Catfish, formed in 2014, are a mighty blend of blues and rock talent. The band are:
Matt Long – guitar and vocals.
Paul Long – keyboards and vocals.
Adam Pyke – bass.
Kev Hickman – drums.
They recently released an acoustic EP titled “Bound for Better Days” in June. In order to stay in touch with everyone during the various lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, Catfish, like many bands, turned to the internet. The band’s original songs were often modified and simplified during the live stream performances. This EP includes five acoustic songs: four original compositions and a fantastic cover of the well-known song “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” by Elton John.
With three studio albums behind them and being regulars on the live scene, Catfish have won the Best Blues Band of the Year award from the British Blues Awards in 2020, and they got Blues Act of the Year in 2018, on top of various Blues Instrumentalist awards. They are very talented musically in all departments, Paul Long’s keyboards add an extra dimension to the sound and the vocals from both Matt and Paul have a gritty resonance that is pulled from the older days of the delta blues.
It was therefore a real pleasure to spend some time talking to Matt Long, a man who also has a hard rock band called Matt Long and the Revenant Ones.
We began with a quick overview of the band and its roots.
Matt- First of all, we are Catfish! We’re a blues/rock band based in the South of England, and we’ve been going strong for around 8 years. We started out as a blues covers band playing in pubs and having fun. Then we decided we wanted to record, and once we did, people started enjoying it. That led to making a band out of it. It snowballed and we went on tours round the world, doing all sorts of stuff. When I first initiated the band, I never thought that kind of thing would happen.
This is a band that, as noted above, has been winning plaudits everywhere. It has been a near embarrassment of awards and accolades, and Catfish are held in very high esteem in the UK blues scene.
Matt- There was a lot that we never expected to happen. We began to find our own sound and moved to the rock end of the music. We still consider ourselves a blues band, but we are not a traditional blues band by any means. We write what we like.
We discussed early blues influences and where the Catfish sound comes from. We spoke about the early blues men as great entertainers, how men like BB King were part of the variety scene, and how the image was always one of entertainment. Rock music owes so much to the early black performers. As a guitarist, I wondered if Matt was influenced by the early blues men.
Matt- Yes, it all goes back. BB King I still listen to all the time. As a kid, I would have loved the performance as much as anything. It was more than the guitar playing. I gravitated toward how he was a guitarist and a performer all in one. There would be no modern music, at least as we know it, without blues music, and that impacted my taste in music. BB King, Stevie Ray, I gravitated toward the blues and then rock and metal, broadening my horizons. I’m not tethered to a genre when I listen, but as a songwriter I do keep things more in the same vein.
There’s Matt Long and the Revenant Ones. That’s the metal side of Matt.
Matt- We do have that. It’s more on the heavy rock and metal side of things. I was doing Catfish and I love the blues, but I have always had that rock and metal side to me and I wanted to explore that as well. I decided to start a new thing and get that outlet going. It’s fun to do that headbanging, and it’s a different side of things. It is a different entity.
We all evolve as listeners, and incorporating different things into music and songwriting is healthy.
Matt- As a punter, if I go and see a band, I like it when they do different things, vary things, and take a risk. I think it’s more interesting for the band and the listener. The blues scene now is really healthy. There are those looking to emulate their heroes, and it’s great to wear your influences on your sleeves and be open about it. I think, though, that you should explore what you want to sound like. It’s healthier for the musician to write what he wants to write. But, yes, wear your influences on your sleeve.
Next, we spoke about songwriting. Catfish write in-house; the majority of the live material is their work, and they create some great music. A couple of links end this piece, and their music is supported by a really solid bass and drum sound.
Matt- The songwriting normally stems from myself or Paul. It tends to start as a concept from either one of us. If it’s me, I’ll get the idea of a song, a vague idea of lyrics, and then get most of the ideas down guitar wise. I’ll bring that into the rehearsal room and the others will play around and either keep what I had in mind or add other things that I might not have expected! Or maybe an idea I had might not work as well when we start, but it takes shape in the rehearsal room. Styles vary; Paul is a keyboardist, so his songs tend to be more piano based.
This was a great moment to mention the song “Ghost,” which is such a great song to listen to. I wanted to know more about this one. It’s such an interesting lyric as well.
Matt- We help each other along on certain songs. “Ghost” is one of those where Paul had the lyrics and certain ideas, but he couldn’t quite find the vibe for it. We found a more atmospheric vibe for it, as it was almost a jazz song to start with, in that vein. I’m not a jazz player, so I changed it.
Then in the magazine, we loved the version of “So Many Roads” also available to watch and listen to on YouTube.
Matt- That one is originally an old blues song. It’s been covered a bunch of times by different people. Remember, we started out as a cover band and that’s one of the first ones we started doing, but we did our own take on it. It’s occasionally in the set if we play a blues venue, we play it now and again, especially in Europe. They like straight blues over there, and it’s a fun one to do.
Catfish are independent, they do not have a label and do all things in house. So, an independent band but working with others for the tour. But all credit, as everything is done in house and Matt notes that they control what they do, and they like that. It’s something we can agree with here at Rock the Joint Magazine, as one of the great things about this little team here is that we can promote these great bands and reach out to them. It can be good to be independent. But to finish with, we spoke about plans for 2022 and the Carlisle Blues festival in October, where Catfish will be playing on Friday 7th October).
Matt- We have plans for European tours going into next year. And the Carlisle festival, where I met my girlfriend, is one of my favourite festivals! It’s a fantastic line-up with great artists, and the talent there this year is great. We have had a few health issues in the band, so we needed things to be okay. Nothing is set in stone at the moment. We are also just starting to record a few things for a new album.
“Burning Bridges” in 2019 was the last one, so we are as anxious as everyone to get that done. We have three bass tracks in place for three of the songs, so we are doing a few songs here and there and building it up. The Brighton Road studio is a great studio and the drums can get this big sound in there.
Here at Rock the Joint Magazine, we hope any health issues within the band clear up. We will be there watching at the Carlisle Blues festival, and in all honesty, Catfish are one hell of a band. Anyone out there reading this casually should check them out live, buy the album, and support the best of British blues/rock.
By E.M. C Chambers
& Benny (The Ball) Benson