Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #133. Subscribe to our print edition here!
With album number three, Catdish And The Bottlemen have found the perfect balance of killer narrative and even better sound.
Words by Anna Rose.
Tipping the scales back and forth through an awesome narrative and an even better sound, Catfish And The Bottlemen have found stability in their third studio album, The Balance. Sure, that may sound like a contradiction, but just look at the impressive rise of the Welsh indie-rockers over the last 18 months.
The Balance follows on from the 2016 Top 10 ARIA success The Ride, leading the band to lay claim to sold-out arena tours in the UK, and become the subject of a fervent online petition by Mexican fans to get them to perform there. Catfish And The Bottlemen make music that is boisterous and supercharged by a plethora of creative equipment, and it’s Australia’s turn soon to witness that corruptive power.
Not necessarily affiliated with any one brand, guitarist Johnny “Bondy” Bond still somehow manages to acquire a fair amount of Gibson instruments, inadvertently gaining a reputation as being a Gibson enthusiast.
“I’ve somehow, unknowingly, managed to slowly amass Gibson guitars on the road at the minute,” he says in a crisp north English accent. “When I first began, I was much more of a Fender [guy]. I liked the way they felt in your hand, the ease of the neck and things like that – and I can’t remember exactly when it was when I made the switch, but at the moment, in the rack on this tour, the main is a Les Paul Special and then I switch to a BB King Lucille for the more chordy kind of things.”
Add to that mix another couple of Les Pauls, it’s wall-to-wall Gibson for Bondy – a happy accident indeed. Bondy has a tender way of talking about his instruments. Each one does a different job, but is no less valued than the next. In fact, Bondy almost has a weirdly sexual nonchalance when he discusses his babies – it could just be the accent, but once he warms up, Bondy is on an affectionate and passionate roll.
Narrowing it down to what he used for The Balance, the first three singles from the album Catfish And The Bottlemen released – “Longshot”, “Fluctuate” and “2all” – can all be heard to have different spins on texture. “Longshot”, for example, layers up the sound in a live studio setting, and there’s a distance occurring in the guitars that Bondy repeats in “Fluctuate”.
“The thing is, with the whole record, the actual basic tools of it were very straightforward,” he says. “The vast majority of it was done with an AC30, and switching between a Les Paul or a Telecaster or something like that – nothing particularly obscure. But I guess I guess it was a pedal field day on this sort of thing. The producer, Jacknife Lee – he turned up on the first day [of recording] at the studio with a suitcase that was pretty much solely boxes that were reignited with trick reverbs, at which point I knew I fucking liked this guy!”
With the guitar gear set up to be very straightforward, the pedals tend to shine on this release. “It’s a combination of maybe four or five pedals that we honed in on and decided we really liked,” says Bondy. “They were just sort of sat on the floor of the control room and it would be like, ‘Okay we need a character tone for this particular solo,’ and it was trying to plug in different combinations of things, like a Reverberation and some Malekko pedals that were there, abd a handful of really nice, boutique sound boxes.”
One pedal that got a lot of the love from Bondy was the Malekko B:assmaster, a pedal that features a solid bass distortion and has been picked up by a lot of guitarists in recent years because of its nice octave beneath the fuzz.
“That’s one that after the studio I thought to myself, ‘I need to get that on my live board!’” says Bondy. “It’s been such an integral part of making the record. And the Reverberation Death By Audio – I haven’t got that on the live setup because that was on a lot of things, but it’s one of those sort of reverbs that can break up the sound a bit give it a bit of a crunchy reverb.
“There was another really obscure pedal called the [Lovetone] Cheese Source,” Bondy adds with a chuckle over the play on words from the English analog pedal company. “It’s fucking massive, it sounds incredible, and every session Jacknife has done since he got it, the guitarist of the band has tried to buy it off him. I was the last in that line, and obviously he always says no!”
Though his dreams of obtaining Jacknife’s unique Cheese Source have been crushed, Bondy still has some interesting gear in his live rig – equipment that produces unique styling Aussie fans will soon hear when Catfish And The Bottlemen head over in July. There’s so many textures and nuances in the production happening throughout The Balance – Bondy doesn’t have to get selective, though he does admit it is difficult to pimp out his rig to be a different setup altogether.
“It’s difficult to really pick up on the nuances of different reverbs and things like that, especially at the volume we enjoy playing at” he says with a laugh.“I’ll use a meet-in-the-middle type board – two reverbs, a slight reverb and one a more full-on reverb. I’ve just sort of found that using them allows us to get the closest we can to sounding like the album, and it’s usually pretty spot on.
“It’s not a case of ‘Okay, I need everything I’ve used on the record out there to sound like me,’ it’s more like I’ve got my more generic distortion for chords, something for single note riffs, and then a couple of things on the board for the instrumental jamming in the live set. I don’t like madness!”
Catfish And The Bottlemen
Monday July 22nd - Hordern Pavilion, Sydney NSW
Tuesday July 23rd - Civic Theatre, Newcastle NSW
Thursday July 25th - Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne VIC
Sunday July 28th - HBF Stadium, Perth WA