Tumbling into 2019 by headlining festival stages on the other side of the world, McCann (vocals, guitars), Johnny Bond (guitars), Robert ‘Bob’ Hall (drums) and Benji Blakeway (bass) take a large intake of breath before their homecoming and the start of another new chapter. Catfish and The Bottlemen’s 2019 new album follows 2014’s platinum-certified debut, The Balcony and 2016’s gold, number one follow-up, The Ride. Companion to the release of their third album is the anticipation, if not vocal impatience, of their waiting fans and the knowledge within the band that it represents a likely escalation of the successes of the last three years. Three years in which they’ve seen sales of one million albums and, in 2018 alone, nearly a quarter of a million UK fans experiencing them play live.
Practically of no fixed abode, the band has toured constantly since their formation, now over a decade ago. Hotel rooms, tour buses, airport lounges and live venues are home, with the band’s roots seemingly indeterminable. McCann is quoted saying that his band’s isolation in the fast lane of emotive, youthful alternative rock is thanks to their conscious plot to ‘think inside the box’. While typical chaos swirls around an in-demand, arena-filling rock band, that uncharacteristically strategic starting point for the journey remains their pivot. When judged fairly from distance, Catfish and The Bottlemen are a natural reaction to an age of perpetual identity-crises, fruitless cravings for elusive individuality and the ‘curation’ of everything from shoes to breakfast cereals. They’ve proved that simplicity isn’t, as it turns out, a sin or the safest route to take. Freed from opinion and expectation, young music fans flock in their tens of thousands to see and hear the band in concert, exercising joyful release, in communion, as the rest of the world appears to fight with itself on the outside.
Four years on, a new Catfish and The Bottlemen record could never sound like The Balcony. The band's activities supporting their debut album quickly brought festival main stages and US late night television appearances. The Ride propelled them further into UK sell-outs at Don Valley Stadium, Wembley Arena, Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park and Cardiff Castle. Significantly, it also invited more quality time with global fans on tours to the USA, South America, Australia and Japan. Some of McCann’s youthful restlessness on record, a distinct and endearing awkwardness as he approached relationships with friends and lovers, was destined to evolve with each, giant step.
Catfish and The Bottlemen went it alone for near to a decade, before their guerrilla tactics (throwing demos on numerous stages and jamming them under car windscreen wipers) and relentless gigging paid off. “We’ve still been unsigned for longer than we’ve been signed,” says McCann, seemingly never allowing himself to forget the self-initiated activity of their formative years, despite living in the new reality of being a platinum-selling, arena-filling young front man. In person, he’s a character of kind humility, contrasting the magnetic image of the hip-swinging, black-clad front man that makes thousands of fans sway effortlessly to his every, energetic move. You get the feeling that he’d do it all again, no matter how long it took, to get Catfish and The Bottlemen to where they are now.
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Nominated "Indie Champions" at the 2015 AIM Awards.