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Standing Out From The Crowd: Introducing Adwaith And Their Debut Album 'Melyn'

Wednesday, 17 October 2018 Written by Laura Johnson

Photo: The Shoot

Adwaith have one of the most streamed Welsh language songs of all time, and Manic Street Preachers frontman James Dean Bradfield recently remixed one of their tracks. But there are still way too many people out there who’ve never heard of the Carmarthen trio. Why is that?

The lazy answer would be to point to the fact that their music is performed in Welsh. Some will see that as another hurdle for a young band to clear - it’s not like attacks on the language are uncommon - but bassist Gwenllian Anthony says that it was inevitable that their first record would be written in their native tongue. ‘Melyn’, which translates to ‘yellow’, is with us only because Welsh has been key to their musical development from day one.

“I don’t think it was going to be any other way,” she says. “We started because we saw Welsh language bands at our local venues, and festivals, and that inspired us to be part of that scene. The Welsh music scene and the Welsh language scene has really helped us and pushed us to where we are right now. Everyone has been really supportive.”

There is a burgeoning, tight-knit scene in south Wales, with bands like Mellt, HMS Morris and Estrons all making noise in the slipstream of artists like Gwenno, whom Adwaith will open for at the latest edition of Cardiff’s Sŵn Festival. Steffan Pringle, who recorded their previous singles and currently plays in Estrons, stepped up to produce their new LP, but they are doing a good job of standing out from the crowd.

One listen to ‘Melyn’ tells us that there’s much more at play here than the simple ‘post-punk’ sticker that’s been affixed to them. Yn Fy Mhen is an erratic 50 second instrumental, while Diafol a Fi is inspired by the tale of Robert Johnson’s pact with the devil. Newid and Y Diweddaraf deal with themes of defiance, and Gartref with feeling overwhelmed and longing for home. “We just write what comes naturally,” Anthony explains. “We don’t overthink our tracks, because when we start overthinking we’ll never get it done. We like to just write, record and then we have it. It’s a bit raw, a bit new and fresh, and not over produced.”

Anthony describes ‘Melyn’ as nostalgic, with the band looking back over the last three years of new experiences and personal growth. It’s an organic rush of emotions and ideas, while a look at the band’s influences fills in a few more gaps when it comes to its stylistic diversity. Y Diweddaraf incorporates post-punk with flecks of classic rock and pop, while Colli Golwg recalls 2 tone. Eslewhere, Osian has a Shangri-Las vibe, Fel I Fod is an indie-rock ballad and Gartref dips its toes into folk.

“We all have similar music tastes but very different at the same time, very eclectic,”  Anthony says. “Hollie [Singer, guitar and vocals] grew up with the Who and ‘60s mod-rock, it’s what got her into music, whereas I like ‘90s bands like Blur, and Heledd [Owen, drums] likes the Slits and stuff. The tracks are so different, but it’s because our influences are so different as well. It mixes it up and if you don’t put yourself in a box then it’s a lot easier to write music.”

Growing up together may also have played a role in the group dynamic found in Adwaith, and might also suggest why their music is so cohesive. The band only formed three years ago, but Anthony and Singer have known eachother since they were three years old, while Owen saw the duo at their debut show and offered to step in behind the kit.

They have the best of both worlds: second nature formed by a long-term friendship and also an injection of fresh energy from an outside influence. They are close as people but their writing and performances are contradictory, relaxed and unregimented. Each member has a defined role but Anthony (who also plays mandolin and keys) admits they often mix things up by switching around and jumping on different instruments.

With both Singer and Owen studying music at university, in south Wales and London respectively, and Anthony working at Carmarthen venue the Parrot, music is present in every part of their lives. It is not just a hobby. They live it every day. That’s why they are also trying to help cultivate a more inclusive scene that they are proud to be a part of. Their FEMME club nights feature live music from a diverse range of acts and share their name with a non-album single by the band. Anthony is currently looking forward to the next one, which is intended to coincide with International Women’s Day in 2019.

“We didn’t realise the lack of women in the scene until we were in the scene,” she explains. “We thought about making gigs that are a safe place for women to go, know that they can be themselves, play the type of music they want and just be them. Which is something we didn’t really have when we went to gigs when we were younger. It was always male oriented.”

After their Sŵn set with Gwenno, whose mural currently adorns the side of Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach venue, Adwaith will join her for the rest of her UK tour throughout October. They’re enthusiastic to see the reaction to their new record, while Anthony is also pleased that it’s finally out in the world.

“We’re all really excited and we feel like we’ve been waiting an eternity, but it hasn’t actually been that long,” she says. “We know that the album’s probably going to shock quite a few people, and the people who have heard it have said that they’ve been shocked, in a good way. Shocked at the whole feel. So I guess it’s a little bit nerve-racking when people don’t really know what they’re expecting. But we are really excited and really happy.”

'Melyn' is out now through Libertino Records


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