Interview: A Conversation with Catholic Action

“If we get off our smartphones and hit the streets, we can change things” – Chris McCrory

It’s gonna be a hectic end to 2017 for Catholic Action. With debut studio album ‘In Memory Of’ out this Friday, and a UK-wide tour beginning this month with Kagoule that sees the four hit Soup Kitchen on November 11th, it’s safe to say that the Glasgow quartet have got a very busy schedule. We chatted to singer/guitarist Chris McCrory to discuss the upcoming album, the current political climate – and Christmas singles:

Hey Chris! “In Memory Of” has been a long time coming. How does it feel to finally put out your debut album?

It has indeed! It feels great. I’m proud of the record, truly. We could have released an album a year or two ago, but it wouldn’t have been the album we wanted to release. I’d rather not be in a band than be in a band I don’t believe in, so it was important we got it right. And that takes time!

 

As listeners, what can we expect from the album?

When I listen to music, I tend to stick an album on and listen from cover to cover. Our record is made with this in mind. It really opens out as you get deeper, and rewards the listener. There are a lot of weird musical details – those are the things that really excite me in the recording process, aside from the bare bones of the songs of course.

So I think casual fans of the band might be pleasantly surprised. The hardcore fans know what they’re getting in for, I’m sure. Either way, make yourself a nice drink, stick the record on your turntable, relax and enjoy.

 

Being titled “In Memory Of”, and with 2016 being the year of an insane amount of deaths, which celebrity’s passing hit you the hardest?

It was – and I fear we’re just getting started. I suppose all the old greats from the 60s and 70s are just getting to that age now. The only one that really hit me at all was when Bowie died. I had a little sob behind the wheel of my car the next day as ‘Heroes’ was blaring on the radio. We were in the studio shortly after working on the album – Black & White was partly inspired by it all. There are some references in there.

 

The album’s second single, ‘Propaganda’, has a very political underlying theme, both with its lyrics and artwork. How much of an impact do you think the current state of politics has over the music industry?

It should have more of an impact. A lot of artists are scared to be political, and when they are it’s generally little more than a ‘Fuck You May’ or something. Which despite being a valid sentiment, isn’t enough. Our country is an absolute shambles at the moment; Brexit (and Trump) are the horrific conclusions of Neo-liberalism gone very, very wrong – and the poor Daily Mail/Sun readers et al that are duped into voting for it through a cocktail of understandable frustrations and relentless propaganda are the ones that are going to be hit first and hardest by it. Austerity is inhumane and DOES NOT WORK – How many years has it been now? Are you feeling better? We need serious tax reform and financial regulations.

Artists have a platform to help inform, inspire and educate people – and they don’t use it enough. Catholic Action don’t use it enough. It’s important we all start using it. If we actually help educate each other and get organised, we can help build a more compassionate society for everyone. The last general election if proof of that. If we get off our smartphones and hit the streets, we can change things.

Touring in the US is near impossible for most small acts given the insane costs of Visas etc – can you imagine the same problem on our doorstep? If left unchecked, it’ll decimate the indie music scene. Bands won’t be able to tour Europe without prohibitive expenses, nor will European bands be able to tour here.

READ: ‘Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future’ (Harry Leslie Smith) & ‘Utopia For Realists’ (Rutger Bregman)

Also, it’s really important that you sign this petition:

 

Your artwork’s always on point. What processes go into designing it?

Thank you. I have a lot of fun with the artwork, and just like the production side of the music, it’s important to get right.

The idea for the album cover was one I had for a while. So our photographer Gemma Dagger, my girlfriend and I set to work building it in our rehearsal space. It was nice going to Ikea and coming out with a trolley full of candles and flowers. We spent two days setting it up and photographing it until we were happy. It was a very relaxing process. Mostly silent, bar the camera shutter, with candles and incense burning. It really felt like a shrine.

For the past few years, photoshop has been a bit of a hobby of mine – a lot of our artwork (‘Rita Ora/Breakfast’ 7” and most recently the ‘Propaganda/Sunday Driver’ 7”) has come from me delving into public domain image archives, and cutting and screwing with things until it looks right. There are so many interesting things out there if you take the time to look – and often, you’ll learn something in the process.

 

Hailing from Glasgow, what’s your opinion of the current music scene there?

Glasgow’s music scene is generally never not interesting. There’s always an abundance of bands doing radically different things from each other, and doing it well. I think it’s partly to do with the crossover you get from the city’s art school. There are a lot of great musicians and bold art students, and they’re thrown together every night in different clubs across town. It’s (fairly) cheap to live here – so people can afford to focus on their art – and it’s far enough away from London so that ideas have time to fully form before A&Rs start messing with people’s heads.

LISTEN TO: Kelora, Herbert Powell, Golden Teacher, Siobhan Wilson & I.Solar. You’ll see what I mean.

 

You have a lengthy tour coming up with Kagoule. How important are the live shows for the band?

Aside from being very good fun, they’re essential. I always enjoy touring – I like meeting new people and seeing parts of the country I otherwise wouldn’t. Plus, I think we’re a great live band. It’s tight but getting more expansive. Like classic Thin Lizzy playing Television’s Marquee Moon.

 

What else can we expect from you guys for the rest of 2017?

We’ve internalised too much early 70s glam rock to not do a Christmas Single (more on that soon… )- and we always like to do a big end of year Christmas party near Glasgow.

We’ll also be back in the studio, continuing work on album two. The process of making album one has left us in a really healthy place creatively – it’s happening, so why stem it up until the label ask us to make another?  

 

Finally – if there’s one thing you’d want your fans to know about Catholic Action, what would it be?

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