Cwtching snugly between the sounds of Laura Marling, Feist and Marika Hackman, Paper Aeroplanes are easily one of the best alternative folk bands in Wales at the moment. Their fourth album, Joy, is released on 8 April, which was written and recorded in Cardiff with the help of producer Mason Neely (Cerys Matthews, Sufjan Stevens). The band are gearing up for a 30 date European tour to promote the album, which heads to France, Switzerland and Germany before returning to the UK with a date at Clwb Ifor Bach on 16 May.
Joy is a, ahem, joy. I have to admit that their comparison to Lykkie Li didn’t enthuse me about the sound of this band. But this album is not unrelentingly mournful- quite the opposite. It sweeps you up in a breeze through rolling 80s beats (Good Love Lives On) to sparkling folk (Race You Home), and from cute, dreamy pop (Books and Joy) to haunting pianos (Caravan). It soars from being shimmeringly upbeat to powerfully atmospheric, all with a surprising depth. The flourishes of synths, strings and pianos are a welcome addition to Sarah Howells’ delicate (but never weak) voice. Richard Llewellyn’s masterful guitar shines through on tracks like Race You Home with echoes of John Martyn and Bert Jansch.
This album is a joyful celebration of unconditional love, making stories and finding warmth from the cold. Steeped in the salt-tinged air of West Wales, but with the unmistakeable influence of Cardiff’s diverse music scene, Joy is guaranteed to a be a hit.
We caught up with the band’s Cardiff-based guitarist Rich Llewellyn for a quick Q&A.
Q. What was the last book you read?
A. Intermission by Owen Martell. A contemplative, fictional shortish story which takes a little-documented part of the life of jazz pianist Bill Evans as its starting point. I’ve also been reading The Rough Guide to Germany so I can appear knowledgeable during our forthcoming tour.
Q. Tell us a secret.
A. I have a crush on posh BBC4 historian, Lucy Worsley.
Q. What’s your favourite place for breakfast in Cardiff?
A. For an old-fashioned hearty fry up, Café Fresco in Canton.
Q. What’s your local pub?
A. The Lansdowne – great beers, lovely staff and 2 minutes from my front door.
Q. Tell us about a hidden part of Cardiff that you love.
A. There’s a place I like to escape to when I need to clear my head, which is a very short drivefrom Canton. Countryside walk, feels like you’re miles away from the city. I can’t tell you where it is though, because then you’d go there too.
Q. If you had some friends coming to visit for the weekend, where would you take them?
A. Lilo’s Grill on city road. Great juices, tasty meze and a platter of grilled meats and rice for everyone to share.
Q. What’s the next gig that you’ll be going to in Cardiff?
A. We’re away touring a lot over the next couple of months but I’ve just seen that Chris Wood is playing in St David’s Hall in June, so I’ll definitely be getting tickets for that.
Joy is released on 8 April on Diverse records. Photo from Paper Aeroplanes.