There aren’t many contemporary bands that can boast the same level of domestic, and international fanfare that And So I Watch You From Afar can. Honing their craft since 2005, the instrumental North Coast post-rock outfit have, over the last few years, reached millions worldwide on a series of gruelling tours – with sell-out shows across Europe, the US, and Asia. But it’s always a treat for fans back home when ASIWYFA roll into town after such extended periods away. Perhaps even more special given the release and reception of this year’s stellar LP The Endless Shimmering. As the band play out their final, homecoming shows of 2017 to packed rooms across Ireland, State’s Sinead Furlong caught up guitarist Rory Friers to talk about what impact the past 12 months has had on the band.
Can you tell us a little about The Endless Shimmering? It’s reminiscent, in parts, of your earlier releases, but was this a conscious decision? What was the inspiration for it?
We didn’t have a real plan other than to make something that had the four of us absolutely excited and so we were very brutal with our standards and quite unceremonious at times in our sacking off of ideas. We wanted to be able to perform everything live when it came to recording and resist the temptation to add more and more in the studio, which, as much as it is fun and really creatively satisfying, also brings a bit of option paralysis at times. So the brief this time round was very much us and our instruments.
You’ve got a hectic touring schedule, this must take its toll. How do you look after yourself while on tour?
I think we all have our own ways of staying sane, I’ve personally gotten way better at being out and being away from home, there’s definitely been times when I’ve found it super hard, but I think it’s a case of being mindful of others and hoping that’s always reciprocated. We’re lucky that touring is a bit more comfortable these days and FaceTime has made being away from the people we love a little easier.
What are homecoming gigs like for you at this stage in your career? Do you feel a sense of pressure to live up to expectations or do they have a more relaxed vibe?
They are always special, we can do all these cool shows all year and play some pretty big venues but a shows in Ireland have some sort of extra magic to them. We have all our friends and family there and a really passionate fan base, so yeah I do feel more pressure in some ways, but more to make sure we provide what everyone needs in that moment rather than to live up to any of my own expectations. Those big shows have the capacity to turn into something unforgettable and you want to always give it the best chance of getting there.
How do gigs in Ireland compare to gigs abroad?
In some ways no matter where you are a show sort of transcends location and nationality but I suppose at home everyone is going through far more similar experiences together, there’s more of an unspoken understanding of what’s going on with everyone, we all understand what life is like and so we all understand a little better what we’re celebrating or escaping throughout the show and that often makes things become a little more emotional and cathartic. But really that can happen anywhere given the right conditions.
What advice would you give to up and coming instrumental acts on the Irish music scene?
I’d just say to make sure you don’t shy away from doing what ever is exciting you creatively. As long as you have a solid sense of what you’re about then don’t be afraid to challenge people and break out of what people expect from “instrumental” music. When you’re not tied to a front person and their lyrics, you have a blank canvas and you can really make music for people that allows them to get lost and connect so just take it as far as you want.
How has 2017 treated you?
It’s been such a cool year, we’ve had a nice contrast of stuff going on. The early part of the year was spent writing in Belfast, then in Rhode Island recording the album at one of our favourite studios which was amazing. Once home myself and Niall scored our first movie which was quite the experience and now we’ve put out the record and spent the back end of the year on tour, so all in all it’s been a blast.
It’s end of year list season – who’ve you been digging this year? And what about the live stage, what has been the best gig you’ve seen?
This year has been a great year for music, new Grizzly Bear, new A Tribe Called Quest, a really cool band we discovered called Statue, Jeff Parker album, Moses Sumney album, new Converge album is unbelievable, as is new Vulfpeck and I listen to This Old Dog by MacDemarco pretty much every Sunday morning now. It’s been a good year. Best shows have been Grizzly Bear at Vicar Street, Andy Shauf in London, Brian Wilson in Galway and taking my girlfriend to see Messhugah!
What are your plans for 2018?
We’re going to do a bit more touring before the summer in the states and then heading out for some festivals in Europe before Asia and Australia in the autumn. It’s going to be a fun year.
And So I Watch You From Afar close out 2017 with shows in Cypress Avenue, Cork (30th) and Galway’s Roisin Dubh (31st). Find out more here.