Irish Instrumental Rockers And So I Watch You From Afar In India This Week
The band’s drummer Chris Wee talks about long title tracks, playing four festivals in four days in four different countries and festival buzz
Don’t let the ridiculously long name fool you, because And So I Watch You From Afar [ASIWYFA] are a lot more punk rock than post rock. The Irish instrumental rock band’s drummer Chris Wee says, “I hope that we’ve never disappointed anybody at a show, if they were expecting the straight-up post rock formula.”
The band, which formed in 2005, has released three EPs and three albums until date, with the last four years being their busiest yet. With each release, they also moved away from their seaside resort town beginnings in Portrush, Northern Ireland to their current base in the capital city Belfast. They’ve be touring all over the world from Belarus to China. And they’re not tired yet. Says drummer Chris Wee, “I think that [tiredness] is only a very short-lived feeling. Overall, our job satisfaction level is pretty high.” Another country they are marking off on their tour map is India, where they play at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Bengaluru [November 23rd and 24th] and Delhi NCR [November 30th and December 1st] as well as a UK showcase at Blue Frog, Mumbai on November 26th.
You guys have played what seems like every corner of the world – from the US to Russia to China. Now you’re adding India to that list. Where next?
I think we’re fortunate as a band that we’ve been able to travel so far and play so many different places. As soon as we heard about the offer from India we totally jumped at it. There’s not many other places we are yet to get to, so that’s really cool.
You’ve released three albums and an EP in the span of four years. And that’s including a change in lineup [guitarist Tony Wright left the band in 2011]. Do you feel it’s risky to put outÂ soÂ much music constantly or is it a necessity for today’s bands?Â
I guess from our band’s point of view, it’s just the way we work. We’re constantly on tour, but we’re also writing music while we’re on the road, we like to keep busy. All these ideas come out [when we’re touring] and as we’re developing songs, it just becomes a natural cycle. Once you’ve got a body of work together, you want to record it and want to release it.
I don’t think it’s risky. Probably, in this day and age, when music is quite easy to access due to the Internet and illegal downloading, you need to continue bringing out fresh music. People consume so much these days so you need to keep getting people’s attention.
It’s a bit of a misconception that you guys are post rock. There’s more of a math rock/punk rock influence going on, with only the slower songs sounding post rock. Have you ever played to fans with that misconception?
Whenever we play abroad, we’ll get people like the foreign press describing us as post rock or math rock or whatever. I guess they are just labels to catch people’s eye. A rough sort of genre of music, I guess. I hope that we’ve never disappointed anybody at a show, if they were expecting the straight-up post rock formula.
We’ve never thought of ourselves as post rock band. We always think there are elements of our music like that, but we draw so much influence from elsewhere, you know.
In August, the band played four festivals in four days in four different countries. I remember the comment you posted with that ”“ “It ain’t a job, it’s a lifestyle.” Has it ever felt like a job, though?
[laughs] I think we’re all very fortunate to be doing what we do. We all grew up playing in bands, but now to be in it full-time, we feel very fortunate. We get really tired by a long tour, sometimes. You have a day when you’re on tour and exhausted and like, ”˜I wish I could just have a day off’ or something. I think that’s only a very short-lived feeling anyway. Overall, our job satisfaction level is pretty high [laughs].
Watch ASIWYFA’s tour diary while playing four different countries in four days:Â
What did those four festival shows feel like, though?
That was pretty cool. It was exhausting, but in between all the travel, we were playing these amazing stages ”“ huge crowds. You get such a massive buzz off that. It carries you through those moments when you’re sitting, waiting at an airport to go somewhere. And you’re like, ”˜Oh, I’d love to catch some sleep’ and then you’re thinking about the next tour and the excitement of playing abroad and the opportunity to play to a lot of new potential fans.
You’ve played guitar stores, festival stages and clubs – what do you change around for each performance?
It all comes down to the time that you have on stage. Sometimes at a festival, you only get 30 minutes, you have to tailor your set you have to give the crowd the experience of the band, as a whole ”“ you want to begin in a certain way and keep their attention. But if you have a 90-minute set, then you have to rethink the whole thing. You have to choose the songs the right way. But I think the one thing that stays the same no matter how big or small the show is, we are a very energetic band, we always play very hard and it’s a lot of fun on stage.
One of the major differences between the first album andÂ All Hail Bright FuturesÂ is that the debut album was justÂ soÂ loud and raw. Now it’s better produced and polished. What’s changed about your production?
With the first album, we recorded that mostly live with drums and guitar with no click track. It felt like a live sound, a lot more raw. As we progressed, we started adding click tracks and more instruments. By the time we did All Hail Bright Futures, we had a lot of ideas about different instruments, synths and vocals. Playing with click tracks also makes it easier to do post-production. The earlier stuff is like just us playing instruments live and the new album there’s a lot more thought going into the songwriting in the studio ”“ replacing guitar lines and vocals. For instance, the song “Ka Ba Ta Bo Da Ka,” you know that one? Our producer was like, ”˜You should try doing that with vocals’ and that’s how it came about. It was a real fun process.
StreamÂ “Ka Ba Ta Bo Da Ka” below
What’s the funniest story behind how you came up with one of your song titles?Â
That’s a tough one. I’m sure you’d agree that the song titles are off-the-wall and quite random-sounding. With the opening track on Gangs, “BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION,” we were sitting there and thinking, ”˜What does this song sound like?’ How do we represent that in a name? That song feels so positive and triumphant to us. How do we squeeze in four most positive words to describe it and then we thought, what better way to do that than to stick them all together and just gratuitous representation of the song.
I also wanted to know the symbolism behind all your artwork – how the ”˜A’ shape is one of your main logos. You’ve even got a tattoo of it.
Our logo was designed by a friend of ours; Tim Farrell worked with us in the early days to come up with the imagery of the band. As soon as we got to see it [the logo], it was just so stark and immediate ”“ we felt like it was such a strong logo. There’s no super-deep meaning behind it. But I think that’s the great thing about it. So many different people look at that thing and they conjure up their own interpretation of how the logo fits with the music. It’s more of a subjective thing for the individual.Â
You’re playing three shows in India and none of them are back-to-back, unlike the ones in China. What have you got planned while you’re here?Â
None of us have ever been to India so we’re really excited to go. Hopefully, we’ll have to time to explore and get a real sense of the country. What happens a lot on tour is that we play a city and we have to leave immediately. Friends and family are all like, “You get to travel to so many places,” a lot of the time the reality is that we don’t see these amazing places, because we have such a tight schedule. So I guess this time, we have the luxury of a couple of days off between shows, we’re definitely going to be the tourists for once rather than the passing musicians. That will be really nice. I’m hoping we can find some food and authentic aspects of India.
And So I Watch You From Afar plays at Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Bengaluru at the Embassy International Riding School on November 23rd, at the Bacardi Arena at 6.30 pm and NH7 Weekender Delhi NCR on November 30th at the Bacardi Arena at 5 pm.
ASIWYFA also performs at Blue Frog, Mumbai on November 26th, along with British bands We Were Promised Jetpacks, Dry The River, Zervas & Pepper. Entry: Free.