SFA frontman Gruff Rhys talks about the band's Mwng album.
Last updated: 27 January 2009
Drygioni - Badness
"Drygioni is a song about sleaze. It's about good versus evil, and a person's need for both. One verse is about badness and one is about goodness. It's one of the shortest songs we've written, just over a minute long. Musically it's coming off our more glam-based rock songs, but I think we've managed to liquefy our previous influences away so it doesn't sound like anybody else."
Ymaelodi Â'r Ymylon - Banished To The Periphery
"There's an old idiom in Welsh, 'Y cythraul canu', which is about the demon in music, which creates friction between people. It's an old idiom. It's partly about our experiences of doing taboo moves like singing in English. It's about being banished from a musical scene but it could also be about being banished from a group of friends.
"Musically it's a celebration of our love of the Beach Boys and Love and Morricone. It's the first time we've used the harmonium, and if there's a song that sums up the album in terms of mood in under three minutes perhaps it this one."
Y Gwyneb Iau - Liverface
"It means 'liverface', an insult, and that's a moody song about war. With some nice trumpets laid on a bed of the third Velvets album, conducting an unlikely threesome with Gladys Knight and Nick Drake."
Dacw Hi - There She Is
"Dacw Hi is a song I wrote in 1987 that we haven't had a chance to do before. Literally translated it means 'there she is'. It's about a teacher I used to have at school when I was five years old who claimed she had eyes in the back of her head and I took it literally, so it's a song about her. I brought an egg to school, I nicked an egg, and I was going to break it on her desk when she wasn't facing me. And she caught me."
Nythod Cacwn - Beehives
"It's a song about being stung. Daf got stung once by a swarm of bees. We were building a bonfire on a beach and he stumbled on a beehive. Quite a dark comical image of Daf running into the sea when the tide had gone out. He was running into the sea with bees all around him and he had 200 yards to go. It's about f*cking up, pulling beehives down on you.
"It's a demo that we didn't bother redoing cos it sounded quite good. It's not the most proficient sounding we've ever done but there's a warmth to it that we couldn't recreate. That's my debut on drums. Daf really wants me to publicise that fact cos it's so bad!"
Pan Ddaw'r Wawr - When Dawn Breaks
"Literally it means 'when dawn breaks', and it's about the death of rural communities. I'm not sure how to describe it musically. I suppose it's from experience, areas where I grew up, but it's put in a very simplistic way."
Ysbeidiau Heulog - Sunny Intervals
"Ysbeidiau Heulog is a complete contrast. That's our concession to ELO. Jeff Lynne was very concerned about the weather, and he made a lot of money out of it. It's sort of throwaway pop, I don't suppose it is pop, pop is more digital these days I suppose. Old time pop music. You've got to imagine the saxophonist from 1972 Roxy Music in a spangly red jumpsuit.
"Ysbediau Heulog is a song about looking back at a bad time which had the odd good moment. It's got a load of pop harmonies and is vocal heavy and is a tribute to numerous late 60s pop bands, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Os Mutantes, I could go on. I won't bother!"
Y Teimlad - The Feeling
"Y Teimlad is a song by Datblygu that was recorded in 1984 and literally it translates as 'the feeling', but it sounds much more profound in its original state. David R Edwards, who wrote the song, is a lyrical genius. It's an incredibly simple song but very profound.
"It's just a shame that more people don't speak Welsh and can appreciate the lyrics he's written. It's one of the most straightforward songs he's written. Datblygu means 'developing', so a lot of the music he wrote was very improvised, experimental. They were a big influence on us, especially their lyrical outlook.
"It's a song about love, or it's a song about not knowing what love is or what love means. The original is a really raw, kinda electro, dissonant song, but it could it could be made in a Sinatra style. Musically it's a live song, probably the most straight thing we've ever recorded."
"Sarn Helen was the road the Romans built to link North and South Wales, and infrastructure in Wales has gone downhill since the Romans left. It was quite a proud and working entity under Roman rule, but since then it's been a case of divide and rule.
"It's hilarious trying to get from North to South Wales which is about 180 miles. You can't do it by train and it takes about five hours in a car. It's a nostalgic song about Roman times. The last ever Roman edifice was built in North Wales in Penmachno, but they didn't know that Rome had fallen when they did it.
"Musically we've gone for the kind of song you would be listening to cruising down the A5 to Rome in a two-door chariot. If you look at it superficially it's a song about transport infrastructure, but I'd rather look at it as a tribute to the Romans, bringing people together with straight roads. On a trivial note most of this song was recorded in Cian's living room and engineered by his good self."
Gwreiddiau Dwfn - Deep Roots and
Mawrth Oer Ar Y Blaned Neifion - A Cold Mars On Neptune
"It's about being rooted to a sad piece of land. I'm not making it sound very glamorous. It's a song about being doomed to live somewhere and that's all you have and that's what you're stuck with. It's as bleak as I can go lyrically. I suppose everyone feels that bleak occasionally, but it's so bleak it's comic almost. I wept it rather than sung it.
More about Mwng
"This is the sound of a band playing in a studio. It's the simplest record we've made. Mwng cost us six grand to make whilst Guerrilla probably cost 100 grand, or whatever. A lot of it was done live, out of necessity cos of time, but it was good. We've done it before but with our previous albums we've had the luxury of time so we've gone over them and layered them to f*ck. Of all the albums this is the one we've left the most. This is as raw as we've got really.
"Musically it was a chance to make a record that is hands on again. It's not exploring digital space, it's a tribute to some of our old school classic rock records! We don't think we could have made it any better with more cash. It's one of the most direct things we've made musically and it's more powerful for it. There's just more depth to it. We could have layered orchestras all over it but it makes a change for us to do something that's raw.
"Hopefully we've managed to refine our sound. On our previous albums you can hear references to music all over them You can still do it on this one but they're not quite as explicit. Hopefully our influences have been sieved off - with the more records we make the more Super Furry they sound.
"Even though this is an album that explores songwriting rather than digital frontiers Cian still has the power to deconstruct songs even when he's playing harmonium! It's also the first time we've used saxophones too, which was quite scary as previously we'd thought the saxophone was the instrument of Satan, but seeing as it's a darkish album we thought we'd let rip.
"Musically there's nothing Welsh about it at all - it's a record of our obsession with Anglo-American pop culture of the 60s, 70s and 80s. There's nothing indigenously Welsh about it as far as I can tell. The only obvious Welsh influences are of course Datblygu and possibly Meic Stevens, both world class songwriters playing to a small audience. You could imagine this album being recorded by a Japanese band with Japanese lyrics. It's an album that can be understood on a musical level anywhere in the Westernised world, cos that's the musical language we deal with as a band, that's what we've grown up obsessed by.
"I listen to a lot of Brazilian, German, French and Japanese music that I don't grasp straight away. It's an analogy I've used a lot but if I listen to a Nirvana record I don't understand most of their lyrics cos he's just screaming away, but I just understand the frustration and the passion in his voice. I think equally people can get off on this record by just hitting on the mood of the song, or connecting to the mood of the song.
"I had a bunch of songs that were musically coherent and linguistically coherent, and I think we make a better album by sticking to one language. Just as it was a conscious decision to keep Guerrilla English, it's not an explicitly political statement although it is politicised because of the precarious state of the Welsh language, or any perceived minority culture in the world of globalism.
The Welsh language is an invisible culture of less than a million speakers so it doesn't appear on the Microsoft list of languages or whatever, so it is under threat by big business. But that's happening internationally so I don't think it's a parochial thing to sing in your own language even if a relatively small number of people speak it. There's millions of people in the same situation globally, trying to hang on to something that's under serious threat from advanced capitalism.
"It's not in the interest of big companies to make concessions to small cultures. It costs them a lot of money and it's not worth their bother and they'll just steamroller over it if they can. So I think it's important that we don't lose sight of who we are or where we come from and as long as we're tolerant of other people and of other cultures there's no reason why we shouldn't celebrate it.
"A lot of the lyrics were written very simply and I wasn't concerned with piling a lot of information onto them. A lot of them convey a very simple message. I've been quite economical with words. Something like Nythod Cacwn was made up on the spot."
"'Mwng' means 'mane'. No specific animal in mind, but I suppose it's an extension of a Super Furry Animal, something that keeps you warm, it's a winter album. But we're releasing it in May. And we've been billing this album as a dark album with sunny intervals - and the single's going to be Ysbiediau Heulog which means 'sunny intervals'. If there's any song that doesn't sum up the album it's that one!"