Veritas, the debut release from North Irish project CATALAN!, is a busy record. It's not surprising given the circumstances and context though. The solo project of one Ewen Friers, Veritas is infused with an abundant amount of influence, substance and style. Channeling Friers' experience fronting Of Axis, serving as an occasional member of And So I Watch You From Afar, being a touring musician with the likes of Frank Iero, Laura Jane Grace and Thursday as well as being a trained tour guide at home, the record is a far flung odyssey of both curiosity and diversity. It's one articulating righteous political protest songs formed of math-rock undertones, carbonated post-punk sensibilities, far left-field indie and poetic stream-of-consciousness spoken word. A very busy record for busy times indeed.
Despite the sheer volume of content within CATALAN!'s debut, the album details it's topics and tones with Celtic lilt, charming charisma and exotic genre dynamism. It's as buoyant as it is both flexible and poignant. With that in mind, we got in touch with Friers to discover the top five records and top five non-musical inspirations that proved vital in the creation of Veritas.
Dirty Projectors - Lamp Lit Prose
"Absolute pioneers, such talented musicians, always experimental. Lamp Lit Prose has challenging timings, a weird mix, odd song structures and unorthodox sounds and yet it’s somehow simultaneously extremely accessible. Some of the classic Dirty Projectors vocal harmonies on this are stunning. When there is so much happening musically it’s easy to neglect the lyrics but there is some beautiful poetry on display here too."
Bomba Estéreo - Ayo
"A Nauseatingly confident album. Colourful and danceable. The synth tone and finger picked acoustic guitars on opener 'Siembra' are definitely features I adopted for CATALAN!"
The Clash - Sandinista
"The Clash are comfortably my all time favourite band and have been since I was a teen. Strangely my early fandom revolved around their first three albums. It was only when starting CATALAN! I gave there later records another chance. Sandinista is a master piece. The sprawling, ambitious and totally unshackled attitude is so attractive. It has some of their weakest songs they ever made, but somehow you need those, you need to get lost in the reams of ideas on show. The sheer madness, geographical and topical scope is staggering. The album also features some of Strummers best and under appreciated lyrics, 'Washington Bullets' for example."
MIA - Matangi
"This album is tense. It’s a bit of a masterclass is not over complicating songs too - write a good line or find a powerful rhythm and just lean into that. The title track amounts to loads of countries chanted over a pounding drum beat, it’s so effecting and powerful and that international flavour has always been something I’ve wanted to promote in CATALAN! We actually talked about using that song as our 'Walk on music' on tour."
Why? - Moh Lhean
"I found Why? just as I was getting CATALAN! going, Yoni Wolf’s jarring, heartbreaking and poignant lyrics really spoke to me. I love all their records, but Moh Lhean was the first time I’d been able to engage with a 'new album' campaign in real time. I took a solo trip across to London to watch them at The Village Underground and shot the first ever promo photos for CATALAN! the day of the show. Such a good memory."
"Truly the patron saint of Veritas; 17th Century Dutch Golden Age painter who found himself referenced on song after song on this album. Jan Steen was a “genre painter”, he presented the world with chaotic, comedic scenes with lots to take in but with no forceful message, just a mirror reflecting the complexities of the world. While making Veritas Steen was a totem of sorts - If the lyrics of the album could channel his approach I’d be pleased. I toured and travelled a hell of a lot while writing this record and I was fortunate enough to visit a handful of Steen’s masterpieces in museums all over."
Tour Guiding Side Hustle
"I am a trained tour guide and passionate about Irish history, culture and our stunning landscapes. For a time when making Veritas I was gigging across Europe and working on demos one week and then hosting guided tours along the towering cliffs of Antrim’s Causeway Coast the next. I love sharing my interests and appreciation for this fascinating part of the world but an added bonus was meeting people from every country imaginable and learning to look outwards at the world in a more internationalised way."
"Just casting an ear over the album I’m struck by how many references to coffee or caffeinated themes are on there. Coffee truly is a permanent feature of song writing or recording sessions and is of course an omnipotent element for the touring band, from backstage muck to the snootiest speciality spots - I love it all!"
"The references are all over Veritas. I’m not here to argue for or against or to try to make a case one way or another, but just to reflect how this is an enormous part of our lives and encourage us to dissect that for a second. It’s all there on the album; the online shopping, your location, an afterlife of unused selfies, cute cats, live war, algorithms, scrolling holes, greenwashing all endlessly vying for your attention and not giving you a second to think, right?"
"Perhaps the spiritual home of this project? I was disgracefully fortunate enough to write a lot of Veritas overlooking the Luberon mountains, smelling the lavender, rosemary and thyme blowing down the Durance River valley. Well fed on fresh vegetables from the market with generous servings of local wine - Not very punk rock! But there’s no doubt about it, this is a magical part of the world and has served as inspiration for creativity for generations. Or the way Frederic Mistral understood it - “When the Good Lord begins to doubt the world, he remembers that he created Provence.”"