FOR those of us who’ve charted the band from their embryonic stages and all the way up until this point, it was always abundantly clear that Catholic Action were a band that would fly the entangled nest of Scotland’s music scene and make their way to other destinations. From late night shows in Broadcast to the 13th Note and the launch of their inaugural cassette at The Old Hairdresser’s in November 2014, the chemistry and ingenuity that has resided in their collective membrane has always jostled with restless energy and the knowledge that their distinct combination of glam-rock decadence fused with emphatic indie-pop always had the legs to take them as far as they wished to go.
Three years on from when we first laid eyes upon, the band’s frontman Chris McCrory seems both ecstatic and yet perfectly at home in how things have panned out in recent times:
“I’m Just down in Parr Street Studios to do something for the label. I flew in straight from the Paris show. It’s pretty cool to walk down the corridor and see the platinum discs for ‘Meat Is Murder’ and the Blossoms record and stuff. This is where we worked with Bill (Ryder Jones) before so it’s nice to come down to do the producing, it’s a cool progression.”
Progression is a pivotal phrase when discussing the career of Catholic Action to date as it’s not only something that they’ve strived for but achieved time and time again. Incessantly retooling their sound and honing their songs until they reach their most impactful form, their far-reaching appeal is encapsulated in the reaction that they received on a recent European jaunt:
“Yeah absolutely man, it’s a totally different ballgame. We actually played some songs that we’ve never played before and the set was totally switched up so it was really good. It’s always really exciting to play in a new country and it was kind of similar to when we were playing in America and there’s just a vitality to how we were performing. The German and French audiences just seem really receptive and I think they… They’re almost better at dancing (laughs) They really go for it, it’s nice.”
From the aforementioned voyage Stateside to performing up and down the UK and releasing a string of well received material, it’s safe to say that 2017 has been one of the most productive years in their collective history. However, Chris’ willingness to acknowledge that it has been a busy period does not quite paint the full picture as he views it as the genesis of a new era for the band.
“Probably, yeah. We see it as we’re just getting started now as everything’s in place with the label, the album’s coming out and we’re already working on what could be the next one. We haven’t really stopped and it’s been a pretty big year but I’ve not really thought about that as my mind’s just been on what’s next. “
A band that is renowned for the sheer volume of tracks that has always orbited around their setlist, it seemed as though Chris, Jamie, Andrew and Ryan could feasibly put together a full-length whenever they pleased. A mistake that all too many budding musicians make, McCrory is confident in the knowledge that they picked the optimum moment to do so.
“Yeah of course but also It’s important to move on as musicians and wrap things up and I think we got It right. We knew what we wanted to do with it, it was just doing it and getting it right. I feel like we’ve said what we wanted to say with the first album and I don’t see any point in delaying it. I think it’s important for us as a band to move on from it. (new single) ‘Black And White’ has existed in my life for a really long time but you are just hearing it for the first time the other week and even then it’s not that old compared to some of the others on the album so it’s good to get them out. “
Although he is revered as a producer in his own right, the process of putting together their debut album was collaborative in nature and saw Chris delegate some of the duties to Margo Broom. Known for her work with a succession of tremendous bands including Fat White Family and Goat Girl to name a few, it seems that while their dynamic wasn’t always harmonious, it was for the betterment of the material in the long run.
“Margo and I have an interesting relationship at times. It’s not always the easiest and we challenge each other in a really good way. We push each other out of our comfort zones and Margo really helped us do that with the band as it’s a difficult thing to do. It’s difficult to deconstruct yourself or what you think but in the process of doing that, you define yourself in a more exciting way. We’ve been working with Margo again on what might become the new album. It’s split between Glasgow and London at the minute, we’ll do the drums in London then I’ll do some bits at mine back home.”
The culmination of years of work and countless experiences that have been channelled into the medium of song, it would only make sense for Catholic Action’s debut album to resemble an auditory scrapbook of the journey that they’ve been on for the last few years. With his songs never shying away from the candid side of the spectrum, it appears that this is the case but with an emphasis placed on structure and innovation.
“Not intentionally but probably now that you say that. My songs do tend to be personal experiences and it is a collection of snapshots of time but to me it runs as an album. It makes sense as an album to play from start to finish. It opens out as it goes on and rewards the listener, it’s not just a random collection of tunes and gets a bit more musically exploratory and gets a bit darker.”
The single that arrived alongside the announcement of In Memory Of, The blistering ‘Propaganda’ is at once a thrilling yet unorthodoxly anthemic piece of indie rock that serves as a conduit for the band to air their grievances with the stagnation that is all around. Enlisting some eccentric musical tropes in order to emphasise their point, it is a track which allows them to purge any notion of conforming to the perceived ‘aesthetic’ that is expected of the modern guitar band.
“The critique occurred naturally to me because I really dislike a lot of the modern music climate. It’s fucking terrible, it’s boring. You could get into the whole ‘guitar music’s dead’ argument and I don’t really want to do that but I do understand why people say that. It’s like a classical form now isn’t it? It’s got rules but it doesn’t have to be like that. There needs to be more creativity, there’s need to be more fire and there isn’t really any. Whereas you listen to a Kendrick Lamar record and it’s off the fucking wall, it’s crazy. Hip-hop is in this mad prog-rock phase and I think it’s really important to push the boat out. No one should ever be weird just for the sake of being weird as that’s boring as well, it’s contrived and you can always see right through it. There should be a lot more room for creativity in guitar music and that’s why Propaganda wasn’t done straight as it would just be landfill indie. So if you listen, Margo’s girlfriend Chloe is singing the vocals along with me, mixed almost as loud as my vocals so it’s little things like that. It’s still a fairly conservative indie song but it’s important to keep pushing yourself and ‘Propaganda’ was a reminder to do that as I’d rather not be in a band than be in a band that I don’t really believe in.”
In little more than a few days’ time, Chris and co will return to their native land as prodigal sons in order to perform at our very own Tenement Trail. Primed to play at a venue that evidently means a lot to them and holds a special significance in their career, Chris explains his paradoxical relationship between the city as a confining construct and the enjoyment of performing there.
“Yeah I am. Glasgow will be cool, the last time we played King Tut’s was amazing. I haven’t really thought about it yet, I’ll think about it when I get home, get some sleep and realise ‘that’s what we’re doing next.” It’s obviously always special to play in Glasgow because it’s our hometown and my quote that I always reel out that “I love Glasgow very much as but I want to get as far away from it as possible.” I don’t hate it, I just like to be far away from it but I do love playing Glasgow so yeah, it’ll be really special.”
As far as whether he’ll be looking to catch other bands at the festival, there is one in particular that he is all too happy to sing the praises of:
“Spinning Coin. They’re a band that are pushing the creative side of things. I think Sean Armstrong is an incredible songwriter and it’s just inverted in a really cool way. It’s pop music ultimately but it’s weird and that’s what excites me about it.”
In the wake of an incredibly busy time for the band, they’d be forgiven for looking for a bit of respite as they gaze towards the end of this year and towards the uncertain terrain of 2018. However, anyone that knows Catholic Action will likely be aware that it’s not within their wheelhouse and it’s primed to be just as busy as the 12 months that preceded it.
Yeah man, we’re going on tour with Kagoule up and down the UK and we’re going to do a few special shows that we haven’t announced yet before Christmas and in-between that we’re just going to be in the studio working on some new stuff. I just want to stockpile 25-30 songs, we have so many songs now and things that I just want to keep working on and ticking over. The band’s in a healthier place than it’s ever been both creatively and mentally and we’re just writing and recording so much so yeah… touring in November and then we’ll basically be in the studio the rest of the time.
Catholic Action’s debut album In Memory Of will be released on the 20th October via Modern Sky. Catch the band at 11:15pm at this year’s Tenement Trail with tickets available here.