As a fan of Christmas music Gruff Rhys is well aware it can be a tricky thing to get right. But he has high hopes for his Atheist Xmas EP.
“The ratio of good to bad Christmas songs is one of the worst. They’re probably 90% awful," he told 6 Music.
“I’m trying to balance the Christmas of 2011 with songs that aren’t nauseas."
Writing about a Post Apocalypse Christmas and a suicide bid, he admits the subject matter is a little darker than usual. However there is a reason why the EP is less Frosty the Snowman and more Slashed Wrists this Christmas.
“Sad things happen at Christmas as well you know, it’s like any other day," he explained.
“It’s a song based on true events and things that have happened to my friends over the years. So I hope it’s not too crass, you know. It’s a crass title, but it’s just a really sad song."
Douglas Hart from the Jesus and Mary Chain kicked things off by asking him to write a festive track for a short film he was making.
“It was about phoning home on Christmas day and having the longest conversation you’ve ever had with your father. And then realising you’ve phoned the wrong number. You realise you’ve never actually talked properly, you know."
“Sad things happen at Christmas as well you know, it’s like any other day."
Although he wasn’t in the studio with him, Rhys says Hart acted like a producer and had a very clear idea of what he wanted.
“Kind of Phil Spector crossed with a glam rock song," revealed Rhys. "And then I got on a run, I was just thinking of Christmas songs so I decided to put all three on an EP."
Getting into the Christmas spirit took a bit of imagination though, as he recorded the songs on the hottest day of the year in a basement in Bristol.
“It was boiling," he remembers. "It was just after the London riots and there was a mini riot in Bristol as well. So it was about as far away from the Christmas atmosphere as you can imagine."
The tracks also feature on a new "extension" of his album Hotel Shampoo, along with B sides and the Whale Trail single. And after Hotel Shampoo won the first ever Welsh Music Prize they round off "a tidy year" for the singer songwriter.
As for 2012, he says it probably won’t include another Super Furry Animals album as they’re all busy with side projects. However band mate Cian Ciaran is planning to build a new studio to record it in.
Rhys will be "“having a break, trying to read books and think about writing something different".
First a mini tour of record shops to mark the EP’s release, hitting Spillers in Cardiff, Rise in Bristol and Rough Trade East in London. Sadly not a sleigh in sight though.
"All on the train," he admits. "Maybe I should be travelling by reindeer."
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