A rainy March 13th of 2010 sought the day of feeding my anticipation. That was for seeing (and photographing!) one of my favorite bands from across the pond FINALLY make their New York City debut (at the Craic Festival). I am of course referring to the heavy instrumental rock band known as And So I Watch You From Afar.
The band (which are: Tony Wright and Rory Friers on guitars, Johnny Adger on bass, and Chris Wee on drums) hail from Belfast, Northern Ireland and are notorious for their highly energetic live shows. Now after playing nearly two hundred shows in 2009, releasing a new EP called Letters, and gaining an immensely large following in both the UK and Europe, ASIWYFA have finally made their debut in the states for a slew of shows in New York and Texas.
This writer was lucky enough to catch a word with the band before their first ever NYC gig (which for lack of better wording: Blew my fucking mind away!) in the murky hot basement of the Mercury Lounge. Here is what the lads had to say…
Randomville: So how’s it feel to be in the states for the first time as a band?
Tony: Jet lagged! (Laughs) but seriously it’s great.
Rory: It’s like meeting a famous person!
Tony: Rory has been here before but for us three it’s a serious mind boggling experience.
Rory: Yeah, once we get over the jet lag we think we’ll be able to push it a bit better.
Randomville: Do you guys have any other plans tonight besides the gig?
Chris: Um, we have a liter and a half of whiskey to drink! (Laughs)
Rory: Hopefully see the city, but the weather just has been so bad! We assume that we accidentally brought it with us to Belfast.
Tony: (Laughs) Actually it was nice in Belfast before we left! We actually saw the sky too which I haven’t seen in months!
Randomville: A couple days ago you guys played in Toronto for the first time, so how would you compare that to your Belfast gigs considering that you’ve never played in Canada before?
Tony: It felt like starting over again since we’ve never been there. It was excitedly challenging because nobody’s heard of us, so that sense of having to prove ourselves was grand.
Rory: I think we’ve always excelled and done best at underground shows. It’s cool because you can be more aggressive and convert a few heads. Toronto was great, it was a strange show but we just finished flying for hours with no sleep.
Randomville: Did that make you guys want to play more or less?
Rory: I dunno, I felt like I was on some sort of narcotics most of the time! But it was a good show and I think we did what we needed to do.
Randomville: Where does the name And So I Watch You From Afar come from?
Johnny: It’s a re-working of song lyrics that I like. It just sort of stuck.
Randomville: What artist inspired those lyrics?
Randomville: Would you guys say that being an instrumental band creates more of a challenging dynamic or is it a simpler atmosphere?
Tony: I think it gives us more freedom being instrumental. We’re not tied down to one specific genre like other bands that are usually “defined” by a vocalist. It allows us to go hard and heavy when we want as opposed to soft and melodic with a singer.
Tony: This also diminishes the need of a specific focal point. Usually when someone is singing a beautiful melody, everything else is ignored.
Randomville: What challenges did you face in terms of song writing? Making totally instrumental tracks must have come across as new to you right?
Johnny: We didn’t really face many challenges. We formed from the Ashes of other bands. These three were in a band called Zombie Safari Park; I hadn’t played live in a long time but it was suggested that we jam together since it was said these guys had amazing talent and could mask my vast inability to play anything (Laughs). And since we were already just playing with instruments it kind of stuck that way and grew into the instrumental act we are today. That’s usually how we write songs too; we just jam together and develop them into songs.
Randomville: What kind of video games or movies do you think your music would be perfect for?
Chris: Call of Duty! One of our fans told us that ages ago!
Rory: Actually another one said that he played our entire album while playing Call of Duty.
Tony: Maybe in one of those Bioshock games?
Johnny: Definitely would have to be in something mental and fucking nasty.
Rory: Wolfenstein 3D!
Tony: Something like Doom or a first-person shooter.
Randomville: For a movie I could definitely see your tunes in a Bruce Willis film.
Entire Band: YEAH! (Laughs)
Johnny: We need to meet the man!
Randomville: What venue was the first gig you guys ever played?
Chris: It was a birthday party wasn’t it?
Johnny: Aye, it was for our friend Ruth’s thirtieth. We were jamming for a couple weeks already and she asked us if we’d like to play her party for a laugh.
Rory: I don’t even remember that gig!
Johnny: think we only played three tracks, and they were much longer than they are now. They actually lasted about an hour! (Laughs).
Randomville: Birthday parties are definitely the best way to start. Would you guys say that you come from musical families that helped inspire you and get started?
Rory: All of us actually.
Tony: My mom actually taught me how to play guitar. She taught me my first two chords.
Rory: For me it was my dad, and I’m sure for Johnny and Chris it was there dads as well.
Johnny: My dad used to be in a band and as Rory said we all kind of had that musical push at our homes that made it ingrained in us to play music.
Rory: I remember my dad played me “Good Times, Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin and was just like “Aw! You have to hear this!” It’s a trait he’s put in me so whenever I’m in a room or with people and a song goes on I can just go “Stop! Listen to this!” and just really take it all in.