[Interview] Winter Villains

Apologies if we are beginning to sound a little tired in our never ending praise of Cardiff’s Winter Villains, but as you know we’re helpless when something this good attracts our attention. The band have appeared quite a few times on these pages so we thought it was high time we engaged them on a more personal level. Thanks to Faye and Josef from the band for being so thoughtful in their responses.

Hugger: There’s definitely a wintry feel to your music but where did the Villains come from, surely your soft dispatches would be more suited to Heroes?

Faye: Haha, thank you. I think we both liked the word Villains as it’s quite ambiguous, and also the look of the word itself is wintry. Also Winter Heroes would be a bit odd wouldn’t it?!

Josef: Coming up with the name was very instinctive to be honest. Faye and I were on holiday in Düsseldorf, when we started talking about making music together. We chatted about how we both had a love for music that creates images and atmosphere which is something we wanted to explore. I suggested ‘Winter’ could be part of the band name, and Faye immediately replied with ‘Villains’. It just seemed to work.

Hugger: We hear Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Super Furry Animals and (‘Man of Aran’ era) British Sea Power in your sound but who would you regard as your primary influences?

Faye: People seem to naturally draw comparisons to Scandinavian music, particularly Icelandic bands. I can understand that with some of the imagery of the songs. Others have likened the music to the minimalism of people like Philip Glass, and some have compared the vocal harmony element of the songs to bands like Grizzly Bear ““ which is very flattering indeed!

Josef: It’s interesting. I suppose during the writing process, we don’t try to sound like anything in particular. I think it’s important to just let it happen without consciously trying to sound like something specific. I guess we’ve spent all of our lives listening to music, so it’s hard to pin point who or what in particular has influenced the music we make….personally I don’t hear any of the bands you mentioned in Winter Villains songs, but they are bands that I listened to when I was younger.

Faye: I’ve never really listened to the bands that you mention above. Actually, I lie, I have seen SFA live, but if I’m honest it’s not really my thing.

Hugger: Since we last spoke you have bulked up from a duo to a 5-piece, is this going to change your sound in any way?

Josef: Faye and I formed the band together, but quite early on we realised that on this set of songs, we really wanted to use lots of vocal harmonies to add different layers on top of the music. Luckily for us, we were friends with a number of very good singers in Cardiff. So when we began recording we were actually a 4-piece, which expanded as we explored the sound and dynamics further.

Faye: As a live band we currently play with 6 or 7 of us in total, which includes 5 vocalists, who play various instruments, and also one or two string players. We enjoy making songs that change dynamics. Sometimes we need to make the music sound as full as possible, and other times as minimal as we can get it.

Hugger: Your debut album ‘February’ is coming out in October so can you give us the lowdown?

Josef: We recorded the album over three sessions in March, July and December 2011. We were lucky enough to work with a very reputable producer Charlie Francis (REM; Turin Brakes: High Llamas) at MusicBox Studios in Cardiff. Charlie instantly understood what we were trying to get from our sound, and we all get on very well with him personally. It was a really natural and laid back process from start to finish, and I would definitely recommend Charlie to anybody. We also had a number of excellent violinists play on the recordings, some of whom have become regular members of the live set up since.

Faye: We then had the album mastered in Black Saloon Studios in London with Mandy Parnell (Sigur Ros; Mum; Mogwai). She understood exactly the sound that we were looking for, and again it was a real privilege to work with someone with so much experience and knowledge. Although, our songs did break her vintage mastering desk, and she had a deadline for Bjork looming which we felt quite guilty about…

Josef: She also has an amazing dog!

Faye: Yes, an Icelandic Sheepdog! We were very lucky to have such genuinely nice and experienced people working on the record throughout. Our good friends at Barely Regal Records will be behind us for the release which we’re super pleased about.

Hugger: Do you have plans to tour the record and will that include any dates in Ireland?

Faye: We have UK tour dates for the end of September and beginning of October, which are just being confirmed at the moment. We’d love to come over to Ireland to play, so if you know of anyone who may be interested in putting us on, please put them in touch!

Hugger: What is the Welsh indie scene like these days, it appears to have gone a little quiet of late? Perhaps you could point us in the direction of some brilliant new bands from there?

Josef: Well I’ve lived in Cardiff for the last 6 years, and from the moment I arrived I was really struck by the diversity and quality of bands and musicians. It’s continued to grow and get better during my time here, and it’s supported by some excellent promoters, dedicated small labels, a decent music press, talented designers and film makers and the oldest record shop in the world! There’s also a great festival that happens across Cardiff every October called Sŵn (Welsh for ‘sound’) which I’d recommend to music fans. I can understand why you’d think it’s a bit quiet, because although there is a rich depth of talent, surprisingly, not a great deal of Welsh bands have seemed to reach a wider audience, which really baffles me. Especially considering that in 2010, Cardiff was named as the second most musical city in the UK by PRS. The likes of Gruff Rhys, Los Campesinos!, Future of the Left, and more recently Islet have been among some of the exceptions to that, but it always confuses me why loads of people don’t know about the array of genuinely exciting music in Wales. Saying that, 6 Music in particular has championed some Welsh bands and artists and provided some exposure to music listeners outside of Wales.

Faye: Cardiff is great for music. We could honestly be here all day talking you through different artists of various genres! I’d definitely recommend listening to Among Brothers, who have a great debut EP, along with singles, and are currently working on new material. Some really exciting things are in the pipeline for them. Hail! The Planes are another excellent band that we’ve loved for a long time. They have a new EP on the way which will be great.

Josef: One of my favourite albums of the last few years by anybody was ‘Accelerated Learning’ by Truckers of Husk on SHAPE Records.

Faye: Some of our band members are involved in some really good stuff too. You should check out Little Arrow, Ivan Moult, Evening Chorus (all on Bubblewrap Records) and The School.

Josef: Definitely! Off the top of my head, here are a few more recommendations: Right Hand Left Hand, Them Squirrels, Alexander Comana, Yucatan, John Mouse… there are just too many!

Winter Villains – Thorns

More Info: Official
Buy Songs: Winter Villains
Year: 2012

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