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A Conversation with ASIWYFA


And So I Watch You From Afar  ASIWYFA
And So I Watch You From Afar-Photo by Ciara McMullan

In the pulsating heart of Northern Ireland's vibrant music scene, a sonic architect sketches vast landscapes with six strings and a sea of effects pedals. Rory Friers, the lead guitarist of And So I Watch You From Afar crafts not just songs, but sprawling, instrumental epics. Each performance is a journey—a wonder of chaos and control that transcends the traditional confines of rock.


Today, we sit down with the man himself, in a rare pause between the relentless touring and creating that has come to define ASIWYFA's career. Known for their brilliant mood performances that capture the euphoria and catharsis of life itself, the band is not just a band; they are a force, a family, and a phenomenon that defies the spoken word and communicates in the language of raw emotion and intricate melodies.


From the first time they struck a chord, they have been ar in their pursuit of the new, the exciting, and the innovative. As Rory leans in to share his story, we delve into the essence and have a conversation with And So I Watch You From Afar.


 

A: I think the last time I saw the band play was at Arctangent 2023 Festival, how was that?


R: Actually, that was nuts - such a such a an amazing show. We've done a few festivals this past summer, but we were just at the back of time in the studio. So we've been writing and recording so we've kind of been in that little bubble, before that Covid and lockdown so this past summer has felt like our first proper shows since then. We hadn't been arctangent for, you know, four or five years and it was crazy to see how big the festival has become. When we first played it - was the very first year and I think - and it was around 1,000 - 2,500 person capacity festival and now it is 5,000 cap or something. It was brilliant! My little brother has joined the band in the past three or four years so it was just a full moment as a brother. We all killed it, he killed it and it was so, so good. All sorts of thumbs up for sure.


A: It was a pretty impressive show for sure. I mean, I've only ever seen you guys on smaller stages dotted around like the country but seeing you at ATG was insane. I actually asked the punters as like a poll of who was an act that left an imprint and the amount of people that said And so watch you from afar was robust. Honestly, I was like really happy to hear that because I've been a fan for so long and it was really lovely to see that more people sing your praises as well. The energy you guys brought was a real highlight of the festival for sure.


R: It was lovely when you actually text me that, and the video you sent - I showed it to the guys - so yeah it was definitely a moment for us and, as I say, some of the bigger shows we have done in a while so it was great to hear that!





After an American tour with lasts 14 nights spanning across its entirety we will be graced by them once again at this years Arctangent Festival on the Wednesday! Cannot wait.


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A: I just want to go back to the start of the inception of ASIWYFA. I read somewhere that the idea for the name was Orwellian in nature - can you expand on that a bit?


R: Yeah, so we had a few iterations of the name, and initially, it came from a misheard lyric that our old bassist heard in a Team Sleep song. It’s like Chino Moreno's side project. He thought the line said "...And so I watched from afar". The context was kind of, "I might not be around with you at the moment, but I'm looking after you." We liked that, but simultaneously, we were all into bands like The Clash, with Orwellian imagery. There was this cool merging of these two meanings in the same name, which we all liked.


A: I first heard about your band in 2013 when All Hail Bright Futures came out. When I listened to that album fully, the sound to me was very rebellious. At that time I was listening to mostly post-rock at the time, listening to bands like Explosions in the Sky and MONO, but when I heard your band, I was like, "Oh, it flows really well and it's a bit more gritty." And I liked that.


R: I mean, there’s always something to be said for a big riff, which definitely has. I remember playing that riff to the guys; it was actually onstage in soundcheck in Luxembourg. All the writing I’d done prior to All Hail Bright Futures, it was very much designed to create drama, to be very foreboding and epic.






R: With All Hail, the whole concept was to try and do something that was again, it’s funny you say rebellious because I always feel like anytime I’m sitting down to start writing new ideas for a record, there’s always a slight rebellion to whatever we’ve done last. I always want to be cheeky and do something unexpected. And for "All Hail", I wanted it to be this absolute technicolour, like, joy fest, and I really wanted to make some music that would create, specifically live, these moments of real euphoria. That was the MO. It's kind of designed to be just the right kind of space to jump up and down (in). At that time we hadn't really done anything in with actual lyrics either and the lyric in All Hail "THE SUN! THE SUN! IS IN OUR EYES! " is this kind of chant or mantra... it doesn't specifically mean anything. I think its abstract and simple enough that everybody can kind of imprint their own feeling of whatever they're going through in their life... they can sing along with us in the moment and escape. It is one of the tracks that I didn't want to throw anything challenging into the mix in terms of tonality, rhythms or time signatures. For me it has always felt like a punk rock song and it’s such good fun to play.


A: It looks really fun to play. It’s a really good point - that you want to distinguish yourself from each album because when I listen to your albums, each album is its own individual concept. But you can really hear the sound transform throughout the years. Compare that album to Jettison, your most recent album, it flows immaculately from the first intro song to the Outro , and you can literally loop it back around, it just really nicely fits in. So, I guess my question would be, for each individual album, do you have a certain theme or topic that you want to express through that or emotion, or is it you just go with it?


R: Yeah, I think probably the same. Definitely emotion. I mean, with Jettison, it was almost a bit of a concept record. It was very much wanting to create a piece of music that was one large body of work that could be really enjoyed. I've been composing for strings, piano, and various orchestral elements, particularly for soundtracks outside of the band work. I've thoroughly enjoyed merging these musical elements, especially for our live shows which include a visual aspect. This was particularly crafted for this album, aiming to bring a unique, immersive experience to the audience. In one way, I sort of think of it as our sixth album, but in another sense, I sort of think of it as almost like a project by the band outside of our traditional album cycle. So, for us, there was a very strong theme and concept, and it was largely about home and where we’re from and about a good friend of ours who passed away. And with all those things, with all the records, actually, I never want those things to wear too obvious. It’s why we don’t have lyrics, you know. If you can use a theme in your own head to impart emotion into a track, I think the most effective use of that emotion is when other people are getting a sense of emotion, but they’re deriving or imprinting their own experiences onto what that is. So, we’ve never wanted it to be too prescriptive. There’s a song about me being sad and here’s the challenge I’ve had, and listen to me talk about me. That’s not the music I’m drawn to. It's more, here’s a feeling, here’s an environment for you to come visit and engage with the people making the music, the other people there. And together, you can all have a really meaningful experience based on whatever is going on in your life or whatever has gone on or whatever. I think those tend to be the most interesting conversations - when you chat to somebody after the show, and they’ll say, “Wow, I really loved your music”, and that’s great art, isn’t it? When you see a painting and you don’t know why, but there’s a certain painting just resonates with you or a certain poem that you read, and you can’t figure out why. You tend to think, “Well, that poet is some magician who must have purposefully made that line just do that thing that made me get a lump in my throat at that certain point” that's the hook and the drive as an artist.


A: It’s intrinsically human to feel all these different emotions. When you’re in the moment, when you’re listening to the music, I completely get that. I feel like Jettison really takes you through this emotion, this journey, a roller coaster of like the hard-hitting riffs and then the climax, and it drops down, and it just goes all open, you know? You can really sit with your thoughts, and especially when watching you live as well. When you’re in it, you’re like, “Wow, yeah, that hits you.” And I think that’s what you want, right? That’s what you want as an artist, as a musician on stage.





 

ASIWYFA
// ASIWYFA // Photo by Ciara McMullan

A: So you grew up in Belfast, all of you?


R: We all live in Belfast, but we actually grew up initially on the north coast, from various little rural parts, and they’re all near a kind of town called Portrush, which is where we grew up skateboarding and just being general rapscallions. I was in my first band with Chris, the drummer, and we had our first gig in 1998, I think. We were like 14 years old or something. After And So I Watch You From Afar started, we relocated to Belfast and played, you know, did as many shows in and around Northern Ireland as we could, eventually going to play some shows in Dublin. We then started to play shows in the UK, touring by borrowing my mum and dad’s Mitsubishi Carisma. Rock on. Eventually saved up enough money to buy an LDV Convoy from an old police auction. And we drove it into the ground, managed to get over to Europe, got a booking agent onboard, after I think we played Eurosonic, and, one in festival in Brighton.


A: When would you say people started to notice what ASIWYFA were doing?


R: When we got signed a record deal, and yeah, it just kind of built from there. Then with All Hail.., that's when the majority of people found out about the band. That was the first release on Sargent House, the label. And so things kind of took a shift up around there. When we released Heirs, which is the second record with them, that’s when we really noticed, especially in the UK. we started to get more than just a handful of people and now when we look back its been15-16 years that have passed. crazy.


A: Do you find yourselves just constantly falling back into the studio, always wanting to do music, write ideas, concepts?


R: That’s always been my kind of mode. It is very hard for me to ever switch off. As soon as you’ve written something you want to record it, and as soon as you’ve recorded it, you really want to play some live shows. But as soon as you’re even thinking about the live plan, then there’s other ideas that are coming, and it’s kind of, it’s sort of relentless. I’m sure the guys in the band are thinking, “Right, can we just chill out?”.


A: Is there like a specific angle for "And So I Watch You From Afar" for the future?


R: I mean, that’s interesting. It’s probably not something I think about a lot. I think putting meaningful music out, that’s like as vague as sounds. t’s not lost on us how fortunate we are. To be in a position where there are some people in the world who kind of care in some respect. They will listen to the music we put out, will come see the band. Like, you know, we’re not super rich rock stars or anything but it’s not lost on us how special it is to be able to jump on a bus and go on a tour. So, in a way, it’s probably because of that, that we don’t think to the future so far, because in many respects, we’re in a place that we value so much already. I’d be happy just to be able to do that forever, play two or three tours a year just have fun. You shouldn't put the pressure on yourself of having to write something that you hope brings you to a new place, because it’s a big weight to burden We’ve always said high ambitions, low expectations, and just keep making good music.


A: What do you get when you’re playing on stage in front of your fans? What is it for you? What does it mean to you?


R: For me personally, it’s one of the very rare moments in life for me where I feel very present. That’s definitely a big thing. There’s no kind of, thinking about the past or present - It’s just very in the moment. I have a very busy brain and being on stage quiets it for me, something I struggle with outside in the normal world. So, they, and in a weird way, it’s quite a quiet moment for me. I get so much from having those moments where things are quiet in my own head. We’re there for a reason doing a thing that’s important and that, for all of us in the band, is what we want in life. To feel like you’re doing something of value is what we live for and with ASIWYFA we are doing that and love every moment.


 

Reflecting on our conversation with Rory, we cannot help but be enveloped in a profound sense of awe. Their music, a beacon in the Math rock scene, shines with an authenticity that commands respect and admiration from their devoted community. It's the blend of relentless drive and heartfelt passion that renders their sound not just enjoyable, but vital. They stand as true pioneers, their path illuminated by an unwavering love for music and the deep bonds that tie them to one another. With each passing year, their following swells, testament to the resonant power and enduring spirit of their artistry.


Follow us here & ASIWYFA to keep up to date with everything thats going on! Will we see you at this years Arctangent Festival? As always, see you at the front!


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