Noise Annoys: ASIWYFA chat Stendhal, Belfast City Breakers reassemble
Our inside man at Limavady's Stendhal Festival, John Cartwright, chats to Johnny from the mighty And So I Watch You From Afar about their upcoming Saturday night headlining slot
AND So I Watch You From Afar bassist Johnny Adger has experienced plenty of highs and lows during the north coast-bred instrumental rockers' 11 year career.
However, throughout it all (barring, perhaps, the messy departure of original guitarist Tony Wright, who was replaced by Niall Kennedy in 2011), they've managed to remain friends.
"We came up through the scene when everyone knew everyone", Johnny explains.
"We were just mates making music, surrounded by loads of bands that were just doing the same. We all had a real connection in what we were trying to create and a common ground in what inspired us. Thankfully that is exactly where we are today, we are still essentially just mates making music.
"Over the course of the bands life we never wanted that dynamic to change. We had heard of the potential pitfalls that might arise when some success came along: we were wary of stories we had heard about money and other elements of the businesses coming between bandmates, so we always tried to remember that 'mates making music for a living' was the dream and not to let anything change that."
Now with five albums to their still as unwieldy as ever name, And So I Watch You From Afar remain a potent live force – which is just as well, since no-one buys albums any more.
"Around the time we started up, the shift from the importance of selling records to gigging had already started," says Johnny.
"Don’t get me wrong, we’d still love to have a number one album, but for us gigging and getting out there to make a connection with an audience has always been the most important thing for this band.
"We just want to play and play to as many people as possible. We have been in more countries than I can count and played in more venues than I can remember, so that work ethic we had to have in our early days never really left us.
"That’s why we’ve been able to enjoy what we do for 16 years now."
Having become the last ever band to ever play Belfast's Mandela Hall last weekend, their Saturday night headline slot on Stendhal's Karma Valley Stage on August 11 is now looming large on ASIWYFA's live itinerary.
"We’re really looking forward to Stendhal," says Johnny. "We’ve wanted to play there ever since it started and we are finally getting to this year.
"Ironically, I think I had my first ever conversation with the Stendhal guys in the Mandela way back before And So I Watch You or Stendhal even existed, so there are a load of connections for us even between the two gigs too.
"I’ve been to Stendhal as a punter three times and I genuinely mean it when I say it is an absolutely fantastic festival. It caters to all ages, so for people like me with young kids it is ideal and for people that don’t it is also ideal.
"The whole place has a great vibe about it and to get to play at it this year is great, particularly because as I mentioned before, it is run by a few eejits from Limavady who we knew from before either the band or the festival ever existed."
The bassist laughs at the suggestion that ASIWYFA are now elder statesmen figures for the current crop of local bands.
"I suppose we are," he admits. "It is a bit strange, but it’s cool too. The fact that people still come out to our shows and have that connection with our music is awesome.
"I remember when we were sort of just breaking through to when we just starting to get the opportunity to play big, big gigs like Belsonic and being backstage with Andy Cairns of Therapy? and being scared to fanboy out on him.
"Now we are able able to talk to those guys as peers which is something very cool indeed.
"People ask us now if it is the other way around when young bands play on bills with us. To be honest I’m not sure, but we do get young bands coming to talk to us about anything from gigging to the effects pedals we use.
"For us it is a real complement when young bands from here feel that they have a connection with us for one reason on another, because we as a band feel that we never really stopped being a young band from Northern Ireland.
"We never really lost touch with our roots at all and we’re still the same eejits from the north coast that we were when we started."
Looking beyond the summer, Johnny says that the only real ambition the band have left is to continue simply being mates who make music together – and, if one day they decide that they don’t want to do it anymore, then they can call it quits on their own terms.
"We plan on being around and making music for as long as we can," he says.
"The big thing for us as I mentioned is being able to do a lot of this on our own terms – so, as far as what we want to do in the future goes, we are up for whatever comes our way."
:: Stendhal Festival, Friday August 10 & Saturday August 11, Limavady. Tickets and full festival information available from Stendhalfestival.com
:: Hip-hop hooray
FINALLY for this week, a heads-up regarding a special event at Oh Yeah in Belfast tomorrow night which will see b-boys and hip-hop fans gathering to celebrate the 35th anniversary of pioneering breakdance crew Belfast City Breakers (BCB) while paying tribute to founding member John Madden, who died in 2015.
Formed in the 1980s during the original breakdance craze, BCB inspired wave after wave of local breakers over the years, with their enduring legacy examined by Chris Eva’s acclaimed documentary Bombin’, Beats and B-Boys.
"I originally met William Madden of the Belfast City Breakers at my event What Has Hip-Hop Ever Done For Us? during the Festival of Ideas and Politics," explains organiser Eileen Walsh.
"It seemed to bring together many people deeply involved in the hip-hop scene here, particularly those who had grown apart after the death of his twin brother, John.
"Afterwards, William told me he had always wanted to have an event celebrating his twin brother’s life and he asked me if I would organise it."
Now celebrating their 20th anniversary, Omagh-bred breakdance and hip-hop theatre group Bad Taste Cru (BTC) will be making a rare return to Northern Ireland for Saturday's event.
BTC were originally inspired to form by the Belfast City Breakers' performance in Omagh in 1998 to support the victims of the Omagh bombing.
After later relocating to Newcastle Upon Tyne, they still perform and compete all over the world.
"John and the BCB came into our lives at such an important time giving us inspiration and an opportunity to elevate beyond our wildest dreams," explains Conor O'Kane, AKA Bboy Doke of the Bad Taste Cru.
"They shone a light on us, a light which still burns brightly today. John is hip-hop and will always remain hip-hop. His legacy lives on through us all, and is reflected in all of our expressions within this beautiful culture which he introduced us to.
"Thank you for all your inspiration brother. Your spirit is in every step we take."
The night will also feature music from DJ Colin Elemental Kent, DJ Micky F*** (808 Session), DJ Sconey and DJ Jelly, with First Class MC on the mic.
:: Tickets priced £10 and full event line-up available at Tickettailor.com/events/togetherinpiecesinteractivecic/180719