Last updated: 17 November 2008
The most creative of the contemporary Welsh bands, SFA consistently blend classic songwriting with often breathtaking experimentation. Causing a quiet revolution can't be easy, but SFA have all but managed it without ever breaking through to the musical mainstream.
Since their formation in the early 90s, the Super Furry legend has become something of a cliché: the blue techno tank, the 40ft inflatable bears, the record-breaking debut release, the song with that title. But that's doing lazy justice to their undoubted genius, for they're simply one of the most exciting and innovative groups to have ever emerged in Wales.
People say music is going to change the world but it can only be soundtrack. We wouldn't cause a revolution but it would be good background music.Gruff Rhys
The various members of SFA all played in Welsh-language groups prior to forming, and came together as a mainly instrumental group in 1993 in Cardiff, playing around Wales and at celtic festivals in Europe.
In 1995 SFA released two largely experimental EPs for the Cardiff-based Ankst label - including Llanfairpwllgwyngyll-gogerychwyndrobwllantysiliogogogochynygofod (In Space), which was titled in a vain attempt to get into the Guinness Book Of Records.
After the release of its follow-up, Moog Droog (which featured a raw version of live favourite God! Show Me Magic), they signed to Creation records. Offering them a deal after a gig, Alan McGee reportedly requested that they sing more songs in English - to be told that every song in that night's set had been.
This was no accident: sometime around the release of Moog Droog they had made the decision to move towards the mass market. As singer Gruff Rhys later said, "Between us we'd released about six or seven albums in various bands in the Welsh language. So we formed an English language band to make accessible music. We put out English language albums because we've got ambition and we thought it was potentially easier for an international audience."
The band stayed on Creation until the label's collapse in early 2000, and released the albums Fuzzy Logic (1996), Radiator (1997), the b-sides and rarities collection Out Spaced (1998) and Guerrilla (1999).
Fuzzy Logic was the first album Gruff had sung in English - he later remarked that it sounded like a seemingly random collection of accents - and was the first SFA recording with a decent budget behind it.
Some controversy came for the band at the end of 1996, when The Man Don't Give A F**k became an unlikely entrant in the Christmas singles chart. Originally intended to be a b-side, it was put back after problems clearing a Steely Dan sample. When it did appear, The Man was deleted on its day of release, and quickly became a collector's item.
In 1999, the band planned a shamelessly pop assault on the charts. However, the calypso rock of Northern Lites and the sentimental balladry of Fire In My Heart didn't strike much of a chord with record buyers, and the album Guerrilla wasn't a great commercial success.
Its follow-up, Mwng, came out the following summer, and was recorded on 'pop strike'. According to Gruff, "we thought if our English language pop songs aren't getting played on the radio, which was the whole point of Guerrilla, we might as well make Welsh language pop songs that didn't get played on the radio. I suppose it's our attempt at direct action."
Despite being predominantly acoustic, slow and brooding, and entirely in Welsh, Mwng was a surprise hit, and became the biggest-selling Welsh-language album of all time (until Bryn Terfel released a Christmas album later that year).
In July 2001 SFA made a little more history by simultaneously releasing the album and DVD Rings Around The World. The DVD was mixed in 5.1 surround sound, and contained films accompanying each track. As Gruff says, "It was originally going to be a state of the planet concept album, but we decided not to do that in the end. It's about Earth, and the pollution of space, it's about debris. Musically this record covers a lot of ground."
A new album, Phantom Power, was released in July 2003, and was again accompanied by another DVD with surround sound. And in October 2004, the band's first best-of collection, Songbook, was released. It collated all the band's singles from the Llanfair PG EP through to Hello Sunshine, and is an essential first purchase for anyone discovering this wonderful band.
August 2005 saw them release their seventh studio album Love Kraft, which was experimental with all the band contributing and performing lead vocals on various of tracks.
Hey Venus! was launched in August 2007 and saw a return to the 'poppier' tones of their 1996 debut album Fuzzy Logic.