Unknown Welsh band rubs shoulders with Liam Gallagher and Billie Eilish in chart top 10
You may not have heard of them but Swansea Sound have achieved something not many Welsh bands have managed in recent years, they’ve stormed the UK chart top 10 alongside such star names as Liam Gallagher and Billie Eilish.
Okay so this was the physical 7” singles chart, but this feat is still impressive considering the indie pop outfit were up against some of the biggest names in music.
The feat is doubly commendable considering the title of their single – ‘Indies Of The World’ – celebrates the joy of vinyl, as well as the global indie underground. It is also a withering sideswipe at streaming giants like Spotfiy who pay artists a pittance.
“Indies of the World’ was intended as a condemnation of the streamers such as Spotify, YouTube etc, that aggregate huge wealth, while paying the people who create the content next to nothing,” says Swansea Sound guitarist Rob Pursey. “It was also intended as a celebration of the global indie underground, which is a healthy alternative to the digital monoliths.”
The success of the single was down to the single being released on vinyl and cassette globally. Nevertheless, Rob says it was a surprise to see the single do as well as it has.
“Indies of the World was released on vinyl on independent labels in the UK, Us and Japan, plus on cassette in Indonesia” explains Rob. “We didn’t expect to appear in the charts anywhere but it is very very satisfying to see the phrase ‘Indies of the World’ in the official rundown. It still shows there are platforms that diy can use with some support and a fan base.
The popularity of the group can be pinned down to its members.
Swansea Sound reunites ex-Pooh-Sticks Huw Williams and Amelia Fletcher – also a member of much loved ‘80s indie bands Talulah Gosh and Heavenly. The line-up is completed by Rob on guitar and bass, and Ian Button on drums,
The irony of their chart placing is not lost on Huw. There was a point in 1993 when arch Welsh pop auteurs The Pooh Sticks looked set to live up to the grandiose billing of their resolutely tongue in cheek titled album ‘Million Seller’.
Safely ensconced in a major label record deal with music giants BMG, the cartoon power poppers, who formed in Swansea in 1987, were seemingly set for chart conquering success.
They released surely the greatest song to clock in under two minutes, ‘The World Is Turning On’, a thrilling blast of giddy power pop that came spinning to a dizzying climax at one minute and 51 seconds.
It turned the heads of tastemakers at Radio 1 who playlisted the song on the A List – the hallowed ranking which inevitably guaranteed chart success. Except in The Pooh Sticks’ case, sadly.
For the band who were famously immortalised in cartoon form by artists from Hanna Barbera for the cover of their magnum opus – their 1991 album Great White Wonder, this looked like the big break.
“Despite ‘The World Is Turning On’ being played by Gary Davies in between Whitney Houston and Madonna it was downhill after that. It wasn’t so much a million seller, as a 25,000 seller, which doesn’t have the same ring,” jokes Huw. “It spent one week at number 76.”
It wasn’t meant to be for the outfit generally considered as Wales’ greatest lost band. Caught between the Madchester swagger of The Stone Roses and the storm of Seattle’s brazen guitar noiseniks Nirvana, they were a band out of step.
When The Pooh Sticks laid their cartoon cardboard cut-outs and elaborately playful pop sounds to rest in 1995, it was prophetic that Huw then embarked on a conventional career in the music industry as a talent-spotting A&R man. He was also the guiding hand behind the success of Catatonia and 60ft Dolls, and left a far-reaching legacy as the co-founder of the Welsh Music Foundation.
It’s 25 years since this most cult of Welsh bands crashed and burned, but they’ve occasionally reformed for festival shows and one-off appearances, however it’s with Swansea Sound that Huw is demonstrating his way with an intriguing pop ruse.
The group, named after the former Swansea radio station, released their second single ‘I Sold My Soul on eBay’ – on eBay, except there was just one vinyl copy of the single available which was sold to the highest bidder on the global auction site.
Formed in lockdown, the new band came together as part of a collaborative process, explains Huw.
“Rob ( Pursey) who is married to Amelia ( Talulah gosh / Heavenly ) who appeared on three Pooh sticks albums had been threatening to send me a song he’d written which he thought was a bit Pooh sticks, so it all came together during the first lockdown. And one song soon became a handful.
“2020 will not be remembered as a vintage year for sure, but I’m just thankful to have made it through in one piece,” he adds. “I survived lockdown by posting pictures of toads, butterflies and hedgehogs on Instagram like many others.”
You can see Swansea Sound in action tonight when they headline Wales Goes Pop, the much loved Welsh festival which is streaming online this year due to the pandemic.
You can see the band performing live among a host of other fine pop acts from 6pm and purchase ‘Indies of the World’ here.
The band’s debut album will follow in the autumn.