Tag Archives: cardiff bands

Meet Cardiff band, Rainbow Maniac

Earlier this year we were on the panel helping choose the bands for this year’s BBC Gorwelion/Horizons project. We plan to do a post about all the bands participating very soon, but there were a couple of BRILLIANT, stand-out Cardiff bands that didn’t make the final 12, that we want to profile for you.

First up, meet one of our new favourite bands, RAINBOW MANIAC!

As you can see, Rainbow Maniac are proper good times psychedelic rock’n’roll – plenty of energy and catchy tunes. What more could you ask of your new favourite band? Conor from the band was even kind enough to do a quick Q&A with us. 

WE ARE CARDIFF. Please introduce the band!

RAINBOW MANIAC. Well, my name is Conor, I sing and write the songs. Louis plays the guitar, Gavin plays the drums and Laura plays bass.

We’re all from different South Walian valleys/towns, We all met in Bridgend College, only me and Gavin knew each other beforehand. That’s where the band formed, as we were the only four people in the class who weren’t into metal!

WAC. How did you end up in Cardiff?

RM. I studied a sound tech degree in Cardiff and then we all gradually found work and moved here.

WAC. Give us some local bands you’re into.

RM. Well obviously there’s The Socks, The Buzzards and The CVCs, but we’ve also got into some of the newer bands coming through like Al Moses, The Rotanas, The Pitchforks, and Carolines.

WAC. What’s your favourite Cardiff venue?

RM. Cardiff University Great Hall. We’ve seen a lot of our favourite bands there. I remember seeing Pete Doherty and Babyshambles gigs there before Rainbow Maniac were even a thing, and it had a big effect on me. We’d love to play there one day in the not-too-distant future.

WAC. What’s your favourite Cardiff boozer?

RM. It’s a difficult question because there are so many Wetherspoons to choose from, but would have to say The Gatekeeper, next to Moon Club. It’s a great place to get drunk before you go in to watch a band and are forced to pay over £3 for a can of Red Stripe. Until we get a call from Rough Trade, I will not be able to afford those prices.

WAC. What’s next for the band?

RM. We’re currently sat on a bunch of new recordings, so next we’re gonna shoot and direct our own music video with help from our friends at Mono. After that we’re just gonna work on the release, and try and cause as much of a stir in the music industry as possible, play some more shows, build some more friends, and fans. And have fun!

Our next show is at Tramlines Fringe Fest – Sheffield, 20 July. We also return to HUB Fest in Cardiff 25 August for what should be a great night.

Thanks Conor! Make sure you get along to see Rainbow Maniac at one of their upcoming shows and follow them in all the usual places …

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Cardiff haze pop trio XYandO announce Big Top residency!

To support the release of their new single ‘Shades of You’ on May 4 – and in celebration of surpassing 32 MILLION STREAMS on Spotify alone – Cardiff haze poppers XY&O have announced a spring residency of live shows at The Big Top!

Entry to all shows is FREE, and each gig features support from different artists (including Safari Gold, Jack Ellis, Sønder Choir and rising stars Hvnter and The Dead Method).

WATCH: XY&O – Low Tide

XY&O’s Big Top residency shows are:

  • April 19th: XY&O + Safari Gold
  • May 4th: XY&O + Jack Ellis + Blue Honey DJ Set [single launch show]
  • May 17th: XY&O + Sønder Choir [semi acoustic show]
  • June 1st: XY&O + Hvnter + The Dead Method [presented in association with the Forte&Project]

We caught up Skip, Nick and Tudor for a mini interview before their residency kicks off!

Q. Where and how did the band form? Introduce all the members and maybe tell us a bit about your musical influences

Skip. We met in Cardiff, I was at University there. Me and Tudor crossed paths down at a little studio in Cardiff Bay and almost immediately decided that we should write some songs together. Our tastes are styles when it came to writing where similar, but also different enough so that we could spin off each other. He yinged, I yanged.

I knew Nick because I was recording and producing some tracks for a band he was in at the time, he was only about 16/17 and had an amazingly original style of playing guitar and writing even then. I thought it would be interesting to rope him in and see how his musicality fitted with the songs me and Tude had started.

My musical tastes are pretty broad. I can usually find something I like about a track or genre. Some of my biggest influences would be artists like Prince, John Martyn The Cure, Sting, stuff my Dad was listening too as I grew up. When I hit early teens and started finding my own music, then it was all about Jimmy Eat World, Alkaline Trio and Blink 182 for a couple of years. I like heavy music, soft music and everything in between. Atreyu to Arianna Grande.

Nick. My influences constantly change, at the minute I’m listening to a lot of electronic soul type stuff as well as artists such as Mt. Joy and Jordan Mackampa.

Tudor. My musical influences are pretty broad and always changing. I love haunting and spacey music like Daughter, RY X and Sigur Ros. I’m also a massive Coldplay fan (saw them in Cardiff for the first time not so long ago and it only confirmed my obsession). I’m currently listening to a lot of traditional Colombian music (probably due to watching all of Narcos on Netflix in three days).

Q. Where are you all from originally? How did you end up in Cardiff?

Skip. I’m originally from the valleys, a little town called Abercarn. I came to Cardiff University though so lived in the city for 3/4 years at that time.

Tudor is from Barry and Nick from Whitchurch so they’re both Cardiff boys.

Q. What are your musical memories from being younger? What made you all decide to get into making music?

Skip. Most of my musical memories just revolve around listening to it. I sang in school and stuff like that but the most vivid memories for the first times I heard certain artists. I remember listening to REM, Led Zeppelin and Sting CDs in the car with my parents. I remember the first time I heard Youth & Young Manhood by Kings of Leon and amazing records like that. I used to sing and make up songs as a kid, and I guess I just never really stopped…

Tudor. Family BBQs that went late into the night with Bob Marley albums being played back to back. I’ve always been obsessed with how music makes people feel and I suppose I wanted to be a part of that process.

Nick. Listening to Jimi Hendrix in my dad’s car was a big one, I remember being pretty mind blown that those kinds of sounds existed (especially the solos in All Along the Watchtower). I think it’s that curiosity that got me into music

Q. What are your favourite music- related spots around Cardiff – venues / shops etc?

Tudor. We’re big fans of The Full Moon, Clwb Ifor Bach, Womanby Street as a whole really. Gwdihw is a pretty cool place and The Big Top of course. That’s a great venue for intimate gigs.

We’re also looking for a New York Deli sponsorship so will give them a shout out too!

Skip. Also, Bomber’s Deli…un-related to music, but if you’re in Cardiff and it’s lunch time then you need to check that place out.

Q. Tell us about the Ten Feet Tall/Big Top residency

It’s going to be a chance for us to experiment with all of our new lights, equipment and music. Our live show has evolved massively and we’re keen to show it to people in an intimate setting. We’re using the gigs to try out new songs, experiment with arrangements and just generally play some fun local shows because we haven’t really played in the city that much. We’ve made all the gigs free entry because we’d rather people just come and enjoy, critique or just listen to our new music

Q. What’s been the best gig you’ve played to date?

We actually played at Glastonbury 2016 on the BBC Introducing Stage. It was obviously pretty amazing so that always ranks highly. It was only out 10th gig as a band so very strange and looking back on it, it almost feels like a different band. Our live set up then was very different to what it is now. We played an amazing gig at The Phoenix in Exeter in the run-up to Glastonbury. It was a BBC show at a big sold out theater and the crowd were amazingly receptive to us.

Q. What are your plans and hopes for the future?

Our new single ‘Shades of You’ is scheduled to come out on May 4th so we’re excited for that. We’re shooting the music video for it next week actually.
We’ve just been picked up by the live agents Primary Talent so we’re keen to get out playing live much more. We’re hoping to use the residency to fine tune our live set too.

Tudor. We want to go over to the US and play for all the Americans that have been streaming our music for the last two years!

XY&O is the creative amalgamation of songwriters Skip Curtis, Nick Kelly and Tudor Davies.

It began in early 2015 – Skip (from the Valleys) and Tudor (from Cardiff) began writing music and songs with the intention of pitching them to other artists to use. Skip quickly roped in another Cardiff native Nick Kelly in hopes of bringing another dimension to the music. After posting some early demos online under the moniker ‘XY&O’ the trio started seeing their play count rise. They started receiving airplay on US Radio stations as well as gig offers from US promoters, some of whom assumed the band were from Cardiff, San Diego.

Early on, the boys wrote what would become ‘Low Tide’ – bringing with it the genesis of their unique style, coined by Skip as haze pop. ‘Low Tide’ was self-released and went straight into Spotify’s Global Viral Chart at number 7, reaching an audience worldwide, but was particularly well received in the US. The track has since gone on to accumulate over 20 million streams. The trio gained huge popularity on all online platforms, it was at this point the three had discovered that XY&O had somewhat unintentionally become a band.

The band slowed things down the second half of 2016 and early 2017, allowing Nick to finish his final year studies at University but have now re-focused their efforts into their live show and have recently been taken on by live agents Primary Talent. The boy’s story was picked up by the Wales Online in late 2017 which led to them being featured live on the ITV News at 6pm talking about their unusual story of being a little known Welsh band with an audience in the USA.

They hope to expand their live following over 2018 as well as release plenty of new music. New single ‘Shades of You’ is set for release on May 4th, 2018.

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The best Welsh songs of 2014 – the Cardiff version

Dave Owens is my favourite Wales Online writer, because he covers music and arts and all the fun local stuff. Back in December he wrote an article about the 51 best Welsh songs of 2014, and it’s taken me this long to get through it!

There’s some great Cardiff talent in the list. Check out the following:

Kutosis: Crystal Beach (listen)

Kutosis

Cardiff’s favourite pot-punk trio give it large! More about Kutosis here – you can get their last album and other merch on the Kutosis Bandcamp page

 

Manic Street Preachers – Futurology (R Seiliog remix) (listen)

Manic Street Preachers

It’s heavy! R Seiliog is playing in Clwb on Thursday 29 Jan, with Trust Fund and Los Campesinos! Catch him live there! If you want to catch the Manics live in Cardiff though, you’re too late – all tickets for their epic castle gig be SOLD OUT!

 

Gulp – I want to dance (listen)

gulp

Obviously we’d have a Super Furry Animal in here somewhere, right? Guto kicks out the jams with his expansive upbeat electronica. Gulp Facebook

 

Houdini Dax – Get Your Goo On (listen)

Houdini Dax

If you can catch these guys live, do. They’ll whip you up into a proper frenzy! They’re playing Clwb on 28 Feb (Facebook event)

 

Fireproof Giant – A Place to Start (listen)

fireproof giant

Gotta include these guys, because they’re amazing and because the lovely Gareth made all the spooky music for the ghost-hunting podcast I did back in October! Fireproof Giant Facebook

Listen again: We Are Haunted – a guide to the spirit city

 

Slowly Rolling Camera – Into the Shadow (listen)

Slowly Rolling Camera by Claire Cousin

Last on our list (but definitely not least!) is Slowly Rolling Camera – this cool yet epic jazz group have brought the sound back in a new and fresh way. They’re amazing! They’ve got no dates lined up for the time being, but keep an eye on their Facebook for when you can see them next: Slowly Rolling Camera Facebook

 

Honorable mention…

Samoans – I Am Your Density (listen)

They didn’t make it into Dave’s list, but I’m a big fan of Samoans. Their last album Rescue came out last year, and this is m favourite track from it. Find out when they’re next playing live on the Samoans Facebook page.

 

FULL PLAYLIST!

For some light listening, here’s the full playlist:

Check out Dave’s A Sound Reaction Facebook page (where he posts all his stuff).

Also see the original story on Wales Online: The 51 greatest Welsh songs of 2014

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Cardiff: our personal geography – by Cavalry

This week in our personal geographies, we’re squeezing in an entire band! Meet Cardiff band Cavalry…

Cavalry

(C A V A L R Y from left to right: Joni Buckland, Richie Lovett, Dan Briggs, Gareth Hallybone)

 

Introduce us to the band

Hi all! We are Cavalry and we consist of Richie Lovett (vocals) Dan Briggs (guitar) Gareth Hallybone (bass) and Joni Buckland (drums).

How did you all meet, and how long have you been playing together for?

We all met at a house party that Richie threw (from what we can remember). They were legendary parties and somehow we ended up playing a New Year’s Eve show in his basement at one of the parties shortly after. We’ve been playing together for two years now, mainly rehearsing and refining our set in MusicBox Studios. We’re currently readying ourselves for a huge summer which will see the release of our debut single ‘Mexico’, our first music video to date, the launch of our new website www.wearecavalry.com and new Cavalry merchandise.

Explain your sound to us

Heavy nice, nice heavy?… When we write, we like to mix clean verse sounds with fuzzy choruses. Rich has a talent for signing soft, tuneful verses and then belting out huge anthemic choruses so it works well. Basically, we want our songs to stick in your head so you wake up the next morning and take a peak at our website or log on to Spotify to have a second listen…

What’s your favourite Cardiff venue?

It has to be the Globe on Albany Road. The sound is incredible, it gets hot and sweaty, you meet really cool people and there is a really intimate vibe at the shows.

How did you all end up in Cardiff?

We were all drawn to the bright lights of Cardiff from Newport and Maesteg. For us, it was a sort of natural progression to a bigger city and a lot of our friends did the same thing. Three of us (Rich, Dan and Jon) actually lived in the same house for a year which was great. There’s no better test of a band’s patience than being stuck in a house living together.

What parts of Cardiff have you lived in so far?

The 4 of us combined have lived in Roath, Cathays, Grangetown, Canton and Cardiff Bay. Rich definitely takes the award for living in the best rented accommodation in Cardiff. He lived in a four story mansion and had a gold fireplace in his bedroom. Beat that.

What was the last gig you went to?

We all went to see Royal Blood in the Globe two months ago and it was by far one of the best shows we have seen in a very long time. We caught them just before they really took off and it was amazing to see them in such an intimate venue. We will be definitely watching them at Glasto this year!

What was the last book you read?

(Dan) I last read Dial ‘M’ for Merthyr by Rachel Trezise. It’s an amazing account of being on tour with a Welsh band called Midasuno in 2005. It’s a real warts ‘n’ all account of life on the road which every touring musician can relate to. I would definitely recommend giving it a read!

Tell us a secret

Dan played session guitar for Tina Barett from S Club 7. Shortly after playing, Dan and Rich ended up drinking £1000 worth of Champagne with her and her boyfriend! Good times.

What’s your favourite place for breakfast in Cardiff?

The Deck in Cardiff Bay is the place to go. One word. Bacon.

What’s your local pub?

Our local is Dempseys on Castle Street. Even if we start off there and move on, we always end up back there at the end of the night! The bar staff are great, the Guiness is great and the atmosphere is great. God bless the Irish.

Tell us a hidden part of Cardiff that you love

There is a lighthouse on an island in the middle of Roath Lake. It’s a great little landmark but we found out the other day, it’s actually a four bedroom, rentable property?! It’s safe to say we were blown away when we find that out. We are hoping it will become Cavalry HQ in the not too distant future!

If you had some friends coming to visit for the weekend, where would you take them?

We would wake up in the morning, take them to the Deck for a ‘Hog and Hen’ roll (seriously you need to try one) and then go for walk around the bay. We ‘d pop in to Techniquest, pretend to be Brian Cox and then nip over to the Waterguard pub as we’d have definitely worked up a thirst by then. Next stop, the Mochyn Du to sample their selection of real ales and then trek across town to Milgi’s on City Road to chill out in their yurt and have a cocktail. Lunch would be an epic burger in the Grazing Shed in town and then on to Clwb Ifor Bach to catch a gig in the night. That actually sounds like a great plan. We might do that this weekend…

If people want to see you live, when’s their next opportunity?

We are playing Undertone this Friday 9 May! It will be our first Cardiff show so it promises to be quite an event and our good friends Ghosts as Alibis and Calling Apollo are on the bill with us. If you want any more information please visit the facebook event page on this link: https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/1413579325565844/

Thanks Cavalry! More Cardiff personal geographies real soon …

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Cardiff: my personal geography, by Elliot Bennett of Slowly Rolling Camera

For this personal geography, we get all up in Elliot Bennett’s grill – he’s the drummer for (mostly) Cardiff-based jazz band, Slowly Rolling Camera. Read on for Elliot’s slant on the city (he’s second from left in the picture).

Slowly Rolling Camera by Claire Cousin

Tell us about your Cardiff connections …

Although Dave (Stapleton – pianist/composer) now lives in Newbury, we were all students that studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. It was here that we started composing and playing together. Similarly, whilst still being a student, I was also the house drummer at the old Toucan Club, and Dionne (Bennett – vocalist/lyricist) was the vocalist in the funk and Latin band that played there on the weekend.

Tell us how Slowly Rolling Camera formed.

The band started out with Dave and myself discussing the need to write some new music that differed from our quintet. The want for a fresher approach that could have a wider a reach and echoed more of the things they were listening to, such as the Cinematic Orchestra, Robert Glasper, Christian Scott, Massive Attack and Portishead.

The writing process began with Dave sending me some ideas to see what I thought. Hooked on what I’d heard, I began playing around with the ideas presented and recorded some grooves and rhythms that would cement and support the phrases and melodies. This process continued for sometime, until we both realised that an ingredient was missing, the voice. There was only one person I had in mind that had the depth, warmth and soulfulness needed for what had been written. It was then, that I pitched the ideas to Dionne Bennett, a lyricist and vocalist that I had worked with many years ago.

Once Dionne had added some ideas, again me and Dave thought that a more electronic, produced sound pallet was needed to bind the existing ideas together, which is when I called upon my old university friend Deri Roberts to help. Like Dave and Dionne, I had worked with Deri many times in a number of different ensembles, some of which included the others. Fast forward to the present day, the four us through our friendship and work in various ensembles have written – I believe – music that has a little of all our personalities and life’s journey embedded with the fabric of the album.

Where was your first gig?

Our first gig was at Chapter Arts Centre, which I guess is regarded as a bit of a hub for music, drama and the arts in Cardiff and therefore, seemed the perfect location to showcase what we had written. Thankfully, the gig sold out and the response and feeling from the audience and players booked for the gig was great. The four of us now knew that the product worked, both as something to listen to at home, or as a live performance.

What are the great things about living in Cardiff?

Cardiff is a very friendly, lively and cosmopolitan city. It has great entertainment, a diverse music scene, good night life, and shopping all within walking distance.

Penylan Pantry - one of Elliot's choice spots in Cardiff
Penylan Pantry – one of Elliot’s choice spots in Cardiff

How does it feel to be releasing an album?

I’m sure I speak for the others when I say that we are very proud to release this album. We wanted to collectively create something that appealed to a wide audience, that didn’t fit into a neat label or box that say’s ‘genre’ on it. Something that musicians would appreciate, music that would stand up for its production, engineering, the way it was recorded and mixed. It’s an album that contains snapshots of our life as friends and musicians, which like our name have slowly, rolled and evolved.

If you had friends coming to visit Cardiff for the weekend, what would you recommend they do? 

During the day, stop for a coffee and a bite to eat at the Pen-y-lan Pantry or maybe visit Cardiff’s award-winning farmers’ markets on Sunday 10 – 2pm. And team that up with watching a knock-out performance from an amazing new band called ‘Slowly Rolling Camera’!

 

Elliot Bennett plays drums in Slowly Rolling Camera. The band’s debut album is out now on Edition Records, and you can catch them live soon – see tour dates here.

“I love Cardiff” – Justin

Justin

My name is Justin and I love Cardiff. I feel like I’m at an AA meeting…!

I write for Buzz Magazine from time to time and go to many gigs, I enjoy my life and these sort of things keep me happy.

Y’see it could’ve all gone a little bit different from this. For a few years certainly did.

I was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 27, which was a great shock. At least it was found in time. It had to be monitored at first as it was on the brain stem and in a dangerous position to remove, but after a couple of years it had grown too big and it had to be gone.

After the operation (which was carried out in London) I went into a coma and woke up a vegetarian (after dreaming I was a dead fish on a boat at sea). A few years of recovery has seen me walk with the aid of a stick, which is quite amazing considering the state I was in.

But after this operation some part of the tumour found another place to regrow, in a part of the brain that affected the sensations in my face. So I had a steel cage on my head fitted with pins while they attacked it with lazers in Sheffield, and I then had radiotherapy in Velindre hospital in Cardiff which involved getting a tattoo on my spine. They gave me Christmas Day off the treatment though!

The help of family and friends has helped me all the way though. I now attend Headway once a week. Headway is a charity that helps and encourages people from various brain injuries and it has done so much for me and many other people.

I now arrange a fundraiser every summer for Headway Cardiff with help from Cardiff musicians, promoters, and friends. Clwb Ifor Bach is one ‘friend’ who helps with everything. Clwb is probably my favourite place to go to gigs and I try to go at any opportunity.

The Cardiff music scene has endless bands and styles that could and does cater for everyone, so local music is my favourite and here is a list of (I know I’ll miss some, sorry!) my favourites: Islet, Them Sqirrels, Kutosis, Pagan Wanderer Lu, The School, Gindrinker, Threatmantics, Brandyman, Evening Chorus, Barefoot Dance of the Sea, Ratatosk, Right Hand Left Hand, Them Lovely Boys, She’s Got Spies, Strange News From Another Star, Future of The Left, Winter Villains, Little Arrow, John Mouse, Spencer McGarry, Sweet Baboo, H-Hawkline, Francesca’s Word Salad, The Method, Houdini Dax, Gruff Rhys, The Gentle Good, Euros Childs, Richard James, Cate Le Bon…

I could go on but I suppose you’re bored by now. So go to a gig instead, or ask to listen and  buy at Spillers Records, which is another favourite haunt of mine for info, cds,vinyl and tickets.

The things that have happened to me make me appreciate smaller things a little more and Cardiff is a great place for these experiences and has such great people. I shit you not.

News update: the most recent scan results for Justin were positive – he now now moves on to annual treatment, and his doctor at Velindre believes he is on his way to being completely cured.

Justin was photographed at Spillers Records by Simon Ayre

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“The Cardiff music scene is very much alive” – Ben

ben_gallivan_web

I returned to Wales to live in Cardiff in 2009 after spending the previous ten years flat-hopping around London. When I left the mothership, there was no such thing as the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Bay was just a glint in a developer’s eye and my beloved Cardiff City were still in the lower reaches of the league, and playing at a stadium which advertised bread on its roof.

During my time in the ‘other’ capital, I was part of a band and so was regularly setting up, playing and dismantling equipment two or three times a week, but I also got to sample many of the up-and-coming bands on the London pub-circuit. When I left and came back to Wales – or Cardiff in particular, I felt that I was going to miss out on the nightly gigs.

My memories of going to gigs centred on Newport which was still embarrassingly being touted as the ‘New Seattle’; my memories of the Cardiff music scene were few and far between and I feared that my days of enjoying new music may be numbered.

However, this luckily wasn’t the case. Almost as soon as I passed the ‘Croeso I Gymru’ sign as I came off the Severn Bridge, I was thrust into an amazingly busy scene, with many venues playing host to exciting bands. On one of my first evenings back, some friends took me to see Los Campesinos! playing a stage in front of many hundreds at the front of City Hall. Soon after, I went to Clwb Ifor Bach and witnessed one of the greatest gigs I have been to; the wall of math-rock noise that is Truckers Of Husk supporting the off-kilter pop of Steve Black aka Sweet Baboo. My mind was made up, I was never going back.

Since then, I have tried to juggle my day-job and my love of music to the best of my ability. The one thing about Cardiff that you never get in London is that you are forever bumping into friends. The only time it happened in London was when I took a sickie and (literally) ran into my boss at the train station as I headed off for a day of sightseeing. Pretty much everyone knows everyone in the Cardiff music scene, and because I managed to get in with the right ‘crowd’, it was easy for me to pick up on who I should go and see, and of course who I shouldn’t.

The number of venues in Cardiff may have dwindled over the years, but new venues keep popping up all the time. Clwb is obviously still the most loved, but the new kids on the block – or at least new to me – like Buffalo, Gwdi-Hw and Ten Feet Tall have provided me with lots to see and write about over the past few years.

So it basically seems that none of my fears have been realised. The Cardiff music scene is very much alive and even though I am advancing in years, I still try and get to as many gigs as possible – the trainspotting element to my psyche will just have to be put on hold for now.

Ben Gallivan is a freelance writer and works within the SEO industry. He lives on the longest road in Cardiff without any junctions (it’s in Victoria Park) and writes a music blog called BenLikesMusic when he has the time. He likes being quizzed.

Ben was photographed at Gwdihw by Ffion Matthews

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“It is the last outpost of a memory, an Alamo to encroaching American invaders” – Spencer

spencer-mcgarry-web

I have hesitating trepidation in revealing my Shangri-la in the city. The influx of anything approaching trending would upset what I have found. Luckily the very nature of my choice negates such an occurrence for you see dear reader… I have selected Garlands as my choice memory of Cardiff, having patronised its loving environ for over ten years and at one point had my own table and regular order. I have occasionally got too busy to regularly attend, but like catholic guilt, I am always drawn back to its pleasure.

Located in Duke Street Arcade opposite the castle, Garlands entices with a tobacco stained, penny university aesthetic, the old world Italian allure familiar from films and holiday brochures; perhaps such a place never existed, but these kind of coffee houses continue to offer a faux decadence of fonts, painted pillars, plastic chandeliers and brass decor which has now become a decadence all of its own.

As coffee shops become more standardised (and Garlands is itself a sort of 80’s standardisation) in low- slung cushioned comfort, it is a pleasure to be forced to sit upright like an adult whilst consuming. Garlands harks back to places where people could think, discuss, and plan within a city, yet away from distractions. One can do this elsewhere but well lit, bright colours; open spaces and urban (not urbane) noise can work against this.

By contrast, Garlands has soft brown hues and hushed voices, a more respectful climate than the abrasive places. Here, you will not hear overweight voices bandy out repulsive terms like ‘skinny’, ‘frappe’ ‘latte-a-chino’, the same voices who only a few years ago would have violently rejected such terms (often with violence). This is a place with coffee machines that don’t look like they are about to rise up against the human race, there is none of the spluttering distain of the modern machinations, instead the very mechanical elements themselves are in harmony with the more reserved eatery nature, and its artificial nurture, in unison.

Consequently as I’ve noted, it is a place to think, and many a song lyric/idea has been formulated or completed within its  walls. When I began frequenting, they used to have the Independent newspaper every Friday, making it an ideal place to catch up on the arts supplement over the free coffee refills. The paper has stopped there but the coffee refills continue (for around £1.50 you can have one free refill – sometimes more).

The food is delightful and as simple or complicated as any rival, whilst retaining a delectable character missing from the countless identical test tube paninis the western world over. Ranging from the simple toasted teacake (which you may have to ask for), to the Italian experience jacket potato (capable of summing up an entire country’s cuisine in a potato), via the cream cheese, smoked salon sandwich (alas no capers any more), there is something to sate any visiting town patron. Homemade cakes are proudly displayed in cylinders of sin, next to a fridge containing water, juices and various forgotten carbonated genres of refreshment.

Here is a place to reflect whilst listening to Gershwin, classical excerpts, or themes from motion pictures, and whilst the music may err toward Classic FM, this is no bad thing. Give me this over the nasally forgettable, mid-Atlantic tones of a thousand strumming, anodyne singers called Ryan, Sarah, Ben or Fiona any afternoon.

I suppose its main attraction for this writer is the way it avoids the visitation of the young who seem repelled by its lack of identifiable corporate logo or multi-media advertisement. Garlands is not the community where people jump off loud, high objects whilst making wide eyed hand signals, nor does it display full coloured, sweaty, laminated representations of its wares. It simply has a menu with words like ‘sandwich’, and entrusts the reader with enough intelligence to know what this is. It’s probably too much of a gamble for a youth raised on spoilers and plot revealing trailers. Even when I was young, I wanted to distance myself (when taking my coffee) from the noise of excited bores talking at disbelief over the previous nights substance inspired travail (“man, Ollie was so wasted”). I craved a more ecumenical church, where lecturers, grandmothers, aspiring jobless elitists (like myself), families, crazies and yes even some young people could freely take refreshment in the haven of a reminder of a more homily, intelligent time, where people didn’t ask you if you wanted confectionary on your coffee.

This though is where the contradiction resides. As I’ve noted above, Garlands is also has its own ‘corporate’ identity familiar to anyone growing up in the eighties who was dragged endlessly around town by mothers or family. For me, it is a prompt to being little (and probably slightly bored), eating crisp jacket potatoes with mother whilst playing with a Transformer, asking (and getting) a rare ice cold glass of coke and perhaps a Welsh cake. It is essentially the last outpost of a memory, an Alamo to encroaching American invaders. That’s right… I’m using the confusing yet apt allegory of an America invading itself, replacing our cherished heritage of coca-cola with a skinny-choco-frappe-a-lingo, taking away all we hold dear. I will hold out in my fortress of drawn fireplaces, ginger beer, and cutlery in baskets and take refuge under its gingham moon, shielding myself behind soft paintings until the day is won.

Only please, please please, dear Garlands, bring back capers to the menu and the Independent every Friday and credit my life-partner for the pictures you have of hers on the wall. Then all will be well.

Spencer McGarry is a Swansea born composer living in Cardiff. He is currently halfway through a project to record and perform six albums in six different styles (under the oft misunderstood as arrogance moniker ‘Spencer McGarry Season’) and is a part of Businessman records. He is an avid reader of popular science and religion and inexplicably believes that all pets suit the name Napoleon. He lives with his life-partner near a small Tesco’s outlet. Check Businessman Records on Big Cartel and Spencer’s Soundcloud.

Spencer was photographed in Garlands by Adam Chard

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