Uniqueness is something many bands claim, but few actually achieve. However, Belfast four-piece And So I Watch You From Afar don't sound like anyone else. Amongst the myriad so-called post-rock bands around at the moment, And So I Watch You From Afar stand out like a beacon. With energetic, full-throttle live shows and songs that really put the rock into post-rock, their music also stands out by virtue of being, well, different. They look a bit hard and a tad unpredictable, and once could argue that they are, in the best possible ways. You're as likely to find a Celtic jig crammed against a crunching metal-edged riff as you are chiming guitar interplay at any point during one of their numbers, and through a schedule of tireless touring and a succession of genuinely inspired releases since their inception in 2005, they’ve earned a deserved reputation as a band to watch.
Following the release of their self-titled debut and a couple of split singles, the sophomore album's release was delayed due to their heavy live schedule. They concluded 2010 with a taster single for the forthcoming album in the form of 'Straight Through The Sun', and yet more live dates that continue into 2011. Amidst all of this, though, they still found the time to answer a few questions I wanted to put to them (and I make no apology for my coming across as something of a fanboy here. I was genuinely pleased to have the opportunity to do this).
W&H: It's fair to say that the name is a bit of a mouthful.... I'm not going to be so predictable as to ask how it came about, but am interested to know how much importance you attach to it. After all, a name can make or break a band: I'm sure Foetus would be far bigger had Jim Thirlwell gone for a more commercial name, and the same is probably true of Holy Fuck...
ASIWYFA: First up, hello, I hope you're all well. The name probably has done us more favours than you would believe. People always seem intrigued by it, whether it's the preposterousness of it or something else strikes a chord with them or whatever. Helmet did ok, right?
W&H: I first 'discovered' ASIWYFA when you played in Stirling in the Spring of 2009 with Maybeshewill. My initial reaction was awe. How do you find that audiences - especially those who aren't necessarily there specifically to see you - react to your live shows?
ASIWYFA: Ha, I remember that show well, I remember the size of the kebabs the lads got after it even better! We generally get a good reaction from accidental first timers, once they accept the fact we're not gonna burst into glorious 4-way vocal harmonies! It's always more exciting if you think there's an opportunity at hand to convert a few heads onto what you're doing, especially in new places.
W&H: One thing I get from your live shows - apart from real power and incredible energy - is a sense of fun, that you really enjoy performing. What is it about the live thing that really gets you going?
ASIWYFA: We're having the time of our lives, by and large, you know? We get to travel around and play music to people, how could we not be having a good time up there? Sometimes we forget that but thankfully not that often and never all at the same time. We're lucky people, but that's not to take away from the work we put in, albeit the most fun work you can imagine.
W&H: We seem to be entering a period where all sorts of hybrid musical styles and microgenres are emerging, but categorising what And So I watch You from Afar do is really difficult. When trying to describe the ASIWYFA sound, the best I could do was 'post-rock metal'. How would you define your sound, and how would you say it's evolved since you started out?
ASIWYFA: High passion honest instrumental music, does that work? Hehe. I think we definitely started off in the more post camp, and as we progressed we wanted to separate ourselves from that mould, make things more immediate. We're constantly evolving, the chief reason being we're all still learning our craft, well, I hope we are!
W&H: Instrumental music is definitely in vogue at the moment. Do you think this is simply something that's evolved, or are there particular reasons for it? Do you think the conventional verse-chorus song format with singing has been exhausted and that people are looking for music that goes further and articulates emotions without words, or is there something else behind it?
ASIWYFA: I don't think people are bored with the tried and tested formula entirely no, there's still life in that ol' dog. I think a bit of variety is all that's needed and that's why it's particularly in vogue in Ireland and the UK at present. It's been huge in so many different countries for over a decade now so I think it's just something everybody is gonna just have to get used to I guess. That's a good thing!
W&H: Usually, to mention selling out in relation to a band is anything but a compliment, but your last two releases completely sold out, with your latest single, 'Straight Through the Sun' selling out on 7" before the release date. How does that feel, and does it restore your faith in the viability of physical formats?
ASIWYFA: Who doesn't love having a cool looking 7"? We've been so flattered and happy with the response to the vinyl, I think we should put out a live laser disc next too! Or maybe not.
W&H: Another recent sell-out was King Tuts in Glasgow, which is a great venue in so many ways, and often seems to get bands bigger in stature than its capacity would indicate. Do you find that crowds are more up for it in certain places than others? What's the favourite venue you've played to date?
ASIWYFA: Tuts is awesome and we were all so honoured to play there with Oceansize. So to come back on our own tour and sell it out was just incredible. Don't ask me to choose a favourite, they're like children! Hmmm, I do really rather like Vera in Groningen in the Netherlands. ALL of my favourite bands had played there before so it was a huge honour.
W&H: The new single is a belter: how representative is it of the forthcoming album?
ASIWYFA: Ha, you ain't heard nothing yet (can't believe I said that)!
I expect that's no idle threat, either. Don't expect to hear any such cliches on the album when it arrives. I for one am on the edge of my seat...
And So I Watch You From Afar on MySpace