Catfish and the Bottlemen's Van McCann Talks Touring & Having Die-Hard Fans: 'I'm Buzzing Off It'

Jill Furmanovsky
Catfish and the Bottlemen

The British rock group begins their North American tour in Clifton Park, New York on May 2.

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.

‚Äč"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. 

Catfish and the Bottlemen North American tour dates:

May 2 -- Clifton Park, NY @ Upstate Concert Hall
May 3 -- Montreal, QC @ Corona Theatre
May 4 -- Toronto, ON @Sound Academy
May 6 -- Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
May 7 -- Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Small's Theatre
May 9 -- Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave II
May 10 -- Columbus, OH @ Express Live!
May 12-14 -- Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Music Festival
May 17 --  Jacksonville, FL @ Maverick's
May 19 -- Austin, TX @ Stubb's
May 20 -- Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
May 22 -- Phoenix, AZ @ The Pressroom
May 23 -- San Diego, CA @ House of Blues - San Diego
May 24 -- Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues - Anaheim
May 26 -- Napa, CA @ Bottlerock Napa Valley Festival
May 27 -- Portland, OR @ Roseland Theatre
May 26-28 -- George, WA @ Sasquatch!
May 30 -- Vancouver, BC @ Vogue Theatre