The first Pili Pala festival was a huge success in its aim to bring together a range of musical talent to support the event. Over the weekend, The Siren set out to do a series of short interviews with some of the bands performing in local Swansea venues.

FJORDS

First to be interviewed is the band “Fjords” from Cardiff, performing in the Garage on Friday. They introduce themselves as Sonny on vocals and guitar, Hannah on drums, Scott on guitar, Alex on bass/vocals, and Gareth as keyboardist/squawker. This is the band’s first festival, so I ask them what they’re enjoying about it so far.

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‘I like it because it’s a bit of a DIY festival and because it’s a friend who’s organising it,’ Alex says.

‘There are some really good bands playing too,’ Hannah adds. ‘I’d be really annoyed if I was playing tomorrow.’

‘Sin’s quite an experience if you haven’t been there before,’ I tell her. ‘It’s got its own weather system.’

‘A bit like Port Talbot,’ she says, making the others laugh.

Already establishing a good reputation; Fjords won the “Best Band” award in the Unsigned Music Awards 2013 and has supported acts such as Niki and the Dove, Kill It Kid, and the Kabeedies. Hannah informs me that they’re just about to release a new double A-side single: Domino/Strata Florida.

‘It’s a departure from our last EP. We’re much happier with the sound in this one,’ says Sonny. ‘It’s a lot better than our EP. I personally feel like when we played it back in the studio… it hadn’t been mastered or anything but it still sounded better.’

‘Last year we had a producer,’ Hannah says. ‘But it was quite nice to do it on our own this time. We’ve had a bit more flexibility and it’s come out a lot better.’

I want to know if they think it’s getting more and more difficult for new bands to break into their respective scene.

‘Outside of Wales it is,’ Hannah says immediately.

‘I feel like elsewhere in the country you can get a feeling for the other towns and cities around you,’ says Alex. ‘But in South Wales it’s like: “there’s the bridge” and everything.

‘And I find it amazing that Bristol is that close but they say “we’re only playing local bands”,’ Sonny adds.

‘Yeah like they require you to bring a certain number of people which is difficult,’ Hannah says. ‘It works both ways really.’

Is there anything they’d like the band to achieve in the next 6 months?

‘We’d like to get a tour with a new band coming through,’ Hannah says. ‘And definitely some airplay, although we haven’t really pushed it until now.’

‘With our new tracks I’d like to get some really serious airplay,’ says Sonny. ‘It’d be really good to play London again, Manchester maybe. Crack Bristol properly.’ (Everyone laughs.)

Bands that the members of Fjords like at the moment include: The Beatles, David Bowie, Bonobo, James Blake, Local Natives, Grizzly Bear, and Metric.

You can find Fjords on Facebook and Twitter. Check out their website at http://www.wearefjords.co.uk.

THE TAX

Overview: Great movement on stage, fresh sound, catchy songs. Bit of a Killers thing going on with the lead vocalist (in a good way). Kick-ass bassist.

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North London based band The Tax performed on Saturday evening at Sin City, supporting headline act Masters in France. We spoke with lead vocalist George Hill who notes, with some disappointment, that the crowd in Sin City is relatively small this evening. After talking to Gary is seems that this is down to a clash of scheduling between venues, but the lead vocalist of The Tax believes that the finals of the Eurovision song contest is to blame. To distract him, I ask how the band got involved with the festival.

‘We know the band called Cut Ribbons who are up next,’ he tells me.

He gave an excellent shout-out to this band while he was on stage, although I mention that I’m not sure if you’re supposed to say the support act are better than the headline act.

‘Was I not supposed to say that?’ he asks, pretending to look guitly. ‘Oops. I said they were almost as good.’

The band has been together with the current line-up for just over a year and just returned from a tour in Hungary.

‘We’ve got nine or ten gigs lined up,’ says George. ‘Over here it’s kind of like we have to do something in Europe before we get started here. It’s the only way to do it these days. Cut Ribbons are in Germany tomorrow as far as I know.’

He approves of the arrangement for the Pili Pala festival and the way in which it brings various acts from across Wales together.

‘If you get together three or four bands with a kind-of similar sound, and they’re all great as well. The charge is relatively inexpensive. And we wanted to get involved, it’s a good cause and all that so yeah, we’re happy.’

The Tax is releasing a single in Europe for September: ‘Am I Ever Gonna Get You Back?’

CUT RIBBONS

Overview: This band look and sound great on stage. The fairy lights around the mics were a nice touch (‘you gotta have a gimmick’) and the two vocalists create some fantastic harmonies during their performance. Bit of a Snow Patrol vibe in terms of sound/lyrics.

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I speak with Aled who tells me that the band got involved with the festival through Angela (who seems to be friends with absolutely everyone).

‘Obviously it’s a great cause so we just jumped at the chance to get involved,’ he says.

I ask what they’ve been up to outside of the festival and it turns out that they’re currently working on putting an album together.

‘It’s such early days with the album that we’re still trying out producers,’ Aled tells me. ‘It’s difficult because obviously we need to work with someone who has experience with our type of music- I think we’ve find the right one now so I’m happy with that.’

Do they have anything planned for the next six months?

‘Most of this summer is going to be taken up by the album,’ he says.’ We’ve got lots of festivals to go to and stuff like that. Summer in a way is like the perfect time to work on an album because you don’t do a lot of touring. We’ve been in this band now for about three years and so it’s that kind of time to start putting something together.’

I’m surprised to hear that the band listen to a lot of metal, given their own sound.

‘The fairy lights don’t suggest that,’ I point out, making Aled laugh.

‘I listen to the Manics a bit, always the Smiths, but then also Deftones and Pantera. We listen to a lot of old music, just everything. There’s always been a staple diet of music that we listen to, just as much as we can.’

Following the view from other bands about the emerging reputation of Welsh bands, I ask Aled why he thinks this is happening.

‘I think it’s because we’ve been left to our own devices for quite a long time, and due to the absence of pressure within the scene everyone’s just cultivated their own sound,’ he says. ‘And although the bands sound quite different they all fit together very nicely and I think we all go well together on stage.’

Keep an eye out for band updates on Facebook and Twitter. You can find their website at http://www.cutribbons.co.uk 

MASTERS IN FRANCE

Overview: Great live, very professional on stage. Songs are raw, with dark undertones and good layers of sound. Excellent performance.

Masters in France

This is the band’s first time performing in Swansea, but they’re not letting that get to them. Two of the band members met around seven years ago and started writing songs together, which eventually developed into the current line-up.

‘The festival manager asked if we wanted to do this gig in Swansea,’ Sion tells me. ‘We’d never done a gig here before so we said we were up for it. There’s been loads of bands coming out of Wales recently. I think where we’re from it’s like; “play football, play rugby or be in a band”. Welsh people seem to be really into their music.’

‘We’re just trying to get our first album out,’ Sion says.

‘Is it going to be very similar?’ I ask.

‘I don’t know,’ says Ed. ‘We’ll find out when we’ve finished it, you know? We’ve been pushing it back for too long so we’re trying to sit down and get on with it now.’

I notice he’s smoking a fake cigarette and point out that this goes against the stereotypical “rock and roll” image.

‘Do they work?’ I ask him.

‘His exact words were: “You get a better hit off them than real cigarettes”,’ Sion quips.

‘I think Swansea’s a lovely place,’ Ed says, changing the subject. ‘In every way because you’ve got nice views, nice people. I like people when you go to places, when you get a nice vibe off someone.’

I ask what the band get up to when they’re not playing music together.

‘We all work, there’s no money in being in a band at all,’ Sion says. ‘You see it in all the papers, everything costs. We’ve been spending so much money on generating funds for gigs, equipment, hotels and all that. It’s all expensive. Good fun though.’

I mention that I was disappointed the band didn’t play Mad Hatter, one of my favourites. (This tends to happen to me a lot.)

‘I hate singing it, ‘Ed says.

‘Is it rough on your voice or something?’ I ask.

‘Nope, I just fucking hate singing it. I think it’s because…when you play it live it’s like stop/start, it doesn’t flow. And when you keep doing it. I like the song but it’s just different when you play it live. A lot of people want us to play it but I don’t think it’d sound right.’

I bring up the dreaded ‘influences’ questions and ask whether they try to avoid bringing other artist’s music into their work, but Ed suddenly gets distracted by some dirt on his trousers.

‘Unfortunately that’s one of the hazards of being in Sin City,’ I tell him.

‘Fucking hell. These are my work trousers!’

He scrubs at them ineffectually for a moment then gets back to the previous question.

‘Everyone steals their ideas and they say “fucking hell, that was me” and… bollocks. Everyone swaps and share and snogs. It’s a massive orgy of music, that’s all it is.’

‘Could that be a title for your album?’ I ask.

‘Orgy? I’d like to see the artwork for that,’ Sion grins. ’18 and over yeah?’

‘Are you 18?’ Aled asks me. ‘Obviously. How old are you, Natalie?’

My co-interviewer tells him of her misfortune in looking about 12 years old when she is in fact 22.

‘I get ID’d when I try to buy lottery tickets,’ she tells the guys.

‘That’ll be great the older you get though,’ Sion says reassuringly.

‘Definitely,’ Ed says.

‘How old are you?’ I ask him.

‘I’m 53,’ he says.

‘You look great,’ I say.

‘Thanks very much. That’s my point.’

‘What are you all up to after we’re finished here?’ I ask.

‘Staying in a Travel Lodge and having a cup of tea,’ says Sion. ‘But there’s only two free biscuits in a Travel Lodge and there’s three of us staying in the room, so there’s going to be a pillow fight or something.’

‘I have a party trick,’ Ed tells us. ‘At a travel lodge. But I’m not allowed to divulge into that. It’s a very, very talented trick.’

‘Go on,’ I say. ‘Is it really bad?’

‘It’s very talented.’

Another band member pops his head round the door to say hello and I ask him the same question.

‘He makes this frothy cappuccino in a way you’ve never seen,’ he tells me, looking at Ed. ‘You don’t even have to use your hands, do you?’

I now slightly regret asking the question and decide to wrap things up so the guys can head over to the pub, catching a good anecdote before we leave.

‘You missed a fucking cracker outside just now,’ he tells Ed. ‘Ifan was in your car on the phone with his girlfriend and I found a cat and threw it into the car.’

‘Fuck off,’ says Ed.

‘He got out pretty quickly. The cat’s still there, he’s driving your car around Swansea.’

Masters in France are on Facebook and Twitter. You can find more about their music at http://www.mastersinfrance.com

By Roisin O’Connor

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