Artist Spotlight: Catfish and the Bottlemen brings storytelling to bouncy indie

One of the most captivating things about indie band Catfish and the Bottlemen is the stories told through their music.

The Welsh band sucks fans in with the lyrics contained in each catchy, guitar-driven song. Both for the heartbroken and the lovesick, vocalist Van McCann’s lyrics tell stories of loves lost and gained. Throughout the album, you’ll feel butterflies in your stomach followed by a desperate broken-heartedness.

One of the band’s most popular songs is 2014’s “Kathleen,” the band’s first song to chart in the US. “Kathleen” is a spacy indie jam with McCann’s low croon in the verses. In the chorus, McCann’s voice rises to a frustrated shout and the ambient guitar becomes an aggressive punk downstroke riff, accented by drummer Bob Hall’s cymbal crashes. “It’s about being infatuated with somebody, but like in a bad way,” McCann told BBC DJ Steve Lamacq. “You know the person you call when you’re tanked up and you know it’s over… but something keeps bringing you back.”

“7” is the first track on the band’s most recent album, 2016’s “The Ride.” The song details Van McCann’s struggle to maintain a relationship while touring. McCann told RadioX he named the song “7” because he was seven time zones away from the person he wrote about. “I’d beg you, but you know I’m never home/And I love you, but I need another year alone,” McCann sings in the song’s melancholy chorus.

Catfish and the Bottlemen’s songs branch out beyond heartache. “I remember when we swapped names/And I thought maybe/You’d stay and try to outdrink me,” McCann recalls in the chorus of “Cocoon.” McCann sings of meeting a girl and being hopelessly in love over a bouncy riff.

McCann spoke to mxdwn about his songwriting process, saying he doesn’t try to be metaphorical in his lyrics. “I just talk out loud. We don’t try anything fancy,” McCann said.

The theme of love is splattered all over Catfish and the Bottlemen, down to their debut album cover. “The Balcony” ’s album cover features two drawn characters with their hands down each other’s pants.

“Twice” features McCann reflecting on his past in an almost-humorous manner. He sings of the regret of past mistakes, but he doesn’t take them too seriously; it’s very tongue-in-cheek. “To every hangover my head feels/To every ex I didn’t treat right/To every time that I called in sick,” he sings in the song’s rousing chorus.

Perhaps there’s nothing remarkable about Catfish and the Bottlemen. They’re straightforward, without much flair or fanfare. McCann’s idea of love is simply, “I won’t smoke no more if you don’t/’Cause I know you hate the taste of it,” as he sings in “Anything.” Maybe that’s why they’re so easy to get hooked on though. There’s not much to understand but a basic story with a punk-indie guitar riff. As McCann told mxdwn, “We’re so proud that we’re a brain-dead rock and roll group.”

For fans of: The Strokes, The Vaccines


Schae Beaudoin is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at schae.beaudoin@uconn.edu.