Five Questions : An Introduction to Crawia
This site covers a lot of Welsh language music, despite being written in English, for two reasons. First, we look for what we find exceptional wherever it is found. Second, language is no barrier to experiencing remarkable music - although it may take you somewhere other than the place it would a native speaker.
If you want that expressed in something you can just listen to, then Crawia might offer an excellent place to start.
Crawia is a new recording project for Sling's Siôn Richards - who we have already noted as having a rare talent as a singer-songwriter. As the project moves up to full speed two quite magnificent songs have been have been released in the last six months - Perlau and a new version of Bradwr. They herald a 2018 debut album that we are drumming our fingers on the desk waiting to hear; we took the chance to ask Siôn five questions to find out more.
You first recorded Bradwr for a Pontio based project, how did that come about?
"At the time the PR officer for Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru (Welsh National Theatre) was staying at our then home at Mynydd Llandegai. I had written the song Bradwr in 2013-14 (I think) - and offered the song as a way to promote Chwalfa, the opening play at Bangor's Pontio."
"It worked well, receiving radio play and it was also released on Cynefin Cae Gwyn, a compilation CD released by Dan Amor's Recordiau Cae Gwyn. I believe that was the first 'solo' type release I had done."
"Great experience and got a few gigs out of it too - I've been very, very slow following it up!"
And now you have re-recorded and released a superb new version with Casi, what led you to that?
"Yes, that came about around 2015. I've known Casi for years - she liked the track and I offered her the chance to sing on it. Her career's taken off .... I'm only getting mine started!"
"There are some great musicians on the track. Edwin Humphrey's baritone sax sounds great and Euron Jones' pedal steel gives it a great Americana vibe. I'm very happy with the way it's recorded and sounds."
"It was recorded in Sain studios near Caernarfon in 2015 - I've been slowly recording an album and in the meantime I've written the second and now working on the third!"
The song (Bradwr) covers the historical 1900 Penrhyn Quarry Strike, yet is sounds very much like a heartfelt work - what themes from that industrial action feel important to you still?
"I'm from Bethesda, I've lived in the area all my life. It's something that's part of our history here. I believe the initial sentiment is still important today - we should all strive for better in all aspects of life, this for a better future for all."
"The lyrical ideal for the song came from t-shirt I had with 'nid oes bradwr yn y crys-t hwn' ('there isn't a traitor in this t-shirt'). It was a play on the original saying at the time 'nid oes bradwr yn y ty hwn' ('there isn't a traitor in this house') - I remember singing it to myself in the car ... (thinking) there's a song there!"
"I know Maffia Mr Huws recorded a song Halen ar y briw about the strike in the late 80s - and it does still come up in various TV, theatre and written work today. It's a strong story of oppression and heartache - it's something that's still talked about by the elder generation."
There is a Crawia album planned, and one other track from it, Perlau, was issued in November by Sbrigyn Ymborth. That song is similar in acoustic tone and texture to Bradwr, whereas in the past you have also worked on more experimental pieces - the discordant electronic menace of Diwrdnod y Brain on the Cae Gwyn compilation Swooshed comes to mind. What can we expect when the album comes out?
"The first album will be acoustic, a very traditional album. There will be a lot of brass and woodwind instruments on it, sax and trumpet, with some very upbeat numbers. Influences range from Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Noel Gallagher, Christy Moore ... Ireland via New Jersey!"
"There are nine songs on the album - I'm very much looking forward to completing it. It's been great working with Aled Hughes from the band Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog - he's a great engineer/ recording producer - and he knows the Americana sound inside-out."
"Diwrnod y Brain is one of my favourite musical compositions, hearing it back now. I lost the original version as the power went off on my laptop without me saving it - I tried to recreate the initial magic ... but that was lost. But this version does sound great, and it's very 'out there' compared to the new stuff."
"I'm a big fan of shoegaze music, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, I'm currently experimenting with my second album and that will be vastly different to the acoustic one ... I just need the time to complete the first one!"
What else will 2018 hold for Crawia?
"I'll get some more recording sessions done with Aled Hughes over the next few months with a view to completing the album by mid-summer / autumn."
"There's a band slowly forming, I'm rehearsing some songs with a drummer with a view to arrange a mini-tour later in the spring, four or five gigs, just to get things started and see what people think."
"Lets hope for a successful year, a few gigs and getting the 'Crawia' name out there!"
Influences subtly moulded into something new, I feel the same about Crawia's output so far as I do when I listen Plu, or aptly, given who he has worked with to produce the debut album recordings, Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog. So, I can only add to Siôn's words that, if it is given the chance to be heard, it won't take much for music like this to have a real impact. Back, for now, to the desk drumming.