Profile: Adwaith – one of Wales’ best loved indie bands
With Dydd Miwsig Cymraeg on 10th February, now is the perfect chance to familiarise yourself with the brightest and best that Welsh music has to offer, and add some new tunes to your playlist.
While miwsig Cymraeg has historically dipped its toes into a variety of genres, bands like Papur Wal, Candelas, and Gwilym keep our feet firmly in the sea of indie pop/rock.
The Welsh language is often touted as a musical language, the tones of which seem to translate perfectly into indie’s shimmering singing, guttural guitars, and drums whose beats lead you through that heady blend.
Unassuming masters of all three, there could be no better Welsh language indie band to introduce to you today than Adwaith, Carmarthen’s own girl group, who played their first concert on Welsh Language Music Day in 2017.
On the banks of Afon Tywi, Hollie Singer (vocals, guitar) and Gwenllian Anthony (bass, keys) grew up together, attending the same school since the age of three. After starting a musical duo in their teens, they embarked upon that most nerve-wracking of performances for emerging talent; the very first.
One drunken audience member, who could perhaps be considered Adwaith’s first fan, quickly became the band’s drummer. Heledd Owen was the final ingredient needed for whatever spellbinding concoction Adwaith was cooking up, and since that day in 2015, they haven’t come back down.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the trio was slightly larger after experiencing the huge synths, rolling drums and choral vocals that emanate from such humble membership. Like every great band to live on the stage, Adwaith’s music is greater than the sum of its parts.
Back in 2015, however, Adwaith was not yet Adwaith. It was thanks to a member’s mother enquiring after the Welsh translation for ‘reaction’ that the girls selected their edgy monicker.
Although they’ve since claimed this was borne of laziness, next to Heledd’s induction it was merely another serendipitous twist of fate for the girl group. After all, what more fitting name could there be for a Welsh language, “experimental, post-punk band”? Their songs are each reactions, to life and love and the state of the world that Adwaith and their fans inhabit.
Despite admitting that at the beginning of their journey, they were “a bit afraid to make noise”, “Newid,” their debut B-side, is a melodious detraction of the barren scape of US politics in 2018, while their second single, “Lipstick Coch,” features a cheekily poetic dismantling of modern rape culture.
With an added faith in Welsh independence from Westminster, Adwaith represents a section of traditionally radical Welsh politics inherent to the country’s youth.
Adwaith’s undeniable talent quickly whipped up a whirlwind, spinning only faster thanks to their finding a manager in Gruff Wyn Owen, and subsequent signing to indie label, Libertino Records, in 2017.
Introducing their single “FEMME” for Clwb Ifor Bach, the ladies describe their first year in music as “mental”, playing “gig, ar ol gig, ar ol gig, ar ol gig”. If only they could’ve known just how busy they’d get.
Following their first concert in Womanby street, Adwaith played eight festivals, received funding from BBC Cymru Wales and the Wales Arts Council, supported Gwenno, started their own FEMME nights to bolster Welsh women in music and give female audience members a safe space to enjoy live shows, and had their single included on David Owens’ ‘The 57 Greatest Songs from Wales in 2017’ rundown. And all that was before they’d even released their first full-length album.
Melyn, a 15-track triumph heralded as “beautiful music that captures what it’s like to be young, female, frustrated and bewildered”, rightfully rocketed the band to widespread acclaim after its release on 12th October 2018.
The album is indicative of a new group excited to have found their sound, but not content to simply let it ride. Right from Intro’s first unsettling chords and straight into its bouncy bass and commanding riff, it’s clear Adwaith’s members are more than capable of carving a space just for them in the landscape of global rock.
Though tracks such as Osian, with its oscillating melody and vintage beat, convey that this band is combining the best of what came before with a consistent desire to push their boundaries.
Adwaith’s members regularly fill airtime discussing their desire to better their previous releases, evolving their sound alongside a maturing world-view, emotional discoveries and strengthening friendship.
After embarking on a world tour, the group, like all the rest of us, were washed up in the waves of the pandemic. With some enforced yet much-appreciated quiet time, the members began writing their anticipated second album solely through voice notes, sent to each other over three months in 2020.
Bato Mato, solidifying the simmering belief that Adwaith was only to get better with every new record, finally saw the light of day on 1st July 2022. Just like its predecessor, the album won the coveted Welsh Music Prize, making Adwaith the only act in history to have received the award twice.
Adwaith, like almost any musical act of the last century, are simultaneously visual creatures. With each passing release, their album artwork grows more polished and mature, mirroring their songs with pensive snapshots of the three members in tiny corners of the world.
But it is not only their imagery that seeks inspiration from their frequent travels. Adwaith’s members call on the marriage of landscape and emotion to develop their music. Gartref, another of those pre-Melyn singles, was inspired by a journey home from Italy, the longing for belonging, while Bato Mato was widely influenced by their train journey across Russia, with booming synths almost big enough to fill the Siberian void.
The audio instinctively creates visuals in the mind. Pulsing pink puffs and floating green leaves are conjured with every chord. Perhaps this phenomenon is why Adwaith’s fanbase encompasses so many individuals from outside Wales, who have likely never heard our language before Adwaith’s songs.
As the members themselves have said, singing in Welsh is part of the fabric that makes up Adwaith, and listeners don’t need to understand the language to understand the music.
To start you off, Eto, quite possibly Adwaith’s best song to date, is at once an accessibly glistening example of indie pop/rock, combining the best of the Cranberries and the Cocteau Twins.
Straying from their harder sounds, it is a joyfully tear-inducing, pride-invoking example of the long-standing innovation of Welsh music. After that, there is no better advice to give you than to work your way back through their discography and experience the magic for yourself.
If simply listening to pre-recorded tracks isn’t enough for you, the band is hosting a show at the Level 3 Lounge in St Davids Hall, at 2 pm on 18th February 2023.
Tickets are available here completely for free, an unprecedented chance to celebrate Welsh music and watch these most humble of punk-rock masters in action.
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