Posts tagged Welsh Music
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

 
 
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

 
 
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 & 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

Interview: Rhys Wilcox of Dream State
 
Rhys Wilcox - Photo by  Gareth Bull

Rhys Wilcox - Photo by Gareth Bull

 

With a hometown show to cap off 2018 in The Bunkhouse on the 15th December, we thought we’d catch up with the Swansea borne-and-bred melodic hardcore outfit to pick their brains on this year’s overwhelming successes and grab the chance for a chin-wag. Rhys Wilcox talked to us during a brief lull in their busy schedule;

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Swansea Music Hub: It’s been year of highs for the band, from touring with The Amity Affliction and Babymetal, making appearances at leading festivals such as Download, 2000 Trees and The Great Escape and releasing a rather stunning cover of Linkin Park’s ‘Crawling’ for the “Songs That Saved My Life” charity compilation. If you had to pick one experience as a band from the last 12 months as a ‘standout’, what would it be?

Rhys Wilcox: Thank you! 2018 has been a year of amazing experiences which we'll treasure for the rest of our lives, especially the shows and festivals. Our EP has had a truly humbling reaction and we are so thankful to everyone who's been there with us along this journey. The standout moment, without a shadow of a doubt, has to be winning the Kerrang! award for Best British Breakthrough; it's the kind of thing that's so unreal you don't even bother to put on your bucket list!

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SMH What has been the hardest part of keeping up such a relentless tour calendar?

RW: Touring is equal parts life-affirming and brutal. Huge amounts of time and hard work go into making each and every performance the best it can possibly be and I think it's often taken for granted how much bands invest to make things work. The hardest part we face at the moment is staying financially afloat when everything's expensive and flexible jobs are a rarity. There's a perception that we're a "made" band, but while our prospects look promising for the future, it couldn't be further from the truth.

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

RW: Depends on the show! I'm going to go for a UK focused line-up and say: BMTH, Architects, While She Sleeps, Marmozets, Boston Manor, Loathe, Rolo Tomassi, Holding Absence, Crooks, Svalbard, The Decoy.

Throw us in anywhere!

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SMH: Tell us a little about your writing style. Is it a collaborative process when it comes to your songwriting? What do you generally start with when putting tracks together?

RW: Our writing process varies a lot, but the general procedure is the same. We tend to figure out the basic structures of the song first and then add finer details to individual parts along with extra layering. Once we've got something fairly complete, it's just a case of refining it as much as possible before we hit the studio!

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SMH: How has your music evolved since starting Dream State? Have your personal music tastes changed and have those changes affected your band’s style?

RW: I can't speak for the "Consequences" era because I joined further down the line, but "Recovery" was definitely moving towards a more contemporary sound. There was a lot of experimentation that went into crafting the EP and it felt like we really found our identity in those songs. It's important to keep things as fresh as possible and challenge your music taste; you can't really explore new sounds if you don't open your mind to what's out there!

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

RW: My favourite song can vary depending on how the audience is reacting to the show. One of the things we found from touring Europe is that each city seemed to have its own unique taste and energy, so no two sets felt the same. If I had to pick one from a performance perspective, I'd say "Solace". It's got a bit of everything in it!

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SMH: Where was the first show you, as a band, performed? Do you have a standout memory of that show?

RW: Again, before my time, but it would have been at The Golden Lion pub in Carmarthen. Anyone who knows that place will have an idea of how it went down! I actually played my first gig there too which was an open mic night. It's funny how we've crossed a lot of the same paths as young Welsh musicians and I think it really shows how important it is to keep local venues alive. Support your local scene!

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

RW:

The Plot In You - ‘Feel Nothing’
Architects - ‘Doomsday’
Loathe - ‘White Hot’
The Amity Affliction - ‘Feels Like I'm Dying’
Don Broco - ‘Technology’


We have a Spotify playlist that we update now and again if you want to hear more!

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Dream State - Photo by  Gareth Bull

Dream State - Photo by Gareth Bull

 

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

RW: For me, I'm currently loving Only Fools and Corpses, The Decoy, They Live We Sleep, Breathe In The Silence, VAILS, Frown Upon, Ssssnakes, Holding Absence, People and Other Diseases, Hot Mass and many more.

I've probably missed some, but there are tonnes of hidden gems in the Welsh music scene right now!

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SMH: If you had to dish out one ‘pearl of wisdom’ for emerging artists, what would it be?

RW: Always try to be self aware and take a step back now and again to look at how you're progressing as a band. It's so essential to be honest to yourself and seek out things that you can improve. Record your performance regularly (even if it's just a phone video in the practice room). That said, this applies to all aspects of band life, be it image, art direction, self promotion, even self enjoyment - make sure you love what you do!

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Dream State’s sold-out Swansea show at The Bunkhouse caps off their 2018 calendar, but make sure you catch the band on their European tour in January, or their UK tour in March-April of 2019 at a venue near you!

For more information, pop on over here!

Interview by Joe Bayliss

Gig of the Week: I See Rivers & Eädyth (POSTPONED!!)

UPDATE (11:06am 12.10.18) - PLEASE BE AWARE THIS SHOW HAS BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO SEVERE WEATHER WARNINGS.

As soon as we hear a rescheduled date we’ll let you know!

What a weekend we’ve just had. For those unaware, Simon & Joe (Swansea Music Hub) organised the second instalment of the Swansea Fringe Festival last weekend & we’re only just about recovering. But we cannot think of any better way of capping off a week of reflection, relaxation & recovery than by seeing two of Wales’ most exciting artists as part of Libraries Week.

In the somewhat unconventional setting of the South Wales Miners Library, Horizons & Y Selar present I See Rivers & Eädyth for what will be a magical afternoon of live music. Best of all it’s FREE!

I See Rivers are Lill, Eline & Gøril - three girls originally hailing from the Northern, Southern and Western parts of Norway. Now based in Tenby, I See Rivers’ music is beautiful. Dubbed ‘Float Folk’ their memorable melodies and untraditional vocal harmonies their soundscape can be associated with artists such as Fleet Foxes, Sufjan Stevens and Feist. 

Joining them is one of South Wales’ most exciting young musicians: Eädyth. With a stunning sound evoking influences from electronic music, RnB and soul.

Libraries Week (8-13 October) is the annual showcase of all the creative, innovative and diverse activities that libraries have to offer and this year, with a focus on wellbeing, they will showcase how they bring communities together, combat loneliness, provide a space for reading and creativity and support people with their mental health.

Don’t sleep on this one. It’ll be one to remember. Grab your free tickets from eventbrite now.

Swansea Music Hub Presents at the Wales Airshow
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We're super thrilled to announce that we have curated two days worth of live music across three stages at this year's Wales Airshow. The three stages are located across the main airshow site:

Main Stage: On the front near the cenotaph

Other Stage: Near the Civic Centre

Acoustic Stage: On Oystermouth Road opposite the BayView. 

The event, which is free to attend, will see music running between 12:00 and 17:00 on both Saturday and Sunday - allow yourself enough time to make it through the crowds if you'd like to see any specific acts! 

Be sure to share your experience with us tagging us on social media (@swanseamusichub) and using the hashtag #SwanseaMusic. 

Hopefully catch you on the weekend!! 

Joe & Simon x

Artist of the Week: Emily Merry

Where do we start with Emily Merry!! What a talent! Blending her beautiful soulful melodies over well-crafted pop tunes, she is undoubtedly a talent that is destined to go far.

I first heard Emily when we had her play at the Swansea Fringe Festival last year and I was taken back immediately. She’s got one of those voices that you want to listen to. You’re stuck in that moment with her when listening and this translates both through her live shows and through her recorded material. 

This was true at our Musician’s Forum held earlier this month at Cinema & Co. After extensive chat about the music scene in Swansea and an energetic start to the live music from Bandicoot, Emily silenced the full room. After we had been encouraging people to chat and get to know each other at the forum, it was amazing to see everyone stop for 20 minutes and allow Emily to take full control of the room.

If you’re wondering where to start with Emily, head to her YouTube channel. You’ll see what we mean. With live takes of originals songs like ‘Circles’ and ‘Weather’, alongside the lovely, almost therapeutic video she’s done for her track ‘The Moon’ (who doesn’t enjoy colouring in!), you can’t go wrong. Her voice and arrangements will draw you in and leave you with chills, feeling wonderful.  

Keep an eye on Emily this year – her debut EP ‘Caught Out’ is set to be released soon and if you ever have the chance to see her live make sure you do! 

Artist Of The Week: The Riff

Swansea band, The Riff are a classic 4-piece ensemble that have racked up an impressive assortment of accolades over their lifetime, including BBC Wales Introducing Artist of the Week and performing with the likes of The Sherlocks and members of The Jam and The La's, with regular sets at shows across the UK.  With a line-up consisting of twins Ben and Sam Curtis (Lead Vox/Guitar and Keys, respectively), Chris Betts (Bass) and Tommy Evans (Drums) their fresh sound is pinned down in a long-line of rock-solid traditional foursomes.

There's something to be said for tradition - these guys build on a formula that works;  dynamic, powerful vocals with simple yet effective lyricism, sparkling, and at times pummelling (in the best of ways), chord-work on the guitar with keyboard melodies working as a perfect compliment - it's in the blood, obviously, Clan Curtis - and a driving, persistent rhythm section under-pinning songs that are rooted in the '60s and '70s and finally given a modern sparkle. 

Their most recent release, Nothing Lasts Forever, rings true in many ways. The Riff are a band who's sound is constantly developing without forsaking their classic, British Indie ways.

It's refreshing to find a band destined for bigger things, and unashamed of their roots. In fact, their back-catalogue of music videos (which I highly recommend YouTube trawling through - it's been a morning well-spent!) reads like a who's-who (or where's-where...?) of the longest-standing independent music venues in Swansea.

Mixing no-frills rock'n'roll with powerful pop hooks that would make a Gallagher proud, The Riff are a band you should check out as soon as possible and catch whenever they're passing!

The Riff Playing at the Swansea Music Hub's first Swansea Musician's Forum in Cinema & Co. 

The Riff Playing at the Swansea Music Hub's first Swansea Musician's Forum in Cinema & Co.