Welsh music journalist Kevin McGrath, a regular contributor to Wales Arts Review and New Sound Wales, has asked some of his favourite musicians in Wales, and as far afield as Italy, Finland and America, to donate a song, old or new, released or unreleased, to a 40-track mixtape he is compiling in order to raise funds for Velindre Cancer Centre, where he has been cared for as an outpatient over the past eight years. The album, V4Velindre, combines some of the best bands in Wales, including Bandicoot, Climbing Trees and Campfire Social, with established singer/songwriters such as Jodie Marie, Evans McRae and Dan Bettridge. In addition, the digital-only release features an exclusive track donated by Indie legends The Wedding Present, an unreleased version of a classic from BOB, brand new tunes by Armstrong, The Burning Ferns, and Silent Forum, together with special remixes of early work from the likes of oblong, Head Noise and Simon Love. As well as featuring contributions from the past three winners of The Welsh Music Prize – Boy Azooga, The Gentle Good and Adwaith, Kevin has also sought out some of the most promising young musicians in the UK in the shape of Paddy Mac, Y Dail, The Honest Poet and MRPHY. Every penny raised through album sales (minus, of course, Bandcamp commission) will be passed straight to Velindre. Preorder here for seven pounds, for that you will get five tracks straight away from Bandicoot, The Family Jools, Parker Woodland, The Honest Poet, and Climbing Trees and all forty two on release on the 1st of October.
God Is In The TV has been granted an exclusive look to the tracklisting via Kevin McGrath who has also kindly helped source the story behind each song on the compilation:
1. Fuzzy – Bandicoot
Described by the band as a ‘deranged attempt at seduction which draws on 70s ‘Top of the Pops’, glam rock and memories of misguided adolescence’, “Fuzzy” is a gigantic earworm, on a par with Supergrass’ “Alright” or The La’s “There She Goes”. The best single of the year so far, and an obvious choice for the scene-setting opening track of V4Velindre.
2. Light Sleeper – oblong
The most memorable track on the fabulous Hollalluog is given a re-mix to add a little extra swagger. Or as the band better explain it ‘Light Sleeper uses imagery of sleep, dreaming and insomnia to frame thoughts about a divided nation, the gloomy subject at odds with the up-beat energy of the music. We thought the original track didn’t have enough grunting or shouting, so we put it through our patented oblong skronk box. The re-mix has an extended intro with bonus grunting and added prominence given to the shouted megaphone rant at the end. The final chuckle is dedicated to a departed friend of the band…’
3. California Sunshine – Family Jools
For the past two years, Bristol’s Family Jools have been on an incredible run of spellbinding singles, but this summer’s release, “California Sunshine”, really hit the sweet spot. The song has been championed by Steve Lamacq on BBC6 Music, and it is the radio edit of the song that is featured here.
4. Brassneck – The Wedding Present
David Gedge generously gave V4Velindre exclusive use of this stripped-back version of “Brassneck”, one of the Indie-legend’s most famous songs and a top 30 hit for the band in 1990. The track will get its official release next year on The Wedding Present’s Locked Down and Stripped Back Volume II.
5. Hollywood – Sandra’s Wedding
Singer/Lyricist Joe Hodgson outlines how Hollywood came into being – ‘The genesis of the track was in the first verse, which came line by line in a really organic way, building up a feeling of it being an ‘honest love song’ which wasn’t too sugary sweet. The track was provisionally called ‘Love Is’ and mutated into “Hollywood” once the hometown memory element came into the mix. I wrote it on the piano over a few days which helped get that ballad feel. I’m probably most proud of the middle-8 lyric: ‘So, raise a glass to a shipbuilding town /Drink your weight in words and try to keep it down / You’ve got the look of your father and a couple of his dance moves too / Yeah, you’re the spit of your mother, what a looker back in 82’.’
6. Street Philosophy – Codewalkers
“Street Philosophy” was the first song the band released. Vocalist Seun Babatola calls it a ‘stream of thought wordplay, flipping the script on those who still dismiss rap and hip-hop as a lower form of art’.
7. Hideout – Smile
Turin’s Smile have been compared to early REM, and they are quick to list the legendary combo as a major influence, alongside the likes of The Smiths, The Wedding Present, Hüsker Dü, Mission of Burma and New Order. They explain to God Is In The TV (GIITTV) that their single “Hideout” was ‘written and recorded in less than a weekend, in a rush of urgency. It’s a cry for escape. No particular focus, just the need for some air after all this weight of the world we all carried on our shoulders’.
8. The World’s On Fire (And We Still Fall In Love) – Parker Woodland
Singer Erin Walter informed GIITTV that “The World’s On Fire (And We Still Fall In Love)”, the debut single of Austin, TX, indie-rock band Parker Woodland, was ‘recorded at The Pink Room in Bastrop, Texas, with renowned guitarist/engineer Jonas Wilson, the song has become a pandemic anthem and the centrepiece of a 100-city virtual tour’. According to the band’s website, Walter likes to write songs that asks the question. “What if you lived your life like you truly meant it”?
9. Hold On – Evans McCrae
Americana UK described the duo’s debut album Only Skin as ‘difficult to pin down in terms of genre’, before deciding that ‘these songs quietly convey intense emotions across a range of styles touching on folk, pop ballads and alternative rock’.
10. Just Another Pop Act – Silent Forum
Silent Forum’s Welsh Music Prize-nominated debut album Everything Solved At Once (2019) was a truly introspective affair, with lyricist Richard Wiggins dead set on examining the internal workings of a 21st Century pop band. “Just Another Pop Act” picks up where the album left off, with Wiggins explaining ‘Silent Forum are possibly the most self-referential band on Earth and “Just Another Pop Act” pushes that to breaking point, referencing two former songs by the band and the title of the book Pop Hack by the organiser of this compilation Kevin McGrath. Not that you need to know any of that. Usually the band jam out each of their songs as a four piece, sharing the entire writing process. This song, however, saw Dario (guitar) send an instrumental track for Richard (vocals) to sing over, and we went from there ending with Charlie (production) amping the track up x1000. It’s an experiment – hope you enjoy.’
11. Enemy Of Promise – Nightingales
Described in John Robb’s definitive book on post punk (“Death To Trad Rock”) as ‘The misfits’ misfits’ and comprising an ever fluctuating line up, based around lyricist/singer Robert Lloyd, the Nightingales enjoyed cult status in the early ’80’s as darlings of the credible music scene and were championed by John Peel, who said of them – ‘Their performances will serve to confirm their excellence when we are far enough distanced from the 1980’s to look at the period rationally and other, infinitely better known, bands stand revealed as charlatans’. “Enemy of Promise” is taken from the album Perish the Thought (2018).
12. In Living Memory – Me Against Misery
If you want a realistic picture of Britain post-Brexit and mid-pandemic, then Songs From The Divided Kingdom will soon put you straight. Matt Rhys Jones (aka Me Against Misery) explains the significance of the track he donated to V4Velindre ‘If one song captures the ethos of Me Against Misery, it is “In Living Memory”. It’s a protest against the prescribed misery of capitalism, the deliberate stifling of creativity and a system of living that erodes the soul’.
13 Danger In The Western Hemisphere – Burning Ferns
Burning Ferns’ Tony Gray gave me the lowdown on the band’s excusive V4Velindre track. ‘Danger in the Western Hemisphere is a creepy psych-country cry of despair about the collective loss of reason that gives rise to the misinformation that causes COVID denial, anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists. Alternative realities are being moulded in the Western Hemisphere by the drip drip of misinformation into the left hemisphere of our brains. So it’s a bit of a psycho-social rant. It was written in lockdown when I was listening to Buffalo Springfield a lot, watching the news daily and scrolling Twitter a bit too much.’
14. Hey – Adwaith
A knockout single from 2019, which illustrates the political cutting edge of the Welsh Music Prize winners. As the band explain: ‘“Hey” is a song about people ignoring obvious facts that are right in front of them. Global leaders are not acting upon climate change, and they can’t ignore it for much longer.’
15 Feel The Sun – Y Dail
‘I wrote and recorded Feel the Sun specifically for the Velindre project on an afternoon in late August. I’m pleased with how it turned out; I’d had a chant in my head which gave an atmosphere of optimism and melancholy mixed together. I enjoyed recording it on acoustic guitar as I’ve been playing electric almost exclusively for a long time, and I also enjoyed using an old keyboard through a spring reverb, to get a sort of Brian Wilson feel.’
16. Crazy Street – That Forgotten Band
A happy by-product of V4Velindre is that this unreleased earworm has been taken out of cold storage by Jussi Helle and Jari Oisalo, who explained, ‘Crazy Street is about surrendering oneself to the pure joy of recognizing good vibes in life. You don’t need to pretend to be cool, you don’t always have to make progress and commit yourself to new things. You can take a day, a year or a decade off and just groove to the beat and let it move your feet! I don’t remember when it was recorded (sometime during winter 2018 with the 12-string guitar added this summer), but it was a song that really captured that 60s feeling I was looking for (Dylan, Stones).’
17. Angels & Neil Diamond – SUPER 8
‘“Angels & Neil Diamond” is probably the most personal song I’ve written to date but it’s one that listeners can hopefully relate to. It’s about the trials & tribulations of growing up. It’s also a musical thank you to the NHS in parts as, were it not for our wonderful health service, my father wouldn’t still be with us today. When I was asked to contribute to this fine cause this was the first song that sprang to mind. I am honoured to be part of this fundraising venture and in great company here’.
18. Silly Me – Boy Azooga
Boy Azooga’s debut album 1,2, Kung Fu! was proclaimed by the NME as ‘Bright, exciting and full of effortlessly intelligent songwriting’. It’s a description that applies equally to the Welsh Music Prize winner’s stand-alone release “O Silly Me”, a track which Davey Newington pithily explains is ‘about worry: written when worried, that might hopefully ease some worry for other worriers. Hope you enjoy it (no worries if not).’
19. Stage Fright – Head Noise
Frontman Mitch Tennant kindly filled us in on the context of their donated track: ‘“Stage Fright” was first released in 2016, on our debut EP Cryptic Spit, but has now been re-recorded and revitalised for exclusive inclusion on V4Velindre. The new version reflects the more electronic approach the band now have to making music, as well as keeping to our punk-rock roots. The song is about the anxieties that comes with being centre stage within the world of performance art. The band has used Tommy Cooper’s upsetting demise as the basis for the track, where he collapsed in front of a live audience who thought it was part of his act. The song was recorded at Robot Recordings in Aberdare between July and August and the band have now found a new love for the original track, which we have brought back to the stage at our most recent live shows.’
20. Since I Last Saw You – Shop Girls
Singer James P Davies has a way with words, and this wonderful track opens with a line that is both laugh-out-loud funny and quietly sad. Much like the song itself. James says, ‘“Since I Last Saw You” was written after a Saturday night playing in Port Talbot with my friends Steve and Chris Hawkins. They were playing as a piano and snare drum and brushes duo, and I was supporting on my guitar. I got talking to this girl and basically fell in love with her over the course of half an hour. An Amazonian Goddess….from Port Talbot. We arranged to meet on the Thursday. When I rang this girl on the Tuesday to cement the date, she put a guy on the phone who said he was her boyfriend! I was heartbroken for a while as I’d built this thing into the next Bogart and Bacall. Anyway, we were left with a smasher of a song. Having a colourful life pays off sometimes when you can put it into song.’
21. Purpose – The Honest Poet
‘“Purpose” is a love song dedicated to my fiancé. She has been the one change that has happened that has truly given me a reason to be the best version of myself. She has added purpose to my life. ‘There’s no metaphor deeper than this time warp, where we fall’ – this is my favourite bar of the song because it perfectly describes that time doesn’t really exist when I am with her.’
22. The Answer – Jodie Marie
‘This was written initially as a bit of a rock number, and we’d gone as far as to record it in that style, but it didn’t sit right with the rest of the record. I decided to re-work the melody, change the time signature and chord structure and I came up with the version of the song that became the title track of my new album.’
23 Yoko, Oh – Tot Taylor
“Yoko, Oh” is the latest single from the master tunesmith’s 2021 album, Frisbee, and is a response to the track “Oh Yoko” from John Lennon’s classic Imagine LP. Tot explains ‘Reversing John’s title is just the start of the story, looking at how Yoko was generally misunderstood, and in terms of where we are with Feminist ideology and also the practise of just ‘helping’ people Yoko was way ahead. As has been proved so many times over the years.’
24. Yesterday’s Over (Tomorrow’s Where I Want To Be) – Armstrong
‘Kevin asked me if I might like to donate a song for the Velindre album and so I wanted to provide a brand new previously unheard Armstrong song which I happened to be working on. It’s a very Byrds/Simon Garfunkel influenced kind of song recorded at home.’
25. Hay-on-Wye – Matthew Frederick
‘The second single from my 2020 debut solo studio album Fragments, “Hay-on-Wye” recalls one of many weekends spent in the sleepy Welsh border town a few years back. A delicate, nostalgic number, I wanted to contrast the clarity of specific moments listed in the lyrics with the late-summer haze of the instrumentation, in the hope of capturing the essence of Hay in some shape or form. It’s a beautiful little place, and I thoroughly recommend you pay it a visit if you’ve not yet had the chance.’
26. Who You Are – BOB
Richard Blackborow explained the background of the band’s choice of song to GIITTV: ‘Simon Armstrong and I were big fans of The Byrds right from the very start of BOB. In fact, although the Beatles were also big for us, it was listening to The Byrds – in particular their 5D and Younger Than Yesterday albums – that really fired us up to want to sing two-part harmony together. If you couple that with the fact that our friend and Sombrero Records founder, Ally Payne, had lent us her Baldwin electric 12-string guitar for use for a weekend recording in our little 8-track studio, then you get the recording of “Who You Are”. The song was written in 1989 and wasn’t released officially until it made the cut for our Leave The Straight Life Behind album in 1991, but this early demo version, featuring Dean Leggett on drums and Jem Morris on bass, has a freshness and sparkle about it that deserves a release of its own, I think.’
27. Deal With The Devil – GG Fearn
‘“Deal With The Devil” was recorded with Charlie Francis in Cardiff – an amazing producer that I work really well with. It’s a story about a girl who is so unsatisfied with normal domestic life that she makes the well-known deal with the devil to change it. I like concept art, and my whole EP kind of runs along this line of fame and fortune coming above everything else and the damage it can do.’
28. Apathy – Little Red
‘I wrote and recorded this song at home in the first lockdown of 2020. Partially about how the lockdown and isolation made me and my partner feel and also about how terribly the government seemed to handling the pandemic. This then led on to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other POCs at the hands of the police in the states. It started to feel like the world was falling apart and the song took on a new meaning.’
29. Awake In The Wake Of A Wave – Campfire Social
Taken from the band’s outstanding 2021 EP Everything Changed.
30. Fingers & Lips – Eggs On Mars
‘”Fingers and Lips” is about being newly wed and your spouse finding out how annoying it can be to be married to a musician. It’s about being happily in love with your partner and with the music they inspire you to create.’
31. Marion Jones (The Pretty Things Remix) – The Grief Brothers
The band explained to GIITTV that the song is about ‘A chance meeting on a moribund street. Two characters separated by half a lifetime. It was probably raining. Remixed for added yearning by local noise artist Bumhead from the debut album Thirty Five Years On Woodfield Street. Bigger, dreamier, prettier. Out of the small pool and into the big wide world!’
32. Mwyar Duon – The Gentle Good
Gareth Bonello informed GIITTV that “Mwyar Duon” is Welsh for blackberries. ‘It’s a song about expectation, disappointment, and the importance of seizing the moment.’
33. Broken Heart – Simon Love
‘“Broken Heart” is a song that I wrote ages ago (possibly 2004?) when I was incredibly sad. I forgot about it but then it popped into my head a few years ago, so I recorded it at home in an hour and tried to do a three-part harmony on it. Sort of. Then I totally forgot about it again and found it when searching for something else on an old hard-drive.’
34. Burritos Alone – Walter Etc.
A break-up concept album that covers every angle of a relationship fraying at the edges. Even poor Walter can see the signs ‘she eats Kale with her co-workers and laughs at their jokes / I go to lunch too, but I’m eating burritos alone.’
35. Aloisi – Climbing Trees
‘This is arguably the song that put Climbing Trees on the map. A very small map, but a map nonetheless. The opening track on our debut album Hebron, which we recorded out in the sticks at Mwnci Studios and released in the summer of 2013. “Aloisi” was also the song that opened our set for a good couple of years, and very much a favourite with the Trees’ hardcore. It also gained ‘Single of the Week’ recognition from BBC Radio Wales, despite never being released as a single.’
36. Wired World – Sam Barnes
Sam told GIITV that ‘The song is a character study of someone in a state of malaise and disconnect, falling short of their own expectations. It’s a pandemic baby, written at the start of lockdown 2020 and recorded that year. Featured on the recording are David Newington (Boy Azooga) on drums, Kirsten Miller on cello and Joe Northwood on flute and clarinet.’
37. I Don’t Wanna Lose You – Community Swimming Pool
‘This song was written and recorded in the space of four hours, in my small flat in Glasgow in June. I also took a zoom interview with a local radio station about half-way through. It was an informal writing and recording process for this song which has likely become my most popular to date. I wrote it when I was feeling particularly down about things and it’s essentially just a little story of a first date I went on in Edinburgh, and how I don’t want to lose my girlfriend despite things maybe being a little bit difficult at that moment in time.’
38. Habitat – Dan Bettridge
“Habitat” is the opening cut from Dan Bettridge’s latest EP Good People, Bad Habits, and the singer tells us that the song ‘Is about getting out of your own way. It’s about finally beginning to let go of constant pressure that is mostly self-imposed. It’s a happy song because it’s the first steps into something new, it’s joyful in its realisation that you can’t do it all alone and you don’t need to.’
39. hi there sunshine – The Happy Somethings
‘“hi there sunshine” was written and recorded on yet another miserable, grey, cold rainy day in a small, dark, ex-mining village in the East Midlands. Irony seemed to be the only way to get through it.’
40. For Love – Peter Hall
Peter says ‘It’s a story of public kindness, an intervention of which the rescued weren’t aware they needed. But they did. Based on a true story of a bus that was diverted from its course between Hartlepool and Middlesbrough by a masked robber in the 1950’s. The robber decided they looked sad and needed saving from their dull lives in post war, north-east England. She diverted the bus to Whitby so they could have a day at the seaside’. When asked why she did it, she said ‘I did it for love’. Written and recorded in Nottingham at Daisyland Studios with the help of the Robin Hood String Orchestra.
41. The Greatest – Bryony Sier
An incredibly moving song that explores loss and memory. Bryony explains ‘I was very close to my Grampa, he was a massive music lover and always loved hearing me sing. When he was diagnosed, the entire family was heartbroken. I used to sit with him twice a week and we’d listen to music. I’ll never forget that time I had with him, and this song means a lot.’
42. Lockdown – MRPHY
The sensational, stand-out title track from the Amy Wadge -produced EP of 2014.