Catfish and the Bottlemen's Van McCann Talks Touring & Having Die-Hard Fans: 'I'm Buzzing Off It'
In the two and a half years since Catfish and the Bottlemen released their debut LP, The Balcony, in September 2014, the U.K.-based band have established themselves as touring workhorses. Aside from releasing another album in May of last year (The Ride), they’ve essentially been on the road nonstop.
"Any time off we have, we like to fill it with gigs,“ the band’s lead singer Van McCann tells Billboard. "You can’t help but want to no matter where… if there’s fans around a place, we’ll go see them. The idea of stopping tours, waiting a minute, that doesn’t seem right.”
Keeping their constant touring life going, the guys just wrapped a series of shows in South America, which was the first time they’d been to the continent. Even so, they had eager fans awaiting their arrival, with fans in Argentina even greeting them with signs that read, “Catfish and the Argentineans.”
That kind of fanatical reception is what Catfish and the Bottlemen has seen all around the world, a major part of what keeps them excited about being on tour all the time. Ahead of the band setting out on the spring North American leg of their The Ride tour on May 2, Billboard caught up with frontman McCann about their recent international trek, his favorite shows they’ve played, and how Catfish and the Bottlemen’s career has only just begun.
Did you have any expectations about how South America would go, and did the shows end up meeting those expectations?
That was honestly one of the best tours we’ve ever done. Just seeing people react the way they did to the songs, despite not even speaking all the lingo… it was very flattering and we never expected that. We’d never turned up for the first time and had that kind of response – so many people outside the hotels, outside the venues, it was crazy. They’re just so passionate about music out there, so I think they appreciate any band playing and putting on a show. I’d only heard how good it was going to be, and it was everything I’d heard and more. I’d advise [playing there] to anybody.
What are some differences and similarities that you’ve seen in the crowds in South America, the U.K., and America?
In terms of reception and us playing, it’s always been the same. The people who come to see us get completely behind the band. We love going around the world playing. 24 years old, doing arenas back home, playing around the world, playing America on a big six–week tour – I’m buzzing off it.
I think where we are right now is where we always wanted to be, even before we had a deal, when we were first started being in the band together. We very much wanted this, none of it was a fluke. It didn’t feel like too much was "right place right time” – it was very much banging down doors to get us into this position. That desire just makes you want to keep going, building the fan base and building the shows.
Do you feel like that’s made an impact on the music you’re making and how you’re touring?
I think we were making the first two albums to get us to this point, so I think you’ll see in the next one how excited we are. It’s only been two years since the first one came out, and to be able to go back home and sell out arenas, that’s real exciting for us.
It’s all very humbling. We’ve always dreamt this since we were kids, before we could even play the guitar, and to now get to this point – in August it will be 10 years for us as a band – it’s nice to see this all pay off. We still love what we do and we still have that hunger to keep growing it. To have that amount of people behind us already after two years, internationally, it’s real motivating. We didn’t need any [motivation] anyway, but it just makes you more excited and makes you want to release stuff every six months.
Which songs have you seen connect with fans the most when you perform them live?
I feel like “7,” but I don’t know if it’s because I love playing it: I’d play that song forever if I could. “Cocoon” as well – but the thing with us, and I’ve always loved this, we’ve never had a one-off tune. When you come to a show, you’ll see that they sing the whole album word for word, both albums now. I think we’re at a place where we can properly appreciate it and grab it and run with it. There’s not really a word for it.
It’s kind of like when you’re in a crowd of people, you explain something and you look around and go, “Do you know what I mean?” and the whole room can either say “Yeah, I know what you mean completely,” or they can say ‘"No I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.“ To be on stage and stand in the middle of an arena and know that everybody knows what you’re saying, it’s a mad feeling.
What have been your personal favorite shows you’ve played?
We played Wembley Arena [last November] – I think that was our biggest show we’d done at the time, and me dad brought me granddad up to see it. He’s about 300 years old, something like 90 now I think. And he stood there in a suit with his arms in the air watching, stood next to me dad, his son, and then watching his grandson, me, on stage, and then the fans react the way they do to the songs. He turns to me at the end of the night and said, “That was the best day of my life.” And I was like, "What? You’ve been alive nearly a couple hundred years! And that’s the best day of your life?” You’re always trying to do your folks proud, do your family proud, so that was a very good feeling to have me granddad to shake my hand and say that.
I loved Governor’s Ball. I got to see The Strokes for the first time and I grew up loving that band. I love playing Dublin, Ireland. I love playing Australia – my mom and dad got married over there, so it’s always a bit of a 360 for me. Back home it’s just beyond the joke, we’re selling out arenas that I grew up watching my favorite bands play; Arctic Monkeys, Oasis. I’m still a fan myself, so I still very much buzz off these bands I’m reelin’ over. To be able to go play in those venues alongside boys you appreciate, it’s a good feeling.
Source: Billboard | by Taylor Weatherby | 1st May, 2017
Happy to share that we will be heading out on tour this May/June with Creepoid and The Spirit Of The Beehive. We’ll be hitting a ton of spots all across the US and into Canada. Tickets for all shows go on sale this Friday, April 22nd.
At the conclusion of this tour, we will be taking an indefinite hiatus from touring full time to pursue things in our own personal lives. We sort of already began that process, as we really haven’t played many shows in the past few months. But before we do, we all thought it’d be fun to do one more with a couple great bands. Hope to see you this spring.
Superheaven North American Tour 2016
with Creepoid and The Spirit of the Beehive
5/27 - Smiling Moose — Pittsburgh, PA
5/28 - Bled Fest — Howell, MI
5/29 - Hard Luck Bar — Toronto, ON
5/30 - Water Street Music Hall — Rochester, NY
6/1 - Southgate House Revival — Newport, KY
6/2 - Mahall’s — Lakewood, OH
6/3 - Subterranean — Chicago, IL
6/4 - The Nether Bar — Minneapolis, MN
6/5 - Jackpot Music Hall — Lawrence, KS
6/6 - Larimer Lounge — Denver, CO
6/7 - Kilby Court — Salt Lake City, UT
6/9 - The Cobalt — Vancouver, BC
6/10 - Vera Project — Seattle, WA
6/11 - Analog Lounge — Portland, OR
6/12 - Bottom Of The Hill — San Francisco, CA
6/14 - Roxy Theatre — Los Angeles, CA
6/15 - Rebel Lounge — Phoenix, AZ
6/17 - Barracuda — Austin, TX
6/18 - Gas Monkey Live — Dallas, TX
6/20 - The End — Nashville, TN
6/21 - The Broadberry — Richmond, VA
6/22 - Studio at Webster Hall — New York, NY
6/23 - Metro Gallery — Baltimore, MD
6/24 - The Fillmore - Foundry — Philadelphia, PA
6/25 - Brighton Music Hall — Allston, MA
- Hi Thomas! Thank you for according this interview, all of us fans are so excited about the upcoming album and tour. Pre-orders for HAVEN have just started - all editions are beautiful! Kamelot always put so much care into their albums. Silverthorn editions already looked outstanding, but the HAVEN packages top it all again.
TY- Thanks! Our fans deserve the best. Stefan Heilemann did another killer cover and along with Gustavo Sazes the packaging and art is our best ever. It’s also great having presales, it really helps planning tours. Booking agents look at charts and go straight to the first week sales. So they are very important.
- HAVEN is the second album with Tommy, which also means second album with this composing team. How did it go?
It went great! The chemistry we have and working with Oliver and Tommy is really very natural and organic. Tommy had already written some musical ideas and he and Sascha worked a lot together again. Parts were written in Germany with Oliver, others with Tommy and Sascha. Also our good friend Bob Katsionis co-wrote some songs along one song with Angie Arsenault from Montreal. Tommy and Oliver used VST Connect [a program which allows artists to work together via the internet, from their respective studios] to work on songs, one in Germany the other in Sweden. Really cool.
- Did Tommy get involved in this second album’s composition process as much as (or more than) in Silverthorn?
Yes, he wrote tons of melodies, most of the lyrics and more. He got an ESP guitar last year and so I am getting some TommyRiffs now ;) We have one song idea that I thought was killer but didn’t get to record it. So I expect it to be on the next album.
- The vocal snippets we could hear from the videos sound amazing. Actually everything from the snippets sounds amazing! How’s the new album going to differ from the two previous albums, PFTP and Silverthorn, and why?
Well, we wanted to make an album with super diversity, dark, heavy and emotional and uplifting. I would urge fans to listen to the album from start to finish. There is a ton of information to absorb and you will not get all of it in one listen. I don’t like comparing to other albums, it has its own soul so to speak. One thing I can say, it’s full of melody and some really beautiful lyrics. We did some experimental things on a song or two with the new release. But don’t worry, no dubstep will be present!!!
- How would you describe Haven? How has the band’s sound evolved on this album?
We have some new elements that will please even the hardest Kamelot fan. We’ve worked like crazy on every element of the songs and album. My personal opinion is that the new album is a mix of modern, Fourth Legacy and Black Haloish. The guitar is a bit more present in the mix and we have some prog elements here and there. Really a big mix of Kamelot this time. You can’t play one song and base the whole album on it, it’s really diverse. Also, the ballad with Charlotte from Delain and Troy from Nightwish is a real killer. I hope we make a video of this one at some point.
- Haven… Why the title?
Haven was one of the first title options that popped up. We wanted an album for fans to get lost in, a place to go and feel safe and also relate to their own life scenarios. Once they listen and read the lyrics it will be clear as to what I am referencing. I had some Haven’s in my early life, albums that I would listen to at night and forget about my “not so happy” childhood. In hindsight those records probably saved me. I hope Haven has even a fraction of the impact those albums did on me.
- Guests on this album are Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Charlotte Wessels (Delain) and Troy Donockley (Nightwish). Can you tell us more about these collaborations?
Well let me start with Alissa White-Gluz. She toured with us for a while and I remember to the day seeing her with her previous band and thinking, “This girl is amazing, she will and should be more known”. After getting the call from Arch Enemy, noone was happier or prouder than me. Anyway, we had some songs that fit her style perfect and she graciously accepted the invite. We toured with Delain a few times and I always felt like Charlotte had a unique and special voice, so when the song “Under Grey Skies” was written I asked her to join in, and she sounds awesome! Then there is Troy Donockley, this is one special and cool human. He has many skills that most people are not aware of, I am sworn to secrecy but we toured with Nightwish and I would see him occasionally watching the Kamelot set from side stage. When the idea came up for a folk style instrument I contacted Troy, and he offered his part on the Overton Low Whistle. One of the best Kamelot ballads in recent times is Under Grey Skies.
- Will we get a Single release prior to the new album?
We will be releasing a first video and possibly a digital single. We plan several videos on this release!
- This next Spring you’re embarquing for a big North American Tour in 2015, including 6 cities in Canada. Canadian fans are thrilled!
We have missed Western Canada in the past and now we have enough demand to visit the fine folks there. So we are very excited and the ticket sales are soaring. We hope to come back on another leg for Vancouver and Seattle areas.
- So everybody’s wondering - How many songs from Haven will you play on this next World Tour? Any big changes to expect in the setlist?
Yes, we will be adding some new songs from the new album, also from Silverthorn as well as some songs from the backcatalog either never played or rarely played.
- Support act is Dragonforce, why this choice?
At a recent NAMM Convention, I ran into Sam and Herman from DragonForce and we joked a bit about touring together. So when the idea came up again we thought it would be a great package for the fans. They are power metal and we have power metal with Symphonic elements. Different enough but also some cross over musical elements. I expect it to be a fun tour for all, maybe we can get Oliver on guitar and have a shred fest!
- Would you please consider doing a little mid-show acoustic session some time again in the future? That was really, really nice!
That was fun to do in Haarlem! We will see about that in the future, but we wanted to keep it intimate for that concert.
- The N.A. Tour announcement mentioned “the biggest stage setup ever”…
We have bigger venues now, so we can bring a larger production for the US and Canadian fans. Something closer to the European shows.
- What are the rest of your tour plans for 2015?
Mexico, Big European Tour, Summer Festivals and some unique one offs concerts. 2016 is planned for South America, Australia, Asia and Mars! haha. London is sold out at the moment and we will play there before the Haven is released. So I hope we come back later in the year for another UK appearance after the album is out. We also added some new cities to the tour including 3 new cities in Finland.
- Are you still working on a live DVD featuring existing footage, or will it be recorded during the upcoming tour?
The DVD will happen, we just are waiting for the record companies to work out the legalities. As you may know I don’t like looking back, so it will likely be all new footage, interviews, backstage shenanigans etc.
- Will we ever get a chance to see Kamelot live with an orchestra & choir?
I think this is something that has been done with several Symphonic bands. Will we do it? Maybe, if the situation is right and it can be done on the right scale.
- You have such a large fan base now and still growing. What is it like for you guys to get more famous? How has it changed in just these last few years?
Well, let’s first thank the fans and their love for music and the spirit that emanates with Kamelot fans at the concerts and online. The band is growing very fast now and it’s really awesome. Going to new countries like Australia for the first time and bigger venues around Europe and States makes us happy of course. We can do bigger productions and on the next tour change the setlist up quite a bit.
- A couple more personal questions now :) Who, or what are you most grateful for?
I’m grateful to be able to do what I love for my job, you know the saying? “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” So the fans are #1 in our hearts. Besides that I am grateful for family and health.
- A not-so-pleasant question, how do you feel about music piracy and music streaming systems. I always feel sorry when I see fans skipping presales, waiting to hear the whole album before buying it - or skipping any sales and downloading it from illegal sources. Sad thing is that they’re often hard fans who don’t realize that they’re harming their favorite band.
Well, I love to give fans snippets of the album and trust that they have looked at the band’s record of deliverance. Presales are so important these days, as I mentioned before. Also, we have very limited vinyl and box sets that will never be made again. I have one box set saved for me, but beyond that they will not make any more. Regarding illegal downloads, this is a subject that really I don’t need to rehash. I don’t do it, never have. If I want a song for example or album, I go to Amazon or iTunes and download it. It’s a $1.20 or like $8 for an entire album. Why would I take the time and risk to go on a site and steal it? Thing is that real sales help with charts, which help with touring. If a band charts high in Germany for example, promoters are more inclined to bring the band to more cities. So each time you think “Please Kamelot, come play here!” ask yourself, “Did I buy the album? Did my friends buy it?”. The 2 things are directly connected.
- Is there a person - famous or not, alive or not - that you personally look up to?
Not specifically. I try to meet different people from different walks of life and talk to them about their experiences. Talking to older people is great, to learn what not to do in planning for the future and smart things to do to have a great and prosperous life. I really wish I would have known my father, Thomas Sr. better. I was very young when he died and really didn’t know him as a person, just this figure in the distant memory. I think that experience has made me a better father to lil Thomas, who by all accounts will be a killer singer ;) You all know that Oliver’s Vincent and Thomas will be in a band together?
- Looking forward to this! Haha. Well, thank you so much for your time. Any final words?
Thanks for the time and thanks to the fans. We are planning new shows, setlists, albums and more for the next round and we can’t be more excited. "Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.“ (William Jennings Bryan).
Peace, love and Haven!
Interview by Waënelin (with a few questions from fans) Photos by Tim Tronckoe, Joe Helm Album artwork by Stefan Heilemann