Golden Fable is a North Wales trio consisting of Rebecca Joy, Tim Joy and Jonathan Guy. Last month they released their fourth album Alchemy via Full of Joy Records.
On Alchemy Golden Fable have extended from a trio to an 11-piece ensemble, incorporating members of North Wales’ orchestra NEW Sinfonia performing Jonathan’s dense orchestral arrangements. This provides an even grander sweeping backdrop to Rebecca Joy’s haunting vocals. We sent then some questions to find out a bit more, Tim Jolly answered them.
Hi, how are you?
We’re very well – thank you for asking us and sending over some questions.
How did you meet?
Rebecca and I met through Myspace! It was such a useful tool for meeting like minded musicians and other artists, in a way we still miss it. I remember getting our first gigs through there, and a message from Steve Lamacq asking for a demo. We sent him a CDR with a tea bag and he ended up playing us on 6Music. It was such an amazing thing for us, and gave us a much needed kick start.
Fast forward 8 years and we met Jon, leader of NEW Sinfonia, at Focus Wales festival in Wrexham. He approached us to do a collaborative concert, reinterpreting our material with a string quartet, harp and clarinet, alongside our usual line-up of guitars, drums, keyboards and vocals. We had a wonderful show, and soon after we agreed to work with Jon on a full album. The result is Alchemy, which came out on June 14th.
What was the first song you ever wrote?
I can’t remember exactly, but the first song I actually recorded was when I was 15, for my first band, Overgrown. It was called ‘Closer‘, and sounded like a bad, teenage version of brit-pop. I remember having to write the lyrics and giving them to a guest vocalist, who misread them and started singing about angles instead of angels. I think he accidentally gave the song more meaning.
What was it like? What was the first thing you released?
The word “released” is a bit hard to define these days, because it’s so easy put anything online and it’s available for anyone (or no one!) in the world to listen. The first song we released as Golden Fable was called ‘The Chill Pt. 2’, which, ironically, we released in midsummer in 2011, while we were at Green Man Festival.I remember leaving the festival site to go to a library in Crickhowell so we could get online and see how it was going down! Thankfully it was well received, the hand finished CDs sold out and we have been releasing music ever since.
Tell us about your new album ‘Alchemy’?
Alchemy is our fourth album, but our first in collaboration with Jon and NEW Sinfonia. I demoed around 20 songs for Alchemy before Jon and Rebecca came on board, and I remember ‘Atlas’ being one of the first that we really got stuck into in terms of arrangement with the NEW Sinfonia ensemble. We had to put a lot of faith into Jon – he’d come back with these awfully fake sounding MIDI arrangements that we’d play along to…it wasn’t until near the end of the recording process that you could really appreciate what a wonderful job he’d done.
Overall we had such a brilliant time making it – it was our first taste of working with someone from a classical background, and Jon’s first taste of working on an album. We learned a lot from each other, and met some great people and some wonderful musicians. We feel its a culmination of everything we’ve done so far, and that it’s the first album where the vision we had going into making it was properly realised.
It was recorded with a Welsh orchestra, what did this bring to the songs?
We’ve worked with string players before, but having Jon on board and his knowledge of the instruments gave the arrangements much more depth. We recorded, produced and engineered the album ourselves, so it was a real challenge during the recording process. After a long struggle we managed to get the harp into the living room – there were mic leads trailing all the way through the house! We had to time to recording carefully in between dog barks and the postman arriving, but it sounded beautiful.
Overall, having NEW Sinfonia on board breathed life to the recordings, and helped us fulfill a long standing ambition to work with such a variety of instruments and players. There’s been so much thought going into every song on the record, and we hope that means that there’s something new to discover with every listen.
What’s the music scene like in North Wales?
Our local scene is a hive of activity. We’re incredibly lucky to live within a thirty minute drive from Focus Wales, which is a brilliant showcase festival in Wrexham. They have artists from all over the world. but the highlight for me is always seeing how the local community supports each other, and the wealth of talent that is so close to home. There are so many great bands from different genres, including Seazoo, Gallops, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Campfire Social, Kidsmoke,and Mechanical Owl. Whatever your taste, there’s so much to enjoy.
How would you describe your music in five words?
Always a work in progress.
Which artists do you admire?
I really admired the way Radiohead recently handled their leaked material, I thought it was an excellent way to cope with what must have been a distressing ordeal for them – they had some old minidiscs stolen and they were expected to pay a large ransom for their return. Instead, they put the recordings on Bandcamp and sold them, raising lots of money for the brilliant Extinction Rebellion charity in return.
Aside from that, we always admire bands that are small but keep going, releasing excellent material to a dedicated fanbase. It’s tough to keep going these days, with the reduction of sales of physical goods and with so many bands vying for listeners’ ears. Bands like Epic45, Colorama and so many others are great examples of this. We take inspiration from them and feel very proud to have made it to four albums.
What would be your dream collaboration?
Well, it was always a dream to work with an orchestra! So we’re absolutely delighted to have ticked that box. A few years ago Rebecca and I went to a brilliant concert at the Bridgewater Hall called Zero Degrees of Separation. It included Adem, Vashti Bunyan, Vetiver and Juana Molina – they all shared the stage throughout the whole set, playing on each other’s songs and taking it in turns to take the lead. It was such a stunning night, and we’d love to be part of something like that. The whole audience was stunned, it was such a brilliant way of listening to some of your favourite artists as well as finding new ones. We’d love to see more artists working together and collaborating in this way.
What are your views on sexism in the music industry?
Sadly, it’s something we’ve encountered quite a lot over the years. At gigs, people have frequently assumed Rebecca was the “merch girl”, or wouldn’t allow her to carry the tiniest bit of gear to help with loading out afterwards. It’s great to see new initiatives starting like the 50/50 gender equal festival line-ups, but there’s still a lot to be done across the board. This includes everything from recording engineers and producers through to managers and label reps. Things are definitely going in the right direction, and it has changed for the better since we first started making music.
Tell us about your latest single?
We released ‘Trust’ just before the album came out. It was a tough one for us to write – its quite a dark and personal song lyrically, but it’s ended up being a personal favourite of ours. It was the first track we demoed with NEW Sinfonia, and we sent it to the lovely folk at PRS for Music, who eventually helped fund the recording – without them, we wouldn’t have been able to get the album out. We’re really proud of the instrumentation; the crescendo at the end was one of the hardest bits to get right in the studio, but it turned out brilliantly, largely thanks to the excellent work of Paul Gregory (Lanterns on the Lake), who mixed the album. If you’re new to our music, it’s a good insight into our sound and what we’re about.
What’s the best act you have played with so far?
We’ve been fortunate enough to play with some truly brilliant artists over the years, from Public Service Broadcasting to Adem. Our definite touring highlight has to be Field Music, though. It was such a fantastic couple of weeks for us – they’re a truly unique band, great people and they had a very receptive, appreciative audience. We all knew at the time that it was something to savour, and we look back on it with fond memories.
Are you playing any shows/festivals this summer?
We’re playing a very special album launch show at Ty Pawb in Wrexham on 6th July: https://newsinfonia.org.uk/en/event/alchemy/
We’re tentatively planning some more shows towards the end of the year, but nothing is ready to announce yet. Keep your eyes peeled!