Poptastic Confessions

Poptastic Confessions

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

An interview with Gwenno!

Dear Poptastic Readers,

This has been an exciting summer full of great music, especially for strong, indie women artists like Annikafiore and Gwenno. Both have released amazing EPs this summer. You can read my review by clicking on their name. And Ani from The Pipettes, who is currently fronting her indie band The Lovely Wars.

Gwenno told me that she liked the interview that I did with her sister, Ani. So naturally I asked Gwenno if she would like to do an interview for Poptastic Confessions, and she said she'd love to! Hooray!

If by chance you don't know who Gwenno is, click here.


My questions are in bold type and Gwenno's answers are in italic. As always, you can click on the link to see a video, a live performance, hear a clip or just something relevant!



I'm glad you liked the interview with Ani and the history of The Pipettes? Did I get anything wrong with history?

Nope, I don’t think so!

What did you think of my single covers where I had added photos? And why haven't The Pipettes singles shown pictures of the band?

Your single covers are great! I know that from the first album we wanted to follow a certain 50s/60s aesthetic where you wouldn’t get a picture of the band on a 7" single, and I suppose the second album followed on in terms of not using us on the cover even though it was a very different era and style.

The original single covers from The Pipettes second album.

Even though I've had a Twitter account since 2009, I've only recently been paying attention to it and I saw you and Rebecca (RiotBecki) "tweeting" each other and it made me smile. Do you still keep in touch with Rebecca and Rose?

I do yes! Although I don’t get to see them as often as I like as I live in Cardiff and Rose is in London and Becki’s in Manchester. I think we went through quite an important chapter in all of our lives together and that’s something that I’ll always hold dear. Plus, they’re brilliant and incredibly intelligent people that I love to discuss music with and hang out with!

The Pipettes in 2006: Rose, Gwenno and Rebecca

I'm so happy to hear it. Congratulations on your new EP! I love it! Did you write it and produce it yourself? And (I hate to ask 'cos you probably get asked this a lot, but ...) what made you decide to record it in Welsh?

I did it all by myself, yes. That was quite important as I knew what I wanted it to sound like and I needed to commit to making something from start to finish and take full responsibility over a body of work. I’ve sung in Welsh as it’s my first language and the songs are about my hometown (Cardiff) so it just felt like the most natural thing to do at the time.

I've been listening to the EP for two weeks now and I purposely haven't read the lyrics because I wanted to get to know the songs before knowing what they were about. So in preparation of this interview, I went to your blog and read the lyrics in English. I was mostly shocked about "Despenser St." Here I thought it was this uplifting track, and I read the lyrics in English and I felt like crying. How emotional is it for you?

That song in particular is quite funny I think! Even though it’s all true, what happened is quite traumatic (from collapsing ceilings to attempted murders by a drunk) but comical somehow because we survived and it was just a ridiculous situation. I don’t know, I think I just wanted to make light of quite a bad time and turn it into something positive. We can all laugh about it now, and I think that’s what’s important. 

I had a bit of fun with Photoshop!

Now on to your single "Ymbelydredd" ... What an awesome dreamy chill groove with a beautiful haunting melody. How did you decide this would be the first single?

It just felt like the most obvious choice because it’s quite floaty and laid-back. I think it evokes a nice atmosphere and I wanted to put something out that had a chance to grow on you as a contrast to the more bombastic stuff that I’d released with The Pipettes.

Photo by Steve Glasier.

Track 2 on the EP came across as "50C" ... I had no idea that meant 50 pence until today. I'm been referring to this song as "Damn Sure" as that is what it sounded like to me when you sang "dawnsio." To me, the music sounds like it right out of The Human League's catalogue with Martin Rushent at the helm. Was that your inspiration?

Absolutely. Martin was a HUGE inspiration on this EP. And in a way it’s quite strange because I’m singing about a time when Martin produced some of his biggest records and so there’s quite a nice parallel between what I’m doing now and what was popular at the time and it’s personal to me because I had the honour of working with him.

Martin Rushent produced the AMAZING album "Earth vs. The Pipettes"

"Astoria" is a lovely little interlude. Could it be about the old Astoria theatre in London? I saw Bananarama there at G-A-Y!

It’s not but it is about a night club! Astoria was a big club/venue on Queen St in Cardiff that I used to sneak into when I was underage to drink really bad alcopops and dance to that Underworld hit and Jungle music. It was quite a horrible and run place down but I wanted to make a song that felt like it was about a paradise to create a contrast between the fantasy of it and the reality.

"Ti Yw Madonna" is catchy tune. Are you a Madonna fan?

I am and I’m not. I absolutely LOVE her early albums, the songs that she recorded with Nile Rogers, and the Immaculate Collection was quite prominent in my childhood because my Mum’s best friend’s daughter, Heledd, was obsessed with it and played it constantly. She really made the most of being in the right place at the right time and some of those songs are brilliant.

Fun with Photoshop, part 2

Agreed! Although I still love her. But I don't always like all of her songs. Who are your music influences?

Datblygu, Young Marble Giants, Suicide and my Uncle Theo to name a few. 

I have no idea who any of those artists are. So I have some discovering to do! As you might have guessed, I don't speak a word of Welsh. However, I can't stop listening to the EP. How does it make you feel that your music is transcending language barriers?

Just really, really chuffed. I just think it’s wonderful that people that don’t speak Welsh (yet!) are engaging with it and appreciating it. Music is a language in itself and so it shouldn’t matter what the words are, I think I’d like to reach that point as an artist, like Cocteau Twins, but with real words, where you can engage with how the music makes you feel on it’s own or you can interpret the deeper meaning of it if you want to.

As I said, I don't speak Welsh (yet!), but I sure can sing it ... or at least try! Can you tell me about the cover for the EP? Is that you as a child?

No, it’s my friend Heledd that I mentioned earlier!

"Ymbelydredd" EP

Is that ice cream in front of your friend Heledd? Did you do the artwork, too?

It is ice cream! I didn't make the artwork, Tom Winfield did, you can check out his work here.

When I first saw it, I thought it was a platypus! Anyhoo ... while preparing for the interview, I went to iTunes and bought your previous Eps "Môr Hud" and "Vodya." I really liked both lead songs. How do you feel looking back on those EPs?

They’re SO different!! I don’t know, at the time I just wanted to make some dancepop songs in Welsh because there weren’t really that many fronted by girls. I think the concept was quite strong but musically, I was very much at the very beginning of figuring out what my sound was.

"Môr Hud" EP

There are two lo-fi videos on YouTube of "Mor Hud" and "Vodya." Do you think you could get some hi-def one up so that fans can see them?

I think they’re on the Vodya EP cd, I’m sure I have a copy at my Mum’s house somewhere though I’m not sure I’ll be digging them out any time soon!

"Vodya" EP

There were two EPs of demos that you used to have on Soundcloud. I must admit … I LOVE some of those songs and I do hope they see the light of day again. On the first EP … "Lime Chordial" has playful verses, and the chorus of "I've Been Searching" can get stuck in my head for days!

Thank you! Yes, they probably will see the light of day again at some point but I want to put them away for now. I think that everyone that wants them probably has them so it made sense to take them down to start this new chapter.

"Lime Chordial" EP

Artwork by Tinhead.

The "U & I" EP is so good. The chorus of "She's Got Me On Her Mind" is so catchy. And "U & I" has to be one of the sweetest songs ever! Not to mention, I can't get enough of "Tanya Loves RnB." I'm hoping that is in on the next Pipettes' album!

Haha! That was one of the first songs that Ani and I recorded together as adults (although it’s incredibly childish!) we’ve probably got a few more up our sleeves but I’m not sure how well they’d fit in on a Pipettes album!

"U & I" EP

I read that you are already working on your next EP due out before year's end. I'm still hoping there might be some promotion for "50C" and "Despenser St." Any chance you might make videos for those songs?

I’m trying my very best to see if anyone’s interested in making one for me, otherwise I’ll just make another lo-fi video out of old footage that I feel matches the music.


Speaking of videos, your first video for "Ymbelydredd" was a collection of images. Then you filmed a beautiful video with you walking around. Were those places you went when you were younger?

No. I think we were trying to create images that didn’t feel like they were anywhere to evoke a hazy dream.

Photo by Steve Glasier.

I saw that you were letting fans download free mixes on Soundcloud. Is there any chance you would consider letting fans remix one of your songs?

That’s a brilliant idea!

Yay! I'm no remixer, but I would like to try! What can we expect from your next EP?

I’m not quite sure yet. I want to push myself and try and do something that I haven’t done before though and build on the ideas of the first EP. I don’t think that I’ve fully explored my potential music-wise and I’d like to explore more themes, ones that I haven’t touched on yet. God, that’s SO vague! But honestly, I’m still not quite sure what it’s going to be but I have a few ideas floating round.

When do you think The Pipettes might get back for a third album?

I don’t really know! I do know that I won’t be on it though. I’ve had an amazing time as part of The Pipettes but I really do feel it’s time for me to move and find new challenges. Seven years is quite a long time to be part of a concept driven spop project, and perhaps there’s someone out there who’d make a better Pipette than me, infact, I’m sure there is.

Rebecca, Gwenno and Rose have all left The Pipettes.

Oh no! I am so sad to hear that! Well, I understand and respect your decision. So ultimately I am happy for you. And I look forward to you continuing as a solo artist. I hope you and Ani record more music together in the future because your voices sound so good together.

We'll always sing together, as we always have done and I think that it'll just be nice to make songs up that are just for fun and not have to worry whether they fit in to a certain concept.

Gwenno and Ani.

Well, I can't wait to hear what the future holds for both of you. The Pipettes will remain dear to my heart. And I am thankful for your time with the group, as it has brought me so much joy. Just as your solo music is doing now. Thank you, Gwenno! And here's to your solo career!


Like Gwenno's Official Facebook Page.

Gwenno's latest EP "Ymbelydredd" is available on iTunes. Please support the artist by purchasing the songs.

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