I meet Chris, Ryan, Jamie and Andrew of Catholic Action, in the band’s hometown of Paisley. The place where it all began.
Frontman, Chris, had previously worked producing records for other musicians and it was within his home studio that the early concept behind Catholic Action emerged. The boys had been working on some songs, and the process of experimenting with sounds grew as did his fascination of layering and harmonising. “Naturally, the production got bigger and more guitar heavy, so we brought Andrew on board.” he explains, and together they crafted their unmistakable sound of toe-tapping guitar pop, “He’s the best, most musical player we know. Then we were Catholic Action.”
The band have steadily started to play a meaningful part in the fast pace pulse of the Glasgow music scene. “Perhaps it has something to do with the art school and the rich musical history of the city? Perhaps it’s the weather?” they agree, “Either way, there is always something exciting going on.” Just like their tracks, which burst with colour like a splattered paintbrush to an empty canvas.
Talking about the scene, Chris says; “I would say that it is completely incestuous and it is easy to get sucked in and believe your own hype after a few busy shows here. But I’d argue that there’s no better starting place in the country for a band that want to do something their own way. It’s far enough away from the industry in London for ideas to properly form before A&R start meddling.”
The day may be bitterly cold, but as we walk, we discuss the sounds that have warmed the hearts of Catholic Action, and consequently every listeners’. Deciding, “On a very basic level, I think all our songs are grounded in very classical pop song writing, 60’s and 70s guitar pop and art rock stuff like Big Star, Sparks, Television or The Modern Lovers.” This notion becomes even more apparent as Chris continues on to tell me of his admiration for artists like Brian Eno and My Bloody Valentine.
Discussing his influences appears to motivate and excite Chris as he goes on to explain; “My mind is on making something as exciting as that without playing to a fucking backing track. That’s why we’re already neck deep in making our 2nd album.” Earlier this year, the band released their debut, In Memory Of; a guitar-driven record licked with groove and stamped with distinctive personality from the lustrous vocal to the nifty riffs and angelic backing harmonies. “We want to make pop records that aren’t instantly disposable. That you can get into as a record collector as much as you can dance to them, or play them on the radio. I want to change what it means to be in a guitar band.”
Injecting personality and optimism into all that they do, Catholic Action are quickly gaining quite the rep of being the latest cool kids on the block. The energy is unstoppable, and it’s fuelled by the city in which they live – whether they love it or loathe it. They took me on a tour of the spots that make them, well them, and their music as euphoric and rousing as it is.
“This is Paisley Abbey. Most of us live in or around this town. The rent is cheap (for now) and we have a rehearsal space here too in an old listed building. It’s a strange town. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I utterly despise it. It was very prosperous at one time, so many beautiful buildings. Neoliberalism completely devastated it. Tore its heart out, and replaced it mostly with alcohol and anti-depressants.”
“I’m being too hard on Paisley today. It’s very far from being all bad. This is The Bull Inn. It’s the best pub in town by a long way, and definitely the band’s local. Good selection on the jukebox, better selection of beers and a very nice crowd. I’d 5/5 this on Trip Advisor every day.”
“I pay my rent by recording and producing bands in Glasgow, London and Liverpool. This is my home studio at my Mum and Dad’s in Erskine. It all started here. I’ve made so many records in this room. From our recent Christmas single, to ‘Doing Well’ to albums like Siobhan Wilson’s There Are No Saints and the first Spinning Coin EP. We’re also doing a lot of recording for our second album here… I just started geeking out, collecting cheap, second hand 90s recording gear at a really young age and I was lucky enough to be allowed to pursue it. Essentially, the work I do (mostly) in this room, pays my rent. “
“I grew up in a town called Erskine. It’s another strange place. Brilliant when you’re a kid and hellish when you hit puberty. A suburban commuter-town, built in the 1970s near Glasgow. It’s quiet, surrounded by forests and fields and (in)famous – mostly for the bridge you see above us… We had some very odd drunken picnics on the river beach here – grizzly discoveries among the discarded beer bottles.”
Words by Douglas Hill and Katie Lynch
Photos by Douglas Hill
Words by Douglas Hill