-The lynch pin at the heart of Belfast’s extraordinary music scene”¦ -A brain-annihilating barrage of rhythms and rottweilers”¦ -Plucked from the heavens, colossal’. Nine tours and two EPs down, Belfast’s And So I Watch You From Afar certainly have the critics purring. Their new self-titled album is arguably the most anticipated debut of 2009, and already fills the shelves of Tokyo’s record stores alongside life-size cardboard cut outs of the band. It’s due to land in Ireland on April the 13th, and many already have the instrumental four-piece marked down for greatness. State caught up with guitarist Tony just before ASIWYFA head off on another epic, 50-date tour.
Last.fm calls you the lynchpin of the Belfast music scene’¦
Yeah, we just like to talk about our friends bands and bands that we like a lot. There are some outstanding bands, and not just in Belfast, all over the country. Whenever we go on tour we talk about bands we like, and it just happens that most of those bands are from this island. People say we’re some kind of scene leader, and we think that’s great, it’s really flattering, but there are so many great bands out there. You wouldn’t really want the voice of the whole movement to be an instrumental band, would you?
Perhaps not. How does it feel to have so many people touting you as the next big thing?
Well, I can’t see us smashing the system, as it were. We just want to get it heard by a few people. We’d be happy just to sell a couple of thousand records, but people like to talk things. We sold out our last EP, and illegal downloads skyrocketed, too. That’s not to say we want people to go out and illegally download this album, we want to be able to go out and record a second one. We just want to get out there and be able to play as much as possible. I can’t see MPs listening to us on their iPods or anything like that. But occasionally you get your head above water, and it’s just f*ck, you know? I’m doing what I always dreamed of doing.
Has the fame bought any psychotic fans?
A few yeah, but fortunately they’re good psychotic not bad psychotic. They follow us city to city and they’ll do anything for us. They’ll help us out, and it’s nice to see friendly faces. They’ll offer us a floor to crash on, or a sandwich or something. We couldn’t do it without those people. Our tour vans an old RUC riot van. We had to get all the markings off it, obviously, or we’d have been torn to pieces driving around Belfast.
Do you have any tour stories?
On one tour we lost an outrageous amount of money. We had the worst luck with speeding fines, parking tickets, congestion charges. Before we got the van we used to tour in a car with a bicycle roof rack, and stuff all our equipment on it. We got fined for that as well. We learnt a harsh lesson that time. Generally we’re quite a boring bunch. Occasionally there’s decadence and alcohol, but we want to make sure the next show is as good as it can be.
The stage personas – Gut Slurper, Bone Cruncher’¦ what are they about?
Rory (the other guitarist) listens to ridiculous metal music from time to time. He thought it’d be funny. Our live performances are quite energetic and intense, and we try to make it as visual as possible. It’s in your face and confronting, that’s what we try to do with everything, and we thought those names might help bring it across. I just find them amusing.
Where does the band name come from?
We’re all very paranoid people living in a paranoid time. Its kind of Orwell-esque, Big Brother thing. Everything’s monitored, your TV viewing habits, your phone calls, where you go on the Internet. It’s a reflection of the paranoia.
How did ASIWYFA meet?
We’re all country bumpkins, we’re from near Giant’s Causeway, but we live in Belfast now. We’re playing our album launch in Mandela Hall, Belfast. It feels incredible, for a bunch of Giant’s Causeway bumpkins!
Was it a conscious decision to stay instrumental?
No, we’d all been in bands before. I used to be the singer in a couple of other bands before we got together to do this. On the new album there’s a track with a forty strong choir singing on it. There’s -whoops’ and -heys’ and things in there. It was never a conscious decision; it just worked out that way.
Your song titles are really expressive, are you saying what you can’t say in the song?
Yeah, at times you just want to have a statement, a rallying call. Since we don’t have lyrics, our song titles can be very sloganesque, bold statements like -Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate’, and -These Riots Are Just The Beginning’. Sometimes we’ll go the more ludicrous way, like with -Set Guitars To Kill’. We like snappy titles, almost as ridiculous as our band name.
What kind of music is the band into?
We listen to very very little instrumental music. We all listen to a broad spectrum. We’re very conscious of falling into the post rock clichÃ© of crescendo based swirly stuff; we wanted to get away from that. We all grew up in punk bands, so we want things to be more immediate, more jaggedy. It’s drenched in delay and kind of stop start bits. We just try to keep it interesting.
You’re always being compared to Mogwai, being the other really big instrumental band. Who would you like to be compared to?
Don’t get me wrong, I love Mogwai, they’re fantastic, but if we had to get compared to a band, we would definitely think about Fugazi or, if we were to aim really high, The Clash. That would be out dream benchmark.
What song sums up the band?
Musically? Can I name two? -If It Ain’t Broke, Break It’. And also -Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate’. Because it’s a piece of advice we’re giving people. We’re all broke, but we’re doing what we love. The song shows off our melody. -If it ain’t broke break it’ shows our pace. It’s like the ying and the yang, if you will.
What would you be doing it you weren’t playing?
We’d probably be dead. We’d have descended into the pits of alcohol and drug fuelled repression long ago. Chris, our drummer, left a really well paid job to come and do this full time and be skint for a while. So Chris would probably be one of the Dragons on Dragon Den. The other three of us would be dead.
As published on State.ie, April 2009.