Bandicoot have been on the rise for a few years now and have been making a name for themselves throughout Wales as a formidable and energetic live act. They recently signed to Wales’ premier indie record label Libertino and have big plans for the future. We wanted to find out more about the band so caught up with lead singer Rhys.
It’s just been announced that the band has signed to Libertino Records. How did that come about and why did the band choose them as opposed to another other label?
It’s been a long time coming really. We’ve known Gruff for a while now, and have loved the music Libertino have put out for years – bands like Silent Forum and Sybs (to name a few) were inspirations to us all. It all started on an informal basis, with Gruff expressing his love for the music we’d shown him, and before long it became clear that signing to Libertino was the right step for us as a band. Signing to a label was never something we intentionally set out to do, but Gruff completely got us, understood how we wanted to present ourselves, and really took us on board.
You released the single “Glaw Ail Law” yourselves in 2019. How did that experience influence your decision to sign to a label rather than carrying on releasing tracks independently?
We actually released Glaw through a small label called BICA; we signed to them for a couple of singles, the second one being ‘O Nefoedd’ at the start of this year. Having said that, Libertino is a bigger label, and the intention of releasing through BICA initially was to put our name on the Welsh music map, and it achieved exactly that – I don’t think the likes of Gruff would have pricked his ears up quite so much had Nefoedd and Glaw not been given the platform they were provided through BICA.
What releases can we expect from you with Libertino in 2021?
We can’t really disclose specifics at the moment. But to put it one way, it’s the culmination of at least two years of work, if not more than that; we’ve been recording since August last year, and writing for a long time before that. It’s music which will grab people’s attention, but most importantly it’s music which interests us, captivates us. It excites us very much having made it, to be so close to having Wales and beyond finally hearing it.
The band are from Swansea which has always suffered from the Cardiff-centric nature of the Welsh music scene. How do you think Cardiff and Swansea compare as music cities?
These are both places which are integral to our musical upbringing. Swansea bred us as musicians and writers, and Swansea is where we first got on stages and encountered audiences. Swansea is most ingrained in our DNA. But then Cardiff represented to us from a young age a real musical utopia; the life-changing gigs you experience as a teenager all happened to us in Cardiff. Those experiences then made us lean subconsciously towards Cardiff as a haven of live music, and getting into the Cardiff scene became a goal quite early on. Now we live in Cardiff, having moved there in the middle of the pandemic, and it’s meant that our productivity has just snowballed. Our relationships with both places are continually changing as we experience them differently, but they’re both essential to us as people and musicians.
In an ideal world who would the band like to work with in the studio? You mention Swansea born John Cale as an influence; could he be in the running to produce your debut album?
The thought of ever meeting John Cale, let alone working with him, is enough to make me tremble – it would be beyond a dream! We have been working on our new music with Tom Rees of Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, who also produced the two singles we currently have out. He’s a very important figure to us, and has taught us a lot, as well as helped us realise the sound we wanted to achieve. But we also feel like it’s good to stray out of our comfort zone creatively from time to time, and so our eyes are set on the likes of Cale, Gruff Rhys, Euros Childs – all massive influences, and working with any of them would be a huge deal for us. This is especially true as we’re thinking beyond the next year of releases. We’re already making heaps of new demos, and writing newer and more challenging music, so we’re thinking of how best to treat this material in a studio setting.
Your live shows are energetic, emotional and musically adventurous. How would you describe the experience of performing a Bandicoot gig?
I think this question relates to how we approach writing music itself; that is, as long as it captivates and interests us, excites us and engages us, then it’ll do the same to an audience. Our sets are quite fluid, sometimes quite improvisational, and we like to throw ourselves into them in every sense of the word. We like audiences to move and feel energised, and have the sort of crazed experiences which made us fall in love with live music in the first place, so we do the same on stage. Our music inspires those kinds of impassioned and frenzied responses from us when we play it, so that translates to the room we’re playing in. That’s the intention anyway, and we can’t wait to do it again.
Lockdown has prevented live music for most of 2020. How did the band deal with this? Have you managed to keep rehearsing at all?
Well fortunately we’d finished a bulk of our recording by early March, and then moved in together by mid-August. So we had the best of both worlds, in that we had time apart to write in isolation, and then after a few months we came back together in the same space and went about turning those songs into demos. We were lucky to have moved within walking distance of a rehearsal space in Cathays by complete chance, so we made that our refuge. We would work on the songs in the rehearsal rooms, come home and record them properly in the house. The pandemic gave us the freedom to slow down and really indulge in the momentum of writing as much as we could. And it’s given us a lot of breadth in terms of what we have ready to release, and has meant that the next year will be all the more exciting and rewarding.
The band recorded a ‘Ten Covers’ album during lockdown featuring songs by the likes of The Beach Boys, The Lemonheads and Nick Drake. Why those songs and do they offer a good insight to the music that influences and informs the band?
These songs are really important to us for a whole host of reasons, and it would take a lot of space to explain how. But at this point in the lockdown, when people were trying to come up with interesting ways of keeping audiences engaged, we thought this would showcase not only our taste and influences as a band, but also would give people something to listen to without forcing us to release our own music prematurely. We kind of approached it by challenging ourselves to record versions of these songs in our own style — how would we record them had we written them ourselves? This was another great thing to come out of lockdown for us; it forced us to learn how to record ourselves semi-decently, which has made making demos in the months since very enjoyable and far better sounding than they perhaps would have been.
Thomas Rees from Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard produced your track “Everything I Need” and you recently teamed up with the band for their online Portland House gig. How did the connection come about and can we expect more work together in the future?
The connection dates back to our first ever gig in Cardiff in October 2015, supporting Tibet at Undertone (other bands on the bill included Rainbow Maniac and The Drains, who had just changed their name to Himalayas). Since then we’ve bumped into each other sporadically, and after producing ‘Everything I Need’ Tom has remained a really important part of our story in many ways. Most importantly he’s given us a lot of self belief, and opened up a new world in terms of approaching how we release and think about our music. The whole Portland House show developed out of our being in the same sort of circles, dropping in and out of his studio, and him needing saxophone and other bits and bobs on some Buzzard tracks – and it’s always great fun playing with those guys, so it’ll always be a yes! I’m sure we’ll be on each other’s radars for a long while to come.
Finally what are Bandicoot’s plans for the year ahead – assuming live music starts up again at some stage!
We’re planning releases throughout the first half of 2020, culminating in something big around the summer. So we’re in the process of booking shows for when things get back on track, which is hopefully looking possible by that point. It’ll be by far the biggest year of our careers for us, with a lot of new music, and hopefully the shows to go with them!