Interview via The Seventh Hex
‘The Endless Shimmering’, the fifth album by Belfast, Northern Ireland quartet And So I Watch You From Afar, is the sound of a band operating on its purest instincts. Every individual is an algorithm of prior lives and experience acting as its own sovereign entity. ‘The Endless Shimmering’ is visceral and expressive — decidedly alive and purely instinctual; not conceptualized or postured. It’s ASIWYFA — guitarists Rory Friers and Niall Kennedy, bassist Johnathan Adger and drummer Chris Wee — manifest as a being beyond itself. Laced with a renewed level of optimism, ASIWYFA offer an anthemic rush that makes way for transcendental experiences and for individuals to soundtrack the band’s sounds to whatever they need in their life at this moment… We talk to Rory Friers about being led by instinct, endurance challenges and supper clubs…
TSH: Talk us through wanting a more brutal outcome as you readied ‘The Endless Shimmering’…
Rory: I think we wanted to be brutal in particular with our ideas and choices of songs, as well as the willingness of just letting ideas go. The whole dynamic was very much instinctual and we tried to just allow things to happen naturally. It was really cool to just judge ideas by how they felt live in the room in real time, as opposed to being too precious about things.
TSH: Has the band’s technical evolution, led by instinct, served you well overall?
Rory: Yeah, I mean it’s better not to have restrictions or boundaries in place, which is something we’ve tried to do since the very beginning of the band. We always try to not be scared to wear our influences on our sleeve, and to also not be scared to allow any good music, regardless of genre or style, to inform what we do. Overall, our latest album represents the four of us playing our instruments in a room with no other additions.
TSH: You recorded in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, locked off from the world and able to zero in on your work. How was your time spent there?
Rory: Ah, man, it was a great trip. It was the first time we’d travelled overseas to record anything and it was quite a wild experience. The moment we got there we were jet-lagged so we had some beers before starting to get to work. The place itself was really beautiful and when we arrived there was a snowstorm coming in! We were cut off in our little studio apartment with 11 songs that we’d been rehearsing for a long time. It was definitely the immersive kind of experience that we’d hoped for. We lived and breathed the album for two weeks.
TSH: Is the consistent ebb and flow throughout this record one that you feel came about naturally?
Rory: To a certain extent I feel like the ebb and flow was something that just seems to fall into place organically, yes. There is normally an idea that dictates the rehearsal space and tightens up the songs. We knew every corner of this record and constantly played the record in order of the sequence that we wanted on the album, which in turn helped the ebb and flow. The record was simply so ingrained within us, so we were able to convey just what we wanted.
TSH: How did you go about forming ‘Three Triangles’?
Rory: Originally that song was three completely separate songs. Again, the idea of this song goes back to being brutal and cutting back parts that don’t fit in or make us too excited. We took three tracks and split them because there was too much wish-washy going on. Towards the end of the writing sessions we decided to keep just the elements that we liked within the three tracks and pieced it together into one cohesive song with ‘Three Triangles’.
TSH: Moreover, what resonates with you most about ‘Dying Giants’?
Rory: That track has collective memories for me regarding writing and recording it. I definitely have some imagery attached to the song and it encapsulates certain themes, but I like to keep those close to myself. I personally prefer art that can allow for various connections with the user. I think if the composer of the art is too explicit with descriptions, it takes away the magic, well it does for me anyway. I just love reading people’s interpretations of our songs mostly.
TSH: How have the recent live shows been with new material?
Rory: I think this latest record - more than any other that we’ve done - has hit the ground running in terms of when we perform it live. I guess the reason for this is because of how meticulous we were in the recordings; we already knew how to play the songs live by going in and pressing record. Overall, it’s been nice to see audiences shouting out for new songs instead of old ones. The new batch of songs has gone down really well when we play live.
TSH: It’s been noted that since you were young you’d set endurance challenges for yourself, such as holding your breath. Do you opt to do the same via marathons nowadays?
Rory: Haha! I guess I do that, don’t I? It probably comes from this ADHD that I’ve got. And, yes, I recently have turned my sights to long distance running and marathons, which has been really cool. I like a bit of a challenge, but it’s funny because I’m not sporty whatsoever! I’m not even slightly into competitiveness or competition. I don’t like the idea of people beating other people - it’s just a world I’m not interested in…
TSH: So watching the tennis at Wimbledon was just for fun?
Rory: Ha! Maybe Wimbledon is an exception; I couldn’t help but get caught up in the moment. However, I did have some Pimms that day, so maybe that’s why.
TSH: You also run supper clubs outside of music. Is food another passion of yours?
Rory: Yeah, I really love cooking. Food is a big love of mine outside of music. Me and Niall from the band have run quite a few supper clubs to date. Also, me and my girlfriend run a Korean supper club. It’s just for fun really. We do them every now and then in town and get 30 or 40 people to attend and we cook food for everyone.
TSH: When you need to recharge from touring, do you tend to get away from it all?
Rory: Oh, of course. My family is from the very north tip of Northern Ireland. We all grew up near the ocean and after every tour it’s the first place I’ll try and go to. The clean air out there is a good reset button from the chaos of touring.
TSH: Finally, with ASIWYFA, is the notion of exploring new ground one that drives you guys to always change the conversation?
Rory: Yeah, it’s vital to have this type of drive for any band because it leads to new types of creativity and keeps you satisfied. You’ve always got to feel like you’re exploring new ground whilst also falling back on your past to guide you in certain places. We just always want to do better and continue to write exciting stuff each time we get together. It’s important for the four of us to find new territory. Our ambition is to keep making music that satisfies our urges and to then share it with our loyal fans. Right now, we’re really happy and content with the band’s development.
And So I Watch You From Afar - “A Slow Unfolding Of Wings”