Violas are a band from Cardiff. They sometimes play songs with words in English and they sometimes play songs with the words in Welsh. Friday night saw them launch their EP Hwylio/Sailing, which is quite good and definitely worth getting your hands on, particularly if you can track down those that come in the very pretty screen printed cloth wrapping.
After Burning Ferns opened up, Violas quietly snuck on stage, playing an instrumental number before launching into songs from the new EP.
Sounding a bit like Foals, but with more pop moments perhaps reminiscent of rhumbira or afrobeat bands from the 70s, they keep the chat between songs short, preferring to namecheck songs in welsh and english before launching right into the next song full of high pitched guitar sounds.
With the upstairs room of Buffalo fairly full, everyone shuffled about quite happily throughout the set, which finished with the excellent Seashells. Once he’d calmed down a little, I caught up with a characteristically deadpan Owain, who sings and plays the guitar.
You played some fun songs in Buffalo just now, was it fun to play them?
Yeah, it was fun, I liked it. There were quite a few people there, which is nice. I think about 80 people or so. We were expecting to play to fewer than that, so it’s quite nice to play to a crowd like that.
It’s certainly encouraging regarding the state of live music in Cardiff, and particularly Welsh language music, but you’re essentially a bilingual band, particularly when you talk between songs, although you are quite quiet.
Yeah, well, we don’t like to talk much between songs, it’s because we don’t have much personality as a band, so if we just play the music. But yeah, we did less talking again tonight, which made the set shorter.
When listening, the first thing that springs to mind are bands such as Foals and such, but also people like Talking Heads. Who do you blame for the sounds that you make?
It’s really weird, I think, it depends on who I’m listening to at the time I write songs I think but everyone’s got different influences, which is quite good, so the music just turns out how it does; without sounding pretentious, I don’t think we have definitive… I do like John Denver though, he’s good, although I don’t think our music reflects that.
In the past Welsh language bands have come down to Cardiff, and then start playing songs in English, and people have been a bit uneasy. Have you ever experienced that, or has it not been like that at all?
No. I can see why that can sometimes happen with people who have only done Welsh language songs from the beginning, and then they just turned to doing English songs. There’s nothing wrong with it, but that’s usually when that happens, but we were doing bilingual songs straight from the start.
So how did the band start then?
It started after I finished uni. I lived in Heath, and I had a garage. I knew Sean the drummer and a guy called Rocky, and we started to get together and play songs. Then a guitarist joined us and then started doing gigs, but then I went travelling for a bit, so we had to start again when I came back, which was quite annoying. We’ve had a couple of new members since then, which is good.
Yeah, Andrew from Threatmantics is playing with you nowadays, is that alright? Is he not too busy or do you have to shout at him?
Yeah, he does. It’s quite difficult to juggle his time because he DJs as well, he’s actually DJing now, but we manage to fit it in, and he’s really musical so picks things up quite easily, which is handy.
Another thing worth mentioning is your dad was in a Welsh language folk band, Plethyn, as well, did he influence or inspire you at all?
Yeah, definitely, yeah. I was brought up listening to his music, a lot of traditional folk music, and it’s influenced me in the fact that I want to do music. I don’t think the music they did influences ours in any way, but I think the fact I was brought up always with music in the house has. I was brought up on Simon and Garfunkel, and an Irish folk band called Dé Danann. So it’s really weird then that we’re doing the music that we’re doing now.
The EP is out now?
Yeah, it’s called Hwylio/Sailing, Hwylio means sailing. It’s on CD and will be on iTunes soon.