THE INDEPENDENT VOICE FOR MUSIC IN WALES
STEREOPHONICS Rites Of Passage
BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE
Winner of Classic Rock Album
BRING ME THE HORIZON New Album, New Sound
ROB LEAR Let It Go
Pop With Sharp Teeth
CLIMBING TREES Cymru-Cana
Media Machine One Direction, Mumford & Sons Sophie Evans, The Blackout Little Eris, Tenors Of Rock Tonight Alive, Django Django Live Reviews & CD Reviews
Full Band Dynamic
KYMO Keep Your Mind Open
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ELCOME to Issue 17 of PLUGGED IN Magazine which gives a great big nod to the Bridgend music scene thanks to our friends at Arts Connect/SONIG. Inside you’ll find interviews and reviews by young people from the Bridgend area alongside our regular features that you’ve grown to love. We couldn’t mention Bridgend without talking to Bullet For My Valentine, so don’t miss our interview with them on page 10, while the Media Machine live project based in Hobos is reviewed on page 24. Of course the biggest vibe at present is the release of the new album from Stereophonics and we at PLUGGED IN secured an exclusive interview with the main man himself, Kelly Jones. He had a lot to say, so read all about the album and his thoughts on life at present on page 8. Also we sent Alex Williams over the border to watch Kelly and the boys before their return to Wales for two nights in November — see what he thinks on page 30. Of course we’ve packed lots more in the mag too, with some amazing original photographs to illustrate it all — so please enjoy!
Gail & Darren
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PLUGGED IN magazine is the creation of Haul Fryn Publishing on behalf of PLUGGED IN magazine (Limited), Company Number: 06766289. All rights reserved. All contributions to PLUGGED IN magazine must be original, not pre-published and not posted/printed anywhere until after publication in PLUGGED IN. Haul Fryn Publishing reserves the right to modify any material submitted for publication in PLUGGED IN magazine. Reproduction of any of the content of PLUGGED IN magazine, without prior permission, is strictly forbidden.
It seems the craze for Gangnam Style is still going strong! Welsh-medium secondary school Ysgol Gyfun Garth Olwg in Pontypridd has made a video promoting punctuation, with students and staff singing all about commas and full stops to the tune of the Korean hit — in Welsh of course. It’s worth a look even if you can’t understand what’s being said — same as the original then! Go to http://youtu.be/APfFTP71E2E to view the vid or check the PLUGGED IN Youtube site under our favs. With over 10,000 downloads in its first week of going online, PLUGGED IN Issue 16 was obviously a hit! Don’t forget you can read all of our back issue via www. pluggedinmagazine.co.uk or following the links from our facebook site.
PLUGGED IN magazine is a not-for-profit social enterprise, produced by unpaid volunteers MANAGING EDITOR & PUBLISHER Gail Griffiths IWA Educator of the Year 2011 NLA Education Finalist 2012
Rock Academy Wales, a Community Interest Company that has historically focused on engaging young musicians in Rock School courses across Wales, is branching out and opening the doors to adults. The launch of Adult Rock School is something Directors Chris Stone and Chris Kelly have been keen to introduce for some time now. “When we explain what we do to people, be it in meetings or to friends, we get so many people saying, ‘I’d love to do that,’ be it a someone who plays guitar in the bedroom as a hobby or lives for that brief moment of fame in the local Karaoke bar, so we figured ‘Why should the kids have all the fun?’ and decided to launch Rock School for grown-ups.” Stone and Kelly are still very active in playing live music themselves, Kelly gigging solo these days, following a career that saw his band The Scooters signed to a US record label and resident in The Viper Rooms in LA at the request of Jonny Depp; while Stone plays in various outfits after a 20 year drumming career that encompassed him drum-teching for the late Stuart Cable (Stereophonics) and Mark Richardson (Feeder/Skunk Anansie) on many world tours. Both are still as enthused and as passionate about their art as they were from day one. “Our lives have been forged through music and everything it brings to the table,” says Stone. “I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today, or have had the experiences I have been fortunate to have if I hadn’t picked up a set of drumsticks at the age of 13.” A partnership created with popular music venue The Full Moon in Cardiff, provides a vibrant ‘real life’ venue for the pair to deliver what they feel is going to be a real treat for adults who have always wanted to live out their dreams of being a rock star but have never had the opportunity to interact with other musicians. Adult Rock School is accessible to adults of all abilities and the RAW tutors will guide people through every step of the process — from picking the set list, learning the songs, performing them live to family and friends at a real working live music venue, and even consuming the beers at the after show party! Adult Rock School will take place at The Full Moon Club on Womanby Street, Cardiff, on Tuesday evenings and Sunday afternoons starting in April. To register your interest visit www. rockacademywales.com or come see the team at The Full Moon on 17 & 18 April (7-10pm) to rock-enrol! March saw the first performance by former SAL front woman and friend of PLUGGED IN, Cat Southall. Since the break-up of the popular rock band a year ago, Cat has been busy creating her first solo album — a concept album, complete with superheroes, evil villains, comic book-style artwork, spoken narrative, sound effects and soaringly anthemic, theatrical pop/ rock. Whilst putting the album together, Cat also joined forces with local legends Manic Street Preachers, having written all vocal arrangements and performed as lead session singer on their hit album Postcards From A Young Man, which also led to Cat singing with the band on Later with Jools Holland and Strictly Come Dancing. Her relationship with the band continued when she also sang on follow up single
CREATIVE DIRECTOR & CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER Darren Warner GRAPHIC DESIGN & WEB DESIGN Stephen Lewis SOCIAL MEDIA & JOURNALIST Ritchie Samuel CONTRIBUTORS Abi Coles, Alex Short, Alex Wright, Alys Clark, Andre Van Wyk, Benjamin Franks, Brynteg Posse, Cristina Shuker, Darcie Vincent, David Levine, Dexter Walkley, Emily Bielby, Emily Shankland, Gemma Davies, Geoff Taylor, Jessica Risby, Kristian S, Laura Thomas, Lisa Derrick, Megan Bryant, Rob Jones, Sam Rees, Samantha Tiernan, Sion Lidster, Sophie Carter, Stephen Round, Stephanie Hewitt 04
This Is The Day. Cat then featured in the acclaimed Channel 4 documentary Sing For Your Life as the leader of a community choir, composed of people affected by cancer. The programme followed Cat as she took the choir from humble beginnings to a performance at the Royal Albert Hall alongside rock superstars Brian May, Alice Cooper and Bruce Dickenson (avid supporter of Cat’s former band on his radio show). The completion of Cat’s solo album sees the end of what has been a very busy year for the Aberdare-born singer who is classically trained. The album also features writing input from former SAL guitarist Noog and Kyshera frontman James Kennedy. Of the new music Cat says, “It’s very different to anything I’ve ever done before and I can’t wait to share it with everyone. I’m really excited!”
As part of an enrichment programme at Coleg Morgannwg in Nantgarw called BOOST, a number of young people have had the opportunity to get involved with PLUGGED IN and become part of the editorial team. During regular weekly sessions the group reviewed CDs, planned gigs to review and researched and constructed questions for many of the artists featured in this issue, including making contributions to the interviews with Kelly Jones of Stereophonics, Rob Reed of Kompendium and Bring Me The Horizon, among others. In addition, the group got to meet, interview and photograph Rob Lear face to face. It’s this unique vocational educational element that PLUGGED IN is all about. If your college or university would like to find out how your students can get involved with a similar enrichment scheme, gaining tangible evidence for their CVs alongside their qualifications then email email@example.com and I’m sure we can sort something out.
This April Sheila Rock, former photographer for The Face magazine, will be releasing a book of behind-the-scenes and intimate shots of the punk movement. PUNK+ will be a limited edition book that presents a fresh view of the punk movement, through the lens of this renowned photographer. Rock was party to numerous intimate moments of punk. Her unique perspective comes through her portraits of influential acts including The Clash, The Jam, Generation X, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Subway Sect, The Damned and The Buzzcocks. She also documented some notorious yet til now unseen events in punk history such as The Moors Murderers rehearsals. PUNK+ chronicles both designer and street styles between 1976-1979 that had such an effect on fashion, society and politics, including Vivienne Westwood’s shop SEX as well as BOY, Robot and Acme Attractions. It’s a fascinating insight into one of the most influential transformations of music and celebrates the scenesters who were the punk audience, and the designers that clothed the movement. As Paul Simonon (The Clash) comments: “This book is a great photographic record of a major shift in British street fashion.” Sheila’s conversations with Chrissie Hynde, Tony James, Don Letts, Jeanette Lee, Glen Matlock, Chris Salewicz, Jon Savage, Steven Severin, Paul Simonon, Jah Wobble and more, provide an illuminating commentary on the punk phenomenon. As she observes “Punk was all about changing and surviving.” Limited to 2000 numbered and signed books, including 300 deluxe versions, the book is available from First-Third Books www.firstthirdbooks.com/punk+
Main Photo: Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie & The Banshees. Top left to right: Subey, Paul Weller from The Jam, Generation X, The Buzzcocks. Bottom left to right: The Damned, The Subway Sect
Words by Andre Van Wyk, Sam Rees, Alex Wright, Alys Clark, Emily Shankland, Sophie Carter, Laura Thomas, Darcie Vincent, Stephanie Hewitt, Alex Short, Kristian S
GetInvolved is an attempt to harness and direct the volunteering spirit of young people into creating a music industry revolution starting in their own community. For too long the perception has been that the ‘Industry’ dictates what happens and when. In fact the landscape has changed so much in recent times, due to the explosion of social media and online sharing, that young people are realising more and more that it’s not something out there out of their reach. Still, one of the biggest obstacles to prevent anyone from taking those firsts important steps is not knowing where to start — simply having contacts for the right people and information regarding opportunities can easily solve that problem. Now, via the GetInvolved website, you can link up with like minded people and businesses that are here to help. As an example of this partnership working, take a look through the pages of this magazine. Thanks to Media Machine workshops facilitated by PLUGGED IN with Buska Promotions and Unit 15 Productions, based out of Hobos in Bridgend and funded by SONIG, young people on this pilot project gained experience in writing reviews, interviewing skills, photography, film & editing. After creating questions they went on to interview many local artists, recordings of which appeared on the internet-based Bullet Radio, and summaries of which are highlighted on these Rising Talent pages. Also within this magazine you’ll find the Media Machine live performance they were part of, the reviews they wrote of those gigs and a selection of the photographs they took as well. And to top that, you can find their names on PLUGGED IN’s CD Reviews pages as well — invaluable experience indeed! See how you can link up with your local music scene. Visit GetInvolved.co.uk and be a part of YOUR music industry revolution today and make it YOUR future!
Follow Suit is a five-piece band from Bridgend, with a recently released EP. “We try and make everything our own to stand out from the crowd so it’s all our own stuff on there.” Every member of the band gave ideas towards lyrics and music, and they all worked on everything together to produce the best recording possible. The rock band intend “working hard and taking every opportunity they can” and the hard work that they have already put in should be worth it. The boys are a boisterous lot who clearly share charisma and most certainly talent!
A Thousand Fingers
We started with four mates having a drink in a pub, sharing their passion for music and deciding to put that knowledge into practice, and basically we’ve carried on from that point. Thousand Fingers describe themselves as a bit like the Deftones, with a melodic influence of U2 thrown in for good measure — highlighted by their track Veins Of The Earth, a real crowd mover as it’s full of energy. In five years time they want to be making a living from the business and touring everywhere, but of course they understand the realities of the music business today. So why A Thousand Fingers? “Well this guy was walking down the street with this really weird suit on which had loads of fake fingers attached to it. He told us he had exactly 999 fingers attached. So we just added one more and said A Thousand Fingers, what a cool name for a band!”
Naomi Edwards was first enticed into music after receiving an acoustic guitar as a present for her 13th birthday. Her songs contain emotional lyrics and are used to communicate stories and thoughts derived from her life — she feels that singing lyrics rather than simply saying something allows the listener to sympathize with the concepts and stories she has to tell. Her songs are inspired by all aspects of her day-to-day life, such as her song entitled That Girl which was inspired by the book 50 Shades Of Grey and The Beach Song inspired by a day at the beach. We felt her music was quite profoundly inspired by Taylor Swift and Naomi herself claims to be influenced by the American singer. She describes her music simply as “Easy listening, storytelling and unique” and feels the personal, distinctive stories she tells through her music sets her apart from various other female artists. She has recently visited Ireland to record her song Scars after being discovered on YouTube. She has recently been involved with the TeenStar, a competition that searches for the UK’s best young singers, songwriters, rappers and vocalists, and which has given rise to acts such as Birdy and Hatty Keane. Naomi is now hoping to reach the final of the TeenStar competition which will be held in London’s O2 Arena.
Singer/songwriter Aaron Wyn from Bridgend is an acoustic artist. “My inspirations include the top singer/songwriters like Ben Howard and Ed Sheeran. I also like this guy Kevin Hammond who has helped me write some of my own music. I just take inspiration from all around, play with different words, then put it all together to make my own song.” Having heard some of his material, Aaron is clearly a natural talent and a rising star to keep your eye on. He’s planning on recording an EP, and explains that he’s still writing a few more songs, “But I should be going into the studio in the next couple of months.” Exciting stuff!
My name is Jamie Willetts, I am an 18-year-old singer/songwriter from Pontypridd. I currently put my music, both covers and originals, on social media sites such as YouTube and play at local gigs and events. One of my most memorable gigs so far would be supporting Sophie Evans on her latest tour, which was an amazing experience. I have been working and doing some writing recently with Amy Wadge, and she has been an amazing inspiration and help to me so much already. But I am currently working on getting my music heard, finishing school and writing more of my own stuff!
17 year old Matthew is trying to get out there with his cool acoustic guitar tones. “I like the sound and the vibe that an acoustic guitar gives off. It suits my style. You can add to it or cut it back so it’s just raw.” Muddy Footsteps, a song he wrote himself, is probably the best introduction to his own personal style — though he doesn’t believe he’s found that niche yet. “I’ve recently been working with Amy Wadge and the song I’ve created with her is a more chilled out affair. Songs just come to me, even as I’m walking down the street. My influences are vast so I’m trying to roll all those styles into one.” Of course, like most young men of his age he has been highly influenced by Ed Sheeran, “It’s the way he’s worked his own way up that is just amazing.”
MUSICAL DIRECTOR I like to think of a Musical Director as a kind of puppet master in a way — he’s the guy who pulls all the strands of a musical piece together. He tries to convey the composer’s intentions to all the musicians, and uses his personality to try to get the very best in performance from them. Among my many professional theatre credits are Musical Director for Annie, Gypsy and Grease. I have also conducted on many occasions for television programmes, working with a host of international stars including Rebecca Evans, Shan Cothi, Vanessa Mae, Peter Karrie and Connie Fisher. I have also acted as MD for the BBC Wales series Money In The Bank, a music and chat show featuring such guests as Status Quo, David Essex, Toyah Willcox and Leo Sayer. I wrote the arrangements and conducted the rock ensemble for Bryn Terfel’s Dragon’s Fire concert, which was broadcast by S4C. I have worked with Larry Adler and Cerys Matthews on a televised duet, which was also performed in the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s 80th birthday celebrations. I was the inaugural Musical Director of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Wales. I have been commissioned to write several hundred transcriptions and arrangements for television programmes, including scoring all the music and conducting the large orchestra for the BAFTA Cymru Awards. I have often been seen working on music for summer concerts at the National Eisteddfod, featuring artists such as Cerys Matthews, Shan Cothi, Catrin Finch, Rhydian, Connie Fisher, and Mark Evans. I was MD for Ruth Jones’ Christmas Cracker BBC Wales Television spectacular. I have also been fortunate enough to work with Only Men Aloud! on their tour, and undertaken European tours with the Westenders. I have composed many items for the theatre, such as music for The Railway Children, The Canterbury Tales, The Tempest, Romeo & Juliet for the National Theatre of Wales, and many other occasional pieces. This year I have had the great pleasure of conducting two ballets for Ballet Cymru. I have also been busy writing arrangements and conducting for Rhydian, Sophie Evans, Mark Llewellyn Evans, John Owen Jones, and many other artists. I have also had the great pleasure of arranging and conducting John Owen Jones’ second album, Unmasked. For many years I conducted the University Chorale at the University of Swansea. Currently I am a part-time lecturer at Trinity St David’s University, Carmarthen, where I teach singing for actors. As well as this, I am Sophie Evans’ MD, Rhydian Roberts’ MD, and I have the great pleasure of being on tour with both these artists this year. I also act as John Owen Jones’ Welsh MD, and I’m looking forward to a number of concerts with him and Natasha Marsh later in 2013. I have also been a member of staff for the West Glamorgan Youth Theatre for 25 years, writing and devising music for many productions.
ll I’ve ever wanted to do is visualise, whether that be through screenplays, directing videos, writing songs or telling stories. Whether these stories come directly from me or are made up from what I’ve seen, it’s all about interpretation. You’re as vulnerable as any artist is, whether that be an actor or a painter, it’s the form of expression I’ve chosen to use and base my writing around. It comes out in different levels. Bigger, smaller, depends on the album I was writing for. There is a lot of stuff on Graffiti On The Train that I found, once I had taken away the chaos that you get when going on tour, just comes into your head. A lot of the lyrics on the album started from me just standing in front of a microphone and singing whatever came out of my head. For example Violins & Tambourines. I never wrote that, it just happened, just came out. Later on you analyse what those words mean, but at the time it just falls out. Creating Graffiti On A Train has produced something that is more hopeful, beautiful, almost spiritual, dressed up in different guises. Making the record was a very free and liberating process.” The release of a new album from the Stereophonics is always exciting, for a small independent Welsh music magazine such as ourselves it is a major event — we would be expected to review it, expected to pass judgement. Listening to the tracks on Graffiti On A Train I immediately felt that Kelly Jones had turned a massive corner since Keep Calm & Carry On. This album shouts at those voices that whisper of the band being past their best — Kelly and the boys have produced what can only be classed as one of their best albums, ever. So when PLUGGED IN was contacted about talking to Kelly, knowing that he was limiting the interviews he was doing and personally having the final say on who he would have time to speak to, I was totally taken aback that he had picked PLUGGED IN as one of the chosen few. I pondered on which team member should be assigned the task, but Gail said it had to be me as I had immersed myself in the album finding a visual ethereal quality in the music. Graffiti On The Train doesn’t have that immediate impact that the first few Stereophonics albums had and that is its power. It has depth, warmth and emotion, with string arrangement by orchestral maestro David Arnold, and that all helps to make it stand up above many of the band’s last albums. So what has changed in the Stereophonics camp that leads us to this point? “I guess the record is a lot more ‘left’ in its arrangements. We went into the studio on the back of touring Keep Calm & Carry On, an album that itself was influenced by our greatest hits package Decade In The Sun, with its structures and formulaic kind of style and although I liked that record this one is more of ‘where are those songs going’ like Violins & Tambourines and Roll The Dice. That’s probably down to the fact that, unlike the past albums which were recorded in six weeks, we wrote 40 songs, mixed 25 of them then placed 10 of those songs on the album in a period of over a year. That’s the joys of having our own studio, going in and out when we wanted, giving us our creative freedom. It was the first time we weren’t touring in 16 years and it became a different process. It gave us the time to let an idea breath, change and develop, not being made to work within two days. It allowed us to find these new things within us, which in itself was a much freer process, thinking outside the box and writing from a different perspective. We surprised ourselves even at this point so far down the line.” So Stereophonics have had an epiphany, a moment when they break the mold with a striking realisation, taking them on a different course. It’s not that they have ever got stuck in the rut of ‘same old, same old’. Each album from Word Gets Around onwards to Keep Calm & Carry On marked a change on their career path, it’s just those changes were subtle. If you listen to Word Gets Around (1997) you hear poetic storytelling set to music, while Pull The Pin (2007) is a much harder affair. Graffiti On The Train feels like a bigger step away from the last album than those previous smaller steps. “I think we made a massive positive step with our greatest hits album Decade In The Sun. Some people see those albums as a nail in the coffin for a band, but we saw it as a celebration. It became very clear to us that a lot of people have a great love for the band and that catalogue of work is going to be there forever. For everything from that point on it was a case of ‘if we fail, we fail’. But if we don’t do something that challenges us on a more extreme level then we won’t move forward. Every album was different, it’s just this album a more obviously different approach.” 12 has PLUGGED IN
As if to highlight this change of approach and direction, last October the band decided to release the video to Violins & Tambourines prior to the album release this Spring, which PLUGGED IN immediately shared via our Facebook page. Featuring Kelly’s directorial debut, the song emphasised a new musical and visual process to the song writing. “As a song Violins & Tambourines painted so many pictures in my head. I just kept seeing this guy driving a car. That song and Roll The Dice were so different sounding tracks when compared to the other Stereophonics songs that I wanted one of them to be the first new material that anyone heard. If we were still on a major label they’d want to go with the first big single to hit the radios with and kick off the campaign, but to be honest I was fed up with doing that. It was very disheartening to see if you made that week’s play list or not, and I didn’t want to do that any more. So to start with something that was visual, especially as so many people listen to music via the internet, seemed to pull together two elements I really love, film and music. The process of visualising and filming was quite scary at first, especially as much of it is under water, but with the right people around us it worked. I think the song would have been by-passed on the radio, but with that visual element people took notice.” Within a short time Stereophonics released the haunting beautiful single In A Moment as a free download only, via their web-site, which again is another nod to their fans and the dominant hold that the internet has over the music industry at present. Reviewed in PLUGGED IN Issue 16, the song had such an effect on the members of the team I played the song to that their review included the line ‘rates as one of the best tracks the Stereophonics have released, ever!’ Since that point we’ve had the first single proper from Graffiti On The Train, Indian Summer, a lament of a song that took the radios by storm and going completely viral — a scenario that surprised Kelly, considering he didn’t originally intend to put it on the album. Read into the lyrics of this song what you will — I have my own interpretation of what they are about, and I firmly believe that Indian Summer needed to be on this album. As PLUGGED IN goes to press, we have the release of the album’s title track Graffiti On The Train as the latest single with Kelly on directing duties for the video again. So what’s the story behind this song? “We’d been touring for best part of three years when I finally got to live at home. Over a period of two to three weeks I kept hearing footsteps on the roof, which turned out to be some kids climbing up. One night I got there in time to shout out of the window at them, thinking they were trying to break in — but discovered they were just trying to get through the tree out back and on to the train track to graffiti. That idea stuck with me and the next time I started to write songs Graffiti On The Train appeared on the tape recorder. I started piecing a story together of a guy leaving messages for his girlfriend in a Romeo & Juliet tragedy type of way, and the idea just lead to this narrative about kids leaving a small town in Wales and travelling across Europe as a ‘rites of passage’ type scenario. That happened at the same time that I was writing the music and the music was bleeding into the story and the story was trying to bleed into the music. This gave me the inspiration for the album.” Throughout the interview Kelly seemed relaxed, even chilled, but most of all talkative — so much so that questions over, we chatted on about the possibility of Stereophonics playing Merthyr Rock (if it happens this year!) and the fact that he went to college just round the corner from the PLUGGED IN offices — the kind of small talk that doesn’t happen if you’re not content in yourself. So we have our own scenario to consider here. The comparisons between the inspiration behind Graffiti On The Train and Kelly’s own life seem to be in evidence, even if the names have been changed. Not since Word Gets Around has Kelly opened himself up so much, adding so much of his own emotion to an album. Doing that takes time. The first album’s songs were long in the creation because they were around before the band got signed. Taking over a year to complete Graffiti On The Train has given Kelly time to develop these new songs in the same way. That’s why I list Graffiti On The Train as one of the Stereophonics best albums, which is a very high place to be by anyone’s standards. What he has given us is the closest thing to a concept album that I’m sure the Stereophonics would ever provide, highlighting Kelly’s own Rites Of Passage. The Stereophonics return to Wales to play the Motorpoint Arena on 24 & 25 November 2013. Read our live review on page 31.
Words by Gemma Davies, Sam Rees & Darren Warner Photograph by Alex Williams
t’s January and South Wales has seen the worst snow fall in recent memory, Bullet For My Valentine are relaxing back at home in the frozen wonderland before they kick off their new touring cycle. “It’s peeing me off to be honest with you!” says Michael ‘Moose’ Thomas. “We haven’t been able to practice for four days! Everyone has been loving the fact they’ve been having days off work, and the band are hating it because it’s stopping us doing the coolest job in the world.” Bullet For My Valentine should be no strangers to anyone who remotely follows modern Rock music, let alone Metal. Since April 2010 when they released their UK Top 5 album Fever, they’ve been a mainstay on any main stage festival across the world. December 2011 saw them embark on an arena tour across the UK, selling out Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
in the process. Forget Wales, Bullet simply are the British champions of modern Metal — arguably contesting themselves for that title on a global level. All this and they haven’t released an album in three years! It’s safe to say that Bullet are the current Welsh band that flies the flag for our country and it’s in very good hands — but it hasn’t come without a price. Whilst they were living the high life during the last touring cycle, in the public’s eye at least, the band has stated publicly that they were a mess. Each one of the members had their problems — drummer Moose and bassist Jay James’s personal lives were collapsing around, them whilst the band was rapidly going skyward and they coped by hitting the bottle. Guitarist Michael ‘Padge’ Paget was extremely homesick and drunk on the road and frontman Matt’s built up anger
ended up forming side-project Axewound. They’ve also stated that it’s the first time they’ve had a full blown argument as a band. Before all of this though they were four best mates from Bridgend, who have known each for 20 years, and that doesn’t fall apart because of one little bad spell. The new album Temper Temper first started to take shape back in February 2012 when Matt and Moose flew out to Thailand’s Karma Studios with Fever’s producer Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Good Charlotte, Duran Duran) in tow to hammer out ideas both had, with the other members chipping in ideas from behind a computer back in Wales. “Working with Don is something we wanted to do again after Fever. He’s become more a friend than a coworker so he was our first and only choice for this album,” Moose explains. So what is the
Words by Ritchie Samuel Photograph courtesy of Chuff Media
end result in the band’s mind? “I think it’s one of the strongest albums that we’ve done and it crushes the one [Fever] before it. I think it’s a lot stronger, a lot darker and a lot more Bullet For My Valentine. As soon as you hear the first note on the album you’ll recognise that it is classic us!” Moose tells us excitedly. Whilst in the studio the boys worked solidly for six days before letting their hair down and venturing into Thailand itself. “It was a bit like The Hangover 2. I saw my first ladyboy, which was really strange and it was just a bit crazy there,” Moose confesses. The future of 2013 is shaping up to be an exciting one, with 80,000 baying Rock and Metal fans awaiting them at Download festival, where they play as main support to Iowa metal mob Slipknot. So how does it feel to play to so many people? “We are pretty much used to
playing to that many people,” Moose calmly replies. “There is nothing better, except maybe one day headlining it.” Take that in for a moment…80,000 people and not one nerve is shown as it is the regular thing to do — surely one day someone will take a punt on these boys being headliners at a major festival. If PLUGGED IN interviews, reviews or catches live a South Wales Metal band that’s just starting out they always name check Bullet as a band that inspired them. For a brief split-second moment Moose is taken aback in awe when I tell him this, before composing his answer, “It’s awesome! A lot of heavier bands from Wales look at us and it’s really cool because it can be done. We definitely feel our roots here in Wales, people say ‘why didn’t you move to LA or somewhere else?’ I just reply all my friends, my family are here. So why would
I want to move out of Wales? We’ll always stay in Wales.” With no hesitation Moose replies like it’s such a silly question to ask. That’s the thought I want to leave with you, how down to earth Moose is throughout my brief time with him was. He knows he’s in a very privileged position, “I don’t take it for granted”, and acknowledges the hard work that he and his mates have put in to make this happen. “Me and Jay still live in Pencoed, Padge lives in Bridgend and Matt lives about 10 miles outside. Bridgend doesn’t really influence our music, but it definitely keeps us grounded.” These aren’t some guys who’ve upped sticks, adopted an American twang to their Welsh accent and gone all LA. At the heart of Bullet For My Valentine they’ve always remained the four guys from Bridgend who started the band and always will be.
n a time of hard-hitting, guttural-voiced, anarchic rock or X-factor-type manufactured bands that seem to have left personality at the door, we seem to have mislaid a sense of musicality in the music that is listened to. That doesn’t mean it isn’t being produced, just that at times it isn’t at the forefront, so tends to be disregarded. In January, at a star-studded event at the Montgomery Hall in Wath-upon-Dearne in Yorkshire, legendary TV presenter and muso ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris spearheaded a change to this position that has massive repercussions in Wales. It was the Classic Rock Society Awards and he presented Kompendium with the Album Of The Year Award for Beneath The Waves. Beneath The Waves is one of those lost idioms of music — the concept album, where all musical or lyrical ideas contribute to a single overall theme or unified story as opposed to albums consisting of a number of unconnected songs (lyrically and otherwise) performed by the artist. Created as a personal challenge for South Wales Valleys based producer and composer Rob Reed, of Welsh progressive rock outfit Magenta, it has taken over three and a half years to produce and record this masterpiece of uncompromising beauty and passion. So why set himself this challenge in a time of manufactured pop? “Exactly that reason. I grew up in the 70s and 80s when music was valued. I think the love of owning music has been lost and become disposable with mp3s and downloads, the music becoming more of a background thing. I remember buying an album, bringing it home, sitting down, headphones on and an hour later I’ve had an experience that is missing today. I wanted to have a go at making this immense album with beautiful packaging that people would value and experience. At present it’s all X-factor dominance, so half the battle is getting people to listen to the album. We don’t have vast amounts of cash to spend on a marketing campaign but once people hear the music, they’re hooked. I also had a wish list of people I wanted to work with, places I wanted to record at, with real instruments on it and a real orchestra. Being in Abbey Road Studios to record with the choir was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We were in studio two sitting where The Beatles had been! There were some magical moments that made it worthwhile.” Beneath The Waves not only blends traditional Celtic music alongside electrifying classic rock, but boasts this amazing collection of artists on one unique recording. With lead vocals from the sublime voice of Steve Balsamo, former Jesus Christ Superstar and frontman of Swansea band The Storys (featured in PLUGGED IN Issue 9), the line up reads like a who’s who in music. Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett appears alongside Francis Dunnery and John Mitchell of It Bites, Gavin Harrison drummer of Porcupine Tree and Kajagoogoo bass player Nick Beggs. Add to that list legendary pedal steel guitar impresario BJ Cole, Neil Taylor from Tears For Fears, Mel Collins from King Crimson, Nick Barrett of Pendragon and Jakko Jakszyk of Level 42 and you’d be wondering if there’s room on the CD for more! But the list goes on as with the lyrical content provided by Steve Reed you need vocals of quality, so besides Steve Balsamo you find the English Chamber Choir, folksy Angharad Brinn, soprano Shan Cothi, tenor Rhys Meiron, fellow Magenta band member Christina Booth and PLUGGED IN faves Only Men Aloud. Truly epic, it is difficult to believe that this bastion of talent was pulled together by one man. So how did Rob Reed convince such a large variety of talent to appear on his album? “Because of the idea that I had and the reason behind making the album as something special, a lot of the musicians came on board. They liked what I was trying to do and that nobody had made an album like this for a long time. There are so many different people on this album from the progressive rock world, the rock world, the classical and folk world, that it appealed to all sorts of people in all sorts of areas. Getting each contributor on board has a different story behind it, but overall it was like playing a game of chess or using building blocks. Once I got one person to commit to the project, they’d go ‘I know somebody, you want to ask them’ and so on.” Listening to Beneath The Waves you gain a sense of imagery as the story it conveys progresses. Did Rob intend this to be the case? “Absolutely! That’s what it’s all about. You’re trying to create atmospheres. I love film music, especially the work of John Barry, and as there is a story that runs through the whole album it was great to match the music with that story. You’re creating these musical paintings, using the different players to mix and match to provide light and shade. It’s a very colourful album.” So how did being presented with the Classic Rock Society’s Album Of The Year Award for Beneath The Waves feel? “Shocking, hence my poor acceptance speech which was not very impressive! I didn’t know what to say. Saying that, it makes the process all worthwhile. I’ve had lots of emails from people telling me they love the album, so if people can connect with it then you’ve achieved something. Next I want to do it live. The journey that it’s taken to make the album will probably equal the journey to perform it on the live stage. Hopefully, by the end of the year we’ll be looking at doing a big show with many of the guest players, an orchestra, a choir and back projections. That’s what it needs and lends itself to that.” Kompendium have produced a unique album and I’m sure the live show will be as impressive and magical as the recording. This is quite simply not an album to ignore — and a contender not only for this year’s Welsh Music Prize but also the Mercury Music Prize. You need to listen. Beneath The Waves is available via www.kompendium-web.com
Words by Jessica Risby, Stephen Round, Dexter Walkley, Sam Rees, Alex Wright & Darren Warner Artwork by Geoff Taylor, courtesy of The Publicity Connection
Words by Quite Great PR & Darren Warner Photograph by David Levine, Quite Great PR
t was back in 1980 and the first play on Top Of The Pops, the bastion of chart music at that time, of Fade To Grey by Visage. This wasn’t to be a guitar band on stage or Pans People dancing around to some disco track —no, this was one of those new-found pop-video thingys! And it was the power of those images, directed by Godley & Creme, that made Fade To Grey with its ‘wow’ factor the instant hit for trendy kids of the time. We had been used to the new wave electronics of Gary Numan and Ultravox, but never before had we experienced such a definitive statement of style. And everything centred around one man. An iconic man who defined style with his androgynous cross gender image and a name to suit, Steve Strange. Strange, born Steven Harrington, hailed from Newbridge near Caerphilly in South Wales, though spent much of his earlier life moving around due to his father’s work as a serving paratrooper in the British Army. After his parents divorced, he returned to Newbridge with his mother to continue his schooling. It was after seeing the Sex Pistols at the Stowaway Club in nearby Newport in 1976 that life came into focus for the young Steve Harrington. Aged just 15 he left for a new life in London where he worked for the godfather of the punk movement Malcolm McLaren and joined a number of bands. It was also during this time that Steve and fellow Visage member Rusty Egan, formerly of the Rich Kids, began to make a name for themselves on the London nightclub circuit. Hosting the famous Blitz Club, Strange adhered to his own strict door policy of admitting only ‘the weird and the wonderful’, which created the basis for the rise of the New Romantic movement. The pair then moved on to the Camden Palace, which for two years became the most famous music venue in London. From these surroundings Strange and Egan, alongside Ultravox’s Midge Ure and Billie Currie and Magazine’s John McGeoch, Dave Formula and Barry Adamson, formed the basis for the original Visage. Devised as a studio-only band, they released their first single Tar in September 1979 which failed to make an impact. Signing to major label Polydor their self-titled first album was released in November 1980, blasting onto the scene with single Fade To Grey. The single placed Visage on the pop map and subsequent single Mind Of A Toy and Visage helped to maintain that presence for a while. The band members changed continually, with the only constant being Steve Strange. After second album The Anvil, with the excellent single The Damned Don’t Cry, the band’s popularity started to
wane. The third album Beat Boy, released in 1984, failed to impact as the New Romantic movement died a death taking all with it. Strange suffered the consequences of a fallen star, turning to drugs and suffering a nervous breakdown, all of which he highlighted in his 2002 biography Blitzed. Now, as a way of getting his life back together and 29 years after their last release, Visage returns with the release of their forth album Hearts & Knives. As his publicist says, “It is not only a paraphrased lyric from the lead single Shameless Fashion, but also a metaphor for the past 28 years of Steve Strange and Visage. Life is always a mixture of trials, highs and lows. There are always people, situations and circumstances to cut you down (the knives), however the love, compassion and caring that has surrounded Steve Strange throughout his life is truly heartfelt (the hearts).” So it’s been 29 years since the last album, what took Steve so long to make Hearts & Knives? “It was a question really of all the parts falling into place. Firstly, I am at a point in my life where I have been clean for 10 years and I am happy with my life; and secondly, the positive people I now surround myself with — not least the members of Visage — helped to create an atmosphere where the album started to happen. It took us three years and it was no easy ride, but it’s here now and we are all really pleased with it. And also Visage has been a studio band until now, we have had some live appearances but never with a full live band. We are busy rehearsing the band now, it’s going to be great. Big sounds, cool video backdrops and the chance to hear the Visage songs fully live for the first time.” How did Steve settle on the sound of Visage 2013? “It was partially conscious to sound like early 80s Visage (The Anvil) as opposed to mid 80s Visage (Beat Boy). So in that respect we made the record with equipment from that era. That set the tone, but to be honest it was the people that crystallized the sound of Hearts & Knives. I would describe it as classic Visage but with a small modern twist.” Are you looking forward to the record coming out? “I can hardly wait. I’ve been pushing so hard to get everything ready — the looks, the music, the people, creative-teams, stylists, producers, labels. Plus of course plenty of practising my looks to camera with a hair brush in the mirror!” Hearts & Knives is released in May 2013
Words by Jessica Risby, Stephen Round & Dexter Walkley Photograph courtesy of Chuff Media
bout to hit the touring circuit with a new album and new line-up, PLUGGED IN caught up with the hot metalcore band before they hit the road. Why did you bring the release date for new album Sempiternal forward? The album leaked early, like most albums do nowadays. We were kind of expecting it and, to be honest, we were all really impatient to get it out there anyway so it made sense to put a stream up of it ourselves and bring the release date forward. That way people can at least hear high quality versions of the songs and see the artwork the way we intended it to be seen. You said you combined elements from your
back catalogue to create a new sound with this album, what elements in particular did you choose and why? We just wanted to build on what the band had done on previous albums really. I guess some of the heaviness and stuff on Suicide Season and some of the orchestral sounds on There Is A Hell in particular. We wanted to thread it all together to make a definitive album for the band that also adds something new into the equation. What’s the biggest achievement as a band that you’ve had? Finishing the album was a very satisfying feeling cos we all worked so hard on it and just being able to listen back to the whole thing was great. Also Warped UK felt like a
big moment for the band, everyone had been away for a long time and it was our first show back. The crowd were great and we were all buzzing afterwards! When announcing that you signed with them, RCA said that you were “as important to sign as Metallica.” How did you react to this statement? I guess it’s a good thing, I’m not sure who said that but it’s quite a big comparison to make. I think they just wanted us to know that we could carry on being a heavy band on their roster and they weren’t expecting us to water anything down, which is cool. What’s your personal take on the meaning behind the album’s title?
Sempiternal refers to the flaws everyone has, there are some things in life you just have to accept and deal with. I think that knowing you will always be a certain way or always have certain problems can be a positive thing because rather than fight them you can deal with them.
good thing going here” and let us get on with it. He focussed on the sounds — drum sounds, guitar sound, etc, which was cool. He’s got lots of great stories and is genuinely a great person to be around which is really important when you’re in the studio, it can be quite a stressful environment!
What was it like working with someone as big as Terry Date and what did he bring to the album? Terry was a really cool guy, very relaxed and had no ego whatsoever. To be honest we’d worked really hard on pre-production and demo-ing the songs before he got involved so there wasn’t loads for him to do on the music side of things. He just watched us work for a couple of weeks and said “you guys have a
What do you gain by isolating yourself when writing albums? It keeps you focussed! We weren’t in total isolation but we were far enough away from home that we could really get into making the album. It felt like a little community, we had our own separate house and courtyard and everything and great catering, so we all felt comfortable and on top of our game!
What changes have you made to this album stylistically compared to There Is A Hell, and are you not a little nervous to the reaction? It’s very different, Oli has stepped up his game and worked really hard on his vocals. He’s singing on this album and I think it brings a whole new dimension to this band. Obviously with Jordan joining the electronics and programming parts have become more fundamental to the sound of the album rather than an afterthought. We were a little worried fans might freak out about the new sound but the reaction so far has been incredible, so right now we’re all just excited to get the album out there and play these songs live. Sempiternal is out 1 April 2013
n terms of the sound of the album, this is one of the few things I’ve done in my life where I’ve never had an end user or specific genre in mind. The premise for the album was just to take these songs I really like, the ones I considered my best at that point of time, get together with people who I respected and make the songs as good as I could. That was it, I didn’t think any higher than that really.” Rob Lears’ response to PLUGGED IN’s question about the possible influences of Americana/Country on the music and songs of his brilliant album Let It Go had provoked a considered and reflective reply. Not seeing it himself he carefully considered why we felt this way rather than a straight, you’ve got it all wrong. “I don’t really know anything about country music other than the fact that it’s a way of telling stories. The fact that you heard an Americana twist to the sound probably has to do with the people who I brought in to play on the album. They are all very natural players. Brett Green, who plays guitar, loves Ry Cooder and his American roots while Pete Hurley, who plays bass, has just come off tour with Van Morrison. Maybe it’s those influences. “It’s choosing the people I worked with that gave the album such a full sound. As it was created in a staggered state, working on one song in the studio one day then not being able to lay down the cello part until a month later as everyone was doing it as a favour, everyone had to be a good listener as well. For example, on the final track of the album Coming Down, Brett and myself had been jamming at home where he created the slide guitar parts to the song. But when he heard what Lucy Simmonds had laid down for her cello part, he instinctively adjusted his part to fit seamlessly into the music he heard. That’s why the music on this album is so rich and full of texture, because everyone who played on it seemed to instinctively link in with what was already there so there was no clashing. Also because of this we didn’t need to edit much from the songs so you get this full record. I did sessions working one to one with everyone prior to the recording process. During those sessions if they were smiling and I was smiling then that was a good thing. There wasn’t a great deal of design about it with the arrangements being very naturally creative.” Rob has been musically active for many years now, usally fronting anarchic indie rock bands. “I was drafted into my first band when I was about 12 years old. I couldn’t play anything except a couple of chords on a guitar so I wrote songs based around those chords. That was the key, as those songs got me noticed and I was suddenly thrust from the background up to the front of stage. That was the catalyst that kicked off my songwriting. Musically I just love the resonance you get when playing, whether just jamming or playing a gig. That feeling is addictive.” So why the move from band member to solo artist? “I’ve always been in bands and, believe me, being part of a band is one of the best experiences you can ever have. But most bands have what I call a ‘purple patch’, the best of times, but when that momentum goes alongside the pressures of playing gigs where people are losing interest and the record companies aren’t listening any more people look round for something to blame. It can turn quite political and band politics isn’t a pleasant thing. I’ve always played an electric guitar but a few years ago I picked up an acoustic. I went to a few open mic nights and it was a true revelation to be in a different environment where everyone wants to
support one another, where all that mattered were the songs and the event. Bands are always trying to out-do each other, but open mic nights was a different experience altogether. At first it was scary to do, standing on your own with one guitar rather than a mass of electrified noise around you, really quite nuts. But as the crowds where quite positive and responsive, that initial blood pumping calms down into an amazing buzz.” What about putting your feelings out there through your lyrics. Does that create problems? “My writing has always been personal, it’s the nature of the beast. When you’re writing you’re not doing it in public, you’re doing it in your own little space, both physically and mentally. You don’t consider the consequences of what you are writing about. It’s only later on that anything happens. Some of my songs are deeply personal and it’s very liberating to sing them in front of a crowd who don’t actually know you. Very cathartic in a way. Of course doing a song live doesn’t always mean that the intricacies and strengths of the words are as obvious to the audience, as they are not able to study the lyrics deeply. This can lead you into a sense of security with the song. “It’s when the song ends up on a CD you tend to get bitten. That’s the risk. On Let It Go there are some personal stories that I don’t mind telling people about, like No Way Home which follows the story of my mother’s grandmother’s family who sold everything to leave Dublin, jump on a boat and come to Cardiff to find work. Selling up in a time when there were no benefits and taking that step looking for a better life seemed like such a courageous thing to do. Other songs are personal, but in a more empathic way where I’ve draw inspiration on a situation where I’ve been an observer. Well that’s the excuse I can give if someone does think it’s a bit close to home.” One aspect that got the PLUGGED IN team deep in conversation was the beautiful artwork on the cover of the CD. As if at one with the music, the drawing of a young man falling through the air with a house floating by his side and a dove watching his every movement seems to capture the essence of Rob’s songs. “That’s supposed to be me. When the album was coming together I was wondering what to do for the artwork. I wanted something that was integral to capturing the mood of the album, so while I was doing some research on Facebook I came across this guy named Ryan James. It was something to do with his colour schemes and single characters that made me contact him and beg him to do the cover. After sending him a copy of the album and asking him if he could incorporated the song titles in the picture somehow, he created the cover that was spot on.” So how do you think other people relate to your music? “People interpret it in many different ways. I’ve read explanations of my songs that have actually been quite bizarre, but there is no way that I’d correct people. I’m always reading a meaning into other people’s songs. Some artists want you to get the direction they are coming from. Me, I want the listener to get what they want from my songs.” Let It Go carries Rob into a different level. It has texture that surpasses all, which surely means it should be a contender for this year’s Welsh Music Prize. Because of its beauty and ambiguity, it’s a set of songs where you’ll find something new amongst the chords and notes with each play, carrying itself as a formidable force — all be it a gentle force of nature. Let It Go is available via www.roblearmusic or itunes
Words by Jessica Risby, Stephen Round, Dexter Walkley, Sam Rees & Darren Warner
Photograph by Stephen Round
Words by Lisa Derrick
lanelli five piece Cut Ribbons describe their music as pop with sharp teeth, and have been one of our top Swn Festival picks for the last two years. We chatted to them during a UK tour amidst what’s been a really busy year for the guys. How are you feeling — energised, exhausted, excited? What have the highlights been for you? “Hello PLUGGED IN! We have all just got back to our hotel room from our Nottingham show with the amazing Holland. The last 12 months have given us the opportunity to play incredible shows with some incredible bands and we couldn’t ask for more. We got to play Reading & Leeds Festival, Board Masters, The Great Escape, Beach Break, as well as being fortunate enough to play shows over the length and breadth of the UK. The entire thing has been the highlight.” Are you guys full-time musicians, or do you work on additional projects and/or jobs? What is it like balancing Cut Ribbons with your worlds outside the band? “We, like so many other bands, have to supplement our touring life with other ventures to earn a crust but we still find lots of time to write and record which is the absolute backbone of our band. As for balancing the band, there is no contest.” You mention that you guys live in a house together. Is that true? If so, is there a different role that you each assume? (eg entertainer, washer-upper, finance sorter!) “Shane, Chris and I used to live in a house together, but Shane has since moved on to pastures new. It’s now just the two of us and the cat. Sadly the cat is not allowed on tour due to musical differences. As far as roles in the house are concerned, the cat does everything.”
Photograph courtesy of Cut Ribbons
We know that you’re from Llanelli, but do you still live there? “We certainly do live in Llanelli. The bright lights of city life, is always a draw but for the time being we are firmly rooted. It gives us some breathing room. Creatively it allows us to just get on with things and we are thankful for that.” Do you think it is more challenging for bands from more remote pockets of the country to be noticed, or is that irrelevant in an age of online streaming and digital downloads? “To come from a relatively more remote place at this present point doesn’t really pose a huge problem as a band. Logistically perhaps, but not in the realms of the ability to pass your music on to a greater audience. The internet has been a blessing and a hindrance to music. It potentially allows anyone to listen to your music but also saturates that very ability.” Do you feel your Welsh-ness has had any impact, whether positive, negative, or otherwise upon the band? “I will always say it’s a positive thing, it’s where we come from, we don’t know anything else. I really like the fact that people can hear a little of our accents in our songs, it cements our identity without even meeting us. It does make chatting to people after shows a little difficult. It’s pretty entertaining though.” Why the name Cut Ribbons? “The name comes from the idea of a new beginning, the opening of a new chapter in our musical endeavours.” What are your songs about? “The sea, animals, kites, ghosts — you know, all the important things!” Can you recall any weird and wonderful moments that have happened to you as a band?
“There have been a few over the last month. In Hull, Chris and I gave our hotel room to a homeless gentleman who looked like Captain Birdseye. He loved the rum but so did we. A good night had by all. Chris lost all his clothes that night in a totally unrelated incident.” If you guys could only listen to five artists or bands forever more, who would they be? “Deftones, Arcade Fire, Manic Street Preachers, Brand New and Future Of The Left.” Imagine you could only cover one track in the lifetime of the band, what would it be? “Be Natural by the Manics. I’m saying that not just because it’s an amazing song but it’s what we are listening to at this very moment.” Where would you love to be as a band in five years time? ‘Where’ could relate to geographical location, achievements, gigs you’d like to be playing, material you’d like to be releasing, cocktails you’d like to be drinking… “That seems to be such a long way away it is really difficult to gauge. The band hasn’t even been together for that amount of time. We haven’t released our debut album yet so having a few under our belt would be the obvious choice. To still be touring would be enough for us. In regards to a previous question, being from a more remote pocket of the country, I think gives you more of a hunger for life on the road, to still be exploring. As for cocktails — all of them.” What are Cut Ribbons’ plans for the near future? “We have some exciting things on the horizon. We have a new release coming out in April, called Luna, and we just shot a video for it and had the pleasure of filming some of it in Dylan Thomas’ boat house. As for the near, near future it’s back on the road tomorrow!”
Words by Sion Lidster
Photography by Darren Warner
believe that Wales is long overdue a band that can be heralded as both culturally significant and historically rooted. As a country, we have produced some of the world’s foremost acts in the fields of pop, rock and metal, but have yet to establish a current sound that can equal the emotional reverence upon which our musical heritage is based. Enter Climbing Trees, a quintet of multi-instrumentalists from the Pontypridd area who usher in their blend of travelling folk blues like a soundtrack to the mountains around us. The band consists of Matthew Frederick (piano, vocals, drums), Colenso Jones (guitar, bass, vocals), Justin Preece (guitar, harmonica, vocals), Martin Webb (guitar, bass, vocals) and Hywel Mills (drums, slide, backing vocals). “We were on a radio show a few weeks back and I described us as ‘Penguin Folk’,” jokes Matthew, when asked to describe the band’s sound. Although he is not exactly serious in his response, his answer is actually a valiant attempt to summarize the musically communal effort of five individual characters. “We all share the writing, so some songs have different identities, but there is no lead singer, we are a harmony based band.” Perhaps a more suited genre would be Bethan Elfyn’s recent description of them as ‘Cymru-cana’ — a nod to both the ‘Cool Cymru’ explosion of the 90s and the ever-popular folk-rock genre ‘Americana’. Whilst they are admittedly influenced by this style of American music (citing the likes of Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver, for example), Colenso explains that it is by no means a constrictive category for them. “No one song is the same, I mean they are all very different. I think the harmonies give us a kind of signature, but my own influences range from Nick Drake to Bill Withers to gospel!” The multiple harmonies of Climbing Trees resonate all the more when put in the context of heritage. There is almost a hark back to the songs of the Côr Meibion in their works — albeit re-fashioned with a dirt road twist for contemporary ears. The band has written a Welsh language song called Ofn, a floating melody of perfectly layered vocals that
proves that this is a group in touch with the original sensibilities of folk music. “We wanted it to be almost like an Ar Lan Y Môr type of song,” comments Hywel, referencing the traditional Welsh folksong. It is the combination of musical tradition met with current rhythm and blues tendencies, completed by a distinct lack of pretence that makes Climbing Trees such an exciting band for our time. Their debut album (as of yet untitled) was recorded at Mwnci Studios, aptly placed in the rural backdrop of Pembroke. “There’s not a town for miles, and you’re surrounded by forests, so that suits us,” Matthew says. Justin comments, “A lot of other studios can be quite sterile, y’know, almost like a dentists...whereas here it was just a nice big room, all chilled, with a big log fire in the corner!” It’s hard to imagine this band recording anywhere else. “Whatever you record, you’ve got to be able to recreate it live,” explains Hywel, when describing their recording process. The band set up together, played as they would in a show, and hit record. “It was the first time I felt as though we were a proper band. We were there with each other, recording for 12 hours a day, then going back to sleep in the chicken shed!” The resulting album is a debut of extraordinary promise that should propel them quickly to the centre of the indie-folk scene. They have already been gigging for months on the local circuit, but they have their sights set on even greater pastures. “We’ve been trying to blag our way onto the Green Man Festival,” laughs Matthew, a stage that I believe could not be more suited. But who knows, all it will take is for the right set of ears to hear the forthcoming album and I can see these guys set Stateside for the likes of Bonnaroo, Sasquatch or the Newport Folk Festival. For now though, the future holds an array of live shows, album releases and good times for these guys. Wherever they may choose to branch out down the line, it is surely through their music that they will remain rooted in the hills of home.
Words by Emily Bielby
ales is an ever-expanding breeding ground for musical talent, with bands often forming by chance — which is what happened with Old Samuel after a rainy day spent gigging. “Christian and I met on the gig circuit as we were in separate bands that played together pretty regularly. We realised that there was an interesting musical juxtaposition as I came from a very rock-oriented background and Christian is hips deep in Indie,” explains Britt. “The band was always meant to be electric and originally was going to be a six-piece alt-country-rock band, but towards the end of recording our first (unreleased) album as a two-piece band and just using friends from other bands as guests, there was a natural shift towards a stripped down three-piece. We had these seven minute ballads and jam tracks and we just became aware that we were ‘over-egging’ the songs.” With the addition of Polt to the line-up, the band’s direction has without doubt changed and musically they’ve matured tremendously. “Polt’s presence has influenced our sound and style of writing. Before, the songs were written from an acoustic point of view and now they are written with full band dynamics in mind. Also, as a full band you tend to be opened up to more venues, although acoustic music has never left us and probably never will, we still play acoustic sets. You can hear in the songs that we don’t tend to solo much, it’s more about playing together for the sake of the song as opposed to one of us going off
Photograph by Darren Warner
and doing our own thing.” Wales has always had a good live music scene, with small venues being a prime location for emerging bands. “Britt is from Pontypridd, where there are some cool venues keeping the live scene going. Clwb Y Bont and Globetrotters have always been good to us,” says Christian. Although influences include Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Neil Young and Elliot Smith the band’s genre is hard to pin down. “Dave Sharp from The Alarm said to us at one of our first gigs, ‘You have to have balls to have that much dynamic in a set, I applaud you’ which was perfect. Old Samuel songs seem to cross through different genres, our current set contains rock songs, an indie-track, a murder ballad, a Seventies-influenced song, a forlorn love song, a blues jam and a waltz. It seems to come naturally and flow perfectly. If you go to a rock or metal night and there are four bands playing, even if you love the bands, it can be very easy for the sound to bleed together. So we quite enjoy the fact that we seem to write songs with a disregard for genre,” explains Britt. With lyrics being driven by a specific mental scenario, Britt goes on to explain the full story behind their inspiration. “We tend to write William S Burroughs’s style, taken from sections of whatever poetry I’ve written over the years and put together line by line to give it an uncomfortable, jittering feel. Honestly, I’m not too good at expressing myself, so the more obtuse the lyrics come across, the
better. Apart from the few songs that come out of the band jamming in rehearsal, I tend to write the bulk of our tracks, usually on my acoustic guitar in my flat whilst bumping drunk on red wine — I’m at my most vulnerable and expressive when drunk.” Planning on working until their money runs out, Old Samuel don’t usually like to set themselves a time limit when it comes to making music, however, a whole night spent recording to get their EP completed would suggest otherwise. Britt says, “In that instance we specifically set ourselves a single night of recording because that way we knew we would be more focussed and would get the live, stripped-down sound we were looking for, so we didn’t feel any pressure beyond each other. We began the recording process at 8pm to get a nice late night vibe. The EP title, 4.05am, comes from the exact time we finished the final take on the last track Alone Tonight. Since its release, their EP has received a lot of positive acclaim to which the band are “presently surprised” by. Britt explains, “We were just looking for something we could hand out at gigs and send to venues to give an idea of our sound. We’ve yet to have a bad review which is a shame because Britt’s main fetish is receiving personal slights. Some people who’ve heard the EP have said some pretty memorable things. One of the guys who filmed one of our recent gigs said I’m The Ghost is one of his favourite songs of all time, which was probably the nicest thing anyone has said to us.”
Words by Lisa Derrick
yMo are an alternately tuned acoustic band born in the South Wales Valleys, and now based in Cardiff. They consist of Leanne on vocals, percussion and guitar, while Andrew doubles up those roles, adding in the quirky contribution of didgeridoo playing. PLUGGED IN caught up with them amidst preparations for their forthcoming EP launch… First things first, if you had to describe your music in five words, what would the five words be? “Colourful, intricate, melodic, acoustic, filthiness — in whatever order you please!” Your first EP is about to be released, congratulations! Could you tell us what the title means and what inspired the songs on there? “The EP was inspired by the concept of not being afraid of making mistakes and trying to learn from things we all perceive as being incorrect. Some fantastic things in life and in writing music often tend to start with a mistake, when you’ve taken yourself out of your comfort zone. We also try and write as much of our tunes by improvisation, to make them feel as spontaneous as possible, which inherently leads to mistakes but also feels incredible when it clicks!! Paint By Blunders is a play on ‘paint by numbers’. Our version implies getting away from ‘staying inside the lines’, a proverbial colour scheme or formula of song writing and I suppose not trying to sound too perfect, overproduced or polished is what we were aiming for. We wrote the title track the night before our session and recorded the vocal together in an attempt to convey this spontaneity on the EP and played around with some simple harmony and modulation overdub ideas, which was awesome fun!” Your EP cover looks amazing. How was the paint effect created and how did you come up with the idea? “We like paint, we like throwing stuff, we like people... so what better way to complement your music than by allowing your friends to throw a load of paint at you for your EP cover? The idea of capturing the shot was more about the dynamic of the paint coming together as opposed to us being in the shot. I suppose it was us symbolising the way we try to merge our music influences, contrasting vocal styles and the varying lyrical themes on our EP. The effect was created using 40kg of Holi paint, four snow shovels, good lighting and loads of friends.” What is your history as a band? “Our Journey started in Aberdare, stopped off for a cup of tea in Mountain Ash and parked up in Cardiff. We started playing some open mic nights a couple of years back, originally playing reworked cover versions of songs, but we’ve always had a passion for trying to create something new and interesting. Since then we’ve been lucky enough to have been offered lots of gigs and met loads of cool people and musicians who have enjoyed what we do and have invited us along for the ride.” How do you find both being a husband and wife duo and being in a band together? “The music came first; the relationship followed, which is always a bonus! We wanted to try and stay away from sounding like a traditional husband and wife folk-type duo and for that reason have played around with
Photograph courtesy of KyMo different instruments, harmony and the tuning of the guitar to broaden our sound. The idea has been at some point to collaborate with other musicians to expand our sound, but we never want to detract away from trying to write good songs and interesting music as a duo. We really enjoy playing music together and we can’t say it doesn’t cause conflict...but it’s normally over who’s cooking dinner or taking the bins out!” Who are your musical influences? “I suppose a lot of the music we listen to doesn’t directly influence our sound, but they all have a part to play. We are very influenced by musicians such as Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, Led Belly and bands like Radiohead, however we listen to a lot of instrumental music and really love percussive guitar players like the late Eric Roche, Thomas Leeb, the sublime John Gomm and Michael Hedges for his love of performance. We try and bring this type of sound into our music, but still want the vocal and melody to be the focus of our song writing. For live performance, we love the energy that instrumental bands like Acoustic Ladyland and Rodrigo y Gabriella create and try and bring this to our live shows. We also can’t forget the music we grew up around; the metal/grunge/post hardcore scene, which influences our music, and whose bands we draw on for inspiration.” If you were told you could only choose one track to cover, what would the cover version be and why? “Tough question! This could change on a daily basis, but at this point in time we both agree that we would cover Radiohead’s Reckoner. It’s such an incredible tune and has a personal meaning to us. ‘You can’t take it with you’ is so poignant as a lyric and just reminds you how material stuff really doesn’t matter (it just clutters your living room) and the moment is really all that can and should matter, as it is the only thing that can change the future. Thom Yorke’s voice is so unique, so don’t think we can do it justice but we’ll give it our best shot!” Could you tell us how you came up with your band name? “Leanne studied illustration and to inspire her she used the mantra Keep Your Mind Open. We were invited to play a couple of shows after a few open mic nights, so we had to come up with something pretty quick — two hours before the gig advertising went to press! So we used the acronym and it kind of stuck.” What is your dream gig scenario, with you headlining? Where would the gig take place and who would support? “We absolutely love festivals so our dream gig has to be playing Glastonbury, as it’s just so eclectic; a festival built on creativity, art and good times. Dream support...can’t decide... there’s just too many amazing musicians to choose from!” What’s next for Kymo, and where can we get hold of a copy of your EP? “We have our EP launch night on 19 April at A Shot In The Dark, Cardiff, and we’re gonna be gigging around South Wales over the next few months. The aim is to record an album at the end of the year, but for now you can get hold of a copy of the EP as a download on iTunes, or via our facebook page www.facebook.com/kymoband”
The Blackout Hobos, Bridgend
Media Machine Acoustic Night Hobos, Bridgend
It’s a Friday night in Bridgend, outside it’s cold but there’s a great turn out for the first ever Media Machine gig. People wait with anticipation and excitement as the acoustic acts prepared themselves to perform — a range of talented artist by the names of Jade Bird, Cerys & Duffy, Naomi Edwards, Matthew Wilson, Aaron Wyn and Geraint Williams. The lights dim and the atmosphere calms as the spotlight shines on the first act Jade Bird, who walks on stage, guitar in hand and a beaming smile. She immediately captures the crowd’s attention by producing a nervous laugh and a “hey everyone”, before playing to a perfect pace and rhythm. She began with an original song, followed by some covers and more of her own material about love and heartbreak which captivated the audience as she poured her heart out. Jade made her audience, sing, dance clap and stand sentinel, mouths open, gazing at the 15-year-old with the voice of an experienced musician. She definitely had the crowd drawn to her unique quality. Her hypnotic vibe left everyone in a trance as we remained quiet, concentrating and listening to the stunning music and an angelic voice with subtle emphasis on phrases, making her very unique as an artist. A difficult act to follow, but the task fell to Cerys & Duffy, two bubbly girls who appeared on stage full of confidence and enthusiasm for the music they played. They sang up-tempo songs and straight away began getting into the groove, making the crowd laugh and sing along while performing the classic Petre Andre Mysterious Girl and braving the hit Shake It Out by Florence & The Machine. The edginess and slight attitude offered them a great sense of stage presence that was thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Following on from that was Naomi Edwards whose voice definitely stood out with her slightly husky tone and added element of rap to spice up the set, keeping the audience on their toes listening to her set intently. Her chilled acoustic vibes had us swaying along to her mix of covers and originals, and singing along with her catchy tone that left a cheerful vibe. At one point, an accident occurred involving a broken guitar string but she laughed it off, picking up a new guitar and swiftly returning to the song she was previously singing as if nothing had happened. Matthew Wilson then brought his natural charm, charisma and wit onto the stage, instantly winning over the cheering crowd. He was confident and un-nerved by the raucous crowd and allowed himself to let his natural talent shine through as he began his set. His unique talent had everyone singing and dancing along and even swaying to his acapella version of a much loved classic. His ease of singing and natural talent allowed everyone to tap their feet and bob their heads to his melodic, smooth style. Next up, Aron Wyn allowed his guitar and strong, smooth vocal tones to dominate the room, causing all conversation to cease and all attention to be paid to him. He was playful, creative and had great stage presence, shown by everyone applauding and cheering loudly after every song. Geraint Williams closed the gig with an exceptional performance of original songs. He didn’t let being the last person to preform phase him and let his amazing vocals and guitar skills shine throughout the room. Lulling everyone into a state of happiness, his confidence left a positive mood and his creativity got the audience to sing along and move to the rhythm of his songs. Overall, the Friday night acoustic gig was, in one word, awesome. One of the most chilled gig’s I’ve ever been to, oozing talent from a variety of artists each one captivating in their own way. A very enjoyable night. LAURA THOMAS, DARCIE VINCENT, ALYS CLARK & EMILY SHANKLAND
Exhilarating, enlivening and adrenaline stirring, The Blackout are a band whom in recent years have never failed to overwhelm their audience with incredulous stage presence, combined with flawless music and effortless bonding with their fans. I was surprised to hear they were playing Bridgend, and was sure to grab my tickets quick before they sold out! Starting off the night were Proxies, and although lacking in a member due to the reschedule of this gig date, they gained a round of applause following each song as well as a couple of laughs and remarks from their few fans situated throughout the room. Due to their mix of light rock with acoustic pieces fitted in sporadically, they weren’t a band to make the room jump up and down with vibrant energy, but it was a pleasant, subtle beginning to the show. Succeeding them came Sonic Boom Six. After their hit single Virus swept through the UK rock channels, people recognised them for bringing dance and rock together in an outburst of ecstasy and fun. Lead singer Laila K made a worthy effort to connect with the audience, holding hands with the front few rows as she sang (myself included!) and hi-fiving those further back. The room became illuminated with pumping bass and guitar twangs, and most fans in the room were jumping by the end of their set when they hopped off stage to hang around by the merchandise stall. The wait between Sonic’s departure and The Blackout’s arrival can be described as nothing less than agonising. Background music from the stereo wasn’t all that was circulating around the room just before they kicked off with their sound. The buzzing of excited fans bounced off the walls and filled the room with so much energy that by the time they came on, everybody was almost screaming in excitement. Lead singer Sean Smith began the set with a blast, performing one of the new tracks from latest album Start The Party. There wasn’t one person in the room that wasn’t either jumping, fighting in the pit or singing along with the band. Additional vocalist Gavin Butler didn’t let the venue’s ‘no crowdsurfing’ rule put a downer on the audience, by clutching his microphoneand making the fans in the front rows support both his feet with their hands as he stood up and sung. One of the best things about a Blackout performance is their unique and sometimes comedic methods communicating with their fans while singing. There isn’t a moment within the 90 minute slot where one member isn’t part crowdsurfing, cracking jokes, leaning into the people lined up on front row or holding hands with those further back. They have a mysterious way of involving everyone who has come to see them regardless of the place they’re standing. As Sean held my hand along with several others, there was an unmistakable glint in his eye of pleasure and enjoyability. You could tell that this was what they loved to do, and boy did they make a night of it when they were asked to. Everybody who had paid for this thrilling night out was eagerly headbanging and bouncing around with energy; bumping into everyone surrounding them and encouraging them to join in. So swelled up with excitement for the night’s events, Sean forgot the lyrics to their most ‘pitinducing’ track Higher & Higher, so he arranged for it to be played at the end again. However, the song became something of a joke as he was so choked up by the intimacy and mutual adoration flowing throughout the room that he made the same error again, and spent the song bouncing around on stage and grinning widely at his fanbase as they jumped along to contribute to an erupting end to the night. Even on a cramped stage, The Blackout are a band that can deliver their music anywhere, to anyone, and still maintain their vibrant and amusing reputation for being exciting and humorous. If you’re looking for an energy packed night, you won’t get better than this six-piece post-hardcore band from Merthyr Tydfil. BRYNTEG POSSE
Media Machine Rock Night Hobos, Bridgend
Everyone had high expectations for the rock gig on Saturday night, and nobody left feeling let down! First up was Thousand Fingers, getting a small chuckle from the crowd when the unusual name was announced. Do not let the name allude you, the music they played was catchy, jumpy and made everyone pump their fists in the air, including crowd favourites Julius and River Wizard, which were still spinning around everyone’s heads by the end of the night! Riot City Saints followed, whose lead singer Jon Lee was giddy with either excitement or beer, and gave his all to his performance. He jumped, shouted and danced, he interacted with the crowd and even jumped off the stage at one point, much to the excitement of everyone. Although the music could be described as loud maybe even obnoxious, it still made everyone dance and sing along. Last up was Four Short Of A Miracle, taking the headline slot as their golden opportunity to create a great impression. They played original songs and a cover of Trouble much to everyone’s enjoyment — as even though most of us had never heard any of their songs, we were singing along by the second chorus. This gig was a complete success, and I look forward to future gigs with these bands. LAURA THOMAS
Mumford & Sons
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff The cold night didn’t seem to bother the masses of fans who were queuing to see Mumford & Sons. As we the audience entered the arena a wave of excitement hit us, the atmosphere was incredible. Behind the flags that were hung up on stage, rows and rows of light bulbs could be seen and as you looked up above the crowd lights were hung, not yet lit but hinting of what was to come. The night began with Piff the Magic Dragon, who was a unique stand up act that had the crowd in howls of laughter with his peculiar sense of humour. Next up was the four-piece Post War Years from London, who wowed the crowd with exclusive tracks filled with electronic beats from their new EP. Following them was Californian band Dawes, who also played tracks from their brand new un-released album that were lively and energetic and got the crowd bopping a bit. Eventually, the extreme madness started, as the iconic logo appeared on the oversized curtain right in front of our eyes across the stage. The mumbling conversations of eager, enthusiastic fans were silenced. The rumbles of each member of the audience’s applause and then high pitched screams and cheers took their place. Leaving no time for the audience to catch their breath, Mumford & Sons burst onto the stage, beginning with their newest single I Will Wait. And as the curtain dropped and the song proceeded, the audience got to witness the delights of frontman Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall and Ted Dwayne of Mumford & Sons. The energy that Marcus Mumford created with the incredible lyrics and his beautifully intoxicating voice is something that can only be completely felt when heard live. The four breathtakingly talented men, played a passionate set of old and new songs, from albums Babel and Sigh No More, which portrayed not only their dedication for their profession, but their consistency in their music and their hard-working ethics. During their performance, Marcus Mumford produced pitch perfect vocals, whilst flawlessly playing various instruments, like the acoustic guitar, mandolin and drums. Winston Marshall provided incredible harmonies, as well as playing the acoustic guitar and banjo immaculately throughout the night. Ben Lovett played mostly keyboard instruments, which complemented the set beautifully. Finally, Ted Dwane played a variety of instruments throughout the night, such as string bass, guitar, as well as backing vocals, giving each song the ‘western folk’ feel that Mumford & Sons are known for. Each song in the set was finished and immaculate, but thanks to the string instruments used and Marcus Mumford’s naturally rugged voice, they still maintained the rough, folk-like feel that everyone loves. They performed a range of upbeat, country-like songs, as well as slower, more meaningful songs. This was clearly to the audience’s delight as almost every person had their hands in the air while singing along to the meaningful, well-thought-out lyrics, establishing a rather breathtaking atmosphere. Furthermore, the emotions of Marcus throughout the whole performance proved his passion for his music and lyrics, touching each audience member with his deep feelings. The highlight of the evening was their emotional performance of Timshel, where Marcus, Ted, Ben and Winston all put their instruments aside and stood at the front of the stage and acoustically sang. The sound was so pure as they sung the words ‘And you are not alone in this, as brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand’, that many hearts including mine were touched. Everyone in the audience was silent, staring up to them in awe. Their incredible performance seemed to put a smile on everybody’s face, so as their set began to draw to a close I think everyone felt slightly deflated. However, Mumford & Sons brought it back during their final song The Cave. After only about three seconds into the song, the audience came back to life, and sang each word back to the band. The upbeat and lively song was a perfect way to end a perfect night. I think it is safe to say as people left the arena that no one departed disappointed. Everyone left with a smile on their face and a happy heart as they had just heard the inspiring lyrics and sound that is Mumford & Sons. On leaving, I heard the crowd muttering the words ‘perfection’ and ‘world class’ as we all headed home. ABI COLES, MEGHAN BRYANT & SAMANTHA TIERNAN
O’Callaghans Cafe, Treforest
Great Hall, Cardiff Uni This gig featured an eclectic mix of artists from the Scottish Mercury music prize — Art Rock types Django Django, one Mod-Rock prince in the shape of Miles Kane and Lambeth Indie-Garage much hyped youngsters Palma Violets. To start the show off first though was Brummie indie rockers Peace, who clearly had taken some fashion tips from Nicky Wire and who had an undeniable ear for a slick low cut groove which is smoothly woven into their music. Take their single Wraith which demonstrates their ear for a tune and lyrical wit that is set to propel them into a bigger audience. Palma Violets are just four people who make you rage with envy, meaning that they make everything look effortlessly cool, with some flamboyant hairstyles that don’t look like they’ve spent 10 hours preening themselves in front of a mirror. The songs are filled with cool vibes dripping endlessly from the seams, with ice cold keyboards thawed out between the guitar chords precariously and preciously balanced upon a rough wave crest of magic and cool. Next up was the contender to Paul Weller’s throne of Mod-Rock, Miles Kane. Suited and booted for the occasion with a full smart woollen jacket, he took to the stage like he was down the football terraces. His vocal delivery with that composite of singing ending every line with a menacing bite and untouchable Northern swagger through every track. All this while living and breathing every note, bouncing to every beat and gesturing to the crowd to ‘come on’ with his hands whilst his band belts out the riffs behind him. Older material from Colour Of The Trap, which showcases his work with Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys), shows the quirky indie side. But it’s the new edgier rock material from his forthcoming album, co-written with Paul Weller, such as latest corker Give Up that gives Kane a new platform to stand on and really shout about. It’s the perfect blend of mod-rock stadium sized sing-a-long choruses, a grand canyon size of attitude and all under three minutes. Undoubtedly the toughest act to follow of the night, but headliners Django Django went straight to the other side of rock music with their experimental Art Rock brand of music. Coming on stage to their mad intro track with the image of various light bulbs swinging away, they confirmed the next hour or so was going to be an interesting concept. And with various instruments scattered across the stage like a musical version of Poirot, they kept you guessing as to what’s coming next. It was a show which when you closed your eyes, you drifted away into the occasion of it all. You are overcome with emotion and the gigantic atmospheric ambiance that they create. A terrific night with something for all lovers of indie. Keep an eye on these acts in the coming year — you’ll be hearing a lot more of them, that’s guaranteed. RITCHIE SAMUEL
Is going to a Valentine’s Day concert on your own without a romantic entanglement a bit sad? I went anyway and was looking forward to the angelic voice of Lizzy Santander Ocha and her band Godlinez. Lizzy modestly approached the stage and confessed that she was feeling a trifle queasy with butterflies in the belly but when she broke into song like a nightingale atop St Paul’s Cathedral all doubts from the audience were left in the rafters with the ravens. We were treated to a smooth, pretty and divine interpretation of popular ballads by Coldplay and other easy on the ear bands, tip top. Lizzy’s friends on the guitar and piano kept every note solid, great stuff boyos. A quirky jazz version of Zombie by the Cranberries was brilliantly performed, as was the Spanish language song Besame. Great gig all in all dudes, the crowd had a fantastic time and showed it too. Don’t be nervous Lizzy, give it your all, you are a classy diva. I was up next but I can’t review myself can I? The café goers experienced my zany renditions of Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix and two of my own songs with lyrics focussing on demons in the woods (written for Valley of the Demon, a class no budget horror flick currently in production) and my own surreal comments on my life. Mike sang and played guitar too. He went all obscure with the Gutterbrother’s Blow Away — great voice boyo and the guitar skills are coming along too! Songwriter extraordinaire Justin Preece gave us a bonkers choice of song for Valentine’s, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, ha ha. His own songs were top banana too, his soulful voice and fantastic playing style captivated us all with a stupendous reaction from the crowd. The night ended with youngsters Rosie and Beth treating us to some powerful dynamically charged Adele songs. I look forward to more instalments of the adventure in the musical hub of Treforest. BENJAMIN FRANKS
Black Veil Brides Great Hall, Cardiff Uni
It was a cold, dark night outside the Cardiff University Hall, and I had plenty of time to admire the stars as the line to get into the first stop of the Kerrang tour seemed to stretch out at least a mile. And why wouldn’t it? With modern day Hollywood rock gods Black Veil Brides headlining the tour with support from two of the fastest up and coming bands in the world, who could blame the fans for coming out in droves? The line was so long by the time some people got into the venue Fearless Vampire Killers had already started their performance and were showing vast improvement on their remarkable performance just a couple of months ago at Clwb Ifor Bach. They finished off with a hysterical cover of Elton John’s I’m Still Standing. Next up were Tonight Alive, on their first real test on British soil — and needless to say they didn’t disappoint. Rocking the venue with material from their début album What Are You So Scared Of, they are definitely proving themselves a band to watch because they are clearly here to stay and are only going to get bigger. Then came Chiodos, probably one of the lesser known bands on the line up, but I severely doubt anybody at that gig will forget them now. The lead singer was the very definition of a showman, ordering the crowd into pits and walls of death, and performing hits like Is It Progression If A Cannibal Uses A Fork? (best song name ever, by the way) and, due to a band member being an ex-member of the Infamous D.R.U.G.S, We All Know You’re The Only Thing You Talk About. Truly what a band at a big tour should be. Headliners Black Veil Brides came out on stage, as usual looking as though they were fresh from a very effeminate biker bar, to perform a lot of stuff off their new album Wretched & Divine along with old favourites like Love Isn’t Always Fair. They gave every fan there exactly what they wanted to hear and more! DEXTER WALKLEY
The Boy Royals & Ryan March Clwb Y Bont, Pontypridd
This first music event staged by Stern Clothing in Clwb Y Bont had the aim of bringing quality music to Pontypridd — and on the A4 poster at least it certainly looked the prospect. First off in a sold out venue was PLUGGED IN favourite Ryan March. Ryan took to the stage with his trendy threads and a snarling indie-punk swagger to play a set with the aim of winning over a new audience. Trying out new material, which sounded like it needed to have a fuller ensemble for it to be truly finished it was interesting and showcased the vision of this young man’s future. Tunes from the debut EP were greeted by smiles at its tongue-in-cheek humour, and he had the audience in the palm of his hand by the music alone. A truly incredible feat but, it was to be track We Are Alive that arguably stole the night with its raw emotive tenderness hooking you in and whilst Ryan took a step back to sing the final words off the mic, it added an incredible texture to the song. The Boy Royals served up a concoction of best of British in their laddish indie set. Looking effortlessly cool, dressed up in their sharp designer gear, they brought the vitality and liveliness of Britrock’s unsung heroes Supergrass to the stage and mixed it with huge choruses reserved for the likes of Feeder. It was the uplifiting and churning assortment of pulsating drums, jittery steak sized guitar hooks and niffty riffs on People Like Us that had the audience lovingly grappling each other and bouncing like a bad cheque as they sung like a bunch of boozed up lads on tour, shouting the lyrics back at frontman Alex. Two of Wales’s finest up-and-coming indie starlets showcased their tremendous talents and proved why they should be on your radar. RITCHIE SAMUEL
Park & Dare Theatre, Treorchy Described as An Intimate Evening With Sophie Evans, the title comes over like an idea for a TV show or a comedy gig. What was actually meant was this was a gig in the close surroundings of the Park & Dare Theatre’s bar area, where the stage had been set for a simple recital of Sophie singing alongside musical meastro John Quirk on the piano. This was an evening of Sophie singing some of her favourite songs, and after a short but lovely set from Rising Talent Jamie Willetts, she kicked off with her version of New York, the modern classic by Alicia Keys. Then followed a variety of songs in different styles, which included showtime hits from Chicago and Wicked to pop via jazz classics including the Eva Cassidy-styled version of Summertime. We here at PLUGGED IN have followed Sophie’s career for a number of years. I first came across her when she sang at a mayoral event I was attending, while my girls soon got addicted to her performances on Over The Rainbow, her signature tune that of course she had to sing tonight. I was transported up the yellow brick road to London where I had witnessed her control the stage as Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz (see PLUGGED IN Issue 12) and to many other events she had sung at, including supporting The Wanted, JLS and Paul Potts in Ponty Park. I must admit I thought that her voice was exceptional then, but at this Intimate gig it showed that the best can get better. With John Quirk’s vocal training, we can see the makings of the new Welsh legend that one day will ride alongside Cerys Matthews, Sir Tom Jones, Katherine Jenkins and even the dame whose footsteps she is closely following, Shirley Bassey. Dizzying heights, true, but Sophie shows the ability to handle acrophobia very well. DARREN WARNER
Colours Of One Hobos, Bridgend
Colours Of One played their latest set at Hobos in Bridgend as a supporting role during the ep release of Milestone. Lead man Mike Simmonds kicked the show off by ordering the growing crowd to assemble at the middle of the stage, before the band erupted into their new powerful single Dust & Chalk, the video of whch is soon to air and is “pretty badass” as Simmonds described. The high energy set was typical of Colours Of One, as lead guitarist Miff Tuck powered around the stage, facing off with drummer Paul Jones on multiple occasions, and Simmonds engaging with the crowd throughout. They ended their set with Echoes and Simmonds used this final opportunity to leap into the crowd and continue singing in the centre of the room! LEWIS MITCHELL
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff To a bloke like me, the thought of going to see boy band superstars One Direction is a fate worth than death. With their clean image (bar the odd tattoo — nothing wrong with that) and wholesome non-sweary style, they are just the sort of boys that a Dad would want their daughter to bring home. Well maybe one day, as my daughter is only nine years old and counting the days till she can marry Harry Styles! So taking her down to see them live at the Motorpoint Arena is the next best thing. Armed with earplugs and a sign stating ‘I Love You Harry’ we trek off to see if the boys can live up to their much-hyped reputation. After actually enjoying the poppy indie tones of Australian’s 5 Days Of Summer who were warm-up support, the 1D boys bounced onto the stage filled with jelly bean fuelled energy — and the noise level rose to the nearly painful mark. Of course, everyone stood up immediately which meant that Daddy here had to pick up one’s daughter so she could see the two hour show as the CIA security staff had told us that standing on the chairs was a health and safety risk (I’d just like to mention the health risk to my poor back at this point...) Now here comes the main shock of the evening — One Direction can actually sing, even the one who seems to sing badly on the telly! Something I just wasn’t expecting. Of course, they did all the favourites kicking off with Up All Night and following along in quick succession with Kiss You, One Thing and More Than This, as well as a cover of Teenage Dirtbag (the Wheatus song) and the Comic Relief single One Way Or Another/Teenage Kicks mash-up. At one point they flew over the crowd on a platform while singing Change My Mind, which had my daughter stretching in my arms so Harry could see her hand crafted poster. But it wasn’t til they did Little Things that I felt that I had actually crossed that mark and started to really take interest. The harmonies were exceptional and despite all the clever staging that these pop shows seem to be about, this showed why Simon Cowell was holding onto this cash cow himself. The show finished with an encore of Live While We’re Young and the major hit that raised them to the dizzying heights that they find themselves at, What Makes You Beautiful, and my daughter is exhausted from all the energy she has expelled. Musically, this was a great show which was aimed at the young audience who are the group’s fan base. No swearing, nothing rude, just good boys having harmless fun, though they did show their young age and lack of experience when it came to talking to the crowd. More in awe of the position they stood in surrounded by thousands of screaming kids than in control. Though this is rather an irrelevant point as my nine year old didn’t care. Harry Styles had read her poster and waved at her from his flying platform! She was in heaven and planning the wedding that I’ll probably have to pay for in 10 years time. DARREN WARNER
Bullet For My Valentine Great Hall, Cardiff Uni
To get Bullet For My Valentine to play what would be regarded as a small 500 capacity venue in their now worldwide massive rock god status position, is nothing short of a miracle. To be at that gig, well... This was one of those fans and family only type events, with the odd journo/photographer like myself thrown in for good measure. Last time I saw Bullet they blew me away, literally as they were playing Clwb Ifor Bach doing yet another intimate gig for the now defunct XFM South Wales, in which they had more speakers than the whole of the Motorpoint Arena would ever need. Loud, you don’t know the meaning of the word! Currently promoting their latest offering Temper, Temper, they kick off with album opener Breaking Point before moving on to the album’s title track. But it’s not until Waking The Demon that the crowd really start to take notice. They continue through at a breakneck pace thrashing out tracks like Riot, Saints & Sinners and P.O.W. from the latest album while mixing in tracks like Your Betrayal and The Last Fight from Fever, 4 Words (To Choke Upon) from The Poison and concluding with Scream,Aim,Fire. Of course, we get an encore of Pleasure And Pain with Tears Don’t Fall which, despite a shortened set still leaves you drained and delirious. Admittedly, Bullet haven’t changed their stage style since I saw them on their Scream,Aim,Fire tour, different backdrop but similar lighting, including those uplight cages that Jason James and Micheal Paget stand on during guitar solos, only Matthew Tuck’s hair is shorter than expected. But then why break something that is already pretty good. Bullet don’t know the word disappoint — they were born to play rock music live. Don’t miss Ritchie’s interview with Moose on page 10 in this issue. DARREN WARNER
O’Callaghans Cafe, Treforest Hina Morton’s debut was interesting. Mumford & Sons and that decidedly unpunky song by Sandy Thom didn’t light my fire at all, they were well played and got everyone singing along but not really my cup of tea! Then came some classy tunes by Dolly Parton, Joni Mitchell, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young and many more. Hina’s super voice, super tight guitar skills and fabulous way with the crowd even got me singing along in parts. She played two of her own songs too, which the crowd went wild for. They were intricately structured, pretty tunes and really showed off her talent in song writing and performing. Singing like Shane MacGowan from the Pogues was not available in Fairytale In New York, but she did play a blinding harmonica solo in it. I look forward to experiencing this smashing musical artist again. BENJAMIN FRANKS
This gig sold out within a few hours of going on sale and has been regarded as one of the hottest tickets in town! Ever since April 2011 when PLUGGED IN saw them open for We Are The Ocean we knew there was something there. For tonight’s openers Hey Vanity, there sadly wasn’t however — with their alternative rock style seemingly a wash over in an ocean of so many similar bands, it’ll take time for them to develop a standout style. Mallory Knox are in a similar position to tonight’s headliners, and already making huge waves of their own. With a sound rich in texture and musical depth, they soon got the audience feeding off the energy and singing the words back at them. Don Broco however picked it up 10 notches while they played. Opening with Priorities, it all started with a big bang that just exploded even more as the night went on and included the now infamous running man routine. They whipped through their full debut album, jampacked full of tunes that would just read #lad if this review was a tweet. Old favourites such as Beautiful Morning put a big fat smile on punters faces and Thug Workout had push-ups conducted in the pit. Don Broco are all about parasitic riffs that seem to drill into your head and will not come out, huge choruses that turned this small room into a much bigger venue and energy far deadlier than an atomic bomb. Next time these boys come back, they will not be playing a venue of this size! RITCHIE SAMUEL
On entering the venue I walked straight up the merchandise tables (because I’m a sucker for band tees) to find out who the support acts were. The first two support acts were Action Blast from Chicago and Black Box. Next up was Red Jumpsuit Apparatus who played their usual Pen & Paper and In Fate’s Hands. Then suddenly, the drum and the heavy riff of the guitars disappeared and Ronnie appeared on stage with just an acoustic guitar. The crowd went wild, they all knew what was coming — Red Jumpsuit’s famous acoustic songs, Cat & Mouse and Your Guardian Angel. It’s not often that you can go to a gig where a band can pull off acoustic songs and still keep the crowd entertained. After a long 15 minutes which felt more like an hour, the lights dimmed again and Madina Lake came on. Throughout the full hour set, the band threw themselves across the stage without breaking a visible sweat. It was nice to hear the old classics of One Last Kiss, Now Or Never and House Of Cards. The set ended by Nathan crowd surfing while singing Never Take Us Alive and Welcome To Oblivion. It’s nice to see the connection between the band and the crowd, not only while they are playing but after the set when some of the band members came down to the barrier and greeted the adoring crowd. I would definitely recommend going to see them live but all I advise is, bring a helmet because Nathan is more than likely to go flying over you head. CRISTINA SHUKER
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
Free For All Festival The Full Moon, Cardiff
The Free For All Festival is a month of free gigs that, this year, showcased the likes of Not Since the Accident, Culver, Spider Kitten and many more. Tonight saw the conclusion of the festivities with a two storey affair of beers, beats and bands. Downstairs, Tree House Fire tailored a lively melange of pop-reggae that would sit happily on the Moon Ska Records label — comparable to a thousand others, but unashamedly so. Meanwhile, Crying Wolf Club opened the night for the upstairs venue. Their male/female layered vocals, paired with the travelling pop ring of their guitars, made for a suitably sweet harmony to ease in the night’s proceedings. I’ll admit that my interest waned slightly by the end of the set, as I found my initial optimism was not elevated as time went on. However, their overall tone of daydream indie and country is highly accessible, and will be the source of pleasure to many of your ears. Next up were the crunching blues duo Howl. Comparisons to recent acts of a similar nature must be infuriating for the band but are inevitable given their saturated genre of choice. The distorted country rock two-piece niche, pioneered by the likes of White Stripes and The Black Keys, made my initial interest for Howl more focused on the Ginsberg-esque band name rather than their prospective tunes. I am pleased to say that they ignited the night with their riffs and respective energies, toasting the party with a whisky tinged kick and setting the stage for the headliners. Axes exploded with their vibrant instrumental firework show, instantly engaging the crowd for the oncoming antics. This foursome embarked on a set of playful melodies that reminded me of other music magicians such as The Octopus Project — constantly invigorating and ultimately inspiring. They surpassed the bane of a broken string with ease and personality before diving back head first into the riffs that lead the night onto the early morning DJ set. And with that, The Full Moon ended the beginning of a new year — long into the night, for nights that may long continue. SION LIDSTER
CF10, Cardiff Uni
Levitation Festival The Moon Club, Cardiff
After the previous night’s antics with Not Since The Accidents’ EP launch, I was well up for another blast of sonic furore courtesy of the Levitation Festival boys. We were introduced smoothly into the night with the suave sounds of The Dusty Music Makers. Pretty piano loveliness danced around vivacious vocals, ethereal backing tracks, first rate fiddle and possibly a gutsy guitar if my memory is right. Their musical moves created a colour transformation in my head from boring grey to stunning technicolour — boosh! It was back to the 70s with old school punks Eastfield all the way from Birmingham. Catchy rhythms driving the way forward like a soapbox racer with an anti-establishment point to make got me bopping all over the place — ’twas what those early punk gigs many moons ago must have been like, a privileged scout into those days, class. I was of the impression that I would be astounded by AKB’AL, but they were all right I suppose, songs didn’t really seem to go anywhere and, for me, were as bland as a cardboard coffin. The good bits were when the bass was heard prominently in quiet passages, funky riffs going on there, and when demonic vocals duetted with standard vocals and sounded cool, but not for me white noise. Big brother to Allen Key Spanner made my day as they smashed their way through their set with a flugelhorn, a sexier version of a trumpet. Their fast ska la la jauntiness was the perfect backdrop for the mad as a box of Doc Martens’ Dancers having it large in the crowd. Energy score was nine and three quarters and revved up everyone for the rave that was to follow. Actually enjoyed the trippy DJs although don’t think anybody thought much of my dancing! BENJAMIN FRANKS
Clwb Y Bont, Pontypridd This was an unorthodox high octane crazy night of trashy music and theatrical antics, that was marred somewhat by the venue’s laxadaisy preparation with a bust sound system and inadequate number of bar staff. Gung Ho burst on first and were slamming as usual, not just in musical terms but in physical ones too. Konni (guitar, vocals) got bored of the stage at times and turned into a charging melodious bull, careering into the audience, head down with no consideration for people’s drinks — there was more beer over me than in people’s bellies. You could tell the whole band were loving playing to the ecstatic crowd. Apparently with punk bands the musicians are not too accomplished musically — not true, these guys played so fast and tight, they were a missile on a mission. Boris on the bass had all the faces as usual and Lewis looked sublimely elated banging those pots and pans. Culver were also kicking out the jams with incredible showmanship for the crowd. Bass player Daniel Benjamin’s interaction with the crowd was ace, staring freakily at everyone down the barrel of his bass. Little Dwt Liam impressed us with some incredible sounds from his voice, rough as the depths of hell, and the rest of the band perfectly melded with him with the stomping guitars of Lukas, Gareth, Mal and with the heavy heavy rhythmical blitzkrieg of drummer Carl Mental. Boolakasha, the drumming witches, smashed seven bells out of our minds with their psychedelic crazy sounds. Frontman Matt Fry was on another planet, he seems to go somewhere on stage and Jim Morrison and Hendrix would be proud. These incredibly gifted musicians showed us the true meaning of body throwing riffs, smooth slidey guitar effects and a smashing show all round. This was the third time I had seen them in three weeks, amazing, gonna have to take the whole band on to desert island discs. It all went even more crazy after this stupendous musical melee. Zinc Bukowski decided they wanted to play in the crowd in the middle of the floor, an ace concept but this move backfired badly as only 30 people were allowed in the room when there were about 100 people out to enjoy themselves. A ruckus ensued with the bouncers and after increasingly heated words the crowd barged past and into the room. The band extremely aggravated then relented to go back on the stage and blasted out their trademark fuzzy, grungy, kick-ass songs, dabbling in celluloid samples and extortionate amounts of reverb creating a noise reminiscent of Fugazi and a space rocket to the moon. BENJAMIN FRANKS
Photograph by Alex Williams
De Monford Hall, Leceister Civic Hall, Wolverhampton O2 Academy, Leeds After following the band from the first album Word Gets Around, and photographing them over the past six years, I felt Stereophonics had taken a bit of a step back over the past few years. However fans always knew they were up to something, just under the radar with an Olympic gig here, some intimate gigs there. More recently, it’s been difficult to do anything without seeing or hearing something from the band, with TV appearances, magazine interviews and radio play really raising expectation of their new album, Graffiti On The Train. I was very fortunate to photograph the first three gigs of their UK tour, in Leicester, Wolverhampton and Leeds, and to be honest — my ears are still ringing — Stereophonics are clearly back, with an updated line up and new influences in sound. It was clear at each gig that the crowd were eager to be a part of the action too, standing and waiting to enter in the cold and sometimes rain at each venue. The age range of fans also varied greatly, ranging from seven years old and up to retirement age, giving further evidence of how diverse the fan base is. Earlier warm up gigs in London, Ireland and Berlin gave the sense that the band were trying out and promoting tracks from the new album. It was clear that this tour was much more intimate than previous tours, giving the band an opportunity to “road test the album” as Kelly put it. Leicester, Wolverhampton and Leeds were all about mixing old with new, as the set list was altered and tweeked, but remained at 23 songs for each venue. Rather than opening with a banner dropping and shaking the foundations with heavy bass, drums and long guitar riffs, We Share The Same Sun slowly erupted in front of the crowd, and blue light engulfed the stage while videos hit a large white backdrop behind the band. The crowd were clearly in Kelly’s hands. While the following songs on the setlist altered at each gig between Thousand Trees, Superman and The Bartender & The Thief, Graffiti On The Train would always follow before Indian Summer, a track that is greeted with raucous applause. The usual rules for a gig photographer are “first three songs, no flash”, so setting my camera gear down after the gig openers I had the opportunity to experience the gig fully and take in the crowd reaction. There was a sense of being part of the performance at each venue, with plenty of crowd participation on big hits Just Looking, Maybe Tomorrow and Traffic, as Kelly declared “Lets have a sing song!” each time. There was no forgetting who was in charge though, with the tempo and emotions changing back and forth between sing-a-long regulars, with clear pulsating guitar riffs, heavy drums, and vocal metaphors of new songs Catacomb, In A Moment, Roll The Dice and the haunting Violins & Tambourines. Other songs that varied between sets also included Las Vegas Two Times, Pick A Part That’s New, Could You Be The One For Me and Bank Holiday Monday. Kelly took time out to describe Been Caught Cheating, “When we were recording the album, we’d finish and have a few beers, then a few bottles of wine, and we kept coming back to this song. It kicked the f***ing doors down and snuck its way onto the album.” The track, which Kelly disclosed was originally penned for Amy Winehouse prior to her death, is a clear favourite of fans. Following a little feedback and four taps of the drum sticks, Local Boy In The Photograph was the last song of the set which always succeeded in returning the crowd to absolute mania. As with the opening tracks of each gig, the encore varied between No-One’s Perfect and Have A Nice Day, but sometimes was always left for a bit of conversation and gratitude to the fans. The opening weekend of the tour gave plenty of instances for Kelly to chat with the crowd, with opportunity to comment on the chart success for their latest album, Wales winning the Six Nations in epic fashion, and a reminder that he’s a Leeds football fan. Enjoying a bit of banter with the crowd would end with Dakota finishing the gig. It’s fairly well known that the band receive some indifferent reviews of albums and gigs alike, but being part of these three gigs made something very clear to me. Stereophonics appeared to be the tightest, loudest and brightest I have seen them since the very early days in 1997. The band are confirmed at several festivals this summer, and with an arena tour in November, Stereophonics are clearly aiming to be back in the limelight. To really understand the band, they are best listened to in their element: live, loud and preferably with a cold beer. ALEX WILLIAMS
JACK WHITE What’s your background? I read music in Oxford and them undertook a PhD in composition at Cardiff University. My main influences are composers who work with electronics and acoustic instruments such as (the late) Jonathan Harvey and Kaija Saariaho. My last large-scale work was Digital Dust which premiered on BBC Radio 3 last year, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. You were recently commissioned to write a piece to celebrate the centenary of the Parc & Dare Theatre in Treorchy. How did you approach the project and what influenced the music you created? From the very start it was my priority to write music at the correct level for each of the groups involved. The challenges to this came because of the need for the piece to sound as one complete work. This was quite a daunting task since the age and experience of each of the groups varied substantially; making the music too complicated or too simple would have left the performers and audience unsure about the work. Once I was sure that I had interpreted this balance correctly, the melodic influences in the work bound the piece together, creating an accessible and performable piece. With the majority of the performers being young people with little or no experience of playing or singing a major orchestral piece, how did you take this element into consideration? This is simply a matter of highlighting strengths and underplaying weaknesses. Even though the performers are young I have been surprised by their versatility and enthusiasm for tackling new material.
TENORS OF ROCK How did you guys get together? The band was formed about three years ago. I (Gareth) had an idea of creating a new kind of vocal group. There had never been a vocal group singing rock in the way it was intended. I just figured to sing rock with your mates was a good idea - why have one front man when you can have six!
Did the music develop differently once the young people started rehearsing the piece? Yes, especially with the youngest performers. As a composer it is important that you keep an idea of the sound you want. The primary school choirs made a fantastic sound, and they put emphasis and expression on different parts of the text compared to the model in my mind’s ear. This was an interesting process in the piece because they were making it their own. Capturing their unique sound and voices was a fundamental part of this work.
Why rock music over classical pieces? We intend being different. There are a plethora of vocal groups singing classical pieces but we aren’t classical singers — so the natural choice is to sing the music we know and How different is this piece to your previous work? love which is rock. I have never undertaken a large-scale commission for school groups before, so this piece is totally different to my What’s your connection with the WRU? Being Welsh, rugby is our national game and we enjoy standing on the terraces like every previous works. However, the threads that connect this and other fan. So when we were being given the opportunity to attach one of our tracks to the previous pieces are: the use of melody; recording samples and using them as electronic sections; and scoring for ‘live’ WRU and the Wales Rugby Charitable Trust we jumped at the chance. instruments and electronics. Considering that in terms of a vocal group you’re in your youth, why at this stage in your career are you handing over your much needed profits to a charity? (But thank What is the underlying story behind the words and music you’ve written? you for doing so!) Well we were offered this opportunity after a gig we did with the WRU and for our The words and music together tell the story of the building — hence the name of the finished piece being Can Yr introduction to the industry it’s a real honour to be attached to such a worthy cause. Adeilad/Song Of The Building. Each of the sections paints a different image from its history, including the rock coming What’s the hardest rock classic you guys have attempted as a group? Well none of them are easy, but we do a version of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love and from the ground to build the theatre, the miners donating one penny in the pound from their salaries to pay for it, and AC/DC’s Back In Black mashed together which is a pretty challenging! the educational and cultural significance of the building to the history of Treorchy and the wider area. By bringing What’s your personal favourite rock song and why? all of these themes together in the theatre building, it is Jimmy: Run To The Hills (Iron Maiden) because it proves pilots can sing. Jonny: Strength In Numbers (Times Of Grace) because it’s loud, fast and hard, and the my hope that the audience connects with the work (and the occasion) and realises the special place this building lyrics touch on subjects that are personal to me. Gareth: You Really Got Me (The Kinks) because it’s the first song I listened to out of my reserves in the history of the valley. dad’s collection that made me go....yep, rock music is for me! Why is Can Yr Adeilad unique? Dai: Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin) because I have the riff tattooed on my arm. Gaz: Everlong (Foo Fighters) because I’ve never been pulled into a song so much, it’s Grohl This piece is unique because it cannot be performed in giving a teenage me a lesson in the meaning of life in my headphones. It’s about the peak another venue with the same emotional effect. I have used of happiness and holding on to it and speaks to me on so many levels. And to be so tender local people’s voices as electronic samples in the piece and worked with a variety of young soloists. The point of the and yet so epic blows my mind. Hugh: Good Golly Miss Molly (Little Richard) because this dude was right at the forefront work is to show-off the building and Treorchy in general, and as a piece of music unique to this time and location I and the birth of rock ’n’ roll. think it does just that.
LITTLE ERIS Tell us about yourself and how you got into music? I have always connected with music, ever since I was little I was always fascinated by recorded sounds. In school I played the obligatory recorder, did a lot of drama and singing, played harp, violin and piano, all to a very basic level. Harmonies and melodies are something I have always been around. Outside of school I didn’t really play any instruments until I was 17 and studying in Neath College where I had friends on the performing arts course. This was the first time I was around guitars and drum kits and bands! I tried a few instruments and found bass to be the easiest thing to pick up and play by ear. The Little Eris project came about when my punk band Freaky Fortnight ended. This is when I decided to continue as a solo artist. You’ve been called the Welsh Bjork. Who or what are the influences on your musical style? I think the reference to Bjork is because she has a very natural singing style, her voice is very raw and she is herself. She also comes from a punk background. We perhaps both have a similar vibe in that sense. One of my biggest inspirations when I was playing bass as a main instrument was Kim Deal from The Pixies. Her voice is very plain and unaffected. I like this natural style of singing because I guess that’s all I can do, so to hear other female vocalists with this style has been encouraging to me. The music I make is a reflection of where I am in life and the music I am discovering as my journey continues. I also don’t restrict myself to any genre I just go for stuff that resonates with me, so I have enjoyed soaking up sounds from many scenes. The underground scene has always interested me, new sounds and new genres. I like seeing bands who are creative in their music, stuff that sounds unique to the people making it. I had a phase of researching Genesis P Orridge and when I saw Psychic TV live I enjoyed the haphazard presentation where sometimes it sounds like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. I like things to be loose in that sense as it allows for the unexpected and has that tense atmosphere and can be quite funny too. Do you strive to be unconventional or is it just a natural ability? The So Many Nights track was released as a mainstream commercial single in contrast to my unconventional lo-fi stuff that I release online, on compilations and DIY CDs, but despite the efforts to make the single sound more conventional it has been described by reviewers as “barking mad”. So I guess that’s something that just comes naturally. Could you explain the story behind your video for So Many Nights? The video is an epic multi-scene music video with many locations and costumes that was produced on no budget. It was filmed by Jody Tozer of Bulldozer Films and Grant Pain a filmmaker from Ferndale and involved lots of artists from Cardiff, most of whom I know from organising the Unemployed Daytime Disco in Cardiff. Being out of work myself with no money it made sense to me to work with others in a similar situation to pool together our creative resources to create something we can all be proud of. Making the video on no budget is a story now being used to inspire others. The Work Programme I am on through the Jobcentre has featured the video on their website to inspire other unemployed people. I also presented the video at a recent Cardiff Mini Film Festival where I talked how having no money should never get in the way of creativity. If people want to create something without money there is always a way to do it, it just takes a bit more time, steely determination and infectious enthusiasm! What drives you forward with your music and where do you think you’ll heading next with it? My drive for music is relentless. I am always working on new songs and performing live, along with running the Original Human record label. I like my music to link in with social change and through my music I have performed at progressive conscious changing events such as Waveform Festival, where the organisers are big on using new technologies such as orgone energy. The quest for knowledge and information and better ways of doing things is a big motivator for me. Through being a musician I have connected with amazing people and seen things that have changed my outlook on life and society. It is difficult to predict where it’s all heading, I’m just on the rollercoaster and I’m not getting off! Music to me is a vehicle for communicating and for healing, it’s more than entertainment. My journey as an artist is also my story, like a book with many chapters yet to be penned hopefully. A long term goal of mine is to travel with the Little Eris project and take the sounds to other countries. There are good electronic music scenes in other cities, for example Berlin and Mexico City. I would like the opportunity to take Welsh electronica to some far out places. Right now though I’m focussing on making the next video, releasing two more singles and completing my first official album which will be released later this year.
TONIGHT ALIVE Your debut album (What Are You Scared Of?) has a interesting name, care to give us a little explanation of that? Well at the time we were just finishing off high school and we had a lot of pressure put on us to you know decide what we wanted to be and what we wanted to do and for everyone around us it seemed musician wasn’t a very desirable choice so this album is about, you know, taking chances, not being scared and going for it really. You’ve come from Australia, halfway across the world, to gig with us here. How are you finding Wales and the UK? Oh it’s awesome, the fans are great and everything here in the UK is very compact, I mean major cities are only 60/70km apart so travelling from gig to gig is going to be that much more easy and Europe is only just across the water so it’s great. You’ve made the Kerrang! Tour. How are you finding being on such a huge tour, are you a little intimidated by the more well-known bands you’re playing next to? No not really. We’ve been touring for some time over in Australia and in the time we’ve played with a bigger band here and there, so over the past few years I guess we’ve got used to it. If anything it’s just exciting You’ve had your first album and you’re doing your first big British tour… where to from here guys? Well, from here we finish off the tour, go home and grab a bit of rest and maybe get working on a new album, oh and we’ve got some tours across America and Asia too, so lots to look forward to. As a general rule the British tend to be a little bit ignorant of the Australian music scene. Had you heard of any of our big British bands prior to coming over here? Oh yeah, especially bands like Bring Me The Horizon and Funeral For A Friend — they’re pretty awesome!
PLUGGEDIN IN PLUGGED
New Releases, CDs, EPs, Demos & Downloads Reviews by Dexter Walkley, Alex Short, Gemma Davies, Jessica Risby, Rhys Milsom, Rob Jones Ritchie Samuel, Alys Clark, Darcie Vincent, Sophie Carter, Kristian S, Emily Shankland, Laura Thomas, Stephanie Hewitt, Sam Rees, Stephen Round & Darren Warner Welcome to this quick round up of all that is worth listening to and up for grabs via iTunes or your local record store... Back with his first album in 10 years and the one person who we’d love to interview for PLUGGED IN (though I don’t know if I could hold my composure in his presence), David Bowie returns from his self-imposed exile and enjoyment of fatherhood to confound his critics with The Next Day. This of course is a major event that deserves more than I can write here, but there are very few true rock gods and David Bowie is one of them. Never one to sit still musically, David Bowie sucks up his surroundings into his music like a sponge and changes shape and form to suit the times we’re in. The Next Day is no exception. It’s reflective because he has had a lot to think about since his minor heart attack at the Hurricane Festival in Germany in 2004, but the album also carries a grittiness that is an expression of the hard times we live in. This album deserves your attention, not just because David Bowie is iconic and influences everybody you see on the music scene today, from Lady GaGa and her shocking clothes and make-up to X-factor winner James Arthur and his stage swagger, but because basically it is excellent... With such an exceptional Stereophonics album you know that a number of singles were going to be released to keep it in the public eye. The latest, Graffiti On The Train, is also the title track and must not be seen as a mere filler. The beauty of this song is unsurpassable and is probably one of the best tracks on the album, best by some very high standards. Hyponotic and dreamlike it pulls you through a story of forlorn love with amazing craftsmanship that only Kelly Jones is capable of — a must... Red Room Therapy deliver us true classic rock with their outing All In The Mind. It sounds like they’ve been doing this for years with their incredibly skilled guitars and power vocals, producing something like Airborne or a less p**sed off Papa Roach. Love it... Cat Southall’s Nancy Neuron & The Army Of Steamboats kicks off with the theatrical Hello (Interlude) on this a concept album based around Cat gaining super human powers and fighting crime under the name Nancy Neuron. Bizarre as it is captivating, this is the most original album I’ve heard in a long time. One thing stands out, and that is Cat’s vocals, she has an amazing voice... Garage punk par excellence from Limozine with their latest cruncher Johnny Got Shot By A UFO. It gets into your brain and just stays there making you want it again and again. Brilliant... Low Sea’s single Remote Viewing is a quirky thing, with its abstract sounding vocals, striking resemblance to the stylings of The XX and its borderline psychedelic music video. Remote
Viewing is the perfect filler song on that party playlist you’ve been working on. Definitely worth a listen... Welsh language songsters Sen Segur supply us with the Americana hippy delights of their ep Sudd Sudd Sudd on IKA Ching Records. Soft, emotional and full of beauty in an early Pink Floyd vein, Sen Segur is at the forefront of a beautiful revolution that is happening on the Welsh music scene. The track Lemoned Cymylog is just perfection... The Specials live set on More.. Or Less The Specials Live captures ‘the best of the best’ tunes from 2011 European gigs! Punk and ska unite and the lyrics are as rousing and relevant as they ever were. The Cardiff gig displayed a dance frenzy that created an unrivalled atmosphere, so ladies and gents Do The Dog... Now, if you’re gonna do it on your own, then dedication, motivation and aspiration are three things you need in abundance and one guy who’s got these three qualities is Evan Andree. The opener to the Invisible Sap ep, American Dream, has a guitar-line akin to Tom Petty in its crystallised build-up and a solid, safe drumbeat. Andree’s melodic vocals add a touch of smoothness and class to the track and the slow processes make for very easy listening. The track captures American teenage summers in snapshot — the sun blaring down on roofless cars, endless days at the beach, the sun stretching across days, school a far-off mirage. Your Song has a bit more oomph about it, while the final track, Mr Teleportation, is a mixture of indie-poppunk with its waning guitars, pattering drumbeats, angstful lyrics and winding and carousel-esque build ups. This EP shows Andree upping his game again and is a must for fans of Beach House and Ryan Adams... Casi Wyn has produced one of this issue’s most delightful debut eps with the simply titled 1. The five tracks drift around, highlighting the joy of her stunning voice and giving us something that needs to be enjoyed often... The rising talent quintet Bridges release their eagerly anticipated Colour The Sky ep after they’ve been making waves in the South Wales scene. It’s a strong debut setting a high bar for them to match, surprising us in the quality of the tracks, it’s partly due to Todd Campbell’s slick production — take stand out track Try Something Different if you love fantastic lyrics, razor sharp guitars and an enormous melody. I urge everyone reading to give this a try... Earl Mammal’s Horror At Pleasure is a super cool effort that lands itself in the classic Post-Punk and Goth genre. With licks of influences coming from bands such as The Cure and Joy Division it’s also a statement of an effort. It’s a half instrumental affair allowing the scuzzy guitars to splurge throughout and results in an effortlessly cool... Fans of Fleet Foxes, Midlake and Bon Iver prick your ears up and listen to Fossil Collectives’s Tell Where I Lie as this will be your favourite new band. The Leeds duo with ease craft an easy-going folk album that is gentle on the ears but heavy on the melody. The songs are crafted with refined power, lifting in all the right places — a truly
unmissable listen... Although I admired how Animal by The Pigeon Detectives lulled me into tapping my foot and bobbing my head territory, I still wasn’t grabbed by the track. Similar in style to The View, The Pigeon Detectives hold potential to reach an indie/ rock adolescent audience, but no further. Still the album We Met At Sea is worth a spin... Jah Wobble and Keith Levene were the engine room of an avant-garde PIL. The reunited duo has plenty left in their creative tank and the Metal Box in Dub gigs fired their pristine past back into lustrous life. The current John Lydon led PIL cannot offer the enterprise or excellence of this offering Yin & Yang... Punk meets indie on Drenge’s Bloodsports with its repetitive driven beats and low guitar strums which are interspersed with an upsurge of ferocious guitars and voice that sends a jolt of electricity through your body... Helldorado’s Bones In The Closet is a nostalgia trip that is a fully retro experience, with its blend of surf and beach rock ’n’ roll that can only make you feel good. Take for example track opener, Gallows Bird that would fit right into Pulp Fiction with its Spanish sounding fiesta feel riffs. A listen for those with a curious ear... Verden Er Enkel by Honningbarna is a contender for the weirdest listen of the issue. Why? In the genre mixing pot you should add some deep south Southern American rock and then twist it on its head by combing through a refined German rock. As I don’t speak German I can’t tell you a thing about any of the lyrical wit that might be hidden, but I can tell you the music is a firmly in-your-face effort for those craving a rock affair of an album... Heavy Feet by Local Native is a chilled down tempo tune that erupts into a hypnotic daze and trances you out. Well structured and amazingly competent, I’m still finding it difficult to see how it’s going to make any impact on today’s music market... Alternative TV appeared via a late 1970s punk scene to form a sound that was close to Can and reggae-type rhythms. The ATV debut album The Image Has Cracked returns in a sprightly CD set with 11 bonus songs (including early 7” gems) that wades through musical minefields to convey militant messages... Lanre cooks up a gentle bi-lingual affair on Pen Voyage that is soothing for the soul, partly sung in French to accompany the English like Salt And Pepper. Any Radio 2 listeners out there should put this on after a tough day, as it’s a great acousticsoul effort that really stands out in a cluttered market place... Talk Talk deliver their stellar singles in aural and visual format on Natural History (1982-1988) and on Natural Order (1982-1991) which has the band’s other gems that may have stood leftfield of radio recognition. A less commercial collection which shows Talk Talk had a lot more in their musical canon... Alt-J offer a unique sound of escapism on Dissolve Me with its catchy upbeat sound creating exotic vibrancy. The cheerful pop-like tones are juxtaposed with grungy undertones that may appear to have an unclear direction but provides a layering that tends to be ignored on most tracks presented as singles these
days... Relentlessly cheerful with hints off folk and reggae throughout, Fireworks by North Walian Sarah Louise Owen comes over as Radio 2 friendly pop. Beautifully arranged with beautiful vocals in a chirpy style you can’t but love it... It’s crystal clear that Mike Marlin’s husky and well-travelled crooning voice is the dominant instrument across his album Grand Revival. If you were to close your eyes and let the music build you up a vision, you’d picture a saloon and Mike would be in the corner sharing his folk-road tales... Sound Of The Suburb’s self titled album is a rock-pop effort that can simply be described as being middle class, middle aged and middle of the road — so sadly, there was nothing to ignite my sound buds here... Exploding from the depths of Maesteg, Naomi Edwards sounds far ahead of her time and the competition with her track Scars. This is more than a Taylor Swift influenced piece of radio friendly pop, this has a raw emotion and lyrical meaning that stands high amongst the overcrowded girl/guitar scene. Youthful enough to make Ellie Goulding old, this is passionate with an exciting modern twist... Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Nocturama, Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus and Dig, Lazarus Dig!!! return with bonus tunes and DVDs. From the cot to the coffin Cave and his cast create epic stories and crafted songs that explore love and lust, life and loss and much more. Dig, Lazarus Dig!!! is the star, but quality is in quantity... This Broken Home by Talk To Angels is delightful indie rock synth filled goodness that reaches the epic song writing of The Airborne Toxic Event. The mix of classic orchestral arrangements within the soaring guitars, ice cool synths and the purring drum line is too good for words to describe. Epic uplifting moments that leave you anticipating what’s coming next... Take the early Fab Four classic poppy song writing that made them a sensation and combine the Britpop bands with the upbeat melody such as Dodgy and The Bluetones and you get what is at the core of Sleeping Is Not For Dreamers by The Lightwings. Coined beatpop it is a very charming effort that’s nostalgic of two of the UK’s finest musical eras... Massive Attack’s Blue Lines returns in a remixed/ remastered form. Breakbeats, sampling and rap magnificently merge with live instruments and a mix of soul, punk, reggae, dub, lover’s rock, electro and hip hop blossom. This is chillout genius that will remain as timeless... Highly recommended by our Creative Director, Cool Cats For Pop Dogs by The Popdogs is a work that has 60s classic song writing stamped all over it. With catchy foot tapping beats and power chords throughout, it brings the retro pop of The Beatles influences alive in a combination of spiky Punk combined with pop with a 60s twist. To summarise it’s poppunk that’s been taken inside Dr Who’s TARDIS for a time travel. Not sure about the cover artwork though... The guys from Trinidad Jointpop strike our stereo once again, this time with a fully-fledged album The Pothounds. It’s a mellowed out affair that lends itself to an evening on a Caribbean beach. Older influences come through from the previous material of rock that is firmly from the classic 80s era. An easy rock ’n’ roll listen for you to enjoy... Bob Mould achieved many midas moments with his former bands Husker Du and Sugar, but his solo career has never appeared to maintain such momentum. However, Silver Age is awash with feisty and fast guitar gusto that has Mould return to his
power pop pedestal... The Swansea based punk rock heroes The Arteries are back with their US skate-singed music in tow on the Restless ep. It still fits perfectly into a Tony Hawks skateboard game or alternatively the mega US Warped Tour. It’s quick fire, energetic and sure as hell lively. Perfect skate punk for all you extreme sports fans out there... The album notes tell a story of a heavy rock musician releasing his different musical side with Carnival Kid’s self-titled album. From New York, this breezy affair is an expression of his mellower side that is equally as creative. In total there are 16 tracks and while that is value for your cash, it’s also its downfall feeling more filler than killer... The Recovery are a hardcore mob that combine huge metal riffs reserved for tracks on an Avenged Sevenfold album and the hardcore sound that ignites two-step riots in small dank dingy venues. Wherever Nowhere Takes Us borders into metalcore territory in places, but always brings it back to a killer melodic chorus. This is an effort of a band wanting to capture their live sound, but it’s not fully refined so leaves no real depth in the recording... Jesse Ware has a distinct feel of 1980s chart soul topped with a fresh icing that revives memories of Princess, Loose Ends and Patrice Rushen. On Devotion, a smooth electro glide of R&B revolving around tales of relationships, Ware takes the past to forge a valid credit of the present... The new ep composed by electro quartet Ghost Capsules combines two original recordings in Inside and Sleepless. Inside has a trippy electro beat that skips like a retro video game, whilst Sleepless is more of a dreamy production like someone is stuck in a state of insomnia with a chilling voice peering throughout. If you like these tracks there’s a bunch of remixes thrown in to beef it up to an ‘ep’ status... Spirit Forest by Wampire is a standard take on modern day American indie that has a washover effect on this listener, who is a little bored of hearing the same formula for this type of music that is adored in some music press. The single does have some great guitar parts screeching though accompanied by a wild running synth that is a lovely listen but not an essential one. For Portland music scene lovers though, it’s a must-listen... Despite a positive start, the beat to Chapel Club’s Good Together became a bit repetitive but it suited its disco-tech dance style. It held my attention and got me moving, but I felt I needed something more... Buzzcocks are melody makers who unite revved up rhythm and infectious lyrical imagination to create the perfect power pop product. On Another Music In A Different Kitchen, Love Bites and A Different Kind Of Tension they show diligence is abundant on this trio of repackaged 1978/9 albums that includes a bevy of bonus brilliance... Midge Ure, Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann return to the studio as Ultravox after a near three decade break with the album Brilliant. Post-modern synthesizers and guitars lead a melancholic mix on a record that’s not an instant hit or rehashed 80s revivalism, but a realistic record for the now... The Shields remix of Two Door Cinema Club’s Next Year begins with a small spark of potential energy which is quickly enlightened into a fun, catchy and punchy song. This will make the most moodiest of souls jump up and take to the floor. Buzzing with electrical energy this is a brilliant remix of an already excellent song... Love Like by Valentiine is nothing like
the name suggests — rather than being a soppy love song it provides us with a punked up gem with a retro feel. Words you can hear combine with a nifty guitar riff... You get gentle sleepy vocals with a slightly depressed tone drowned by up-front guitars on Forgive Not, Forget Not by With Best Intentions. With its obviously stated drums and rumbling bass line this comes under the heading of depressed chick rock music that could almost be a female fronted REM. Kinda cool though... Bring The Thunder by The Kix is easily the girls’ best and most commercial work to date. Both fun and full of aggression, with excellent harmonised vocals The Kix give out so much attitude I know who I’d take into a boxing ring with me...With the start of scratched vocals that open this electro rock mash-up Break Control’s Killer In You is a delicious danceable and totally infectious track. Influenced by Pendulum and Inner Party System this still uniquely fills the void between rock and dubstep with a surprise that lasted from start to finish. Great stuff... With epic sounds and big vocals Isolated Atoms go for that U2 meets Embrace type 80s vibe on their track Hold On. The foot stomping feel and over emphasised vocals create a truly feelgood song that’s built for a commercial, if not slightly manufactured, market... Clever Frank Turner returns with Recovery which is full of his amazingly ludicrously cheerful manner despite the solemn undertones of his lyrics. Fitting in a thousand words in a space built for one while bashing away on his acoustic guitar you’ll be wondering why such a raw passionate talent has been overlooked when compared to the Ed Sheerans of this world. Great to see him recognised by Danny Boyle at the Olympic opening ceremony though... A full-on blast of techno rock, Shivers by Out Of Orbit is a mixed up blend of Marilyn Manson with The Prodigy which delivers a massive powerful tune. Rhythmic anarchic fun this song really does get you active... Wreckin & Rollin is a burst of retro bubblegum punk-pop from Little Eris that sounds like it should be attached to one of those little car ads or is the German contribution to Eurovision. Full of wonderful energy with a real get-up-and-go feel, it has hints of X-Ray Specs in its simple straightforward fun... Created to make you think, Tracey Browne’s River City has a slow Sam Phillips feel of a beat that paints a reflective picture which you’ve only got to add colour to. Graceful, elegant and emotional, it’s a bare-all type of tune that leaves her nothing to hide behind. With hints of legend Joni Mitchel, she is still able to mark her own position with this song and her album Everyone Is Ordinary... Taken from the self-titled album, Argonaut (not the Welsh screamo rock band of the same name) provide us with the track Monet that has a sublime steady beat and airy drifty vocals which seem to be set at the same level throughout. This is a downbeat song that relies on its repetitive beat to guide us throughout. Good for a listen but like the band’s performance, don’t over do it... The One, The Only by Chantel Claret dropped through our door. Who you may ask? Not sure, but boy does she give us that big 60s songstress vibe with huge sounds, large chorus and a real upbeat jazzy flair for a modern twist. This has commercial airplay written all over it which is why it comes as a shock that she is in fact married to Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence. Watch out for this girl...
The Independent Voice For Music In Wales