The first time I saw Catfish Haven, rain was cooling off a hot and bothered Lollapalooza crowd last August. George Hunter’s crooning vocals hit harder with each drop, bolstered by an outstanding cast of soulful singers, not to mention bandmates Miguel Castillo and Ryan Farnham.
Curiously enough, it was George Hunter’s turn to stand in the rain as he talked with me outside of Schubas Tavern in Chicago, one of the band’s favorite spots to play or hang out and catch a show.
Touring with bands like The Hold Steady and Okkervil River hasn’t shattered their intimate Chicagoland venue roots, though. Catfish Haven is not a band you will see on TRL. They don’t care. Hell, George Hunter doesn’t even have cable or internet. Fresh off a day of professional painting (yes, this man has a real job so put some bucks down for their excellent record Tell Me), the front man spills on the roller coaster ride of touring, their new record, and why YouTube sucks:
buzz: The Hold Steady are notorious Minnesota Twins fans. After spending weeks on the road with them, has Craig Finn successfully converted you?
George Hunter: Oh no, we are Chicago guys. Touring with those guys is definitely a family affair though. We spent countless hours together, and they really become your brothers. You all get homesick together. You all regret the end of the tour. It’s such a love/hate kind of thing, but those guys can rock, and believe me – I’d tell you about more of it if I could remember. Some crazy partyin’ makes it hard. We are excited to be seeing Okkervil again; they are great and Will Sheff is staying totally cool.
buzz: You guys have a strong soul sound to your rock. Which bands have influenced that?
Hunter: Man I could go on for days: The Dramatics, Baby Huey, Roy Orbison, Julee Cruise. So much R&B and soul comes into our live stuff. We embrace it with the Rock. The new album we are working on right now is definitely a bit more progressive though. You are going to see some funkier party ballads. I think what we are doing is good. It feels good.
buzz: Catfish is notorious for excellent shows. Where does that energy come from for the band?
Hunter: We can’t give anything less than 100%. You know, people today will just go on YouTube and watch some shit somebody recorded with a cell phone rather than go out and experience music. I grew up on MTV, watching videos I loved, and now all that’s left is 30 seconds of each video played on TRL or some crappy reality TV. Whatever, they made their bed, and they are gonna sleep in it. We made ours too, and we are happy with it.
Check out Catfish Haven with Okkervil River, Damien Jurado, Early Day Miners and Odawas next Wednesday, September 19 at the Canopy Club, as part of the Pygmalion Music Festival. Tickets are $15, and the 18+ show begins at 8 p.m.>