Last night saw the annual Welsh Music Prize awarded to Carmarthen’s post-punk trio Adwaith. Simon tucker reflects on the win for Louder Than War.
So went my 2016 review of the debut single by Carmarthen’s Adwaith (Hollie Singer, Gwenllian Anthony and Heledd Owen) a new band formed around the town’s now legendary venue The Parrot Music Bar and Cafe and its other arm Tangled Parrot Records. Three years later, on a wet winter’s night in Cardiff that same band were crowned the winners of 2019’s Welsh Music Prize for their debut album Melyn. I’m breaking normal journalistic rules here as this win means more to me personally than just some band I have seen grow. Adwaith’s win is a big moment for Welsh music make no mistake about it. Their win is a symbol of a new vital Welsh language scene that is exploding right now. This isn’t any Cool Cymru Vol. 2 bollocks and it is isn’t media driven. Adwaith’s support has come not from mainstream press but from independent websites and publications like Louder Than War, God Is In The TV and From the Margins. Radio wise they have had the right champions in the right place with people like Rhys Mwyn, Adam Walton and Huw Stephens in particular being consistent supporters. Adwaith have done everything on their own terms. They have not fallen for the make-music-to-appease-the-capital-crowd and even though two of the members no longer live here due to university and work, the band are Carmarthen through and through. This little town that I am proud to call home has long held a tradition of creating artists who refuse to conform to the bubble of taste and preference. Adwaith have their own slang and attitude which they share with others like the brilliant Accü (whose brilliant debut album Echo The Red was also nominated) and Los Blancos who won the inaugural Triskel Award. The other thing these artists share is a record label….
Libertino Records are a beacon of hope for us jaded old folks who believed that there may not be a future for independent labels. Gruffyd Owen who runs the label started everything with his own savings and has worked tirelessly to create a label that celebrates the artistry found in small Welsh towns and villages. Gruff has been involved in the Welsh music scene for many years via various bands so he has learned how the game is played and what has he decided to do???? Make new rules to a new game. The comparisons with Factory Records are justified as Libertino is a safe space for artists to be free to experiment and stay true to their own unique vision. By having this attitude Adwaith have been free to develop at their own pace and create their own image without any fashion tips or shite direction advice. Adwaith are themselves and that is why they stand tall and proud amongst the list of great Welsh bands including Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Zabrinski, Super Furry Animals and Datblygu (whose Pat Morgan helped record the bands early demos).
Another reason that I am emotional about this win is that Adwaith are proof of what can be achieved when small communities are given an outlet where they can grow and feel free to take risks. In the now sadly closed The Parrot, Adwaith were able to have a stage and grow an audience. So many small venues are closing at a frightening pace and bands need a place in between their bedrooms/garages where they can play as not many are instantly ready to fill the bigger venues. These venues are where bands can make mistakes, get to know an audience and hone their craft. It was also at The Parrot where the band launched their Femme nights promoting women’s rights via events where the entire bill were women artists including the aforementioned Pat Morgan and Gwenno. It is at this point that the Welsh Music Prize jury deserve a mention as this year’s list was predominantly women artists or bands that included a female member. Maybe others should take note of this? Yes I am talking to you Geoff Ellis.
So what of Melyn itself? In my review of the album I said that “Melyn isn’t another Welsh language album. It is Wales herself.” and I stand by these words. Melyn will go down to be a pivotal release not just for Wales but for feminist art. Hollie Singer, Gwenllian Anthony and Heledd Owen are the present and the future. They are what happens when young people are listened to and not dismissed. Their music is uniquely their own and they have been brilliantly single-minded about what they release. With producer Steffan Pringle they have created an album that is timeless. Melyn is funny, political, righteous and glorious. The band have recently come back from some gigs in Canada and this is yet another sign that Adwaith are a band that are still only really now getting going. Their success is an inspiration to anyone out there who feels disenfranchised and marginalised by a toxic society. In an age of media creations, X-Factor and misinformation it is their honesty that makes them the great band that they are.