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SXSW 2016: Friday afternoon with strong women at the International Day Stage and with Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales – 18th March 2016

 
By on Thursday, 7th April 2016 at 5:00 pm
 

Another day dawned after the awful event of Thursday evening at SXSW 2016. Despite my still shaken nerves, I was determined to make the most of my remaining time in Austin and my Friday afternooon would include the Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales showcase at Latitude 30. First up though was a lovely breakfast and quick catch-up with our friends from Music from Ireland / First Music Contact’s Angela Dorgan and Brendan Millar at B.D. Riley’s ahead of the full Irish breakfast lineup (Carrie’s review of their act are forthcoming). Then I was off to the Austin Convention Centre for a visit to the panel entitled TV Promos: Sync’s New Best Friend, which was a follow-up of sorts to another sync-orientated panel I sat in on at Norwich Sound and Vision 2016 in October. (For a review of my time at convention panels during SXSW, read my roundup post here.)

TV Promos - Sync’s New Best Friend panel Friday at SXSW 2016 Music Conference

After being sufficiently buoyed by the hope that song syncing for tv, film and adverts continue to be a good way for artists to make much needed income to support the music-making side of their craft, it was off to start seeing band trying to make a go of it. Staying in the Austin Convention Center, I went up to the 4th floor to the International Day Stage to catch London-based electropop duo Avec Sans. They clearly had made a good impression prior this appearance, as several megafans of theirs appeared to see them again at this afternoon appearance.

Avec Sans at the International Day Stage at Austin Convention Center, Friday at SXSW 2016

Avec Sans are platinum blonde Alice Fox (originally from Manchester) on vocal duties and Jack St. James on electronics. As TGTF’s resident electro fan, I’ve seen my fair share of duos with a similar setup, and I can say without a doubt that this pair are in the top tier of acts I’ve had the pleasure to witness live. Like Claire L. Evans of YACHT at Easy Tiger the previous night, Fox is a charismatic presence live, providing the human side of Avec Sans with beautously yearning vocals and the perfect foil to the deliciously mechanical machinations of St. James. Watch and listen to the duo’s latest single ‘Heartbreak Hi’ below; their debut album will be out on the 3rd of June; you can donate to their recording effort on PledgeMusic. A headline UK tour will be accompanying its release (all the details here on their Facebook).

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k993pVu1TY4[/youtube]

It was a nice coincidence, according to Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales manager Fionna Allan that their line-up scheduled for Friday afternoon at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 was entirely made up of acts with strong female or female-fronted acts. Allan was all the more prouder about her showcase when I explained to her that there was an important feminist element to this year’s SXSW, as Carrie previewed in this feature prior to our week in Austin. Three of the five acts performing on this bill were Welsh, including first two acts Rozi Plain (a favourite of BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley who I unfortunately missed) and Violet Skies, who I covered as part of the Trackd showcase and chatted with Monday night. True to her word and despite her relative newness to America, Violet was the consummate professional, garnering a massive audience hanging on to every soulful word she sung. As she sung her debut single ‘How the Mighty’, I became even more convinced in her chance at worldwide success. Good luck to her!

Violet Skies at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016

As I had been with Jane Weaver on Wednesday, I was more than a little excited to finally see Gwenno perform live as part of the Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales showcase. After making the difficult decision to give her appearance Wednesday night at the Heavenly Recordings showcase at Barracuda a pass, I was grateful to have another chance, and to be honest, it was probably best to see her here, as part of and also swaddled by her fellow strong female artists’ presence. Further, Gwenno’s ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ – originally released in Wales on Peski Records, then given another life by Heavenly with its re-release in 2015, as well as winning Best Welsh Album at the 2015 National Eisteddfod and the 2014-2015 Welsh Music Prize – is completely fitting for such an afternoon.

Gwenno at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016 1

The LP’s key themes include fighting against Big Brother and the constraints of a patriarchal society, which Gwenno helpfully and eloquently pointed out in between songs is sadly a reflection of today’s times, stressing the importance of individualism, strength and feminism. This banter between this strong, female and Welsh artist and the audience created an indelible connection between artist and fan, and that’s even before we even consider the music. As an electro head, watching her simultaneously sing like an angel and manage an impressive set of synths and sequencers and effortlessly was a real treat. Adding more fuel to Ms. Saunders’ argument of the Man holding women down, stage management warned her she had to cut her set. Instead of stopping when she was supposed to, in true revolutionary fashion, she kept going. Way to stick it to them, Gwenno! To hear my interview with her that we posted on TGTF last week, go here.

Gwenno at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy on Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016 2

Fickle Friends were up next. If you’ve been keeping tabs on indie British music in the last few years (and America’s similar scene, for that matter), you know that synthpop bands are a dime a dozen. If you have been keeping up with our SXSW 2016 preview coverage, you would have read Rebecca’s great Bands to Watch on both this Brighton band and their seemingly similar Liverpudlian counterparts Clean Cut Kid, who I saw on Wednesday night at the Paradigm Agency showcase at Maggie Mae’s. Due to Rebecca’s piece featuring both bands, I could not help but compare their performances in Austin.

Fickle Friends at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016

Fickle Friends put on an admirable performance that received a great response with loads of cheering from the audience, especially when they swapped out the words to their song ‘Brooklyn’, changing them to ‘Austin’. However, I didn’t find anything about their music that distinguished them particularly from all the other synthpop bands Britain has been churning out over the last few years. Will there be a North vs. South divide over these two bands’ corresponding success? We’ll have to wait and see how things go this year.

Concluding the female-strong afternoon of Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales at the British Music Embassy were Liverpool’s Stealing Sheep, who I had the great pleasure of seeing play in their hometown, at the cavernous Red Bull Studios at the Garage stage at my first Liverpool Sound City in 2012. Since releasing ‘Not Real’ in April 2015, they’ve adopted a much more colourful stage presence, which in Austin meant neon bright leotards and tights and mirrored sunglasses. Without a doubt, it’s an attention-grabbing look within a dark club; some may call it a gimmick, but it works for them and will keep them firmly in festival-goers’ minds. (In comparison, Fickle Friends looked like they could have been any American band in t-shirts, baseball caps and jeans.)

Stealing Sheep at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016

The talent and fun with Stealing Sheep is multifold. Each of the three band members have a strong enough voice to take the lead, yet their harmonies together on album title track ‘Not Real’ are fantastic enough to make you think they’re all sisters (they’re not). The handclap-happy ‘Apparition’ (watch the video below) demanded audience participation, and you can’t help but get drawn into the percussive nature of their music. Despite stage management calling them to stop, they kept on going, to the delight of the punters. Of all the British acts I saw in Austin, I’d rank these Liverpudlian ladies in the top 5 of having made a lasting impression on American audiences that should serve them well in their continuing career.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-HmtWyAH0Y[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2016 Interview: Gwenno

 
By on Wednesday, 30th March 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Friday afternoon during SXSW 2016, a special showcase sponsored by Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales was put on at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30. It was a happy occurrence that the programming included a trio of Welsh female solo artists (Rozi Plain, Violet Skies and Gwenno), an all female band (Liverpool’s Stealing Sheep) and a female-fronted one (Fickle Friends). What was less delightful were some forcibly shortened sets during the afternoon that, while minor, seemed more than a coincidence and symptomatic of the struggles that women in music face.

Gwenno Saunders, formerly of the popular girl group The Pipettes, has decided to celebrate her Welshness by recording her music entirely in her native homeland’s tongue On her album ‘Y Dydd Olaf’, which was re-released by Heavenly Recordings last year, she tackled issues of patriarchalism, sexism and the fighting against the establishment, all set against a kraut / pop backdrop. The tunes are incredibly catchy and while only a small portion of the world’s population knows what Gwenno is singing about, she’s quick to explain the premise of her songs in concert, which she did wonderfully during her Friday afternoon performance in Austin.

She has a voice of an angel, she looks like she could be The One, she’s written and recorded a cracking album, and she recently had a baby, who she brought along to Austin with her. Gwenno seems to have it all…or does she? Have a listen to our chat just outside Latitude 30 below. For a feel of her live performance, I’ve also included a live video of Gwenno performing at a music festival last year as well.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDZSbElpBn4[/youtube]

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2016: Clash in association with PPL, and NME in association with UK Trade and Investment at the British Music Embassy – 18th-19th March 2016

 
By on Friday, 4th March 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

The British Music Embassy will return to Latitude 30 at 512 San Jacinto Boulevard, right by the heart of the action off 6th Street during SXSW 2016. On Monday and Wednesday, our editor Mary previewed the talent on show on Tuesday night (Huw Stephens with PRS for Music showcase) and Wednesday, then Thursday (Output Belfast and PIAS in association with AIM), respectively. This year’s showcases on Friday the 18th of March are set to include a host of artists from around the UK, including hotly-tipped acts from Wales and Scotland. The Welsh artists will be highlighted during the daytime show, presented by British Music @ SXSW in association with Cerdd Cymru: Music Wales. A pair of Scottish acts will feature on the evening showcase, presented by UK pop culture magazine Clash in association with music rights and licensing agency PPL.

The Friday afternoon show will feature a delightfully rich lineup of female artists, beginning with alt-folk singer/songwriter Rozi Plain and continuing with two Welsh acts, pop singer/songwriter Violet Skies and electronic musician Gwenno. Both Welsh women will be introduced in more detail in editor Mary’s upcoming preview of Welsh artists at SXSW 2016 later today.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/H4S0ME8Xyc0[/youtube]

Closing out the afternoon are two alliterative acts, our recent Band to Watch #372 Fickle Friends, followed by fellow TGTF alumnae Stealing Sheep. Fickle Friends vaulted to popularity in the UK with their debut single ‘Swim’ back in 2014 and have been on an upward trajectory ever since. Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep are sailing strong on their April 2015 release ‘Not Real’, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a hint of something new from them in Austin as well.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqVYDRM842s[/youtube]

The Friday evening Clash showcase is set to begin with DJ/producer/all-around-Renaissance-woman Throwing Shade, whose soon-to-be released EP ‘House of Silk’ features the above reflection on pop culture and social media called ‘hashtag IRL’. Scottish pop songstress KLOE and avant/experimental trio Hælos will fill in the middle part of the evening lineup, ahead of a rather intriguing To Be Confirmed notation at 11 PM; bets are open as to who might fill that coveted slot.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/vKakNhz2ToA[/youtube]

Playing at midnight will be Glasgow electro musician The Revenge, followed by London-based soul pop duo Honne (read more of our coverage on Honne here). The Revenge will feature in our upcoming preview of Scottish artists at SXSW 2016, along with the aforementioned KLOE.

On Saturday, the 19th of March, the afternoon show at Latitude 30 will start with Sheffield slacker punk pair Nai Harvest (read more about them on TGTF here) and Leeds goth-punk band Autobahn. Falling square in the middle of the docket, Liverpool indie rockers Sugarmen are sure to win fans with their psychedelic recent single ‘Plastic Ocean’, while grunge rockers Fizzy Blood and Demob Happy finish off the daytime slate.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/qVkdCG_tfvk[/youtube]

Latitude 30 will be taken over by recently retooled and relaunched pop culture magazine NME in association with UK Trade and Investment on Saturday night, the final event at the British Music Embassy for SXSW 2016. Leicester brothers Andy and James Stone, known onstage as synth-rock duo Lusts will open the show (Rebecca’s introduction to them is here), to be followed by rap collective Section Boyz. London five-piece Pumarosa have already announced an autumn 2016 support slot for SXSW 2015 hit act Gengahr and will feature in the middle of this final night lineup.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/XA97m6L2-Dc[/youtube]

Deep-voiced Americana singer/songwriter Barns Courtney could easily follow in the successful SXSW footsteps of Hozier and James Bay before him. He’ll round out his trip to Austin with an appearance at the British Music Embassy, ahead of dance duo Formation (Rebecca’s introduction to them is here) and another tantalising to-be-announced special guest for the evening’s final set.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/ckNWtmkA2_g[/youtube]

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2016: Welsh artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Friday, 4th March 2016 at 1:00 pm
 

Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2016 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

Wales may feel like a whole ‘nother country away from the rest of the UK. And indeed, beyond the fact that there are still around a quarter of the population who speak Welsh, there are many a Welsh man and woman who will tell you Wales is its own place. This year at SXSW, Horizons Gorwelion, a music scheme by BBC Wales in partnership with Arts Council of Wales to develop new independent contemporary music in Wales, will be bringing two acts over, each with their own fiery independent spirit to match the one of their homeland and the red dragon (Y Ddraig Doch) of the Welsh national flag. (We’re also including both ESTRONS and Gwenno in this roundup here, too. ESTRONS have been given a great slot on the BBC Introducing night to be compered by Steve Lamacq on the Wednesday night, and Gwenno is as she’s the true epitome of Welsh national identity in music right now, as you will read below too. Here’s a taste of each of them, in alphabetical order:

ESTRONS – I introduced you all to this Cardiff-based foursome in the preview of the BBC Introducing / PRS for Music Foundation night scheduled for the 16th of March at Latitude 30, the home of the British Music Embassy. Their name translates to the word ‘aliens’ or ‘foreign’, which makes a sense from where they came from: they met, randomly, on a local beach, deciding to put a band together made up of misfits and outsiders who didn’t feel like they fit anywhere else. Music, as we know, is the great uniting force, and ESTRONS are a great example of this.

Have a listen to their radio-friendly pop track ‘Make a Man’ below. ESTRONS are scheduled to perform at 1 AM Wednesday night, the 16th of March, at British Music Embassy at Latitude 30.

Gwenno – Gwenno Saunders is no stranger to fame. For nearly a decade, she was a member of the hugely popular girl group the Pipettes. Post-Pipettes, Gwenno decided to do something different: start a solo career, writing and recording songs entirely in Welsh. Her second album ‘Y Dydd Olaf’, which was released by Peski Records in October 2014, got an entirely new lease on life when it was re-released by Heavenly Recordings in 2015. She’ll be bringing her kraut-rock inspired funk with her to Austin, on this first visit for her since going solo. Have a listen to track ‘Patriarchaeth’ below.

Gwenno is scheduled to perform Wednesday night, the 16th of March, at Barracuda, and Friday afternoon, the 18th of March, at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30. For all past coverage of Gwenno on TGTF, including David’s introduction to her solo career that posted last summer here, head this way.

The People The Poet – The South Wales indie rock band are no strangers to SXSW; in fact, they made their debut at the big dance in Texas last year. Their engaging sound caught the eyes and ears of BBC Radio 2’s Dermot O’Leary, who invited them for a live session on his radio programme. They made waves last year the first time around, so I have no doubt they’ll be adding fans handily every time they play in Austin next month.

Have a watch of the promo video for recent single ‘Matchday’ in this previous Video of the Moment. To read more on The People The Poet on TGTF, go here. They’re scheduled to perform Wednesday afternoon, the 16th of March, at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, and Saturday night, the 19th of March, at Lucille, among other places.

Violet Skies (pictured at top) – Are you tired of wimpy sounding pop princesses? I sure am. Hailing from the southeast corner of her part of the world, Welsh gal Violet (surname unknown for the moment) goes by the breezy stage name Violet Skies. The moniker doesn’t do her voice justice; more piercingly beautiful than those of who’s considered hot these days (Lorde, Elle King, excuse me while I groan). Have a listen to ‘One Day, Three Autumns’ below.

Violet Skies is scheduled to perform Monday night, the 14th of March, at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30; Wednesday night, the 16th of March, at Lucky Lounge; and again at Latitude 30 the afternoon of Friday, the 18th of March.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LH0Nv4Lztk[/youtube]

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #103: Gwenno

 
By on Thursday, 3rd March 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Ahead of SXSW in Austin in mid-March, just as we have in the past 2 years of our preview coverage of the big dance, we’ll be bringing you showcasing artists’ answers to a special SXSW 2016 flavoured set of Quickfire Questions. In this installment, we’ve got Gwenno, a star from Wales who made her name previously as part of a band, now striking out as a superstar all her own. Stay tuned, for tomorrow, my roundup of the Welsh artists making the trek to Austin in less than a fortnight’s time will publish.

Over a decade since the heyday of The Pipettes, Gwenno Saunders – now recording and releasing music under the first name mononym Gwenno – will be appearing at this year’s SXSW for the first time as a solo artist. She’ll also be performing entirely in Welsh, which famously is known as an extremely difficult language to understand by those unfamiliar with it. But hey, if Sigur Ros could conquer the world in Icelandic, so can superwoman Gwenno, eh? Read Gwenno’s answers to our SXSW 2016 Quickfire Questions below.

Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
Dream pop protest.

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase that we might find unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
Nappies! I’ll be bringing my baby son with me!

If we happen to run into you in a bar, we’d like to buy you a drink. What is your tipple of choice?
Not much in the way of alcohol at the moment, maybe a virgin margarita?!

What advice would you give other bands who have never played at SXSW before?
Take it all in your stride!

What have you heard about the festival? Are you excited / anxious / scared / etc. and why?
Having played with The Pipettes nearly 10 years ago now (!) I’m really excited to be coming back to SXSW to be playing my solo music. It’s quite different (a different style and language!) so I imagine the reaction will be too!

Now, let’s get into our usual list of Quickfire Questions…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
Probably something off the Brenda Wootton and Richard Gendal album ‘Children Singing’, that vinyl was on constant rotation at home when I was little.

What was your favourite song as a child?
My favourite piece of music was ‘Glasgow Reel’ by Gerry Conlon and Seamus O’Sullivan, as it was my favourite tune to (Irish) dance to.

What song makes you laugh?
‘Mae Pawb yn Haeddu Glaw’ by Y Pencadlys. [I think we should all pledge to learn Welsh ASAP, do you all agree? – Ed.]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6E6uWBZHN_c[/youtube]

What song makes you cry?
‘Y Teimlad’ by Datblygu.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhEzVGap3Bg[/youtube]

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Dave R. Edwards (lead singer of Welsh post-punk/experimental band Datblygu).

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I may have stayed a dancer for longer…

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
‘I Hear a New World’ by Joe Meek.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtETzKAxuzM[/youtube]

Many thanks to the lovely Gwenno for answering our questions!

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #1998: Gwenno

 
By on Tuesday, 26th January 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

When you’re an artist who sings in an uncommon tongue, there are two ways your career can go: either only be embraced by the native people who speak that language, or transcend the language barrier completely and become beloved by music fans who don’t have to know your language in order to feel the music. The latter has worked for Sigur Ros and Jonsi, hasn’t it?

The most important factor in such success is talent, of which Gwenno Saunders (aka Gwenno for short, following in the footsteps of single-named artists like Madonna and Morrissey) has loads. Formerly the frontwoman of The Pipettes, she has struck out on her own, quickly reaching success with her solo career in a relatively short time. Her Heavenly Recordings debut album from last year, ‘Y Dydd Olaf’, won the prestigious 2015 Welsh Music Prize. Her newest visual creation is the promo video for ‘Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki’, a single from the award-winning LP. Described in the press release as “a modern-art collage that somehow manages to exist in a realm that’s both futuristic and retro”, it’s a winning collaboration between Gwenno herself and photographer/filmmaker Jacek Davis. Watch it below.

Gwenno will be showcasing at her first SXSW 2016 in March as a solo artist. Read David’s introduction on her from last summer here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OClOH2BP4LI[/youtube]

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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