond at the end of their latest American tour, the connection between Catfish and the Bottlemen and their Aussie fans has deepened further beyond the busker who inspired the band’s name.
“Australia’s special for us,” McCann says. “We love playing there and to get out there, as we have, at least once a year has always been in the game plan for us. I like playing the festivals you’ve got there, the reactions we get and the radio stations you’ve got have really come out and have supported us too.”
For Bondy (who names The Vines as his first gig), reaching the venues in smaller cities and regional areas is an element of their now hectic touring lifestyle he particularly thrives on.
“I think in terms of the more less-travelled-to towns, they end up being some of the best ones, from a traveller’s point of view.” he says. “You get to see something that most people usually don’t and they wind up being some of the stand out gigs of a tour. We did one in Wollongong and it felt like a school concert, it was a lot of fun.”
With the release of The Balance, Catfish and the Bottlemen have turned a corner and embraced a strong new chapter of their career. Already known for their strong live presence and claim on an indie throne proudly worn by the likes of Bloc Party, The Strokes and The Horrors in the early 2000s, their latest album has cemented Catfish and the Bottlemen’s place in this guitar-driven indie landscape.
“Every single show we’ve done since we’ve put a new song out has been flyin’, really,” McCann notes. “The crowds have been reacting well to them. I think it’s been good for us as a band and as fans, to get new stuff out; new videos coming out, new shows being put on sale. We’re just getting started. The reaction to every song that’s been put out so far has been good.
“I think the feeling we get off playing those songs live, we get this excitement even with the old songs. Going and recording the next batch, we kind of knew, sonically, where we wanted to take it.”
Working with uber-producer Jacknife Lee on The Balance also opened the group up to new influences and creative possibilities.
“It was inspiring working with someone who has worked on such great albums,” Bondy says. “Then to get in there with him and get an insight into his methods and stuff like that, we all got on very well. On a musical level and also, we understood him as guys too. He’s a bit of a wizard of sorts.
“He always had vinyls on the go and they were playing constantly,” McCann adds. “Even when we’d finished up for the night, he’d just blast these sounds that we’d never heard before. Genre-hopping. It was like an encyclopaedia of music and it was just so good being around him. We had a load of stuff to bounce off him as well. It was really just making music with people who loved listening to music as well, you know? He loves making music for the joy of making it.”
The enthusiasm and vigour the band had during the process of making the record has transferred even stronger onto the live front – a new production the band is stoked to be debuting for Aussie fans soon.
“We’re doing it as we’ve always enjoyed doing it,” McCann says. “We love touring and we love playing. We’ve got a good buzz for doing it and I think that’s what people can see in us. We’re loving it. I think this album represents that – we’re enjoying playing it. You can hear it.”
Catfish and the Bottlemen come to Margaret Court Arena on Thursday July 25. Grab your tickets via Secret Sounds. They’ll also play Splendour in the Grass which goes down from Friday July 19 – Sunday July 21.