This site was made to showcase great singer/songwriters and great music. It was developed to praise the experience; the magnetism an audience reacts to as they move towards an artist at a festival or at a small little venue with ten people in it. Regardless, that little bit of magic that a really great band holds is a rare thing to come across. Look at Oasis, The Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes- people go crazy at the mere mention of their names. Without a shadow of a doubt Catfish and the Bottlemen are the next permanent fixture in the British rock game.
I randomly came across ‘Kathleen’ by Catfish and the Bottlemen on Spotify one night last fall and soon found myself walking to class and flying around to The Balcony almost instantaneously. It wasn’t even a conscious decision, I just loved everything about the scruffy, small town love songs and the way the chords flew from my headphones and pulsed through my body.
It’s in the way Bondy, Benji, and Bob let Van convulse and move his body to every beat and chord as they stand strumming their guitar and bass and banging on the drums to a sold out crowd on the sides of him. There’s an audible and physical symbiosis amongst them and it’s electric to hear and feel.
It’s the globe-trotting friendship between Van and Larry that makes fans see only a glimpse of what I found to be a larger than average heart hiding behind a gold necklace and black jumper. It’s a glimpse into the mind of a guy who goes out of his way to be kind to people he’s never met after gigs, or even in random Chinese restaurants playing 90’s dance music.
It’s in the way Van screams lyrics like “I wanna love you” into the mic with such passion and conviction to the crowd that makes him stand out amongst lead singers, who recite words that become meaningless because they’re performed as if they are. When he sings from his gut, from the deepest part of his core, that’s when the magic hits its’ peak. The mic almost becomes the girl he’s singing to. That’s not really an assumption either – he pretty much makes out with it; but it genuinely adds so much to his identity as a passionate performer. The guy loves every moment of his life of up there and there’s nothing like experiencing a show like that.
It’s also the crowd itself. Each member of this little Bottlemen family feels handpicked to be there because they all feel like they know Van and live their lives, make love and lose their shit to these songs. You’ve really got to see them to feel them and every single person there left saying the same things, “That was incredible.” “I love his hair.” “They’re it.”
There’s also an innate, almost primitive sexual aura surrounding the band when they play. Bear with me – it’s not this overt, dingy, marketable in-your-face kind, but the type that you feel in your gut when you see that person at fifteen that made you stop going to church or stop focusing in class because all you wanted to do was be with them, listening to music and making some too.
The leather jackets, the hair, the songs, the cheeky innuendos—they all add up to make a really engaging experience. The plot twist comes when you get to meet them. These cool, rocker nomads with sex dripping from their lyrics are purely and simply lovely, lovely people. Van didn’t have to help some random 20 year old American girl with some Lotus website out at all, he didn’t owe me anything. But that’s just who he is, a nice, genuine, kind guy who loves connecting with the people he meets; one with an incredible penchant for making pure, gritty, moving, unedited rock music.
It’s not about the perfect set or the right note. It’s not about pleasing people who don’t get where you’re coming from. It’s about speaking to at least one young kid smoking a cigarette behind the bleachers dreaming of loving a girl, traveling the world and playing gigs to people who really want to listen—the kid he was when he got pulled towards the bright lights of Oasis, smoking a Lambert & Butler or even the one he was whilst tearing up behind some rock ‘n roll sunnies watching The Strokes for the first time.
It’s hard to find people who really do listen; but Van does. He hears the kid going mental at a gig, a girl nervously stumbling through an interview, his tour manager Dan keeping him in line, the audible pulse of a crowd at the beginning of ‘Sidewinder’ and maybe most importantly – his own heart.
He strips rock back down to its core and I can’t think of anyone who loves being in that moment– lights heating his face, fans engaged, guitar steady, heart pounding, energy pulsing—more than Van McCann.