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ATP! Interview: Catfish And The Bottlemen

Van McCann, simply put, wants to take over the world.

As the front man of Catfish and the Bottlemen, a Welsh rock band quickly gaining traction and popularity across the world, McCann is uniquely positioned to accomplish that lofty goal.

“I want to be a rock star. Helicopters everywhere, the whole deal. I want everything,” McCann said. His enthusiasm was palpable, even through the garbled connection on the phone. Despite connecting to his manager with a landline, there seemed no remedy for the fact McCann was in the back of a van hurtling towards the airport, bound for a flight to Tokyo.

There was a pause, the background banter of McCann’s band mates suddenly filling the silence.

“But at the same time I’m so scared and terrified of it falling through,” McCann added after a moment’s pause.

The bravado followed by a self-reality check, a human display of uneasiness and concern, makes sense – after all, McCann said that Catfish and the Bottlemen are all about creating music that’s “real.”

Genuine songs are important to band, McCann stressed. He prefers to write about normal happenings and normal people. Though Hollywood, the front man said, his tone wry, may prefer more dramatic lyrics, McCann will always write, “I f*cking love you” before, “Darling, you are everything to me.”

“Our songs are about being whoever you want to be and doing what you love,” McCann said.

And it seems that after 8 years together as a band, Catfish and the Bottlemen are finally able to follow the advice in their own songs. From the outside looking in, the Welsh rockers have appeared on the industry’s horizon seemingly overnight, but it hardly feels that way to McCann.

“It feels like it’s taken 8 years to blow up overnight,” McCann said with a laugh. “But this has been one of the best weeks of my life, and I’m so proud.”

The week of January 5, 2015 had certainly been an exciting one for McCann. The band’s debut full-length, The Balcony, dropped successfully in the United States, and they played a live set on Letterman.

The only words McCann could use to describe playing Letterman were “a dream.” He recalled staying up late during his school years to watch bands like The Strokes perform on the show. And on January 7, McCann and his band members got to be that band. On top of such an exciting moment, McCann was overjoyed to see the album was being received well in the United States.

“I didn’t think [Americans] would be able to understand our lyrics,” McCann said, referring to his “very Northern” accent. “But people are reacting so well. Now, we just want to get loads of people in a venue and have a party. Just bring the house down.” That’s exactly the kind of attitude McCann has when it comes to heading out on an upcoming tour in the United States. In an endearingly unabashed outburst, McCann said that knows that his band, “Is so good live” – and they’re going to “kill it.”

McCann seemed to be filled to the brim with unbridled joy, something utterly refreshing in an industry that can sometimes feel bitter. Perhaps that enthusiasm comes from one of the ultimate goals McCann has for Catfish and the Bottlemen’s live shows. “I want our fans to have the best time ever,” McCann said. “I want to get thousands of people together in a venue, with their girlfriends on their shoulders, their best friends next to them, and I want to create a scene.”

McCann can recall similar moments from his own teenage years, when he would attend concerts with his cousin. At one gig, his cousin broke his nose in a mosh pit. McCann handed over his shirt to help stop the bleeding. To others, this memory may not sound like a particularly pleasant one, but to McCann, it’s a reminder of how shows can allow concertgoers to make memories they’ll never forget.

“We want to really resonate with people,” McCann said.

In terms of their sound, McCann said the Strokes largely impacted Catfish and the Bottlemen. The desire for “down-to-earth” lyrics, McCann said, comes from his love for a British garage/hip-hop band, The Streets. On the stage, McCann aims for an Oasis stadium sound.

“Our music is about feeling good and [feeling like you’re] able to take on whatever,” McCann said. “It’s a reminder to believe in yourself.

Despite Catfish and the Bottlemen’s overall positivity and the rapidly growing success of the band, McCann’s last few months have been difficult.

Around Christmas, McCann had a “bit of a breakdown.” Always being on the road and constantly being on the phone doing interviews had taken a toll on some personal aspects of his life.

“I’m massively in love with this girl,” McCann said. “She’s an angel. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t want to be on the phone for even longer, so I wouldn’t call my mom or my dad, or my girlfriend.”

The not-so-positive tides started to shift when the New Year came around, McCann said. After getting to go home and see his girlfriend and family, he locked himself away in his room to complete work on the second album.

McCann was struggling with overthinking and “not enjoying” making music because of the pressure he puts on himself and his band to create the best work possible. But as the second album began to take shape, he realized things were on the right track. Catfish and The Bottlemen’s second album carries the same themes of positivity, but with a bigger sound that’s a little more rock, McCann said.

With that bigger sound comes some even bigger goals.

“I want my music everywhere,” McCann said. “And that’s not selling out. People say they write music for themselves and if others like it, fine – and that’s mystical and artsy and all that, but I want our music to make other people feel good. I want them to like it. I want our music to give you a some kind of light.”

- Tori Mier

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