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Afar beyond driven
And So I Watch You From Afar have established themselves as one of the most exciting and technically sound acts in the world. Guitarist Rory Friers talks influences, electronics and pays homage to a slightly unlikely guitar hero.
Dave Hanratty, 14 May 2012
The Live Stage at February’s Music Show spectacular provided an eceletic mix of rising stars and established favourites but it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that nobody brought the full-on sonic assault quite like Northern Irish math rock titans And So I Watch You From Afar. They made the baying crowd wait, but once the opening strains of ‘BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION’ took hold, there was no going back. More of a festival showcase than a headliner, it was something of a condensed set for ASIWYFA, but one filled with their trademark array of dizzying time signatures, sky-scraping melodies and onstage theatrics, all delivered tighter than Lars Ulrich’s snare drum circa St. Anger.
Their sound is something to behold – providing giddy thrills for the headbangers and plenty of, ‘How the hell do they do that?!’ moments for the more tech-savvy fan. There is an element of mystery to ASIWYFA’s output, one that recalls the guitar bravado of Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello. As a wide-eyed teen with zero knowledge of effects pedals, this writer thought the RATM man some kind of wizard, possessing a supernatural ability to make his guitar shriek like no other.
“I was the same!” laughs affable six-stringer Rory Friers. “I was like, ‘Right… what’s going on here? This isn’t just a dude and his guitar’. It’s just a case of finding those sounds and if you’re a fan of schizophrenic noise creation, than that’s it. Part of me feels like a total cheater, but from the very beginning we’ve had guitars that we tune down to get that big, gritty sound. Most of the sounds that people would connect with us are lots of guitar effects pedals taken to their limit to make the noises that most others wouldn’t bother with. I grew up listening predominantly to electronic music, stuff like DJ Shadow and Midfield General, so it’s very inherent in me now to recreate those bleeps and blips and sounds and rhythms.”
As you might expect, Friers and his bandmates adopt a particularly exhaustive approach to their art, compartmentalising every aspect of their sound before it ever comes close to the live audience. Early ideas that formulate in the practice room tend to take on new life once ASIWYFA embrace the tricks and tools afforded to them by a studio set-up. Wary of the trappings of repetition, Rory is keen to keep things interesting.