Cardiff Barfly closes permanently

One of Cardiff’s top music venues has shut forever.

The Barfly club and gig venue on Kingsway opened in 2001, but a notice in the window on Monday announced it was no longer open for business.

Managing director Be Rozzo has now confirmed the closure is permanent. In a statement, he said:

“After 10 years in the Welsh capital, Barfly has closed its doors for the last time. Over the decade, we’ve had the opportunity to present an array of extraordinary up’n’coming artists – some of whom have gone on to become festival headliners and household names.

“Cardiff has a rich musical heritage and many genuine music lovers, for this reason we hope at some point to return to the city in a location that better reflects the needs of the current generation of the artists and audiences.”

The Guardian reported that the closure was due to a lack of business and resources for the Barfly being redistributed throughout the Mama Group, which also owns larger venue such as the HMV Hammersmith Apollo in London. Camden Barfly is now the last remaining venue in the once-widespread chain.

In the nine years Cardiff Barfly was open, bands such as Kings of Leon, The Libertines, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and The Darkness played the 200-capacity venue, as well as countless local bands. Rozzo added that events due to take place at the Barfly would be relocated or tickets would be refunded.

Future of the Left to headline anniversary gig

Welsh rockers Future of the Left are to headline a free two-day festival at Cardiff’s Millennium Centre this month to celebrate the Welsh Music Foundation’s 10th anniversary.

The event will kick off on Friday September 10th with a day of music industry seminars and a free all ages gig on the Friday compered by Radio 1’s Bethan Elfyn. Local bands We Are Animal and Exit International will provide the support, with FoTL rounding the night off.

Doors open at 7pm and the show will be first-come-til-full.

Seminars on aspects of the music industry from making money from music to celebrating independent record labels will also take place across the two days. The seminars are free, and open to music practitioners of all levels. More live acts are expected to be announced for the Saturday in the near future.

Lisa Matthews from the Welsh Music Foundation said: “It’s really important that we have the infrastructure in place to encourage people to invest in music here – be that from enabling independent promoters’ access to relevant authorities or helping people to promote their music.

“We wanted to mark our tenth year with an event that would really showcase what we do in our work with representatives across the board, and celebrate by bringing it back to what it’s all about – enjoying music.”

For more information on the festival, seminars, or the Welsh Music Foundation, or to register for the seminars, visit www.wmfis10.com or call 02920 494110

Super Furry Animals break ‘indefinite’

Super Furry Animals are on hiatus while the band members pursue individual projects, according to the Guardian.

And former manager Alun Llwyd says he has “no idea” if they’ll work together again.

“They are taking a break and Gruff is doing his own thing. There was always financial discussions to prop up relationships with the band anyway.

“I have no idea if they will come back together.”

Llwyd, who now manages SFA singer and guitarist Gruff Rhys, added that while nothing had been decided for certain Rhys has made “no firm decision on what he wants to do”.

The Guardian also quotes an unnamed source blaming money problems for the indefinite break and suggesting it could be permanent:

“It’s been revealed to a close circle of friends.

“There were some revelations about the band’s finances and they’ve decided not to get back together after the break.

“People understand why it’s been decided to kick it on the head, but they are a group of such magnitude, it would be a poor end to a massive successful career.”

Super Furry Animals were formed in 1993 in Cardiff and have released nine albums to date, including the Welsh-language Mwng. Their latest album, Dark Days/Light Years, came out last year.

Update 15:46 – Can’t tell whether this is actually Gruff Rhys’ account, but gruffingtonpost on Twitter has posted this message: “Slow news day. SFA have not split up. Love SFA”

Triceratops – Pulco

Enigmatically – and excellently – titled Triceratops, it’s full of singalongs, squelches, and squiggles, particularly in the childlike ‘Clean Face’, but also finds time to quote Shakespeare and include a frankly baffling homage to Cossack music.

On first listen some of its affectations, like a monologue (‘Billy D Horsey’) by his son Ifan, seem over-indulgent, yet after a couple more plays they make a sort of sense. You see, you’re not really listening to a work for the public here. It’s an intimate collection of tracks designed for Cooke’s own enjoyment.

In fact, many of the songs wouldn’t be out of place soundtracking a slideshow of childhood photographs. It’s the sense of innocence and mystery that pervades the album that lifts it from being standard songwriter-with-interesting-knobs fare.
But despite this intimacy some of the more pensive moments feel forced, particularly ‘Jacuzzi’, which unhappily combines grey finger-picking with sixth-form angst. It’s when he’s happily chuntering away to himself about vari-speeds or a brain museum that you really feel you’re just overhearing someone making music for himself and no-one else.

That’s not to say there aren’t some rough diamonds here to be discovered over the album’s 40 minutes. The woozy, boozy gem of an opener ‘Drinking Song for Times Gone By’ is almost acapella, save for a light rhythm that could have been tapped out on the bar while waiting for your pint. Perhaps it was. ‘The Swimmer’, meanwhile, is a happy, wistful romp that with a little more twang would be an exemplary country throwback.

Cooke’s voice isn’t always the strongest – as infectious as it is, Vari Speed could have done with another take – but he knows the value of a well-placed harmony and a wide-eyed sense of wonder. It’s confident and assured throughout; but given that there’s no audience he sets out to please, why would there be?

Although he previously played with Welsh titans like Super Furry Animals and Catatonia, as well as the likes of Grandaddy and Sebadoh, it seems Cooke’s now content to shun the big stages for the comfort of his wardrobe. And on this evidence, you can’t blame him.

The Laudable Liz Hunt

Once she’s back and I’ve stopped apologising, we start talking about the band – somehow ‘group’ seems more appropriate – she formed in 2006. Since then The School have soundtracked an advert for Stephen Fry’s TV series Kingdom, had a demo featured on the front page of Pitchfork, and are now about to release their debut album ‘Loveless Unbeliever’ with Spanish-based label Elefant.

In fact, as we talk, Liz remembers that today is the release date for the album in the States. It seems a strange thing to forget, but then it must have seemed like it was never going to happen.

“It’s been too long! It took about three years between forming and releasing an album,” she explains. “It’s not been the usual release things that’ve gone wrong – we had quite a lot of personnel changes and it was finding all the members that suited and didn’t have jobs which meant they couldn’t continue.”

Those eight members are part of a stable line-up now, but that doesn’t mean playing live – or recording – is easy. Liz works as a live music promoter at 10 Ten Feet Tall and Buffalo Bar in Cardiff, while the others put in time as students, or do shifts as engineers and S4C translators.

“The sad thing is that a lot of us are working so can’t take time off. We have to choose between playing live if there’s something coming out and it’s important to push it, or being in the studio,” says Liz, with a note of regret. “For the album it was two or three of us going in at a time – and half the band weren’t even on the album, unfortunately. One of us played guitar and bass and all the other bits, then we did drums.”

“The Travelodge rooms we stayed in were one triple room at a time, and where we recorded it [Saint Etienne bassist Ian Catts’ house] only held three people at a time on the sofas!”

And while most up-and-coming bands relentlessly slog it out on the local circuit, the size of band the band has limited gig opportunities, says Liz.

“We like playing small venues but we don’t really fit into them! We’ve got eight members and loads of instruments, and they don’t have enough channels. We’re having to get really picky about where we play, which I never wanted to get like, but if it means you can’t hear the violins or singing then we probably need to move on.”

It’s a shame if some venues – and the band – missed out because of this, but it’d be worse if it meant they had to play without the lush, full, classic ‘60s Spector-pop that they’re so good at. It might be simple but it’s supposed to be, full of lovelorn odes to hopes of romance and fears of infidelity – handclaps and soft-focus backing vocals complement the sugary vocals brilliantly.

But, despite beginning to get some exposure in the UK, it’s been the United States that has warmed to them quickest.

“The UK doesn’t cotton on to indie-pop as quickly as other places. In 2008 we were on the front page of Pitchfork! That doesn’t happen here – getting on places like Drowned in Sound is so hard because if you don’t sound like Fleet Foxes they just don’t want to know. I think the US seems to pick that up a lot so they were straight onto us – Allmusic and Under the Radar magazine were onto us on the first single, which you don’t get over here. So we might be doing an extra single over there because of that. We have little fanbases tucked everywhere, but you’re not going to see us on the NME CD anytime soon!”

It’s taken a long time for The School to begin to break through, but they’ve been lucky that their record label has been understanding of the delays and frustrations.
“When we had the changeover of band members I wasn’t writing a lot but they were really flexible. They could’ve just said “Oh, get some session musicians in” and just get it done but they didn’t. We’d probably be on our third album by now if we were on a major label and I’d probably be about four stone lighter!”

The two-year deal the group originally signed expired 18 months ago, but there’s no question of walking away from what Liz calls their dream label- they’ve already started writing and arranging the second album, and are hoping to get an EP of original festive songs out in time for Christmas. Until then for Liz and her bandmates it’s business as usual – but they might just have their eyes on a lot more.

Loveless Unbeliever is out on Elefant Records on May 31st. The School play Buffalo Bar on June 6th and then they play the Cardiff University Summer Ball on June 11th. Exciting times for The School.

Picture: Elefant Recordings

Alessi’s Ark

The day before her 17th birthday, Alessi Laurent-Marke and her ark signed up to EMI. Her debut album, Notes from the Treehouse, was produced by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, and came out in 2008. Alessi’s currently touring the UK, but she took some time out to answer Journal of Plastik’s questions.

JT: Hi Alessi! We have to ask: did you have a treehouse when you were younger?

A: Hello! I didn’t have a treehouse but I had a small shed in the garden.

You left school at 16 to try to make it in music. Did you ever have trouble getting gigs when you started out because of your age?

Most venues didn’t mind but there were a few in the U.S that were very strict and after I’d played I’d have to quickly pack up my things and step outside.

How does it feel to hear a song you wrote when you were 14 on a major-label album?

It’s a strange/special thing.

There’s a real air of secrecy and intimacy around your songs. Do you write with anyone in mind?

No secrecy, there are lots of special people in the world.

If you had to describe your music in three words, what would they be?

Like a friend.

Do you enjoy writing, playing, or recording more?

They’re all special in their own ways. I’m really enjoying playing at the moment, I’m in the middle of a tour with Sons of Noel & Noel and O Emperor and it’s been wonderful to spend time together.

I read that you started drumming because of Meg White, but the drums on Notes from the Treehouse are much less forceful than hers. Have you ever considered ‘going electric’ and doing a rock album?

I like rock music, a lot of my favourites play louder than I do. I haven’t decided how the next album will sound. I really like playing drums.

And finally, how’s that difficult second album shaping up?

I’m planning on starting to work on it in March. A new E.P is piecing itself together and will be out April 5th.

One from the editor: What do you mean with the song ‘Woman’?

It’s a love song.

Alessi’s Ark will be playing at Buffalo Bar in Cardiff along with Rachel Dadd on February 11th. You can hear songs from Notes from the Treehouse at myspace.com/alessisark.

The Globe Closing?

In November 2008 a new live music venue opened in Cardiff. The Globe was converted from the old cinema of the same name that had been on Albany Road, Roath, since 1914, and can hold up to 350 people.

Owned by Alan Jones, a former saxophonist for Amen Corner – they’re the ones who did ‘(If Paradise is) Half as Nice’ in the ‘60s – the venue helped to put on some of the bands who’d been booked to play The Point after it closed last year.

But now The Globe is facing similar problems as forced The Point out of business. Shortly after it opened Cardiff Council received two noise complaints against the venue, and in March it was issued a noise abatement notice, which meant it had to soundproof the venue or lose its license for live music.

In September, with the soundproofing unfinished, that license was revoked. Until the appeal is heard by the licensing committee at the end of next month the venue can keep putting on live music, but unless the soundproofing is completed it will have to stop.

Not that manager Andy Kitchen has any plans to let that be the end of The Globe. He told Journal of Plastik that neither he nor Alan Jones were going to give up on the project.

“If the appeal’s not successful we can try to take it further. But either way we’ll still have a venue for plays and comedy,” he explained. “We’ll raise money by diversifying, complete the soundproofing, and then start the live music again.

“If we have to turn it into a strip club we will!”

To raise the estimated £25,000 needed for the work they’ve hosted a series of gigs – no gentlemen’s nights yet – and hope to have made enough in time for the appeal hearing on February 28th. There’s even talk of benefit gigs at the newly-reopened Coal Exchange.

It’s a lot of money, especially in a recession. But frustratingly, had they not received the complaints, they might have had some help with the soundproofing.

“Cardiff Council have been very helpful,” said Andy. “They want to support us but as we’re in criminal proceedings they can’t give us any money.”

Soundproofing has been an issue for several Cardiff venues recently. The Point had to shut because of the debt incurred by the work following complaints from residents, and Clwb Ifor Bach has expressed concern that plans for a backpackers’ hostel next door could force it to spend money to prevent noise getting through.

But despite the uncertainty over the live music license, Andy Kitchen remains convinced that The Globe has a future.

“Myself and Alan are two of the most stubborn people in South Wales. I’ve seen live music venues in the area come and go this is one I really believe in.”

It seems that whatever’s in store for The Globe, with these two in charge it won’t be going anywhere without a fight.

Visit http://www.theglobecardiff.com/ to find out what’s on and the latest news from the venue