Well it’s Friday afternoon and after finishing up my Kaiser Chiefs interview and Teenage Kicks column, I’m nearly done for the day. But before I go, I thought I’d post up my interview with ASIWYFA that ran in the Belfast Telegraph the week before A Little Solidarity. The main reason I’m digging out this one from the archives is due to a lovely blog written by Naomi McArdle talking about my good self on Hot Press.com and as we’re both huge fans of the lads I figured why not? http://wordpress.hotpress.com/offherrocker/2009/02/13/blog-edwin-mcfee/
Right, I’m off to lie in a crimpled heap
And So I Watch You From Afar
I’ll always remember the first time I saw North Coast four-piece And So I Watch You From Afar play live. It was a couple of years ago and their brand of post-apocalyptic instrumental noise was going down a storm as part of the now sadly departed local music festival belFEST. Fast forward a couple of years and the boys have only gotten better receiving rave reviews from the NME, Kerrang, Hot Press, Rock Sound and many, many more as well as getting some praise from Gary Lightbody onstage a few weeks ago whenever Snow Patrol played in the Empire. Yes folks, pound for pound ASIWYFA are probably the most exciting band to come from these shores in a long time and as the months fly by they’re only going to get better. But not everyone “got” their hernia-inducing sound in those early days, as guitarist Tony Wright explains.
“Our early shows were very different to how they are now,” says Tony. “Over the course of half our shows we’d be playing three or four tracks, real long crescendo-based nonsense. We were outsiders really and didn’t know too many people in Belfast, but we would always got a random poet or singer who would say ‘you need a vocalist and I’m f*ckin’ great.’ We still get those people now, but we always politely decline their offer.”
“I think if we could do it all a little differently, we’d maybe have held off launching the band until we knew exactly what we wanted to be playing, which we’re a lot closer to now,” offers guitarist Rory Friers. “We’ve never said ‘right, no singer,’ but we don’t need one now. I think we’re all dead excited about were its going.”
And so they should be, because after a year of hard slog on the road putting on incendiary gig after incendiary gig, ASIWYFA have made both the UK and Ireland sit up and take notice. At the moment the band (completed bassist Johnny Adgar and tub thumper Chris Wee) are working on their first full length album but in the mean-time they have the thunderous slab of wax that is the This is our Machine and Nothing Can Stop It mini album out in the shops to keep the faithful happy.
“We’re flattered people think that we’re one of the most driven bands in the country,” says Rory. “We work so hard for this, but it’s a pretty natural thing for us too. Coming from the sticks you had to really do it yourself to get anything done. We kinda have a rule to accept as much help that’s offered, but to depend on none of it.”
“Yeah we’re definitely driven because this is all we have ever wanted to do,” continues Tony. “I think the same drive is apparent everywhere you look though. You only have to go to a local rehearsal space and hear the amount of bands working really hard and that keeps us going too.”
Of course Tony is being typically modest with this statement as how many other bands do you know of that get run over and hospitalised then play a show straight after?
“Yeah, that story is true,” he laughs. “It happened last year and I was drunk, got hit by a cab, woke up in hospital with a drip hanging out my arm and then sneaked out the next morning. The guys met me at the gates and we high-tailed it to Derry for Fighting With Wire’s album launch where we played a killer show. I had a bad headache afterwards though. That aside, my personal favourite show was our first EP launch [Tonight the City Burns] in Auntie Annie’s. We were expecting 20 people and ended up selling the place out. I think for us it signified the fact that we could take the band a lot further than we first thought. That was a year and a half ago and here we are about to play the Mandela Hall and I’m bricking it.”
Ever since the band formed three years ago in “the middle of nowhere” (according to Tony and Rory) they’ve been ticking achievement boxes in double quick time and this weekend marks possibly their biggest venture to date-their own music festival. Taking place in the Mandela Hall, Speakeasy and Bunatee in Queens Student’s Union, the bash is called A Little Solidarity (named after their song and current career highlight A Little Bit of Solidarity Goes a Long Way which featured on this year’s Oh Yeah album) and boasts a shed-load of Ulster’s greatest bands all playing together. The line-up includes the mighty Fighting With Wire, the hotly tipped General Fiasco and the sublime Two Door Cinema Club among many others and it’s an event which is close to ASIWYFA’s hearts.
“As with most things in And So I Watch You From Afar-land, the idea for the festival came about after Tony and I spent one of our usual nights sitting up smoking too many fags and discussing our grand schemes. I remember saying to Johnny Black [vocalist/singer in LaFaro] outside the Limelight that ‘we’re gonna do a show in the Mandela next year’ and he was like ‘lets do it then.’ That was that really.”
“It’s an extension of the show we did last year called Tonight the City Burns, which was all about collaboration and the strength of the scene,” adds Tony. “We wanted to take it up a notch and get as many heads involved. The scene here is amazingly strong and there’s too much great music that we don’t want to go unnoticed.”
Once the idea for the festival was put forward, it didn’t take long for the boys to put a bill together and in a show of scene spirit it ended up a matter of trying to fit everyone in rather than struggling to find willing participants.
“Putting A Little Solidarity together wasn’t hard to do at all,” insists Rory. “These bands are down with the cause, everyone has each other’s back, it’s not ASIWYFA’s show plus support-it’s everyone’s gig. There’s no messing about with this lot. The hardest bit was havin to somehow select who was playing. We could have done two weeks straight.”
For the first time in many years, the NI music scene seems refreshingly free of sniping and back-biting and, while ASIWYFA will hate to hear it said, much of this is down to their positive outlook and efforts to unite everyone. They feel that it’s hard enough for a local band to get the breaks they deserve so why make things harder by engaging in endless feuds. Still, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to play their gig tomorrow as if their lives depended on it. They’re still got a point to prove.
“We’ve actually got a decibel contest between ASIWYFA and LaFaro,” jokes Tony. “That’s why we opted for the Mandela Hall-they’ve a bigger PA. For any of you gamblers out there, the smart money’s on us.”
As well as bands playing for your aural pleasure, there will also be exhibitions, a speed networking panel for local musos to get some face to face time with industry types and competitions for studio time too. Basically if you’ve ever had any interest in music whatsoever, A Little Solidarity should be your only port of call this weekend.
“We’ve tried to make the festival as pro new music as possible, so we have loads of opportunities for some younger bands to meet people and get their music out there,” says Rory. “We have a speed networking session with some great industry people from NI and the UK, we have demo drops, free studio time, choice slots for new bands, reviews and airplay up for grabs, gigs on offer and generally just a lot of people who are there to support who’s gonna be killing it next year and beyond.
“As for our own ambitions over the next five years, all we want to do is write, record, tour, write, record, tour,” he concludes. “We always said that if we could pay rent and eat from playing music then we’d need nothing else, so I’d say if we could be doing that in five years and getting to see some cool places we’d be laughing.”
A Little Solidarity takes place tonight and tomorrow. Tonight’s show features LaFaro, Desert Hearts, Pocket Billiards and Axis Of and kicks off at 7pm in the Speakeasy. Tomorrow afternoon from 1pm-6pm in the Speakeasy is Two Door Cinema Club, Mojo Fury, Team Fresh and Yes Cadets. Later that night in the Mandela Hall We Are Knives, Panama Kings, General Fiasco, And So I Watch You From Afar and Fighting With Wire all play and doors are at 7pm. Tonight’s gig and tomorrow’s matinee show are £5 in, the main event in the Mandela Hall is £9 and limited two day tickets are available for £12. For more info click on www.myspace.com/andsoiwatchyoufromafar
PS-Thanks to Naomi for the nice words.