Gilbert Potts was pretty impressed by “Gangs”, the latest album from Irish instrumental progressive/post rock outfit And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA). Guitarist Rory Friers was more than happy to share his views on the early days of the band, playing in Ulster Hall and the difference between being in a recording studio and being on stage…
Changes in life happen mostly fluidly, but sometimes we sit back and think of moments that changed our lives. I’d like to ask about some of those moments, starting with whether in your younger years you saw a band or heard a record and something clicked and you knew music would become your life?
There's probably been a lot of those moments, sometimes I feel I’m having them too frequently! but there’s definitely been some real markers for me, like when my dad played me “Good Times Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin and we tried to work out how he was playing his kick drum so fast, that whole song just made me want to know more about this weird world I was hearing for the first time, it blew my face off. Don’t even get me started on Queen.
When you started playing together, did you have common feelings about the sound you wanted or was it a process of trying different things until one day you realised you had hit upon a sound that you all wanted to play?
I think we all knew we wanted to play something that was very different from the punk music we’d been playing all through our teens, but specifics, we didn’t really know. It was a case of trial and error, just trust our ears and be brave, but it’s always evolving, todays favourite song is in tomorrows bargain bin, we’re pretty impatient when it comes to our music but that keeps things exciting.
Did you set out to have a unique sound, or did it just happen that way?
Yeah we definitely wanted to make music that was doing something new and fresh, that’s always been a motivation for us, primarily something that excites us, that we look forward to playing live to people and then something we can record and be proud of. Then its back to the drawing board to push things forward again, we’re very lucky we have that drive in us to keep upping it.
Was there a point when you realised your music actually did something to listeners – meant something to them?
Yeah, pretty early on when we had become totally immersed in the songs we were playing and when we had become semi proficient playing them we definitely start to feel there was a response from the people coming to our shows, and that just grew. I think because we’ve never have an ulterior motive musically, that we aren’t writing the music for any other reason than we love it, it comes across pretty sincere and I think people get that.
Is there a venue you’ve played that represents having reached some sort of milestone, like the Ulster Hall?
Yeah, Ulster Hall was pretty special, that’s where we all grew up watching our favourite bands, to play to 1500 people in your home country is just amazing, although that show was a bit of an anti climax in the end because our set was cut short but my mum and dad were very proud that night.
OK enough of that line of questions. You’ve built your following and acclaim on the back of a feck-load of touring and gigging. How does that feed into the creative process?
We get to see a lot of bands, a lot of people, a lot of places, so its impossible for all that not to feed in to whats inspiring us to make music, the album Gangs was a bit of a dedication to that. You hear things you want to replicate and get to be involved briefly in scenes or movements or happenings you want to be a part of, its great fodder for writing music or just being creative in general, by the nature of touring your surrounded by different creative people every night.
To what degree do the stage band and the recorded band differ and in what way are they the same?
One is very wet and one is dryer. I suppose live your prime objective is the people standing in front of you, were as in the studio our prime objective is to satisfy ourselves. Live is doing what we’ve recorded in the studio justice and making people have the best time of their lives, albums are what we leave here forever so we need to make sure they make us happy first of all.
Instrumental bands all tend to get described in the context of that band “Emperor Mogwai and the Ros Explosions”, and I imagine that happens to you. Does that make you cry?
We have shed tears yes, we’ve had all those bands loads of times, its funny though, because it’s just hard for people to see past the lack of vocals, and all those bands rule but even they are all so different from each other. But we don’t mind really, people just need to have a comparison to make sense of stuff
Any collaborations likely to come out of it?
I’d like to collaborate with that band you mentioned ‘Emperor Mogwai and the Ros Explosions‘ they sound gnarly, them or Municipal Waste
Playing at SXSW in Texas presents the opportunity to meet an enormous number of music makers from around the world. Did you strike up a few friendships there last month?
Yeah for sure, we got to meet and hang out with all our label buddies on Sargent House for the first time, that was amazing, we have some new friends for life with those dudes. We can’t wait to get back over and hang play more shows with them all.
When are you coming to play in Australia, and what time does your set start?
Soon, its starting 10am our time, so i guess that 9pm down under, get the beers in.
Has Prince William spoken to you since you stood him up on his wedding day?
No, but he owes me money so I think he’s just using it as an excuse to avoid me. lesson learned, never spot a royal money for his rent.
Is there some prize up for grabs for the longest instrumental band name that can’t be pronounced when abbreviated so saying the initials takes almost as long as saying the name? If not, what should the prize be?
I hope so, we must be in contention? the prize should be the acronym inducted into the dictionary under any definition of their choice. i.e. ASIWYFA – a great bunch of lads!