By now, Van McCann, lead singer of Catfish and the Bottlemen, is probably used to being pelted with questions.

Names seem to be a popular topic of choice: Yes, Van’s name is indeed inspired by fellow UK artist Van Morrison. No, the Catfish and the Bottlemen moniker is actually drawn from the first time McCann experienced live music, when he heard a busker of the same name performing in Australia.

Critics have whipped up high praise, with comparisons to acts like Arctic Monkeys, The Kooks, and The Strokes. But for anyone of the Disney generation, perhaps the best comparison is an unconventional one that draws from the 2007 film, Ratatouille. At its core, the band is much like the “peasant” dish Remy presents to the uptight, hook-nosed critic. Like ratatouille, Catfish and the Bottlemen are simple; their lyrics, straightforward; their origins, humble. And that’s why they leave such an impression on fans.

“It’s almost like it means more because it’s so obvious,” McCann says of their lyrics. “Like the lyrics in Hourglass—it’s like, ‘you know when you’re gone I struggle at night / dreams of you fucking me all the time,’ and people scream them at a gig because everyone goes to bed dreaming about being with the girl they like, or the lad they like, you know what I mean? That’s the way it is.”

Lyrics are particularly dear to McCann, who values sincere, to-the-point lyrics. “You know ‘Alright?’ he asks, before singing “We are young / we run free… we go out / smoke a fag, put it out,” so I know what he means. “I think that just sums up youth culture in one sentence. You know, that’s all we do, we go out, we smoke, we put it out,” says McCann.

The simplicity and trueness is what makes Supergrass’s “Alright” one of his favorites. “Do you like Eels?” he asks. “Eels do it really well, they’re always really genuine about their lyrics.” Again, he sings to clarify; “‘It’s a motherfucker being here without you.’ It’s just when you hear him singing, you believe him.”

Perhaps that’s why McCann despises playing covers. It’s much easier to be sincere when singing your own story, after all. When I asked McCann to describe their sound without using genre names, he replied “I think it’s explosive, I think it’s genuine, and I think it’s life-affirming. There you go.” Cover songs may be easy to relate to, but there’s something to be said for telling it your way.  “We’ve spent our whole lives playing covers,” McCann says, “when I was a 15 year old and we first started a band, our job Monday to Friday was to play at clubs, playing Beatles covers and Oasis covers.”

“We spent seven years writing our own songs, making our own albums, and people are like ‘play Kanye West!’ We’re like ‘no man, are you crazy?’”

Of course, we couldn’t touch upon the topic of lyrics without mention of a track by his favorite acts, The Streets, an act known for their honesty and frankness. He breaks out into “Everything is Borrowed.” So I ask McCann what he’d say if he ever came across his idol, Mike Skinner, The Streets’ lead vocalist. “Yeah, I’d just say thank you for helping me write songs—he helped me write all my songs, without knowing it. He got me into writing lyrics, and he got me passionate about not trying to hide behind anything. Just say it like it is. So I’d like to say thanks,” explains McCann. “Or hello, would you like a drink?”

But it’s not just Skinner that Catfish and the Bottlemen are eager to have a drink with. While some bands are keen to get off the road, McCann thrives on it; “I just love hearing their backgrounds, hearing their stories… that’s all I need really, that’s why I love traveling so much.”

Catfish and the Bottlemen play Great Scott Thursday night, March 5th. Come by—perhaps you’ll be the one who McCann will share a beer with next.

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