With so many new records in recent months it’s often been a case of ‘out at last’, albums long delayed after 18 or so months of lockdowns and various restrictions. But not the delightful debut LP from the remotely assembled Swansea Sound.
This four-piece (five if we’re talking their live line-up) weren’t so much as a glint in the milkman’s eye back in March 2020, and hadn’t even all met in person before rehearsals for their Preston Pop Fest stage debut in Lancashire three months ago.
While we’re talking anomalies, only my interviewee, Hue Williams, hails from Swansea, and the South Welsh boozer alluded to in the title of Live at The Rum Puncheon was closed down decades ago. Oh, and it’s not a live recording. Apart from that though, pretty much spot on.
You may recall Hue – his stage name spelled ‘as in shade’ to differentiate from the real Huw, the Welsh way, for ‘reasons now lost in the mists of time’, but ‘almost in the indie tradition of people lying about their names because they were all signing on the dole’ – as frontman of John Peel indie-pop favourites The Pooh Sticks, this project starting out at least to some level a tribute of sorts to that West Glam outfit. There’s even a cracking song called ‘The Pooh Sticks’ on the album, Hue’s ‘apparently sincere tribute to one of the great lost indie bands of the 90s. No-one else was going to do it. We have all become own archivists these days. We’ve all become our own covers bands’.
Formed in 1987, around initially until 1995, The Pooh Sticks are seen on Wikipedia as ‘notable for their jangly melodiousness and lyrics gently mocking the indie scene of the time’. But a direction change was underway by the time they recorded their wonderful 1991 US breakthrough LP, The Great White Wonder, a notably guitar-driven classic, their next long player – 1993’s Million Seller – also a big favourite with this scribe.
By late ’87, Hue Pooh was joined – apparently – by old schoolmates Paul (guitar), Alison (bass), Trudi Tangerine (keyboards) and Stephanie (drums) for glorious debut single ‘On Tape’, released on ‘manager/svengali’ Steve Gregory’s Fierce Recordings label. In fact, it seems the latter was the mastermind, writing, arranging and producing their records, designing the cover art and, ahem,‘choreographing their live performances’.
Hue went on to manage The 60 Ft. Dolls, recommended The Stereophonics to the A&R team who signed the band to V2, and advised Catatonia in the early stages of their career, was in Swansea when I called. Did he ever move away?
“Yeah, but I was only up the road, in the Vale of Glamorgan, outside Cardiff. I lived in Cardiff for years, even though I’m a ‘Jack’. And I was in Holland quite a while with The Pooh Sticks. In fact, Steve (Gregory) never came back. He’s been out there 25/30 years.”
I should add that a new transcription system I was road-testing this week reckoned Hue said ‘Available Morgan’ there, a potential Swansea Sound song in the making. As it is though, Hue prefers the ‘Vale of Glam’, which conjures up an image which may well lead to a future guest appearance from Sweet’s North Walian guitarist Andy Scott. I look forward to that.
David Owens, in Cerys, Catatonia and the Rise of Welsh Pop (Ebury Press, 2000), described The Pooh Sticks as ‘a monumental yet affectionate prank on the very mythology of pop music itself, adding that Hue had ‘an encyclopedic knowledge of pop cool and his first-hand experiences of his dad’s successful rock’n’roll career made him hungry to sample the same giddy success’. He also describes my interviewee as ‘a lynchpin of the 90s Welsh music uprising’, more of which later.
The Pooh Sticks have returned in more recent years. Was that ever going to be anything more than a few one-off shows?
“We did quite a few. We got back initially to do one at the Indietracks Festival in 2010, but that was good fun and went really well, and we did quite a few then, the last in 2015, including playing New York and Berlin. There were six of us in that line-up, myself and Amelia the only constants from the old days. There were three different live line-ups for the original Pooh Sticks, Amy doing pretty much all the shows we did on reforming.”
That’s indie icon Amelia Fletcher, who along with partner Rob Pursey is now with Swansea Sound as well as their other musical outlet The Catenary Wires, her music CV going back to fellow indie-pop outfit Talulah Gosh, then Heavenly (also involving Rob) among others. What’s more, Catenary Wires drummer Ian Button is also on board, the four-piece augmented live by Canterbury-based Viennese whirling guitarist Robert Rotifer. That said, they’ve only actually played that one live show so far, 290 miles from their Kentish roots (as opposed to 240 from Swansea) at The Continental in Preston, Lancashire.
They took their name from a local radio station, even using its abandoned logo, telling us, ‘Something modern, acidic and angry has taken up residence in a familiar, borrowed frame, just as it has in these indie-punk pop songs’. They add, ‘You can throw yourself around to Swansea Sound like it’s 1986, but if you catch the lyrics, you’ll remember you’re in 2021. Sorry about that.’
Available space (as opposed to Available Morgan) on the internet challanges me in adding a full review here (your coffee breaks are only so long, after all), but the LP – its sleeve designed by Catrin Saran James – should brighten any day. From stonking starting point ‘Rock’n’Roll Void’ (‘a two-minute revision session to make sure you haven’t forgotten The Kinks, Ramones and the brief explosion of noise pollution that was C86 pop’) and the qirky punk of ‘I Sold My Soul on eBay’ (also two minutes long, it ‘savages the corporate piracy of our digital present, where anyone can earn plenty of ‘likes’, but no-one gets paid any money’, released as a one-off lathe cut 7” single that got auctioned on eBay, with a £400 winning bid), with its own in-built tribute to ‘Teenage Kicks’, I’m hooked, next offering ‘I’m OK When You’re Around’ a gloriously heartfelt love song with cross-continent fascist butt-kicking sentiments, dedicated ‘to all the people Swansea Sound would like to meet in the future – people they’ve fallen in love with in digital chatrooms: new allies all over the world who are standing up to the digital giants and the shit-stirring racist trolls everyone’s forced to share the internet with’).
Then comes ‘The Pooh Sticks’ (‘At Reading Festival, they were the best of all indie bands – no word of a lie’) and some sound advice in matters of love on ‘Let It Happen’, before ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ (‘pure pop throwaway fun. The other songs are catchy too, they just happen to express a sickness and a contempt for the state of things’) brings the first side to an edgily quirky, smile-inducing break.
Turning over, pensive, dreamy opener ‘Pasadena’ adds a little remote wanderlust for our border-closed times, while past single Indies Of The World (one of four tracks previously released as short-run singles,in this case a 7” single/cassette, briefly hitting the UK physical top-10 before selling out) has a chorus to marvel at and get a little dewy-eyed at, while cassette-only single, Corporate Indie Band tells a spot-on tale in fine style of ‘a group who mortgage their creativity to a major label and sell their identities to an online marketing team of public schoolboys’. The world needs more of this, and fast.
‘Freedom of Speech’ also impresses, backing vocals provided by queer indie punk band The Crystal Furs, from Portland, Oregon, on a Talking Heads-like look at three contemporary ‘alternative’ music stars, considering ‘how they’ve responded to Black Lives Matter, the pandemic and the rise of right-wing populism’, concluding ‘like self-serving arseholes’, the band adding, ‘you won’t struggle to work out who the three alternative stars are’. And then we have the Buzzcocksy ‘Angry Girl’, the song that marked the beginning of this winning project for our Hue, and another where the band ‘search for hope’.
Then comes the sign-off, all too soon, the band’s title song, ‘Swansea Sound’ (previously released as a limited-edition cassette/mini-CD on September 1st, a year to the day the radio station of the same name was re-branded by its new corporate owners and its old name became available), ‘a requiem for that lost radio station – a DJ describing his final day at work before his show is ‘rationalised’ – but it’s also a wider protest about the culturally stultifying effect of corporatisation’. A wondrous finale.
But let’s rewind that tape a bit, heading off to those Pooh Sticks days of yore again. I was going to say, ‘days of Yorath’, but as former Wales, Leeds, Coventry and Spurs star Terry is a Cardiff man, I best not.
“It was always me and Steve (Gregory), but in terms of the live thing, he never played live with us. The last shows we did first time around were in Japan, at the end of ’93, and I was still in my 20s. So I was quite young when we stopped and never really had any interest in doing it again. I worked in the music biz for a long time, leaving all that of my own accord around 2008. I did various things after that. The music business had become my job, which was horrible really. I literally couldn’t afford for music to be my hobby. But then I realised music was – and is – my hobby. At that point, I’d had offers to do Pooh Sticks shows, so looked into that and we ended up doing around a dozen or 15 shows.”
I saw the early Pooh Sticks as an indie rebirth of the TV Personalities’ late ’70s days – ‘On Tape’ kind of an ’80s take on ‘Part-Time Punks’ – but in time they became something else. By The Great White Wonder and Million Seller albums – including some of the greatest songs ever sung by anyone, you could say – they were somewhere between The Byrds, Camper Van Beethoven, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Jonathan Richman, Lou Reed, Teenage Fanclub and Weezer. You’d successfully reinvented yourselves, Hue.
“I think you’re right about the TV Personalities thing. When we did the first shows with The Pastels and The Vaselines, Steven Pastel was going on about The Television Personalities. It wasn’t a conscious thing though. There was also this thing of, you know, ‘the ironic Pooh Sticks’, but we liked that C86 scene as much as we were sneering about it. It was a slight love/hate thing, but we liked a lot of it. And without sounding pompous, the positive thing is that it was inclusive enough to let a pair of oiks like us kind of enter the territory. And it’s completely true that the whole idea at the beginning was that we never ever thought all these years later we’d still be talking about it.
“Again without sounding pompous, it was a project in the sense that we were never trying to fool anyone. We were never a band in that we wanted to do a few demo tapes and send them out to labels. We thought it would be fun and funny to make a record, which we did, then created quite quickly this fucking monster we couldn’t control!”
If there was a joke, it was a good one, and John Peel definitely got it. And I’m thinking you were laughing with the indie scene rather at it.
“I think so. John Peel was important to almost everyone who ever existed in the independent world. I think we would have sent it to Peel and he’d have played it anyway, but the first person to pick up on us and write about us very heavily was James Brown, this kid at the NME who’d literally just started there.
“I was 21 or something and he might have been even younger, this fanzine kid. We met him and he said, ‘I really want to write about you, because I’m bored of writing about The Housemartins’. He wrote a little review, one of those ‘On’ pieces, then a two-page feature, and it was totally daft really, but he picked up on some of my one-liners and general vibe and was very important in going along with our ridiculous ideas. And of course, Peel played us, we got a session early on, and all that.
“As for Million Seller and how it got to that, even with something as scratchy as ‘On Tape’, the song was there, and it’s a solid good song. We were always fans of pop music, and there was that transition between that and the Orgasm live album, which was obviously fun as well, Formula One Generation, which is not a bad record – that was the stepping-stone to wanting to do more song-based stuff. And Great White Wonder was the first we did with live drums, and it’s still quite a free-wheeling record but that’s the one that took us on to Million Seller, because we did that terrible thing of signing to a major label!”
I can listen to that now and think you weren’t a million miles from Super Furry Animals, but they would enjoy more success. Were you just victims of timing as the music industry went down the Brit Pop path?
“Well, people say we’re one of those sort of underachieving indie bands, and I completely disagree – we’re the most overachieving band you can imagine! We never thought we’d be around two minutes, let alone three decades, and apart from maybe the initial thing, we were always very wrong place at the wrong time.
“But everything we did, we knew what we were doing. With Great White Wonder, up until that point, we were still making records with our own money for ourselves, putting them out on Fierce Recordings, our label, through Rough Trade distribution. We then made Great White Wonder in Holland for more expense than we’d previously done and got test pressings, but then Rough Trade distribution went bust.”
The afore-mentioned David Owens called The Great White Wonder ‘their masterpiece, a collection of sunkissed bubblegum pop songs built in tightly around other people’s ideas’. What’s more, legendary animators Hanna-Barbera agreed to immortalise them as cartoon characters, the band playing live with their cardboard cutouts on stage. And need I add anything about the 15-minute TFC-dripping, guitar-soaked Neil Young-esque marvel that is ‘I’m in You’? And yet, as Owens put it, that album ‘stiffed as rigidly as those cardboard cutouts’. He added, ‘The UK was still suffering a hangover after the baggy excess of Madchester, and The Pooh Sticks’ American flavours were just not to the taste of the general public’.
On the subject of Million Seller, he added, ‘Despite it’s cheeky title it was anything but a unit shifter. It was though yet another wondrously iridescent album, brim full of giddy bubblegum pop and sunny psychedelia. It included the one-minute 48-second histrionic sugar rush of ‘The World is Turning On’, which, released as a single, propelled the band to the hitherto untold heights of daytime Radio 1 play. Its eventual chart placing typified much of The Pooh Sticks story – it stalled at 41′. As for final LP, 1995’s Optimistic Fool, on cult US label Seed, that ‘only heightened the band’s seeming ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time’.
“It’s kind of boring business stuff, but when I look back, it was quite important – there was massive fallout from all the big indie labels going through it, and a pecking order in terms of most labels getting sorted quicker than us. We didn’t get paid and were owed about £6,000, a lot of money. And we didn’t have money to then release or press the record or have a distribution deal. So instead of waiting around, we went to our mates, Nick (Allport) and Vinita at Cheree Records, who’d previously done a flexi with us, and did it with them. And even though it was an independent label, they had backers, pluggers and press people, whereas we would send one to Peel, then do fuck all with it!
“It was a good record, even if I say so myself. And because there was a little team around it, it did really well, we did some shows, and were offered a major deal. We’d been offered major deals before but never wanted to do it, but this time thought it’d be interesting. We wanted to make an expansive pop record, and that was the means to do it. I learned a lot too, because we signed with BMG in North America, so when it came out in England, we were literally part of RCA’s international department. And this was in the days when if you were in an indie band, when you signed to a major that was the end of it – you had to make that breakthrough or lose your audience … and that’s pretty much what happened.”
Was the band ever a full-time concern for you?
“It wasn’t up until we signed to a major, but I think Steve left his day-job, and he’s a few years older than me. I was a sports instructor, working in an athletic stadium as a tennis coach. I was in Swansea, then we made three records in Holland, and for the second, Million Seller, I’d left my job at that point. We made that record in Utrecht, doing bits in Haarlem, near Amsterdam, and finished it in New York in RPM Studio.
“We made another record after that, when we were signed to Atlantic Records, and I don’t regret making that, but we didn’t have the financial means to make it the way it probably needed to be made. It was very cheaply recorded, although some of it was good. And that was it. At that point, I didn’t have a proper job, I was working in music and managing groups and doing various things, and did that for a long, long time.”
Remind me who you were working with back then.
“The one everyone knows about was Catatonia, but I did various things, working as an A&R guy in publishing for Sony Music, involved with them all the way from the beginning. I also had my own music publishing company, Townhill, funded by Sony, with groups signed to that company like Murry the Hump on Too Pure Records, still around as The Keys, and a band called Mo-Ho-Bish-O-Pi. They were on V2, did an album with Don Fleming producing (who did Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque), a really good record. And there was a band called Big Leaves, really popular in Wales.”
Ah, yes, Mo-Ho-Bish-O-Pi, described by the NME as being ‘as eclectic as their name is confusing’. As for Big Leaves, they supported Catatonia at their Home Internationals show in Llangollen in May 1999, a cracking occasion for this scribe (also mentioned in this recent feature/interview with Iain Templeton). And a great band.
“Yes, I did lots of stuff with Catatonia, and Osian Gwynedd (from the band) played piano on International Velvet, Equally Cursed and Blessed and most of the Furrys records – he knew how to twiddle a knob and make a good noise. He’s in Gruff Rhys’ group now. Paul Adams, the main guy at Polydor, was all over them. I think on the surface they were seen as another Brit Pop group, but they were extremely talented. The guitar player was amazing – Meilir (Gwynedd), Osian’s brother – and they were tight, this bunch of kids from this little village in the foothills of Snowdon.”
I later caught up on their records and the band the brothers formed next, Sibrydion.
“Yeah, and pretty much most of the group is The Peth, the band Rhys Ifans was in … having originally been the singer in the Super Furrys, when Gruff was finishing his studies in Barcelona. I haven’t got it anymore, unfortunately, but had a Super Furry Animals demo tape, the first I heard of them, that he’s on. It almost sounds like the Spaceman 3 or The Teardrops. Now long gone unfortunately.”
That could have been your pension plan.
As for Big Leaves …
“I saw them do their own show in a marquee in North Wales somewhere with 1,000 kids in, going absolutely nuts. Like watching The Stone Roses. They then started doing English language stuff and a song called ‘Racing Birds’ was single of the week on Mark and Lard’s show on Radio 1. But it didn’t quite happen, they were the sort of band who probably did need a major label, and didn’t quite get there. And the other group I managed all the way through was 60 Ft. Dolls.
“Of all the things I was doing, that was probably more my day-job than anything. I managed them from around ’94 until just before they got dropped. They had a couple of proper hits and were signed to Geffen in the States.
“I then left about 2008, a casualty of that kind of being an old guy who couldn’t really make that transition into digital stuff. I took myself out of it and for a couple of years did a film and music festival in Cardiff, Soundtrack, curated with my friend Mark Cousins, a documentary filmmaker who presented Scene by Scene on BBC Two, and that show Alex Cox started (Videodrome). He’s still a filmmaker, and the brightest, brainiest guy I know.
“And from there I’ve morphed into working in regeneration, in Swansea. I work for a housing association, looking after knackered commercial properties, doing a lot with art galleries, theatre companies, tech spaces … cultural regeneration. Yeah, I’ve become a wage slave finally, in my 50s!”
But then came a call from old pal Rob Pursey, saying, ‘I’ve written a song, but it sounds a bit too much like The Pooh Sticks’, right?
“It was a bit like that. Yeah, a reconnect. I hadn’t seen Amelia for quite a while until I bumped into her in the Science Museum in London, 2009, kids all around us, then went to see her group, Tender Trap, a couple of times, thinking if Amelia agrees I could put a new line-up together for The Pooh Sticks. And that’s what happened.
“I knew Rob from back in the day with Heavenly, less so than Amelia but I’ve got to know him more in recent years, and he threatened me with this song right in the early weeks of the initial lockdown, which was of course extremely strange for everyone and I was living in a village on my own, pretty much. He sent me this song and I was like, ‘How am I going to do this? I haven’t got any recording stuff’. He said, ‘Just sing into your phone’.
“I did that one in the kitchen on my knee, barking into my phone thinking, ‘Fuck, this isn’t gonna work’. But I sent the files and it came back as ‘Angry Girl’ and Rob was like, ‘Okay, this is actually going to work’. Then I did most of the vocals in a cupboard in my son’s bedroom. And look, I’m no singer. Never been a singer. I’m a frontman. But pretty much all the vocals are one take.”
The fact that you chose a cupboard in your son’s bedroom (Hue’s children are now 21 and 15) suggests to me it wasn’t the first cupboard you tried.
“Well, it kind of was. And it was the best one. The airing cupboard would have been a bit too warm, I think.”
According to their press, Swansea Sound came into being during lockdown and decided ‘fast, loud, political indie-pop punk was the answer to being stuck indoors’, adding ‘who needs introspection?’. Is that how Hue sees this project?
“I think so. It started with ‘Angry Girl’ and ‘I Sold My Soul on eBay’, that kind of anti-corporate approach coming into focus quite quickly, and ‘Indies of the World’ might have been when I found the cupboard. As I said, I’m no singer, but I realised I was gonna have to work here to actually sing a decent vocal. And as with the best projects, if we want to call it that, we found our schtick of what it was gonna be.
“The name was important as well. For a while, maybe Amy and Rob thought it could or would be The Pooh Sticks, but I couldn’t see that. We were bandying names around, and at one point calling it Sympathy for The Pooh Sticks. We had lists of names, getting to the point where we really needed one, and Swansea Sound was this radio station here, the second-ever commercial station in the UK, after Capital Radio. But Bauer, the big German media corporation took it over in 2020, killed it and killed that brand, turned it into Greatest Hits Radio South Wales. So I suggested Swansea Sound. I think at first they didn’t quite understand it, but there’s that connection because it’s Swansea and Steve (Gregory) was the only decent DJ they ever had. He did this new music show, a very obscure Saturday night thing.
“And they soon bought into the fact that this was about the death of hyper-local stuff, like newspapers and all that. As Rob put it, when Swansea Sound was killed, we sort of took it over. We even have the retro logo, which we’ve kind of inhabited.”
All well and (very) good, but with that name you’re unlikely to build much of a groundswell of support in, for example, Cardiff?
“Frankly, I don’t care! I understand it can be a bit confusing. Even more confusing now I’ve moved back, as all my vocals were – as it says on the sleeve – recorded in the Vale of Glam. I think people might just think it’s some kind of stupid made-up name, but I lived in the Vale of Glamorgan. That said, the rest of the group are in Kent, the live band four-fifths Kent-based.”
I did suggest because of the band link to Rolvenden Layne in Kent that maybe you should be Swansea Layne, perfect if the band take a more psychedelic path from here.
“Yeah, I suppose it depends if Swansea Sound becomes a monster like The Pooh Sticks did, and we’re doing this for the next five or 10 years. Or maybe this is it, and it won’t work with me behind a microphone in a proper studio.
“It’s the same with when we then coming up with the album title, although it’s not a live record. The Rum Puncheon was this extremely dodgy pub on the council estate I grew up on, so by default it becomes this sort of conceptual thing. But when you come up with an album title, it needs to sound like an album title, and first time we heard Gideon Coe say, ‘live at the Rum Puncheon’, he said it with relish.
“And yeah, of course there’s (The Fall’s) Live at the Witch Trials, and Misty in Roots’ Live at the Counter-Eurovision is another album I really like and always thought was a cool title.”
In my Captains Log fanzine days, I wrote about this garage band – my band Captains Don’t Play Chess, named after a line from a Marx Brothers film – that rarely got out of the garage, and one of our guitarists, Stephe, always listed that Misty in Roots LP among his favourite albums. And talking of fanzines, one I once swapped copies with was a German publication that took its name from an early Pooh Sticks line, Anorak! Can I Just Say Sweatshirt?
“Ah, yeah, I think I’ve seen that.”
Which brings me on to your popularity overseas, and your healthy European fanbase.
“Yeah, although, weirdly, apart from that show we did in Berlin a few years ago, we never played in Europe first time around, although we played in the States and in Japan. I suppose one of the reasons was that until we signed to BMG, we hardly ever played any shows. But when we were on that major label treadmill hell, there was an obligation to play live more. We did play in the UK for quite a while though. And from an early point, putting our first records out, like a lot of groups we had a PO Box and people would send us handwritten letters, and got a lot in particular from Germany.”
Any memories jump out from the John Peel sessions you did in April ’88 and April ’89? The first at least must have marked a defining moment.
“Yeah, because going into the first Peel session, we’d recorded at home, put that on tape, the only thing we’d done, then John Walters called, asking, ‘Do you want to do a session?’. We’d also recorded ‘Alan McGee’ by then, but that must have been pretty much it, so we were like, ‘What the f*** are we going to do?’.
“We’d seen Tallulah Gosh play in December and they’d just split. We didn’t really know Amelia, but got her number from somewhere, and her first response was, ‘Are you the band who take the piss out of indie?’, and we were like, ‘Well, sort of …’. But she still turned up and sang with us.
“I’d never been in a studio, having probably only recorded two or three songs at that point, and that would have been in the basement of Fierce HQ in downtown Swansea. So to be in that environment where … it wasn’t intimidating but I would have been nervous, as I wasn’t that confident of my abilities. And Dale Griffin was the producer, from Mott the Hoople!
“At one point he asked me to double-track my vocal. I knew what double-tracking was, but Steve lent over to him and said, ‘There’s no point him doing that – that’s as good as it gets’. Which is not the concept of double-tracking, which is to make it sound meatier, but at this point Dale Griffin – he was in a dark suit and tie, and on reflection maybe he’d been to a funeral, his mood was funeral-like anyway – turned to Steve, and said, ‘I am aware of the parameters of perfection’. That was one of our Spinal Tap moments, one we refer to all the time. The Parameters of Perfection, there’s a group name for you!”
Bringing things back to Swansea Sound, drummer Ian Button not only plays with The Catenary Wires, but also former Loft and Weather Prophets frontman Pete Astor and veteran singer-songwriter Wreckless Eric. But is that right the build-up to Preston Pop Fest marked the first time you met?
“Yeah, but we did a rehearsal in July to see if this was going to work, and it was really good, then we did another day before Preston, then drove up. And for the live stuff we’ve also got Rob Rotifer. Rob Pursey plays all the guitars on the record, but live he plays bass, so we need a guitar player and Robert’s an Austrian based in the UK, making his own records, playing with Helen McCookerybook’s band and doing lots with Darren Hayman from Hefner. I think he’s done stuff with Robert Forster too.
“We’re not going to be the most well-rehearsed, well-oiled group, but that lot are so good, it’s just a case of how much mayhem I can cause by being under-rehearsed!”
It was badly timed on my part. I made it to all three evenings at that festival, but when I turned up to see you on Sunday – convinced the running order would be all to pot – I walked around the corner and saw you all carrying instruments out. And it’s barely seven miles from home.
“And we’d come all the way from Kent! In fact, I came from Wales to Kent, then all the way to Preston! But it was really good, and I think it worked. There were contemporary groups playing as well, but those things can be a bit of a nostalgia fest or you’re watching groups who haven’t done anything for a long time, whereas this was weird because even though some of it is Pooh Sticks-like, it was all new songs. And halfway through, I was thinking I’ve never ever been in a band playing new material before. Some people knew some of the songs, but we were pretty much playing new material to people who didn’t know it.
“The Pooh Sticks weren’t a traditional band in that the first show we ever did was with The Pastels and The Vaselines at ULU (University of London Union of Students) in London to around 800 people! So I’ve been spoiled. I’ve played shows where there haven’t been so many people there, but generally haven’t been in that position of most new bands.
“But I really enjoyed that first Swansea Sound show, and we’re looking forward to the next ones. We’re doing one at the Rough Trade East shop in Brick Lane, London, then this mini-tour in February and March, including one in Manchester on my birthday.”
Go on then, how old will you be then?
“Do you want my stage or real age? My stage birthday … well, I was born on the same day as Jamie (Roberts) from The Sea Urchins. He’ll be 54, I think. Actually, I’ll be 57, which is kind of amazing really – life accelerating and all that.”
Swansea Sound release debut album, Live at the Rum Puncheon, on Friday, November 19th, on vinyl LP, CD, cassette and digitally, via Skep Wax (vinyl, CD, and digitally via Bandcamp) and Lavender Sweep (cassette); in North America by HHBTM (vinyl, CD) and Austin Town Hall (cassette); and in Indonesia by Shiny Happy Records (cassette). The album is not available to stream. For more details, including details of 2022 shows at Zed Alley, Bristol (Friday, February 4th; Hope & Anchor, Islington (Saturday, February 19th); and The Tallyrand, Manchester (Friday, March 4th), check out Swansea Sound’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.
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