Review: "Wildfire" EP by Hawthorn Avenue
 
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Hawthorn Avenue's debut EP' Wildfire', is an impressive first-offering from the South Wales duo. Produced to perfection, the duo have a fully orchestrated quartet of finely-crafted Country/Pop numbers.

Before we get in to it, you know you're off to a good start when a release opens with a Hammond.

I loves me a Hammond.

'Raised Me Better' kicks off the EP. A stately and expansive composition with understated harmonies throughout that give the track a delightful spaciousness. The significant production does nothing to diminish the touching quality to the intimate, personal lyrics and allows for them to sit neatly on top of the mix with oodles of clarity.

Moving on to 'Fade Away', the EP's dynamic drops down further into decidedly Fleetwood Mac meets Civil Wars-esque territory. The unison vocals throughout blossoming beautifully into perfectly orchestrated harmonies that are arranged to great effect throughout the track to lend weight to certain refrains. Spacious and scrumptious, I particularly enjoyed the subtle, uncomplicated acoustic guitar solo. I'm not a 'solo' kind of guy, but the call-and-response of the acoustic and bright, slightly Tremolo'ed electric is a gorgeous addition to the composition.  

'The Water's Edge', continues to bring down the dynamic. A low-key, sweetly arranged ballad with a nicely chosen analogy running throughout that wouldn't look amiss in a James Taylor/Carol King collaboration.

We've reviewed the title track previously, which is honestly a perfect closer for the EP, and on this return listen - and I'm quite possibly I'm into triple figures now... - it proves no exception. It's a confident number, surprisingly nuanced, and those glistening, driven guitar melodies throughout provide a cutting edge to the track that serves to neatly and memorably bring the EP to a close.

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Check out Hawthorn Avenue’s debut EP ‘Wildfire’ on Spotify and iTunes now.

by Joe Bayliss

 
 
Horizons 12 Applications Closing Soon!
 
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I’m sure a lot of you know, but in case you don’t, our friends at Horizons Cymru are on the search for their next 12 artists that they’ll be supporting for this year! 12 bands/artists will be selected by a panel of producers from BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, Arts Council of Wales and a producer of the Horizons 12 scheme as those most likely to make significant advances in their careers across the year. These bands/artists form Horizons 12.

The Horizons 12 bands/artists will be offered opportunities to perform at events across Wales and through BBC Cymru Wales’ national radio stations – BBC Radio Cymru and/or BBC Radio Wales. Alongside this they will benefit from a programme of support to assist with the development of their music careers.

The scheme is open to Wales based bands/artists writing, producing and performing original contemporary popular music. These contemporary music genres include indie, electronic, urban, pop, rock, world, folk and emerging contemporary music genres.

We highly recommend you apply - the roster of bands that they have worked with and supported is pretty impressive! There’s lots more info & content on their socials & website too.

CLICK HERE TO APPLY! & GOOD LUCK!!!

Swansea MusicHub
Gig of the week: All Dead All Dead [Interview]
 
 

Ahead of their headline show at The Bunkhouse this Saturday, we caught up with the All Dead, All Dead guys over a coffee last week - find out what was said below!

 
 

SMH: So last year it seemed like you had a pretty crazy year, in terms of the places you’ve been, the tunes you’ve released and more – can you tell us a bit about what that was like for you? 

Gareth: So we sent out a lot of emails when we started the band and had three songs that we were really happy with that we’d recorded with James Weaver

Jamie: Shout out James Weaver, always and forever

Gareth: Simon and Martin (All Dead, All Dead’s management/mentors) got back in touch and said that they wanted to work with us! And since then we’ve had a really great working relationship with them – they’re like mentors for us

Jac: It’s really great, they’ve really helped us as a band

Jamie: You’ve got Martin who’s a songwriter and then Simon who’s a tour manager and they’re close friends who’ve done some things in the past – it’s great that we have those both sides.  

The biggest thing for example is like, in the Ukraine we supported a band called Red and it’s mad how different everything was for that show. We’ve all been gigging around South Wales since we were like 15 and we arrived and thought “ah we know what we’re doing we’ve gigged loads before” and it was a whole different experience playing such a huge show – we’re definitely learning a lot fast thanks to them!

Gareth:  They’ve given us all these opportunities basically – Simon’s got some great contacts because he’s been on tour around the world,  Ukraine with Red was the first gig that we’d played away

Jac: It was definitely a different feeling to all the other shows we’ve done.

Gareth: I think what we’ve definitely come to understand is it’s so important to have a decent local fan base – that’s been left to us. Our gigs in Ukraine and Amsterdam were amazing opportunities for us to get our music out to different audiences outside of the UK.

Jamie: In Amsterdam we played with a band called Desert Mountain Tribe and it was the weirdest thing ever – we’d actually supported them in The Moon in Cardiff!

SMH: Tell us about how long you guys have been playing together

Jamie: Our first show playing as just the three of us was March 14th 2017 supporting MILK (who play with the band this Saturday) in Gwdihw!  It’s the first band that I’ve ever been passionate about other people seeing – they are so exciting and you genuinely don’t know what you’re going to get!

Gareth: We were called SUNS before, but the nature of the name meant that we were one of about 100 bands called SUNS – so we changed our name to All Dead, All Dead!

SMH: What’s been the best gig you’ve played?

Jac: It’s got to be Ukraine – the passion we had off the crowd was unreal.

Gareth: When we supported VANT in Clwb. That was awesome. We all lost it on stage. It was so fun.  

Jamie: I think for me, it was the Swansea Fringe show. It was just before we went to Ukraine and we were really comfortable going into it, so we really let loose. I was so nervous for Ukraine that I didn’t have time to get nervous for Swansea! It was amazing – it was the reddest I’ve ever gone on stage.

 
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SMH: You’ve released three great songs, can you give us an insight into how you write your tunes? 

Gareth: Are We Lucky, Under Edinburgh and Autonomy were actually all written acoustically first starting with the riffs. But our style of writing varies quite a lot.

Jamie: Jac has a very traditional way of writing and to some extent we were all like this when we started out – get in a room, jam it out and get a feel for the tracks altogether. What we’ve started doing recently is use Garageband – myself and Gareth are eternally connected to Garageband and the way we’re writing at the moment is us sat on Garageband to play around with riffs, structures and more. It’s funny though, we sometimes forget about Jac and his drums and focus on bird noises and sound effects before anything else! We then go to Jac and say “hey Jac, over these bird noises and you go: boom boom ba-boom kah!” and we’re usually met with a dirty look.

 Jac: The bird noises are now louder than my drums…

Gareth: Mainly we’ll have an idea on a guitar or a vocal line and go from there. But we have so many different ways of working and often piece together ideas that we all have at separate times to make the tracks work. The song narrative usually comes after the music – we think about what the songs are about after we have the music.

Jamie: One of our tracks grew out of Gareth’s love for Ross Kemp and a sample he heard on one of his TV shows that he recorded on his phone.

Gareth: We love Ross Kemp. He’s actually my idol. I hope he can make the gig on Saturday!

SMH: Tell us some of your influences as a band. 

Jamie / Jac / Gareth: Ross Kemp

Jac: Haha, nah we all have like… roots together of things we all mutually like, but we all have really different things we listen to.

Gareth: One band that always springs to mind that we all like is Biffy Clyro. We have a mutual appreciation of them.  

Jamie: The perfect metaphor for it is: “it’s like three trees sprouted from the same roots”

Jac: Oh god, please don’t put that in haha.

SMH: What are you all listening to at the moment? 

Gareth: At the moment I’m really enjoying Everything Everything

 Jamie: Jeff Buckley

 Jac: Biffy for me at the moment, but my all time favourite is Linkin Park.

 Gareth: We learnt a lot about Jac when we all went to see YouMeAtSix at the Brangwyn Hall – Jac said “I don’t really like YouMeAtSix, not really my thing” but then sang every single lyric at the show.

 Jac: I didn’t realise I knew all of their songs!

 Gareth: My all time favourite band has got to be The Beatles. They’ve got such a wide breadthe of music that’s influenced so much.

 Jamie: Right… When it comes to my all time, not necessarily my favourite, but the most important bands are Nirvana and My Chemical Romance. I wish you could see Gareth’s face!

 Gareth: Jamie’s half way there to becoming Gerrard Way!

 Jamie: Basically, I was brought up on Motown and Soul and then one day I stumbled across Scuzz TV. It was fate. I heard those first four notes of “Welcome to the Black Parade” and it was my first introduction to this kind of music. If it wasn’t for Gerrard Way, All Dead All Dead may have been an Aretha Franklyn tribute band!

Gareth: I thought we were?

 Jamie: It opened up a whole world for me. From there I discovered Queen, Black Sabbath & so many more.

SMH: Favourite Swansea band? Who are you excited about?

Gareth: Obviously I used to be in Bandicoot, and watching them the other day in the Bunkhouse was an amazing experience. Such a great band with such a great energy!! Otherwise I really love Trampolene – I’ve been listening to their album a lot recently.

Jamie: Yeah Trampolene are looking huge. You know you’re making waves in Swansea when my hairdresser knows who they are and has big things to say about them! Any day though, you’ve got to choose Badfinger!! They ended the best TV show of all time – Breaking Bad!

Jac: A band I haven’t actually seen but have heard great things about are Taxi Rank – they’ve got some great tunes. I love Apathy Avenue too!

Gareth: String Theory as well – great band – they’re playing this Saturday!

Jamie: News From Nowhere and I Digress have such a great passion for music which is great to see! 

SMH: Favourite Welsh band?

All three: Milk!!

Gareth: Super Furries 100%

Jamie: If you don’t like Phonics you’re not Welsh. Currently it’s got to be Boy Azooga.

Gareth: I love Gwenno at the moment too.

SMH: What can we expect this Saturday at the Bunkhouse?

Jamie: Lots of Ross Kemp!

Gareth: Confetti, bubble cannons, the lot!

Jamie: Possible nudity. Guaranteed nudity from MILK.

Gareth: We’re playing a couple of new songs that we’ve never played before.

Jamie: They’re big… Two BIG songs. Our last show was at the Swansea Fringe Festival, so we’re super excited to play our hometown again!

SMH: The gig is a charity gig for Parkinson’s UK – can you tell why you’ve chose this important charity?

Jac: It’s actually in memory of my Grandad and Jamie’s uncle. We’re trying to raise £1000 and we’re really close.

Gareth: It’s really nice to be able to do a hometown show and raise some money for an important charity is really special.

Jamie: And we’ve got to give it to The Bunkhouse guys. 100% of the ticket sales are going straight to the charity and they’ve been so helpful in the organisation. Make sure you buy lots and lots of drinks. We sound a lot better then too!

Gareth: Oh, the women’s darts team will be buying drinks won’t they?

Jamie: So the Southgate women’s, I think this is safe to say, over 50s (sorry mum) darts team are going to be there – they’re all very lovely ladies – so make sure you buy all them drinks!


Catch All Dead, All Dead alongside Milk & String Theory this weekend at The Bunkhouse. Tickets available here.

Swansea MusicHub
Gig of the week: Chaouche Live at The Bunkhouse
 
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What a treat we have for you this Friday at The Bunkhouse. One of the things we, as the Swansea Music Hub, wanted to do more of in 2019 was curate, support and put on gigs under the guise of ’Swansea Music Hub Presents…”. When we initially started chatting about the idea, one name at the top of our list of acts to book was Chaouche.

Spending her childhood in Swansea before moving to Bristol, Chaouche has finely crafted her sound to become an artist that we are very excited about. 

Her sound has been described as ‘heartbreaking and spine-tingling hymns’ by Wonderland Magazine and Chaouche herself has been described by Clash as a ‘songwriter of really strength and subtlety’. 

Her debut album ‘Safe’, released on Night Time Stories last June, demonstrates this through tracks such as We Will Love and So What. Beautiful, ethereal tracks drenched in luscious textures. Her follow up EP ‘Progression’ released last November further proves why Chaouche is getting such glowing reviews, with stand out tracks such as It Will Come in Time. 

Her wonderful piano playing matched with a very impressive looking live set up (often including electronics, programmed drums & samples) that will get any music fan excited, it’s safe to say that we cannot wait for Friday. 

Any if Chaouche wasn’t the only reason to bag yourself a ticket, we have 2 stellar support acts joining her on the night: local favourites Cities & Ophelia Xerri (formerly of Ananas)

This will undoubtably be a gig to remember. Don’t miss out. 

Written by Simon Parton

Swansea MusicHub
Featured Gig: Bandicoot Live at The Bunkhouse
 
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Bandicoot return to The Bunkhouse after THAT ridiculously good sold out show before Christmas and this time, they’re bringing a bunch of their very very talented mates to support in the shape of: Rainbow Maniac, Red Telephone and Vanilla.

The band have already had an explosive start to 2019 with shows in Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach (supporting Wooze) and Bristol’s The Fleece (alongside Fossette). On top of that the band have been working super hard with in the studio, with producer Tom Rees (Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard) to record their next single (out very soon). AND on top of that, the band have been awarded with funding through Horizon’s Launchpad fund that they’ll be using to record ANOTHER single later in the year.

It’s safe to say that the band are going to have a very very exciting year ahead - why not catch their first Swansea show of the year - it’s bound to be a mental one that you won’t forget!

And if Bandicoot weren’t the only reason for you to head to The Bunkhouse this Friday (for a measly £5.00 if you buy your ticket today through Derricks Music) - the support acts are 3 bands on top of their game:

Vanilla, one of our ones to watch for 2019, have just dropped their latest single “On My Way Home”, smashed a headline show at Creature Sound and supported YAK at Clwb Ifor Bach - all within the last 4/5 days! Catch them whilst they’re riding high!

Red Telephone have also had a great start to 2019 and are due to have a very exciting year ahead. With one Bunkhouse show already under their belt this year and fresh from Tallinn Music Week (Estonia) - this is one band you don’t want to miss!

Another awardee of Horizons’ Launchpad fund, Rainbow Maniac have been tearing it up in Cardiff for the last few years. Coming off the back of some very busy & wild shows in the capital, we’re excited to see Rainbow Maniac bring their heavy indie rock n roll to the Bunkhouse!

Written by Simon Parton

Swansea MusicHub
Review: "A Loveless Attraction" by Apathy Avenue
 
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At first glance, Apathy Avenue's newest single is a change of flavour for the Neath/Swansea lads. A change of pace from the frenetic, energy-charged material I've heard at shows and online, but if anything, this allows the Apathy Avenue gents to show their true colours as creatives.

The track is a neat, clean number that builds on an enduring Swansea pedigree - somewhat Stoner-edged. Sludgy yet punchy. Entrancing. Music you can head bang to, or veg out to.

Or perhaps it could provide the sound track to a bar room brawl.

With their more pacey material, think Truckfighters meet Green Day in a Welsh pub for a swift round, but for 'A Loveless Attraction', think Black Stone Cherry sharing a casual stubbie with Clutch.

Aled Davies' and Samuel Kilby's (of Unit 13) production allows a perfect amount of space between the instrumentation, the bass tone in particular is bright, piercing, cutting through the mix in a highly satisfying way (bear in mind, this is coming from a guitarist, too!) and there's an enviable drum fill, courtesy of Liam Hawkes around 3:30 (more of that please, sir!).

All in all, a great offering from the Apathy Avenue boys, and you can make sure you catch them on the 28th June in The Bunkhouse, Swansea or 29th June at Rock The Barn, Hereford. Check their Facebook page for upcoming shows.

Watch the video below, or head over to YouTube to give it a gander.

Whilst you're at it, you can admire that impressive 'tache too.

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'A Loveless Attraction' is now available on all streaming services including YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and much more!

by Joe Bayliss

 
 
Featured Artist: WINDSHAKE
 
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It’s been a busy time for us here at the Swansea Music Hub, hence the long time since we last featured a Swansea act on our blog - and what better way to mark it’s return than with Swansea favourite’s: Windshake.

Windshake have been tearing up Swansea’s scene for a while now and were one of the first bands high up on our radar when we first started the Swansea Music Hub. One of the first gigs that Joe and I went to after starting was a packed out Mozarts where Windshake played a storming set. Their sound has certainly developed in the year since that show, but what hasn’t changed is their uniqueness and their ability to draw you in with their psychedelic infused rock n roll.

On New Year’s Eve 2018/19 the band released their ‘Feeling Friendly’ EP - a wonderfully trippy collection of songs that showcase the band’s ability to write unique compositions. The lead single Sleepy State of Shame really stands out - it’s jaunty, psychy, trippy but also a really good tune. It’s got lots of unexpected twists and turns, lovely layers and the music video demonstrates how close the three in the band are and how well they work together.

Windshake are certainly one of the hardest working bands in Swansea and have had stints all over the UK and Paris! We were really lucky to have them play our recent mini-festival ‘Nightworks’ and we were really impressed - they’ve come a long way in such a short space of time since that packed out Mozarts gig (and we were impressed then!). We’re really looking forward to what the future holds for Sam (Guitar, Vocals and Keys), Oliver (Drums and Vocals) and Ethan (Bass) and implore you to go listen to their stuff & catch them live!

Words by Simon Parton

Swansea MusicHub
Featured Gig: Slow Readers Club at Sin City
 
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When a band goes on an extensive UK tour and includes Swansea, it’s something that should be celebrated - especially when the band are as good and as exciting as Manchester’s The Slow Readers Club.

Sin City will be their 20th stop out of 32 on the band’s extensive UK tour and after sold out shows in London, Glasgow and Manchester the band have proven that they are definietly ones to watch. Described by the NME as “The next northern pop powerhouse… with hints of the xx, Depeche Mode, The Maccabees and Alt-J, this is one for fans of guitar led indie rock music.

The band will also be selling their own signature dry hopped lager - “Slow Brew” - to ensure you stay refreshed during their set!

This is a very exciting time for the band. Front man Aaron Starkie says: "This is the first opportunity we’ve had to do a full on UK tour, up until this point we’ve all had day jobs to work around, but 2019 is the year we go at it properly, no more messing about. We’ve had tons of people ask us to play all over the UK so here we go.”

The band are touring in support of their new album Build A Tower, which was released last year and went straight into the album charts at number 18, 10 in the physical album chart, 4 in the vinyl chart, 4 in the indie album chart and Number 1 in the cassette chart.

The latest single, ‘On The TV’, taken from the album has proved a hit at radio, receiving great support from BBC 6Music and Radio X.  

Following the March headline tour, the band have also been announced to play the main stage at the Neighbourhood Weekender in Victoria Park, Warrington on May 26th alongside Richard Ashcroft, The Vaccines and The Charlatans. 

Supporting the band is Devon’s Alice Jemima, who will be bringing more indie vibes to the night. Check out her track “Take Me Back” below:

Tickets are still available for the show through Sin City’s website here

MUSIC IS IMPORTANT

#SWANSEAMUSIC

Swansea MusicHub
Review: "Mary Jane" by Rosey Cale
 
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I'll admit, when I was sent 'Mary Jane' to have a listen to, I genuinely wasn't expecting the little golden nugget of Americana-inspired Alt-Rock that I received. I'm not sure what I was expecting, in fact - something lighter fare, perhaps, but the structure of the track, along with the underpinning harmonic progression screams of Tom Petty's classic stylings, and with the final breakdown and repetitive riff (kudos to Jimmy Brewer for his work on guitar), that influence is cemented. It's a simple, tested structure, and the instrumentation throughout works to add a perfect amount of variation to keep the listener hooked.

Playing with the dynamics and anchoring with the acoustic guitar cleverly means that it's undoubtedly and unavoidably still the work of a singer-songwriter, adding that charm to the full band orchestration. The understated vocal melodies in the verse work brilliantly to contrast the ramped up, gutsy choruses whilst the hammering home of the outro echoes of Cheryl Crow.

All in all it's a well-crafted Country-Rock number, and Owain Jenkins' (of StudiOwz) production is perfectly balanced to allow for Cale's beautiful vocal work to sit neatly on top of the mix.

"Mary Jane" is what I imagine it might sound a little like if Susan Tedeschi fronted The Heartbreakers.

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'Mary Jane' will be available for download from the 22nd March on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play and other platforms.

by Joe Bayliss

Interview: James Weaver [Swansea Music Producer]

Words & Photos: Billy Stillman

Swansea based music producer James Weaver has certainly made a name for himself in the city and beyond over the years, providing professional tracks of a unique style for many bands coming out of South Wales. With a production sound that is becoming more and more publicly recognised, I chatted with James about the importance of his recording services in the local music scene and the plans he has for 2019.

 
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SWANSEA MUSIC HUB: 2018 was a very productive year for you, having been the go-to producer for countless Swansea bands, any highlights?

JAMES WEAVER: 2018 was an amazing year for me thanks to all the great artists that I had the pleasure of working with. It’s hard to highlight something specific from this year, as all the bands I’ve recorded have their own unique characteristics and musical flare. It will always be a highlight for me when I hear the bands that I record getting airplay on the Radio. Massive shout out to Adam Walton from BBC Radio Wales who has aired my recordings countless times and is doing a great job shining a spotlight on some amazing artists around the country! I also heard that some of the artists I worked with got signed up to record labels due to the recordings I created, so I’m over the moon about that! Its great to know that the music I work on reaches so far and helps people in various ways!

SMH: Being such a popular Swansea producer, especially with the younger generation who are looking for a professional sound, I understand you have a rapidly growing list of artists you have recorded. Do you experiment with new techniques and ideas with every musician and band that comes to you?

JW: I am constantly learning new techniques and try to soak up all the information I can get my hands on. I love to experiment with sound at any opportunity and I’m constantly filling up the studio with new gear and audio plugins that I get incredibly excited to implement into my artists music. When crafting ideas, I try to stay as close to the artists vision as possible, and then build on that vision to make something bigger and better! I think its really important when creating ideas to have a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the studio so that everyone in the room feeds of each others creative energy. That way you all come up with great ideas together. Always keep the teas, coffees and snacks flowing!

 
 

SMH: Are there any key musical influences that have a significant impact on your production style?

JW: I think musical influences are definitely dependant on the artist I’m working with at the time. Different genres and styles may define different musical directions. Saying that, I love music that has a powerful production behind it, for example; Bring Me The Horizon, Don Broco, Lower Than Atlantis and Enter Shikari. I try to embody that explosive, wall of sound in my mixes. Additionally, I adore listening to orchestrations and film scores by composers such as Hans Zimmer, Jesper Kyd, and Lorne Balfe. Their music style is so emotive and dynamic. Their minimalistic, yet commanding melodies have a way of plucking at your heart strings.

SMH: Who are you currently listening to that’s a favourite?

JW: Bring Me The Horizon, Pvris, Architects, Nothing But Theives, Arcane Roots, Don Broco just to name a few...

SMH: Since the beginning of your career as a producer up until now, do you feel that your recording style has changed and improved?

JW: I definitely think the quality of my recordings have improved in many ways since I started. Experience has given me a better grasp of the recording process and also working with people to create great music. Theres always room for more improvement though and I plan to make 2019 the year I take my recordings that extra step further!

SMH: If you had any advice for the younger James starting out his career as a producer, what would it be?

JW: One of the best pieces of advice that I learned is not to worry too much about the small things. Always keep your eye on the bigger picture!

 
 

SMH: And is there any advice you would give to artists going into the studio?

JW: Make sure you’re well prepared going into the studio. Practice your songs. Practice them again! Restring your guitars, reskin your drum kits. Have a good nights sleep before the session. Oh did I mention practice your songs... haha! Great recordings are made by great musicians with great ideas. Producers like me just add the extra sparkle! And last but not least, don’t worry or stress about it. Its just music at the end of the day and I’ll be there to help you along the way!

SMH: Who was the first and most recent artist you recorded? How much has your style changed in between the both?

JW: The first artist I recorded was my own band The Effect. The latest artist I recorded was a local Swansea band called I Digress. A great deal has changed since I started producing music in my bedroom all those years ago. I now have a professional studio setup with higher end recording gear and a mind full of new ideas that I’m excited to unleash. Although much has stayed the same. My work ethic hasn’t changed too much. I’ve always worked countless hours recording, editing, and mixing, getting the music to sound as best it can and thats never going to change. I always strive to give my clients 110% and I hope that shows in the music!

SMH: What have you got lined up for 2019?

JW: I have loads of bookings so far this year for recording so should be a busy year! I will also be stepping into the world renowned recording studio Monnow Valley in the near future to produce a song with a band, which I’m really excited about.

SMH: Finally, top three artists you would love to record / loved to have recorded?

JW: Oasis, David Bowie, Foo Fighters


To find out more about James and his music production services, check out: www.jamesweavermusic.com

Interview & First Listen: Laura Benjamin of Hawthorn Avenue
 
Hawthorn Avenue - Photo by  Lauren Pitson .

Hawthorn Avenue - Photo by Lauren Pitson.

 

There are scores of exciting new acts emerging around South Wales every year, but Laura Benjamin and Marcus Gumm’s new country outfit ‘Hawthorn Avenue’ are set to drop their debut single this Friday (February 1st, 2019), and for these hard-working, accomplished musicians, it’s taken years of cutting their teeth to get to this point of holding their original creations up to the limelight.

We caught up with Laura to talk about all things Hawthorn Avenue, and were treated to an exclusive listen of their debut single ‘Wildfire’. Read on, music lovers;

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Swansea Music Hub: Being experienced musicians, both Marcus and yourself are regulars around South Wales venues, but have not necessarily focused on original music in the past. Is Hawthorn Avenue a relatively new idea, or has the project been around for a while before being realised? And, for that matter, where did Hawthorn Avenue come from?

Laura Benjamin: Honestly, the first time Marcus and I sat down together to write was September 2018, which feels like yesterday, but when we sat in the room and decided what the topic of our song was, everything just flowed out of us and we very quickly realised how musically compatible we were. We were surprised and excited by how quickly the lyrics and melodies flew out of us, and wrote the single ‘Wildfire’ in one afternoon. Every track on the EP has been the same, we just work together and so we knew it was worth pouring 100% of our hearts into this project and not wasting any time in releasing the songs we wrote. As for the name, I’d love to say something clever and cool, but... it’s the name of my street... where we wrote all of our songs. I wish we had found picking the name as easy as we found writing the songs! We’d both researched a lot about how to choose names and overwhelmingly, the answer google gave us was ‘pick the one you hate the least’, so we threw a few ideas out there and came up with my street name!

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SMH: What is it about Country music that excites you?

LB: To me, the most amazing thing about country music is the fact that it’s so diverse but that all of country music shares the same purpose. You can get the most pop- country songs with synthesisers and flashing lights and you can get a single guitarist sitting on their front porch and you can almost always guarantee, they’re singing about love and life and learning lessons. It’s people pouring their hearts into their lyrics and tying them together with simple but beautiful melodies and harmonies. It’s exciting because you can go in so many directions with it, and it’s exciting because people who love country music are so supportive and open-minded. It really is this wonderful community of people who just want three chords and the truth?

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SMH: What are your immediate plans for the future of Hawthorn Avenue?

LB: I’m an obsessive planner, and so we have our next ten steps planned at any given time (I’m also like an excitable child- we both are, so it’s hard for us to keep up with all our exciting ideas). But to give you a little idea about what’s to come, we’ll say that the next new music is never going to be far away (because we’ve written and recorded most of it already). If you’re on the Hawthorn Avenue journey with us, you’re in for one hell of a ride, and we cannot wait.

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SMH: Tell us a little about your writing style. Is it a collaborative process when it comes to your songwriting? Do Marcus and yourself have different approaches when considering new material?

LB: Everything we do, we do entirely together. We sit in a room together and have a completely blank sheet. One of us (or usually both of us) may have a song by another artist that has inspired us and we brainstorm (literally- my Dad is a maths tutor and we draw a mind map on his white board in his classroom/ our garage) until we start to feel what the song sounds like. I don’t know how, but we can just read each others’ musical minds. When I can’t find the melody for the line I’m thinking of, Marcus will sing something and it will be perfect, and vice versa! We try not to question it too much because it feels a little bit like magic (sorry if that’s cheesy, I am a country musician after all!).

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SMH: 5) Do yours and Marcus’ musical tastes differ wildly?

LB: To an extent, yes. We both adore country music and there are a lot of things we both love (Striking matches, Luke combs, Lady Antebellum, basically anyone who is in Country to country this year) but there is definitely a sub-genre within country that makes me roll my eyes whenever Marcus plays it to me. I don’t know what it’s called, but you can guarantee it’ll mention ‘boots’ or ‘moonshine’, have a shuffling drum beat and have lyrics like ‘Opened me a beer’ or ‘Drivin in ma truck’ - you know, the very cheesy kind of ‘look at me I’m a cowboy’ music. I like country music that’s cooler, and more subtly country. Saying that, I’m a self- admitted T-Swift super fan, so I can’t say much about cheese.

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SMH: Do you have a favourite track to play live and, if so, why that specific one?

LB: From our originals, our joint favourite to play live is ‘The Water’s Edge’ because it builds on beautiful harmonies and sounds best stripped back and raw. I think our favourite cover that we play is ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’, again because it suits our voices and the harmonies make my heart flutter.

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SMH:  If you could organise and perform on your dream lineup, what would the rest of the billing look like?

LB: Taylor Swift then us, so that I could possibly make skin to skin contact with her as she walks on stage and we walk off. Striking Matches (did I mention them yet?). Lady Antebellum. Ashley McBryde (If you don’t know who she is, you need to go and listen to her song ‘fat and famous’ because it genuinely has me in stitches every time I listen to it even though I’ve heard it a million times). Can I have all of the Nashville cast? Is that allowed? Rascal Flatts. Lee Ann Womack. I can’t stop. Can this be a never ending lineup? Zac Brown Band for Marcus. Maren Morris. Ward Thomas. Little big down. Florida Georgia Line. Okay I’ll stop.

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SMH: What are the top five songs on your band mixtape whilst touring?

LB: We haven’t been on tour yet, but I can guarantee when we do, Marcus will be the driver and I will have free reign of DJ duties, so it’ll be all of the above even if Marcus pretends not to like Tay-Tay.

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SMH: Is there another Welsh artist (or artists) that excite you right now?

LB: In general, it’s just really great to see local artists contributing to and getting recognised for country music. For a long old time the genre was dominated by American artists, understandably. People like The Shires, Ward Thomas and Catherine McGrath are really paving the way for musicians from everywhere in the world to contribute to the genre, and so it’s bringing UK country fans out of the shadows and giving them the confidence to write their own music. We’re so lucky to be friends with so many talented songwriters, and to name a few, Natalie Jones, Ryan Davies, John Adams, Rosey Cale and Holy Home Video (who we are lucky enough to have supporting us at our EP launch party) are all artists who continually inspire us and make us proud to be Welsh artists.

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Hawthorn Avenue’s debut single 'Wildfire’ drops this Friday (February 1st, 2019), but we’ve an exclusive stream below, alongside our review. Have a listen, and plan on getting down to a show near you when you can!

For more information on Hawthorn Avenue, and the current goings on in their ‘camp’, pop on over here!

 
Hawthorn Avenue - Photo by  Lauren Pitson .

Hawthorn Avenue - Photo by Lauren Pitson.

 

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EXCLUSIVE FIRST LISTEN

WILDFIRE

by Hawthorn Avenue

Country music, for me, can be somewhat contentious, and, in my mind, there’s such a thing as being just ‘too Country’. I’m overjoyed to say that this debut track from Hawthorn Avenue, although obviously distilling it’s sound from the genre, infuses itself with a new life that keeps it contemporary and fresh.

Wildfire is a sweet, driven Country number but tempered by a Pop aesthetic, while Tommy Harden’s production perfectly balances the two elements so they sit comfortably entwined within each other. The opening riff, which is reprised at the end of the track, screams of Joe Walsh, while the whole track has a distinctly Eagles flavour, but largely more stripped back.

The duo’s vocal lines sit crisply above the mix, allowing you to really wrap your ears around the flawless unison throughout, and when the true harmonies in the pre-choruses and choruses kick in, it gives a lift to the hooks that works wonderfully whether the instrumentation beneath is sparse or more richly orchestrated.

All in all, for a first offering for a contemporary British Country act, Wildfire displays an accomplished approach to the craft, and excites in all the right ways, and I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into whatever they drop next.

For more information on Hawthorn Avenue, and the current goings on in their ‘camp’, pop on over here!

Interview and Review by Joe Bayliss

Gig of the week: The Stray Pursuit & friends at Creature Sound
 
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A great selection of new and up & coming bands this Friday at Creature Sound as The Stray Pursuit play their first headline show. We were first made aware of the Swansea boys when they supported The Zinvandels at their show in The Bunkhouse last November. Making a big impression, then went on to support The Riff and White Riot - and we’ve heard nothing but good things!

Supporting them are Alt/Indie band The Furns (who are also going from strength to strength at the moment), new kids on the block Motel Thieves (who debuted only last month) and other new kids on the block Cease to See See The Sun.

A night of discovery for the next generation of top notch bands coming out of Swansea - don’t miss out!

Swansea MusicHub
GALLERY: BANDICOOT AT THE BUNKHOUSE (SOLD OUT)

On Saturday 22nd December, Bandicoot played a very special SOLD OUT hometown show at The Bunkhouse Swansea and what a night it was! Jacob Winter was on hand to capture the show through his pictures (+ check out the video at the bottom of this post captured by Steph Evans).

Photos by JACOB WINTER

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

Photos by Jacob Winter

Video by Steph Evans

Gig of the week: I Digress 'Haunting Me' EP Release show
 
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Our first featured gig of the week for 2019 is alternative rockers I Digress’ show tonight at The Bunkhouse to celebrate the release of their debut EP ‘Haunting Me’. Tonight is a must for rock fans in Swansea - I Digress have been tearing up the scene with their high energy sets and great sound for the last year. Joining them are Port Talbot rockers I Am Gravity and Llanelli band Beyond The Break.

Don’t miss this! Tickets are £3.00 in advance and more on the door!

Ones to watch 2019
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Happy New Year! After what we can safely say was an incredibly exciting 2018 for the Swansea music scene, we’re beyond excited for what this year will bring! After weeks of discussions, lots of conversations and opinions of those around the city, we’ve done our best to compile a list of 10 acts that we’re really excited about for 2019. The list genuinely could have been twice as long, which shows the strength of the acts coming out of Swansea right now - but here are our 10 shortlisted acts to get excited about this year…

 
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AidenKeryn

It’s hard to ignore how far AidenKeryn has come in the last year. Still in sixth form, Aiden’s been putting an almighty shift in - gigging extensively and writing/releasing tunes that show how much of a talent she really is for someone so young!

With new music undoubtably on the horizon and a slot already secured at this year’s FOCUS Wales showcase festival in Wrexham (who, as a festival, might we add, don’t mess around with selecting the best in up & coming talent) 2019 is set to be huge for Aiden!

 

 
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All Dead, All Dead

What a year All Dead, All Dead had last year - they’ve achieved a ridiculous amount in such a short space of time! With shows in Kiev, Amsterdam and closer to home (including headlining The Bunkhouse for the Swansea Fringe Festivals) and with 3 incredible releases already under their belt, we are super excited about these guys and what’s to come!

 

 
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Eleri Angharad

Country/Pop queen of Swansea Eleri Angharad is a credit to our music scene. Forever supporting other artists & gigs but also working ridiculously hard to record and release her own stuff! With an album coming out in 2019 & a special tour in the works, this year is going to be huge for Eleri!

 

 
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News From Nowhere

Psychedelic indie / art rockers News From Nowhere are set to have a very exciting 2019. Every show they play and every tune they release always stop us in our tracks - high musicianship, well thought out compositions and just a really great band. Fingers crossed we’ll have some new music from them in 2019 - they’re album “...and the human had half” is one of our favourite albums to come out of Swansea - definitely check it out.

 

 
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Only Fools and Corpses

In late November we were sent a link to “Support Your Local Scene” by Only Fools and Corpses - grabbed immediately by the title of the track and the name of the band we eagerly went to watch the video. What we were greeted with was a cacophony of noisy, angry punk matched with a superb video and we absolutely loved it. More of this in 2019 please boys!

 

 
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Pastel

It’s very hard to ignore the stamp that Pastel have left on the music scene in 2018. With their shoegazy rock n roll that channels all your favourite Britpop bands, Pastel are set to have a monumental 2019 starting off with a headline show in the Bunkhouse late January.

 


 
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Sarah Birch

There’s lots to be excited about for Lost Tuesday Society front woman Sarah Birch and her solo stuff! With an album on the way and plenty of live shows we’re certain this year is going to be huge for Sarah! If her single “The Rain Dance” is anything to go off - we’re all in for a very special treat!

 

 

Soundwire

Gorgeous psychedelic soundscapes & a superb live show. This is the impression that we have from Soundwire after we booked them for the Swansea Fringe Festival last year. What a band!! With their self titled album due out on February 4th, 2019 is undoubtably going to be huge for these guys - and we can’t wait!

 

 
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String Theory

We caught String Theory three times in 2018, and each time we did we were totally blown away - not only by their superb sound but by the consistent reaction of their fans - who all go mental for every show! With two great singles “I’m here” and “17” under their belt, we’re excited for more from these young alternative / indie rockers!

 

 

Vanilla

One of Swansea’s favourite young indie party bands Vanilla have had a storming 2018 - and we cannot wait to hear more from them in 2019. A huge number of shows (each one we’ve been to has been mental, sweaty and showcases some of the finest crowd surfing we’ve seen!) and a superb debut single have made Vanilla a force to be reckoned with. More of the same this year we hope!

 

Written by Simon Parton

Ones to watch 2018 - A look back

On the first of January this year we announced 10 acts that we thought would have a big 2018 - so before we announce our next acts for 2019, we thought it’d be nice to look back and dig deeper into what our 10 got up to this year!

Bandicoot

 
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2018 proved to be a very very busy and exciting year for Bandicoot. They’ve released three tunes - ‘Stuck in Space’, ‘Being Erased’ & ‘House of Fame’, and gigged extensively including support slots for Spring King at Sin City, Al Moses in Clwb (Cardiff) and Estrons in The Parrot (Carmarthen).

As part of Radio One’s Biggest Weekend, the boys played a special showcase show for Horizons, went on to headline the Swansea Fringe Festival at Sin City and played Swn Festival in Cardiff. If that wasn’t enough, the boys ended their year by selling out the Bunkhouse, for a very special hometown show. Do not sleep on this band - they’ve got a massive 2019 ahead!


King Goon

 
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The Goons have been very busy in the studio this year, preparing to unleash their long awaiting album to the world. As always, the boys have brought the party to multiple venues in the city including Creature Sound and Sin City (twice - once as part of the Swansea Fringe Festival) and also provided the BBC Academy with a special acoustic set as part of the Biggest Weekend!

We’re all waiting eagerly for that album (hopefully due out 2019) and we’re even more excited about the party that’ll accompany it’s release!


The Zinvandels

 
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Swansea’s favourite rock n rollers spent a lot of time in the studio this year - and released their latest single “Liars” in November. With lots of packed hometown shows including at Cinema & Co and The Bunkhouse the boys also headlined a special Horizons x Swansea Music Hub showcase at Unit Nineteen for the Biggest Weekend back in May.

These guys are going from strength to strength both in their songwriting and in their live shows - we can’t wait for what 2019 will bring them!


Emilie Merry

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Emilie released her debut EP “Not Your One” back in August and rumour has it she’s back in the studio creating her next batch of tunes! Emilie’s also played lots of shows, wowing audiences with her soulful poppy tunes and played a special full band show for the Radio One Academy during the Biggest Weekend in May.

If her next release is anything like her EP, we’re in for something very special from Emilie!


CrazeTheJack

 
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2018 has been a massive year for CrazeTheJack - lots of gigs and festivals, including The Biggest Weekend Fringe, FOCUS Wales and the Swansea Fringe Festival matched with the release of his long awaited album “Kaleidoscope”. He also provided an insane verse for Rachel K Collier’s cover of Badfingers’ ‘Come & Get It” - created for Horizons in celebration of the Biggest Weekend.

Big things are coming for Craze next year!!


Cities

 
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Cities have been very busy in the studio this year, putting the finishing touches to their next release (that we’re so so excited about) as well as a storming end of year show in Cinema & Co alongside. They played at the Bunkhouse for the Swansea Fringe and provided us with one of our favourite moments of the festival.

2019 is set to be huge for the band - we can’t wait to hear what they’ve been doing!


Geraint Rhys

 
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Geraint’s had a very impressive 2018 with a host of super cool achievements. He created a short documentary on the role of music during the Catalan independence struggle and won awards for it! He played for us at the Swansea Fringe Festival for Folk at the Fringe in Unit Nineteen and his latest single Dilyn was released in November!

With new collaborations and creative journeys set for 2019, we’re very excited for what the future holds for Geraint!


The Riff

 
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A very busy year for the boys in The Riff - with a whole host of gigs! Most notably, the boys sold out the Bunkhouse this month and blew the roof off! They headlined the Swansea Fringe Festival at Sin City, played a headline show at Sin earlier in the year and also played a special set for the Radio One Academy as part of the Biggest Weekend!

Favourites of the Swansea Music Hub, we can’t wait to see what they’ve got planned for 2019!

 

Picsel

 
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Picsel are another band who have been busy in the studio this year (their album is due out next year and we cannot wait!!). This year they released their single Alcohol and Drugs, played a bunch of exciting (and sweaty) shows including South West Fest in Cinema & Co and headlining The Bunkhouse for the Swansea Fringe Festival.

Next year is set to be their biggest yet - do not miss out & make sure you listen to their music and catch them playing live!


Little Folk

 
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Little Folk have had a ridiculously busy year. They’ve played so many gigs and festivals including the Biggest Weekend Fringe Festival, Hub Festival, the Swansea Fringe Festival, the Wales’ Airshow, Americana Fest, Live on the Wye, Countryfile Live and The Longroad Festival for BBC Introducing!

Their single Heading South was released earlier this year and is an absolute banger (we seriously recommend you check it out!). If 2018 is anything to go off, this band has got a very exciting year ahead of them!


Words by Simon Parton

GIG REVIEW: TRAMPOLENE LIVE AT THE BUNKHOUSE (SOLD OUT)

TRAMPOLENE (SOLD OUT) // THE BUNKHOUSE, SWANSEA // 7.12.18

 
Photo by Jacob Winter

Photo by Jacob Winter

 

The long awaited return of Swansea’s own Trampolene finally hit The Bunkhouse on the 7th of December, and the boys did not disappoint, giving us all a night to remember. As the floor quickly filled, seconds before the band were due to hit the stage, voices simmered as a violinist played the Welsh national anthem, a perfect way to start this massive homecoming show. Soon after, through the swarming crowd, singer and guitarist Jack Jones struts on past with a grin on his face, his own recital of teenage experiences in ‘Artwork of Youth’ blearing through the speakers. Wearing the iconic monster-like fur coat that loyal Trampolene fans would recognise, he joins his fellow partners in crime, bassist and vocalist Wayne Thomas, and drummer Rob Steele onstage.

 
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The boys begin thrashing through their chaos-bringing anthems, amongst which is ‘It’s Not Rock & Roll’, the relentless opener of their second album ‘Pick a Pocket or Two’. The front are sent into a thrashing of their own, bouncing away to the sound of the energetic riffs and driving drums. Greeting his adoring fans, Jones embraces the arms that are flinging towards him, standing proudly sporting the shirt of his native Swansea City’s football team.

 
 

To the right, Thomas is belting the lyrics to the catchy choruses passionately into the mic. Behind the swinging guitars and flying sweat, sits Steele, calmly but loudly bashing in harmony with the storm of noise, the Welsh flag draped over the bass drum.

The ever so humble Jones pours his heart out as his almost tearful expression shows it, grateful for the lively response of his hometown, shaking the hands of everyone in his sight. But there’s no time for being sentimental. Jones quickly returns to the mic and screams ‘Tom Hardy’ into the sea people packed into the small venue, once again sending bodies crashing into a frenzy. When he brought out the acoustic guitar, the crowd knew that the band’s latest release, ‘The One Who Loves You’ was coming up, everyone singing along with Thomas’ backing vocals in the choruses - but nobody was expecting the very festive rendition of ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’.

 
 

As the band draw near to the end of the set, they also cover the fitting ‘Friday I’m In Love’ by The Cure, which had the whole place singing. As a cloud of smoke fills the stage, lights strobing through the mist, it is clearly time for their last tune, ‘Storm Heaven’. The chaos of the song sends Jones crowdsurfing, and he perfects the solo when he lands back onstage, bending the strings with his teeth. He pumps his hand into the air as the show comes to an end, screaming triumphantly. The evening finishes with the popular spoken track ‘Pound Land’ (because it would be rude not to) and the crowd recite back every single word. Trampolene disappear backstage, having proved again to be one of Wales’ finest up and coming bands.

Uppa Swans.

Support came from The Sandinistas, Zepher & Pastel

 
 

Words: Billy Stillman / Photos (Colour): Billy Stillman / Photos (B&W): Jacob Winter

Gig of the week: String Theory & friends at Sin City
 
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String Theory are taking over Sin City this Wednesday to celebrate the release of their storming new single “I’m Here” (LISTEN HERE) and their bringing their mates, curating a top notch evening of live music. The last time I caught String Theory, it was with a very similar line up in Sin City when Vanilla headlined - and it went OFF!

There was crowd surfing, sweat, bouncing crowds, sweat, a display of raucous noise & energy and more sweat. It was certainly a night to remember, and we’re sure that this one will be no different.

Vanilla will bring the indie vibes, Valley boys & recently announced as part of Forté 2019 Sssnakes will bring their high energy alternative sound & completing the lineup bringing their exciting indie sounds is The Furns.

It’s only £3. What else would you be doing on a Wednesday night that beats doing this!? Go party with the best in upcoming music in Swansea & South Wales.

Gig of the week: Cities & Estuary Blacks
 
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What a treat for you #SwanseaMusic fans this week! With lots going on, there’s a lot to choose from, but one stand out for us is this display of talent at Cinema & Co on FRIDAY night. If you’re into your Post Rock, you MUST NOT MISS THIS! It’ll likely be your gig of the year!!

Estuary Blacks & Cities team up to form an ultimate lineup of musicianship at the highest level, two belting live shows that’ll leave you no doubt in awe.

Describing themselves as “POST MARSH ROCK FROM NORTH GOWER SCOUNDRELS” Estuary Blacks have just released their stunning self titled debut on CD and vinyl (which will no doubt be available this weekend) Listen below:

And with new music on the horizon, Cities will be showcasing tracks from their new release, as well as picks from their debut EP Manning Alaska - if you saw their set at the Swansea Fringe Festival this year, you know it’s one not to miss!