- 13 Oct 20
Ewen Friers had a chat about his new project CATALAN! and new full-length, Veritas, out now.
Ewen Friers has spent much of his life touring and playing in bands. Between his time in the alt-punk trio Axis Of and as a crew member for various other groups, he’s gotten the chance to travel the globe with the company of passionate musicians. Now that he’s ventured out on his own as Catalan, he is ready to share his own, deeply honest outlook on what he’s seen and where we’re headed.
Friers was enamoured by the vast array of diversity surrounding him around the world. Inspired by these new experiences and the complex mentality of living during a constant period of global confusion, he felt a need to imprint the thoughts swimming in his head on to a tangible record.
“There was a period of a lot of travelling and a lot of touring. I toured as a crew member with other bands, so before Catalan really got started, I was doing loads of travelling. I like to think of myself as a very inquisitive person, and I just wanted to make a project that was more colourful, more exotic, and more outward thinking that anything I’ve been involved in before. Whenever I got started on that concept, I just went crazy in terms of how many different references and reaches and things that I could squeeze on to that record.”
Veritas almost serves as an auditory version of rapid travel. The explorations in genre are inflected with worldly influences, and the words he sings travel across the landscapes of joy and chaos.
“A big concept of the album in a way is that the lyrics tend to dart around without warning -- you’re kind of jumping from one subject to the other. That might be between songs of within songs, line to line it darts around a lot. It’s sort of a reflection of the social media landscape in which we sort of operate as human beings.”
He questions how we’re meant to cope with the chaotic combination of blissful escapism through happy social media posts and the horrors of the world constantly being brought back to our attention.
“One minute, it’s an environmental disaster and the migrant crisis, and the next it’s like cats and latte art. As a society, we’re expected to deal with that, at that speed. That’s something I take issue with, is that human beings can’t really tackle those big questions like that, at that speed of a Twitter stream.
“I’ve made the lyrics reflect that kind of world and poke fun at it, make us reflect on it and maybe try to encourage people to debate that a little bit. Is this really the best way to be navigating the world right now, given things like people’s mental health?”
Friers sings lines like “I don’t have the strength to read much more” and “I’ve got to get lessons on how to ignore” on ‘Single Source,’ but he focuses more on his own experiences and reflections rather than guide the listener to a distinct standpoint. The point of Veritas is less about the concept of social media being good or bad, moreso encouraging us to think harder about the ways we’re impacted by the chaos we seemingly witness every day.
“I hope, in terms of lyrics, a lot of the messaging or ideas are buried in a little bit of poetry, so it’s not exactly a preachy album. It’s more like holding a mirror up to society and being like, ‘Let’s talk about this,’ rather than, ‘This is right or wrong.’”
The punk genre has been long criticised for its overt messaging. The concepts are perhaps made a bit too clear as a band tackles issues head-on in a way that can become almost overwhelming and leaves no room for nuance. Friers doesn’t want to fall into that trap, instead opting for a more omniscient take, hence his poetic and often tongue-in-cheek writing style.
“You don’t want to come across as some kind of evangelist, and tokenistic, because it doesn’t really leave any room for nuance. That’s something I suppose I picked up on, going to those punk shows and sometimes that performative preachiness can be kind of intoxicating.
“I do find it sometimes enjoyable if someone is just saying what they believe, there is space in the world for that for sure. But my art needed to be a little bit more about the complexity and nuances of things, and encouraging debate more than anything. “
This sense of inquisition about the world as a whole is a far cry from his previous work, which largely centred around the imagery of his home.
“I was in a project before, where we were very tied to Irish identity and tied to the imagery of the coast and old Ireland and the beautiful scenery, which I still think is very valid, and I’m very proud of that. That’s part of my identity as well.”
Friers didn’t necessarily feel held back by those experiences – on the contrary, he reminisces on his time playing live gigs with bands quite fondly. But this unexpected solo venture gave him a new sense of freedom to explore nuanced topics and new sounds on his own terms, even if the lack of restriction was daunting at times.
“There has been a struggle, because you need a self-confidence to do something like that on your won and to not have those core band members around you that you can bounce ideas off. One thing I’ve noticed is that Catalan maybe happened a bit slower than a conventional band might, because I’m only really holding myself accountable.
“There’s a lot of room for insecurity and questioning yourself, whereas with bandmates you’re helping each other and pushing each other and holding each other accountable. But that’s the learning curve, it’s a process I find quite exciting and liberating as well.”
This liberation has culminated into a summation of his own truth.
“The name of Veritas is my truth. This is the most honest record that I could make because it reflects exactly what I want to do. I’m trying to write a record that I want to hear, rather than what I think other people might want to hear. “