Catfish and the Bottlemen are a British rock band from Llandudno, Wales, made up of frontman Ryan Evan “Van” McCann, Benjamin “Benji” Blakeway on bass, guitarist Johnny “Bondy” Bond and Robert “Sideshow Bob” Hall on drums. They have released two studio albums, ‘The Balcony’ and ‘The Ride’, both on Island Records.
Catfish and the Bottlemen was formed in 2007 when Van and Benji were “bored out of our minds” and decided to start a band, despite not knowing how to play any instruments. They started hanging out with former member Billy Bibby, who taught Van and Benji how to play guitar at his parents’ B&B in Llandudno. Billy was first introduced to Van through his younger brother, who was a close friend of Van’s at the time. The line-up was completed by Jon Barr, who was replaced by Bob Hall in 2010.
To increase their exposure, the group started organising concerts in car parks after gigs by other artists. They had their breakthrough in 2009 when they were played by Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio 6 Music. They were signed to Communion Records in January 2013 following a virtually empty concert at Sound Control, Manchester.
Following a contract with Island Records in March 2014, the band released the track ‘Kathleen’ with producer Jim Abbiss, who has worked with Arctic Monkeys, Bombay Bicycle Club, and Adele. That summer, they played Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds, and T in the Park among others. It was during this period that Billy Bibb left the band to pursue other interests, and was replaced by Bondy Bond. Their debut album, The Balcony, was released in the UK on the 15th September 2014, and has since reached Gold status. The video for ‘The Balcony’ track ‘Hourglass’ stars a guitar playing Ewan McGregor. The album earned Catfish and the Bottlemen the BBC Introducing award at the BBC Music Awards in December 2014.
On 23rd March 2016, the band announced their new album, ‘The Ride’, via social media. The post stated that the album had been recorded out in LA with Dave Sardy, a “hero of ours that we’ve dreamt of working with since we were kids”. Released on the 27th May, the record reached number one in the UK charts on the 3rd June, with unit sales of 38,000. The title of the album is taken from a lyric on the album’s final track, ‘Outside’, “probably my favourite tune on there” according to Van.
The band were awarded the ‘Best British Breakthrough Act’ at the 2016 Brit Awards in February. They returned to Glastonbury in June 2016, and topped the bill above Little Comets and Broken Hands at their gig at the Castlefield Bowl, Manchester in July.
Their name is taken from a street performer, “Catfish the Bottleman”, AKA Michael Bevan, who Van encountered in Australia. The busker plays tuned beer bottles tied on a string. Van liked the name because it was “unusual” and prayed Bevan wouldn’t sue him for adapting the stage name. Van was reunited with Catfish the Bottleman on Triple J Radio, Sydney in January 2015.