In The Insight’s coverage of the Swn Festival last year, we were particularly full of praise for a band called The Echo and the Always. For me, they were one of the highlights of last year’s event. A key feature of the Swansea/Cardiff based five-piece’s sound is their warm, dreamy pop melodies, melded with a yearning indie rock grandeur. Add in the elegant, soothing vocals of singer Laura Hancock and a dash of Arcade Fire-esque horns, and you have a band with a distinctive, characteristic sound that they make their own. I had the privilege of interviewing the band before their return gig to Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff.
How long have you all been together as a band?
Angela: The band was formed two years, but we’ve been playing with our current line-up for a year now. Until then, I played in a lot of other bands back in Canada, until I moved from Canada to the UK four years ago.
Edd: We’ve already done a lot in the short space of time we’ve been together. We’re definitely stepping in the right direction as a band.
Who are the biggest musical influences on the band?
Angela: It’s always tough one because there’s five of us and we all have different musical tastes. Each of the members brings their own influences and their own individual style. It’s hard to condone a single influence.
Edd: I think what actually really influences us is not so much any particular bands, but the general music scene that we’re surrounded by and all those people that are still really working hard to get somewhere with their music. We’re inspired by them and they are inspired by us, and we’re all help each other get to where we want to be musically and professionally. That’s what really drives us to work hard and keep going as a band, to perfect our sound and to write great music.
Angela: We’re lucky to be surrounded by so many great artists in Cardiff and in Wales, and that we as musicians can feed off that.
The music scene in Wales tends to be overlooked. Do you think there is a strong future for the Welsh music scene?
Angela: Right now, there are more opportunities than ever for musicians based in Wales to go on to bigger things. For years, you would normally look to places like London which still present huge opportunities for artists to make it professionally, but now there are more and more festivals in Wales that are growing bigger and bigger, including Swn Festival, that have helped put Wales on the map. Plus, there are more music businesses based here and more music initiatives being launched, so I think there’s definitely more potential for the Welsh music scene to grow.
Your performance at the Swn Festival last year was your first time playing the event. What did you all make of the experience?
Angela: It was absolutely brilliant to be a part of it. Just to be in the line-up with so many other fantastic bands and artists. During the festival, Womanby Street felt like a gigantic house party. You would see all your friends and meet lots of other people as well, the atmosphere was rowdy but friendly at the same time, and there was so much great music wherever you went. The only downside is if you’re playing, setting up on stage or soundchecking, that’s a big chuck of time where you can’t see other bands.
You’re currently not signed to a record label. Do you have plans to remain independent, or possibly sign to a record label in the future?
Edd: The downside of working with a label is obviously the lack of creative control. As a band, we like trying out new things musically, and we want to be able to keep doing that and keep our own image, because that’s who we are. We put a lot of effort into keeping to who we are, and we don’t want anyone to change that. That’s why we want to stay independent for as long as we can. Independent labels are another story. It depends on what their values are. There’s a few independent labels in Cardiff, such as See Monkey Do Monkey, that can help bands get somewhere, give them an added ‘oomph’ in the local music scene and give bands a more professional image. The work these type of record labels do is phenomenal, and we favour independent labels over all the major ones.
Do you have any new material coming up in the next year?
Angela: We’ve written a whole bunch of new material lately and will continue to write more. We have a new EP out soon, a music video, and we’ll also be recording during the summer. The plan now is to release a series of EPs and singles over the next year.
Will this lead to a debut album eventually?
Angela: We’ve focused on doing smaller releases because we have a big local following in Cardiff and Swansea but not beyond that, so it’s better to do small releases, issue music more frequently and hopefully get ourselves noticed and build our fanbase. Certainly in the future, an album would be great.
Are you planning to tour more venues outside of Wales?
Angela: It’s all a matter of timing because we all have day jobs outside of the band. Hopefully during the summer, if we can plan well then we can tour more. It would be a dream to take the band to America and to my home in Canada, but the next step for us is to definitely tour more cities in the UK.
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