And So I Watch You From Afar
Francis Jones meets the instrumental rock band who play like they want the building to collapse
And So I Watch You From Afar have made startling progress in the six months since they moved to Belfast.
They've been selected for showcases, played prestigious support slots for the likes of High On Fire and 65daysofstatic, and have been championed by print publications and online media.
The Antrim boys have made a splash not only on the NI scene, but further afield, earning regular plays on Huw Stephens BBC Radio show and honourable mention in rock bible Kerrang!.
Instrumental rock is a genre that's particularly hard to market, a genre with few famed practitioners, offering only limited exposure to its artistes. Many promoters and record labels just don't understand how an instrumental rock act can speak to an audience.
As such, And So I Watch You From Afar's achievements are all the more impressive.
Guitarist Rory Friers believes their success is partly attributable to the band’s refusal to be limited by the inevitable ‘post-rock’ tag.
‘We never considered ourselves in those terms, our sound just evolved from early jamming sessions. Strange though it may sound, to us this feels very much like punk rock.
'We play the music we want to play, try to do something a bit different and to me that feels punk rock.’
The band have released debut EP This Is Our Machine And Nothing Can Stop It, five tracks that combine knuckle-duster rhythms and smartly shifting time signatures.
It is the quality of material as much as business savvy that explains the band's accomplishments. In addition, Friers cites the intervention of lady luck.
‘We’d been playing in Katy Daly’s and were approached by Moving On Music. They decided to give us a gig at one of the Blueprint showcases and that was the catalyst for everything since.’
However, Friers and company were all too aware that they couldn’t rely on luck to come calling time and again, so set about capitalising on fortune’s intervention through sheer hard work.
‘We’ve had to learn how to manage a band. We want to achieve things, to do more than simply playing in bars, so it requires a certain commitment and just putting in the hours.
'The band has turned me into a complete computer nerd. I don’t have much of a social life, I’m constantly on the computer, emailing, making contact with my fellow MySpace nerds. Since the EP was pressed we’ve been trying to get it out there, get it to people who might be interested.
'The internet is indispensable in trying to arrange gigs, you can check promoters or companies who book similar bands and contact them. It’s all a bit of a slog, though every now and again you get a positive response, the odd glimmer of hope.’
Friers points out that it's by making connections the old school way, working the phones and glad-handing at gigs, that has proven most effective in promoting And So I Watch You From Afar.
‘Getting people on the phone and having a conversation can get more positive and immediate results than sending out a thousand CDs. In some cases you’ll be lucky and people will approach you, as happened with our Radio 1 session. But, it’s not always like that.
‘We supported 65daysofstatic and that came about because we really wanted it and chased it. We phoned around, got this promoter’s number and completely brass-necked it.
'Folk seem to be pretty good and it really is true, if you don’t ask you don’t get. In our case we were helped by NIMIC and Moving On Music. When the Oh Yeah project launches, it’s gonna be great for the future of NI music.’
And the future of And So I Watch You From Afar?
‘It’s good to keep pushing on, to have that drive and determination to take things on to the next stage. You can build things up so far, but then, if you have serious ambitions, you have to try and take things further afield.
'We’ve lined up shows over in the mainland and we‘re working on a couple of other projects. Unfortunately we can‘t divulge any details until it‘s all confirmed. It‘s pretty exciting.’
Before taking his leave Friers is keen to impart some final words of wisdom to fellow fledgling outfits.
‘Don’t think that anything’s above your station. Don’t think that you’re not good enough to do this or that. Just go for it and, for live shows, our attitude is to go our there and play as if we were trying to make the building collapse.
'When we moved to Belfast we had a plan in mind of what we wanted to achieve, be it playing BelFEST or whatever. Set yourself targets, be realistic, but above all have confidence in what you can achieve.'