Arkdown band photo

ARKDOWN (from l-r): Mike Dyson (guitar), Mike Walker (guitar), Kyle Dawson (vocals), Alex Roberts (drums), Ed Morley (bass)


Emerging Sheffield metal quintet Arkdown draw on influences including Bury Tomorrow, Miss May I, and Thy Art Is Murder, to create a dynamic sound that is their very own, with heavy guitar riffs and layered melodies at its core.

In the almost three years the band have been together, they have toured all over the UK, supporting the likes of Oceans Ate Alaska, Martyr Defiled, and Shields, and have brought out a debut EP, ‘Paths’, which was very well-received throughout the British underground metal scene, and led Gig Radar to tip them to be “a force to be reckoned with“.

This November, the South Yorkshire collective will be unveiling an eagerly-anticipated follow-up, ‘The Calling’, and they told me more about its recording process, as well as what to expect from the release, when we chatted recently.

How did the band form?

The band formed in late 2015. Ed and Mike Dyson had been in bands together growing up in their teens. Alex and Ed had known each other since nursery, and Ed drafted Alex into the fold to form what would eventually become Arkdown. Kyle and Mike Walker were both contacted through adverts when the band were looking for new members to join.

From where did the name Arkdown originate?

It’s something we came up with that ticked a lot of boxes for us, such as conveying the kind of image we wanted, being unlikely to be used anywhere else, and also wouldn’t help you in guessing what kind of music we played if you just saw our name written down on a line-up.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

As we mature as a band, as well as individual musicians, we appreciate other bands for different reasons, such as efforts put into live performances.

We feel a lot of modern metal bands, certainly at independent levels, often forget that it’s at the very least a 50/50 split between what the audience hears and what they see that makes up the quality of a show.

We take a lot of influence from bands and musicians who pay mind to that, and bring a unique live energy to the stage, so thinking about what we can do live with a song is something that is always at the forefront of our mind when writing.

What inspires the band lyrically?

Generally, our lyrics tend to be quite personal to Kyle. Our latest release, ‘The Calling’, is a nod to the French term “L’appel du vide“, which literally translates to “the call of the void“, and concerns our subconscious urge to throw ourselves into danger, which fits in with the lyrical theme around this record, which is about the lure of self-destructive tendencies.

Your self-released debut EP, ‘Paths’, was very well-received throughout the British underground metal scene. Was that something you all were rather taken aback by?

Yes, actually, because when you work on something like that and put it out into the public domain, you open yourself up to judgement and, of course, with something you created, worked very hard on, and are quite proud of, any feedback you receive is taken personally, so to be met with such positive feedback was very motivating for us, and we can only hope that we go through something similar with ‘The Calling’.

And speaking of ‘The Calling’, how has the recording process been for that?

On the whole, the process for ‘The Calling’ has not been too dissimilar to that of ‘Paths’, as we still wrote in a similar manner, and self-produced the record as before.

The difference this time, however, was the extent to which each part of the process had evolved. We wrote in a style that was still clearly Arkdown, but it was a more mature Arkdown sound, in that everything was blended together much better, and every aspect of it had been stepped up, in terms of being heavier and having more hooks.

Where the production is concerned, again, we stepped up in the quality of the recording and the post-production magic we can bring to the record. We tried things during production that we hadn’t done before, and nine times out of ten, they paid off, which was very motivating for us.

And how further will it differ to ‘Paths’?

‘The Calling’ is a far more rounded Arkdown record, as there is a consistent theme being brought to the table throughout, and the songs sit together much better.

With ‘Paths’, we recorded and put out all that we wrote, whereas this time around, we’ve not put out everything that was written, because, whilst they are great songs, they didn’t sit with what we’re trying to do on this record.

You’ve toured all over the UK, and have supported such outfits as Oceans Ate Alaska and Martyr Defiled. How is the experience, for the band, of playing live?

Playing live is where we’re at our strongest. We belong on the stage. Last year, we really honed our live show, and pushed ourselves to try new things that were also bigger and better things.

That has resulted in what is now a very strong live show, which means we can sit more comfortably on line-ups with the bigger bands you’ve just mentioned.

What are the band’s plans between now and when ‘The Calling’ comes out?

Leading up to release, we’ll be on the campaign trail to spread the word. We’ve got some great shows lined up with the likes of Loathe, Martyr Defiled (their final ever show), and I Set My Friends On Fire.

And finally, what is your long-term aim?

The long-term aims are just to work towards all of those milestones that the majority of bands aspire to. We have our sights set on major festivals, we also have plans to start taking our live shows across mainland Europe, and of course, we want to get better and bigger with each record that we put out, but overall, we want to enjoy ourselves doing all this.  

Arkdown EP Cover





JOHN band photo

JOHN (from l-r): John Newton (vocals/drums), Johnny Healey (guitar)



On the surface, London rock duo JOHN are loud, energetic, and aggressive, but dig a little deeper, and you will find a rhythmic sound and introspective lyrics that, as well as taking inspiration from personal experiences, are also influenced by literature and spoken word.

With this, live performances at some of the UK’s top underground music venues, support slots for the likes of Pulled Apart By Horses, and a well-received debut album, released last year, the two-piece have gradually been building up both their profile and fan base.

Before the duo’s recent set in Hanley, they chatted to me about all of this, as well as their upcoming tour of Europe with Idles.

How did the two of you get together?

JOHN NEWTON (vocals/drums): We both met at university in London.

JOHNNY HEALEY (guitar): We were studying at the same university, and we first met in one of the halls of residence.

JOHN: Yeah, and we would always talk about music, whether we were going out to pubs or to parties and what not, but it took us a long time to get into a rehearsal room together.

Once university had finished, and everyone else had shifted out of London, I suppose we were two of the last people left, and we kind of realised that we were both similarly creative people, and it felt like we should do something together.

It was a good time to go and see music, as there were a lot of good rock bands in London.

JOHNNY: We decided to do something that wasn’t being done, something that was a bit weird, but it did take us a good while to start playing good shows. We got together in the end, though.

JOHN: I think the most important thing is to create songs for yourself, and it’s a bonus when other people like them as much as we do, so yeah, we’ve always stuck to that manifesto, as it were, just making music that we like, and can get excited about.

What are your main musical influences?

JOHN: I suppose it’s always a mixed bag, as our influences can come from anywhere. I can get just as much influence from visual arts and writing as I do music, so I think for me, as well as the band, that’s an important thing, as I like to create little linear narratives.

Obviously, the music can be loud and very energetic, but it can also be interesting and have some meaning.

JOHNNY: Yeah, it can be anything that is aggressive.

JOHN: I love bands such as McLusky, for their almost stream-of-consciousness lyrics that can come from everyday life, but I think it also has to be something that’s written from your arm’s length. I’m also really interested in things that don’t feel familiar or relevant.

JOHNNY: We’re more into producing something that has rhythm, rather than something that is very technical.

When we’re writing songs, rather than putting together riffs and chords, we’ll start with a rhythm, then we’ll work on adding a groove to that, and then, we’ve got something we can build on, and that came out of us just wanting to play rhythmic stuff that got people moving.

JOHN: And I think that the fact that I’m singing is also key to our sound, because I will write a song very much with that and the drums in minc, as it results in a rhythmic delivery, and I like that as that is how our songs get that dynamic, so yeah, I’m pleased that we can create something that is just that little bit more unique.

Last year, you brought out a debut album, entitled ‘God Speed In The National Limit’. How was the reaction to that?

JOHNNY: The reaction was really positive, I mean, we both really didn’t expect it, and so quickly. Making the album was a big investment for us, so it’s been great that it has been so well-received. It has also been getting more and more plays, and more people seem to be getting into the album, so that’s all been really good.

JOHN: Yeah, we made a conscious decision early on to release the album ourselves, as we thought that would be the most interesting thing to do, even though we knew there were going to be a few logistical concerns.

However, the process was really good, and also very satisfying, as we could see how everything was going to go.

JOHNNY: Yeah, because with the first album, you have to make a proper go of it, no matter how long the process may take, so to get the reaction we did, and the fact that people seem to be enjoying it as much as we enjoyed putting it together, it’s something we’re really pleased with.

You’re supporting Pulled Apart By Horses in Hanley this evening. How is the experience, for you both, of playing live?

JOHNNY: It’s the whole point of why we play music in the first place, but we didn’t perform for ages, as we just wanted to initially have fun and make our live sets as strong as they could possibly be.

Now that we’ve achieved this, it’s great to be able to play in corners of the UK that we’ve never been to before, as well as in foreign countries, especially with the upcoming European tour that we’re doing with Idles, and those are experiences that we never would have had if it wasn’t for the band.

JOHN: Yeah, it’s half-an-hour of your life that you have to give your whole self to, I mean it’s something that, obviously if you’ve never done it before, it’s hard to know the feeling you get from it, but for me, it is a feeling, as the hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time we play live.

JOHNNY: You get those moments when you’re performing on stage, and everything’s going really well, and you think to yourself, “This is marvellous!

JOHN: Yeah, you can go to a town in south-west France to play a show, and you think there’s going to be very little expectation, but then you get there, and find yourself playing to a room full of people.

That is a beautiful thing, and basically, it’s one of the best things about it, alongside writing the songs, and meeting interestingly creative people along the way, more or less everywhere you go, whether it’s glamorous or shit.

JOHNNY: One thing I’ve noticed more recently are the amount of people that come to not just one of our shows, but quite a few of them, they’ve become familiar with us, and we’ve started to recognise them. That’s nice, because by having a few loyal fans, we know we must be doing something right.

You spoke just then about your upcoming European tour supporting Idles. I can imagine that’s something you’re both very much looking forward to.

JOHN: Yeah. I mean we’ve played in France, but that was only a short tour, and we also played a one-off show in Copenhagen, but this will be the first time we’ll be going all over Europe.

JOHNNY: I think we’re going to be playing in 12, 13 different countries, I’m not sure, though. We’re probably going to playing two or three shows in each city, and it’s 25 shows in 30 days, so it’s going to be pretty intense.

However, luckily, we know Idles really well, and have done for years, and we’ve also played many shows with them, so the tour is going to be pretty relaxing, I think.

JOHN: It’s better to share a tour bus with someone we know, rather than someone we’ve never met before, so it should be great fun for us, and them, and also a great opportunity to build up our fan base.

Even though they will be there mainly to see Idles, their fans have always been very supportive of us.

Aside from the tour, what else have you got lined up for the rest of 2018?

JOHNNY: We’ve got some new songs that we’re working on at the moment, so soon, we’ll be going into the studio to record them, and hopefully, they’ll be done before we go on tour, as we’ve then got something to work on when we get back, which is most likely going to make up our second album.

JOHN: It’s hard to say, as we felt that the process for the first album was successful, and it was something that we were, and still are, very happy with, so we’re going to attempt to do something similar for the next album.

JOHNNY: We can’t commit to any timescale, but I think we’re gradually getting there, however, we’re not going to rush ourselves, because we want the album to be the strongest that it can possibly be.

Actually, we’ll be playing a few of the tracks from that tonight, which we’re rather excited about.

JOHN: Also, we’ve also got a nice run of shows in the lead-up to the Idles tour, and that’s something we’re excited about as well.

JOHNNY: We’ve actually been playing a massive run of shows every week for the last three months, so it will be nice to take a little breather, where we can put some new ideas down.

JOHN: Yeah, after an intensive run of shows, a lot of bands/artists will take a complete break, but we feel that we can use that time to be productive, take the chance to iron some things out, and then go back to playing live, because that is where we’re both at our happiest, and it’s also great to see that people in the UK and other countries want to see us do that, so I think we’ll just keep the momentum that we have gathered going.

I think that’s all. Is there anything else that you both would like to say?

JOHNNY: Well, we would just like to say thanks to Pulled Apart By Horses, and Weirds, the bands we’re supporting tonight, as they’ve been very supportive of us.

JOHN: We would also like to thank everyone who brought our album, as it was released on our own label, and we’ve been putting the money earned from that into all of the logistical stuff that it takes for us to go around and play, and that’s something we really appreciate.

JOHN Album Cover



JOHN tour poster









The Sunset Radio band photo

THE SUNSET RADIO (from l-r): Rob Scarr (drums), Aaron “Az” Lees (bass), Adam Maw (vocals/guitar), Ricki Hutton (guitar)



From North Yorkshire, The Sunset Radio are a four-piece specialising in an anthemic, melodic indie-rock sound, including elements of punk and pop, and delivered at breakneck speed.

Having last year released two positively-received singles, it seems the emerging outfit have struck gold once again with their latest track, ‘Old Goodbyes’, and they chatted to me about this, as well as a whole range of band-related topics.

How did the band get together?

The band got together through a couple of friends jamming together on acoustic guitars. Az and Adam had a few of these over some beers, then decided to invite Ricki along, and then we made the decision to start a band.

The issue was that we come from a small town in Yorkshire called Selby and there isn’t even that many people there who are into rock music, let alone people who play drums!

We then went on the hunt for a capable drummer, and went through something that more closely resembled a comedy sketch than an actual band.

The search included a drummer who moved away after learning a couple of our songs to work on the oil rigs, a drummer who moved to Poland after learning all the songs, a drummer who learnt all the songs then decided it wasn’t for him, and a man who turned up to a practice sat behind the drum kit and was hit with the realisation that he couldn’t actually play the drums, which was like turning up for a driving test without having any lessons.

Anyway, we finally came across Rob around 18 months later, thanks to him working with Adam, and the line-up was finally completed.

From where did the name The Sunset Radio originate?

The name was one that was a working title for about as long as our search for a drummer, but we had decided early on that we wanted to be called The “Something” Radio.

We then had it narrowed down to every two syllable word in the English language for what the middle word should actually be.

One drunken night, with time running out to make a decision on what that word should be, we finally settled on Sunset, unfortunately none of us remember the reason why the next morning, but we woke up and had a band name.

What are the band’s main musical influences?

Each of us have a different set of influences that we all draw upon when bringing our sound together. Adam would point to bands like The Beatles and The Clash as big influences, Az is a massive fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rob is a fan of Jack White, and Ricki is into heavier bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Enter Shikari.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

So far, the formula has been that Adam has written either a full or half a song on the acoustic guitar, which he will bring to the rest of the band, and from there, we will work out what bits to add where, in order to make the song more suited to a full band performance.

This approach has seen us come across some that we aren’t initially sure on as being our favourites, and ones that seemed great initially, but ended up not quite working.

Recently, the band unveiled a new track, entitled ‘Old Goodbyes’. How was the recording process for that?

The recording process itself was pretty chilled out, as we got it done over a couple of days at a studio in Wakefield. The main issue, however, was battling through the snow earlier in the year down some winding country roads to actually get to the studio!

And how has the reaction been to the single so far?

The reaction to the single so far has been very positive. It is a great one to perform live, and the crowds have really been getting into it.

Will ‘Old Goodbyes’ eventually lead to an EP/album release?

We will be hoping to release an EP at some point next year. Everything we do is a learning curve.

We are from a small working-class town with no interest in rock music, we don’t have rich families to just plough money into this for us like a lot of other bands do, and we are having to support this all ourselves, as well as balance full-time jobs.

That means that progress for us might be slower for us than other bands who can just throw money at it, but we will keep going.

Everything we have done so far has come from a couple of friends just playing guitars over a few beers, we started this journey with no connections to anyone who could help us out in terms of booking gigs, recording a song, or releasing one, so next time round, we will be more experienced and ready to reach an even bigger audience.

How, for you all, is the experience of playing live?

Playing live is what it is all about for us. Our first show came about because our friends were desperate to see us play live, as none of them had ever seen us in bands before, and we made sure that for our first show, we would blow them away.

We think they were all expecting and kind of hoping we would be crap so they could take the piss out of us, but we weren’t! A long way from it too, as we were pretty fucking good for a first ever gig.

Now, we have got the bug for playing live, and we just want to keep playing bigger and better shows.

What are the band’s plans for the near future?

For the rest of this year, we are going to try and promote the ‘Old Goodbyes’ single and music video through a combination of getting it out into blog reviews, Spotify playlists, and by playing it live.

We have our first show in London lined up for the 1st September, and then we return to Yorkshire to play the Sounds of Summer festival at the Leopard in Doncaster on 28th September.

After that, we play Verve in Leeds on 5th October, and we are looking to add more gigs for the rest of the year, and that should be something that will be announced soon.

And finally, what is your long-term aim?

The long-term aim for the band over the next couple of years is to get ourselves out there to more people, and also get to know the right people in order for us to get bookings on inner city festivals such as Tramlines in Sheffield or Humber Street Sesh in Hull, as these will give us the best chance to increase our fan base, and to play bigger and better shows.

The Sunset Radio Single Cover















Merrym'n photo


Singer-songwriter Bob Moston, under the moniker Merrym’n, produces a well-crafted brand of acoustic pop that is proudly 100% DIY, and includes lyrical content that focuses on Bob’s home city of Stoke-on-Trent, its post-industrial decline, and some of the big characters that populate that area.

With this, he has received much praise, and has also quickly become a well-respected figure on the Potteries music scene.

Having recently brought out a single, entitled ‘He Built A Cinema’, which is the perfect showcase for his talents, and with plenty more stuff to come, I chatted to Bob, and the following is what he had to say to me:

What was your first musical experience?

I was lucky to have two grandads who brought a lot of music into my life as a kid. One, Bill, would always be singing old war songs and daft numbers like ‘There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly’. The other, Bob, had swing records on all the time – Sinatra, Martin and the like, and growing up with these made music an important part of my life from the start.

How did you come to the realisation that you wanted to pursue a career as a musician?

I don’t! Merrym’n is a hobby, not something I’m actually trying to turn into a living. I do it because I have to… I’ve been in bands, writing songs since my mid-teens, and it has become an integral part of my character and well-being. I put a lot of time into the project, but through obsession rather than necessity.

From where did the name Merrym’n originate?

I did a bit of travelling with friends at uni and, being a group of friends, spent a large proportion of that time ridiculing and tormenting one another.

The geographical leader of our group, the mastermind behind our moves, would march us through cities at any hour of the day: we’d joke that he was Robin Hood and we were his Merry Men… but, as we were at uni in Lancaster, we’d pronounce it Merrym’n.

Since then, it’s been a reminder of a great time. I also like the use of the apostrophe, creating authenticity in the accent. It’s got character.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

I listen to people. My lyrics often come from somebody telling me about something and I note down sentiments and turns of phrase. After that, I play about on a nylon-stringed guitar, picking out a melody, and then it tends to come together from there.

You sing predominantly about your home city of Stoke-on-Trent, its post-industrial decline, and some of the big characters that populate the area. Was that something you planned from the start, or did you come into that more by accident?

I didn’t plan on focusing the songwriting on Stoke-on-Trent, no, but I did intend, from the start, on writing things true to my own experience… so I guess that means that the city I live in will have a big influence.

I also find the place fascinating, beautiful, ugly, funny, tragic, inspiring… you know. It’s a good source of ideas.

And being a regular fixture on the contemporary music scene in the Potteries, what is your opinion of it?

There’s a lot of quality original music in and around this city. It’s an ever-growing and improving scene with audiences getting bigger and better at shows too. It is a shame, however, how many miss out on what’s on their doorstep. I’ve been very fortunate this year to have had so many good gigs in interesting places.

So far, you have brought out two EPs and three albums, the most recent being last year’s ‘Life On VHS’, and all to much praise. Were you rather taken aback by the overwhelmingly positive response, especially in regards to your first release?

Yeah, definitely. I record, mix and master all my music at home… without any training or expensive gear… so it’s ace that it has been received so well. I love making it, so I’m dead chuffed that people enjoy listening to it.

How is the experience, for yourself personally, of performing on stage?

It’s a great escape for me. I can get into character, get lost in the song, and really enjoy myself. With not playing in a band, I can adjust the songs to my mood and the context and audience. I also like that I have upwards of 30 songs which I can use however I feel.

The live performance element, especially when there’s a good crowd, is the best part of Merrym’n.

What are your plans for the near future?

I’ll be releasing a new video on August 24, I have a brand new song (a collaboration with Droma Records) in the can for October time, and I’m over halfway through writing a new album, which I’ll hit record on in the new year.

On the side of this, I’m also starting to write about music (and football), which is something I’ve toyed with for a while.

And finally, what is your long-term aim?

International fame, Christmas number one, and a guitar-shaped swimming pool. Or, to just carry on enjoying myself and seeing what comes. I like the opportunities and experiences original music can bring. More of those, cheers!









Wave Break band photo

WAVE BREAK (from l-r): David Sachs (bass), Mike Kovlek (drums), Kelly Barber (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Alex Orav (lead guitar)



With a name that derives from a metaphorical term meaning to overcome adversity, emerging Boston four-piece Wave Break convey this message through a unique combination of post-hardcore, pop-punk, and emo rock.

Having up to now brought out two singles, the band look set to reach new heights over the coming weeks with the release of their debut EP, ‘Armory’, and a tour of the American north-east.

The quartet themselves told me about all this, and much more.

How did the band form?

We actually all met through Craigslist. We all were looking for new projects, and decided that it was a good fit for us to make a band together, since we have a lot of similar influences.

What are your main musical influences?

We’re influenced mainly by the musicians and bands that we grew up listening to, like Avril Lavigne, Blink-182, Foo Fighters, Paramore and Jimmy Eat World. There are so many others that we’re influenced by, but our music takes the most after bands like those.

What would you say was the band’s songwriting approach?

For this EP, Kelly would write some lyrics and melodies, and would then bring them to the band to hash out all the instrumental parts.

More recently, we’ve been jamming more together and figuring out some initial instrumental pieces, and then Kelly would take them and write lyrics over them.

Doing it this way is helping us to make our newer material post-‘Armory’ a bit more technical and intricate.

So far, you have brought out two singles, ‘Deadlock’ and ‘Plaster City’. How has the reaction been to them?

So far, it’s been great! We’re really pleased with the positive reception so far, and we think that everyone is going to really like the EP too, once it’s out.

Shortly, the band will be unveiling their debut EP, entitled ‘Armory’. How has the recording process been for that?

It’s been a long process, but we’re definitely happy with the outcome. We would record one song, finish, and then record the next, since we didn’t have all the songs written by the time we started recording. We even re-recorded some parts once we had the full lineup, but all-in-all, it’s been a fun process.

And what can be expected from the upcoming release?

Most of the songs are upbeat and energetic just like the singles, and there is one slower song on there too. Some lean more towards pop-punk, while others lean more towards alternative rock, so there’s definitely a good mix of vibes on there.

The day after the EP comes out, you will be embarking on a tour of the American north-east. I can imagine that’s something the whole band is really looking forward to.

Yeah, we’re all really excited! All the shows are at cities or venues that we’ve never played before, so it’s definitely going to be an adventure.

And how is the experience, for you all, of performing live?

We love it so much. It feels great to be able to connect with everyone in that way at all of our shows. We’re really looking forward to being able to play to a ton of new faces on this run too!

What are the band’s plans for after the EP release and tour?

We’re going to take some time to finish writing our next release, and maybe by the end of this year, start thinking about recording a new single. Along the way, we’ll still be playing some shows too!

And finally, what is your long-term aim?

We want our music to resonate with people in a way that makes them feel like they can accomplish anything or power through difficult times, and spread that message to as many people as possible, but as long as that gets across, and we’re able to continue making music and playing in new cities, we’ll be happy.

Wave Break EP Cover



Wave Break tour poster








Delights band photo


Despite the fact that all four of the band members are only 17 and fresh out of college, fledgling quartet Delights have already built up a devoted following in their home city, and the north-west of England, with an indie-rock sound that is familiar and inspired by the likes of the Stone Roses, The Smiths, and Kula Shaker, yet fresh and modern.

In addition to this, the Manchester collective have also brought out a self-titled debut EP, and embarked on a mini UK tour in April.

Now, having unveiled a new single, entitled ‘Naked Heart’, the band spoke to me about what has been an incredible first year for them, as well as what their future aims are.

How did the band form?

We all went to college together, and three of the current band members were in a previous band, and when that ended, we just told Leo to learn the drums, and here we are a year or so later.

How did the name Delights come about?

It’s a pretty dull story, but when we started the band we tried to think of names – we were on the bus home from college one day, and Leo said “the lights“, meaning the street lights (we were kind of at the point of just shouting random things we could see out of the window as potential band names), and Ben misheard him as saying “delights“, and it just kind of stuck.

Ironically now, when people ask us what the band’s called, they usually mishear us as saying The Lights.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

One of us comes up with an idea, usually a riff or something, then at practice, we just mess around with it, each chip in some ideas, and we’ll go from there. We tend to write the song first, then Maxwell will go and write lyrics/melody once we’ve already written the instrumental parts.

What inspires the band lyrically?

When Maxwell writes lyrics, he doesn’t always think of it as a story, but he comes up with hooks and catchy phrases for the verses and choruses to make them more memorable. It also leaves the songs open to interpretation, rather than force-feeding the audience an obvious storyline, to make it seem more personal to them.

Recently, you brought out a single, ‘Naked Heart’, following on from the release of your self-titled debut EP late last year. How were the reactions to them for you personally?

We got a lot of support when we first released the EP, because it came out pretty quickly after we formed the band, and it was self-recorded and produced, so we think people appreciated that.

We’ve had a lot of positive feedback about ‘Naked Heart’ as well, and we think people can see that we’ve developed since the EP, which means a lot to us because we feel ‘Naked Heart’ is much more mature in terms of the songwriting, and was a more creative process when we were at the studio, which we really enjoyed.

In April, the band embarked on a mini UK tour. How was that as an experience for you all?

We really enjoyed it. It was such a good experience to have, and we met a load of quality bands from all over, and we’d got our set a lot tighter by the end of it – we’re really grateful for it. It was nice to get support from other cities too.

And how is it, overall, playing live?

It’s the most fun part about being in a band, and having fans turn up who know the songs means a lot, even if we’re playing to a half-empty room.

What are your plans for the near future?

We’ve got a few songs that are already recorded or that we are in the process of recording, and we’re keen to get them out as soon as possible. We’ve also all just finished college, and are going to be taking some time out next year to graft at the band and get as many gigs in as possible.

And finally, what is the band’s long-term aim?

As long as we can keep recording our tunes and playing gigs, we’re happy. We want to play as many gigs as we can, to as many people as possible, and just get about.

We had a little taste of that on our mini-tour, and we think that’s really encouraged us, so that this is something we want to keep doing for as long as we can, and to get as big as we can.

Delights Single Cover








The Vega Bodegas band photo


The lyrical content of Cardiff rock n’ roll four-piece The Vega Bodegas may be surreal and humorous, but they take an altogether more serious approach towards making music.

With melodic hooks and guitar riffs that effectively show off their sublime skills, the quartet have been able to bring out a few successful singles and an EP, as well as getting praise from the likes of Wales Online and BBC Radio 6 Music DJ Tom Robinson.

The band’s vocalist/guitarist, Jimmy Watkins, spoke to me about much of this, as well as their recently-released debut album, ‘A Complete History Of Witchcraft’, and the response that has been getting up to now.

How did the band form?

I’ve been playing music with Marc (guitar/vocals) and Jamie (bass) since we were 14 years old. We had this bonkers band called Orga-Tora when we were in school.

We kinda drifted apart after that and played with other people for a few years, but got back together in 2016 when I left Future of the Left.

I knew Nathan from his drumming in a band called Nine Plan Failed, and he joined us last year.

How did the name The Vega Bodegas come about?

The name was either from a bottle of wine we stole from my parent’s garage when we were 14, or it’s about our love of tapas bars and space, or it’s our secret gang name for when we’re fighting underground crime.

We can’t remember, but not enough bands have a name that almost rhymes, so we felt there was a gap in the market there.

What are the band’s main musical influences?

If you were to see us mucking about in the studio, it would become immediately apparent that we all have wildly different musical influences. It’s almost a miracle that we get anything written at all.

I’m pretty straight up and bluesy or poppy. I’ll go from riffs to a clean chord progression, while pretending I’m in Supergrass, Ty Segall’s band, or ‘Holy Bible’ era Manics. Graham Coxon is my guitar hero, but I can’t play anywhere near as well as him.

Nathan loves Sonic Youth (I’ve never heard them), Talking Heads, and Joy Division, Marc gets his kicks from Pearl Jam, the Manics and Faith No More, while Jamie loves a bit of funk. It’s a real mishmash.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

In terms of writing the songs, I’ll come up with an idea and title at home, which I’ll then do a demo of. It’s usually just a riff and some singing. I’ll send it to the boys, and then we’ll build on it down the studio.

‘The Size of Wales’ and ‘Witchcraft’ were totally written together in the same room, and they came out of some crazy jam sessions.

Marc is a real master of arrangement, and he’ll suggest new ways to deliver the song. Him and Jamie are brothers, so they have this almost telepathic understanding. Jamie seems to be the one who decides how a song ends, as he looks at us like a site foreman with a hard hat on, and we know it’s time to stop, and Nathan just wants to hit the drums as hard as he can while I scream my head off. It’s very sophisticated, really.

What inspires the band lyrically?

While there’s no denying that rock n’ roll is my thing, and what I listen to 90% of the time (I listen to house music when cooking or doing the dishes), I’ll be the first to admit that most rock lyrics are truly awful, and that includes the lyrics of some of my favourite bands, but when rock is combined with great lyrics, there’s nothing better: Art Brut, Idles, Primus, The Manic Street Preachers, and Bob Dylan- when he’s not wearing a fedora.

When I sit down to write, I think of rappers like Kendrick Lamar or Danny Brown, as I love how they combine the surreal with the everyday, and that’s what drives me lyrically.

When we started The Vega Bodegas, I invented this place called Slow Cooker (this album was going to be called ‘Welcome To Slow Cooker’). Slow Cooker is loosely based on the Rhondda, where I’m from, the Bethesda in Un Nos Ola Leud and the weirdness of ‘In Watermelon Sugar’ by Richard Brautigan.

I take my mind there when writing lyrics, and it’s a place where absolutely anything is possible, and I’m continually amazed by the people I see there. I’ve also made a conscious effort to leave any negativity out of our songs.

If I feel a lyric is attacking someone or being derogatory, I’ll take it out and replace it with something that comes from a positive state of mind. I don’t want to put anything out there that’s driven by bitterness or anger, because that stuff is better off sweated out in the gym instead.

You recently brought out a debut album, entitled ‘A Complete History Of Witchcraft’. How was the recording process for that?

We recorded this album down Music Box studios in Cardiff. Marc and Bernie, who own that studio, are absolute legends, and it wasn’t for those two and their studio, Cardiff, and indeed South Wales, would not be the musical force it is now.

We recorded with the legend that is Charlie Francis. I worked with him with Future of the Left and Strange News From Another Star. Charlie came to a few gigs, watched us practice, and then told us he had a plan.

We booked two rooms, stuck the drummer in one, and the rest of us gathered around Charlie like he was this magical pagan rocker, and we played the whole album live. We got the drums done on the first morning, and then we built it all up from there.

When you work with Charlie, you don’t have to tell him what you want, as he understands your music instantly, and knows what’s best for each song. It was such a pleasure working with him. It took three days in total, and the whole atmosphere throughout was relaxed and easy-going. I can’t wait to do it all again.

And how has the reaction been to the album so far?

The reaction has been incredible. When we first had the mixes, I would spend hours every night just standing on my decking, listening on a loop as the sun set over the sea. I’m usually a bit apprehensive about releasing music, but this sounded so good, I couldn’t wait to get it out there.

Since the moment it was released, we’ve had nothing but messages of love and support from friends and people we really admire. It’s been very rewarding, and it’s made this band of maniacs very happy.

The album has been bought in America, Canada, Australia, Europe and Doncaster, so what more could you ask for? We also got played on BBC Radio 6 Music for the first time last week, and that’s been something we’ve dreamt about since the band formed.

Also, Adam Walton and Neil Crud have also given us plenty of airtime, and we love them for it.

How is the experience, for the band, of performing live?

Playing live with The Vega Bodegas is very unpredictable. It’s very much like being in a bobsleigh together. If one of us is facing the wrong way, it’s a hard battle to get to the bottom in one piece.

And finally, what are your plans now the album has come out?

Now that the album is out digitally, we need to make some physical copies for cars and cruise liners, as we get so many people asking for copies for their cars. It’s crazy, as I’ve never seen a car with ears, apart from some terrible people carriers in the south of France.

The fantastic Libertino Records are releasing ‘A Complete History of Witchcraft’ as a single, and we’re delighted to be working with them, as they’re probably the most exciting label in Wales right now.

We’ll also get a few more videos made. We love making videos, as it’s a way for us to work out what the songs mean.

Tom Robinson said on his BBC Radio 6 Music show that he can understand why we might be the best live band you’ve never seen, and we are really keen to play more shows, as that’s where the true magic of The Vega Bodegas becomes apparent – that is when we become an underground gang of heroes fighting against all that is bland when it comes to live music.

The Vega Bodegas Album Cover