Despite the old recurring ‘rock is dead’ argument that tends to spring up every time Kanye releases an album or Ed Sheeran’s omniscient presence in literally every facet of life increases, lets face it - there's still at least a few more years before rock finally keels over and dies when there's bands like Catfish and the Bottlemen around. Bursting into mainstream conscience with their blistering debut The Balcony in 2014, it didn't take long for Catfish and co. to go from playing their signature brand of bare bones alternative rock to empty pubs in Wales to adorning main stages in front of raucous crowds at Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, and hundreds of other festivals along their impressive touring schedule. With the release of last year's LP The Ride and an upcoming visit to Australia for a run of East coast shows, we take a look at the gear used by lead guitarist Johnny Bond and singer/guitarist Van McCann.
2002 GIBSON LES PAUL CUSTOM
While only joining the band as a replacement after guitarist Billy Bibby's departure following the recording of The Balcony in 2014, Johnny Bond's eclectic style of alternate guitar merged perfectly with Catfish and the Bottlemen's restrained indie rock, becoming an essential factor in the band's rapid rise to success.
For Catifsh and the Bottlemen, Bond's main touring guitar is a double bound black Les Paul Custom acquired at the end of the band’s first American tour cycle in Nashville, replacing a battered Fender Japanese Jazzmaster and seeing extensive use with the group ever since. Speaking to Total Guitar in 2015, Bond discussed the modifications on the Les Paul, namely the installation of a Bigsby tremolo system for the 'mad dive-bombing stuff' heard throughout the instrumental sections of 'Soundcheck' and 'Tyrants'.
1956 GIBSON LES PAUL GOLDTOP REISSUE
For the band’s last few legs of festival dates in support of The Ride, Bond’s been seen shredding on a luscious Goldtop Les Paul Reissue decked out with P90’s for searing high gain tones.
GISBON SJ-200 ACOUSTIC GUITAR
Obviously a Gibson enthusiast, Bond uses a Super Jumbo Gibson acoustic for recording and various live acoustic sessions. A peek at his personal Instagram also reveals that Bond owns several other vintage Les Paul and ES175 models, the latter of which appears in the music video and live versions of the bands anthemic single ‘Twice.’
SQUIER JIM ROOT TELECASTER
Rather than adopting his lead guitarist's taste for premium Gibson guitars, McCann takes a much more simple approach to guitar, favouring a ‘stinky’ Squier Jim Root Telecaster named Bullet Tooth Tony for years. Speaking to Total Guitar, McCann professed his love for the cheap instrument, confessing he doesn't actually know who the Slipknot guitarist is.
"I don't even know him. Doesn't he have a mask on sometimes? I use that guitar because it's matt black and it's got a volume knob, and that's it. It was like £150 and I've swapped the scratchplates over and I've smashed it up, but it just doesn't break or go out of tune.”
FENDER AMERICAN STANDARD CUSTOM TELECASTER
Whether for tone or looks, McCann made the leap from his beloved ‘stinky’ Squier Tele in 2015, acquiring a modified black Fender Telecaster and a few acoustic guitars in an endorsement deal with Fender. In classic Van McCann style, however, the guitar is fairly minimal, featuring two humbuckers and a single knob for volume control - to quote the man himself, “My setup is the Yorkshire Tea of guitars.”
GRETSCH G5034TFT RANCHER ACOUSTIC GUITAR
Gretsch have a penchant for making musical oddities, and the Gretsch Rancher is of no exception - featuring a Bigsby tremolo, Fideli-tron pickup and gold hardware, this guitar takes the acoustic-electric model to the absolute extremes. Van’s been seen playing this guitar in various live sessions, notably Catfish and the Bottlemen’s cover of ‘I Will Never Let You Down’ by Rita Ora for BBC’s Live Lounge back in 2014.
While occasionally adding a Fender Super Reverb Head on the road, Bondy’s tinnitus inducing main set up is usually comprised of a 1987 Marshall Plexi and a Marshall JCM800 fed through four Orange 4x12 PPC412 cabinets for a straight up overdriven tone. While this monstrous rig definitely seems like overkill, lets face it: there’s still nothing cooler than seeing a huge wall of amps behind a rock band.
For touring The Balcony, McCann plugged into a single Marshall Class 5w combo played through a miked up Fender Hot Rod Deluxe cab. It’s definitely nothing fancy, but I’m certain not many bands can brag that they’ve played to 16,000 fans at Earls Court in London with a 5 watt combo amp.
These days, McCann can be seen flanked on stage by two Vox AC30’s, each being played through Orange 4x12 cabs.
In the band’s feature for Total Guitar, Bond described his pedal chain for Catfish and the Bottlemen. “I’ve got a Z.Vex Vexter Fuzz Factory for the more wild moments, the MXR Custom Bad Ass for standard chord parts, a Keeley-modded Tube Screamer for cutting through, a (Digitech) Whammy pedal for lunacy, then the Roland Space Echo for delay, and a (EHX) Holy Grail.”
However, he appears to have pimped out his board a little bit more for the band's latest tours, adding a EHX POG 2, Strymon Flint Tremolo/Reverb, and a Way Huge Green Rhino MkII Overdrive for some of the more textured solo sections on 2016’s The Ride.
While his guitar style tends to stick to the bare necessities, McCann uses a handful of BOSS stompboxes on the road to give a bit of oomph behind Bond’s eclectic solos. A shot from the band’s 2015 tour reveals a signal chain made up of a BOSS DD-3 Delay, Rogue Tremolo, Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb and a Boss DS-1 Distortion with a TU-2 tuner at the end to stay sharp.